5th ANNUAL POLICY CONFERENCE
5th Annual Policy Conference
“Faith and values in Europe – 70 years after Kristallnacht”
European Parliament, Brussels, 11 November, 2008
Here is the conference report from the 5th Annual Policy Conference in Brussels on 11 November, 2008. Please note that the content of this report does not necessarily reflect the views of the ECI but that of the respective speaker.
Helmut Specht, Chairman of the European Coalition for Israel (2007-2010)
Mr Specht welcomed the participants to the Annual Policy Conference with the theme “70 years after Kristallnacht”. The date of the Kristallnacht was the 9th of November, 1938. The 11th of
November, the date of this conference, also marks the end of the First Word War in 1918. The issue of this Annual Conference is to discuss anti-Semitism in the past and today and to get the guidelines as to what to do now. Mr Specht mentioned incidents in England and Germany, which show the sad fact that there is anti-Semitism in Europe today. Our obligation, Mr Specht said, is to do something and make things known in the churches, in the economy and in the politics, both on national and European level.
MEP Ingo Friedrich, Germany
Mr Friedrich pointed out that the Kristallnacht was really a pogrom night. The year 2008 also marks the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. However, these rights are violated in a shocking manner even today. Our task, Mr Friedrich said, is to make the young generation sensitive to the protection of human rights and to globally spread the knowledge about individual rights and dignity. According to Mr Friedrich, what we can learn from the Holocaust is to try to learn not to blame a minority for the problems of the society. We can also learn to respect the full rights of religious freedom and to be courageous to help anyone who is attacked by another person – and thus to be ready to stop all anti-Semitism in our societies.
Ulf Emeleus, Pastor, Finland
Mr Emeleus commented that the whole Europe seems to think that tolerance and the gospel are the same thing. But only with the truth can we do something. He said that he fully agreed with the previous speaker, but he wanted to say that tolerance and the gospel are not the same thing. We should not tolerate everything.
Tomas Sandell, conference organiser, the European Coalition for Israel
Mr Sandell, who acted as chairman at the Annual Conference, said in his leading words that if there was to be a change in Europe, we need to find the partnership of those who make decisions and those who are the big educators and communicators of our time, spiritual leaders in particular. During the day he also referred to the EU slogan “United in Diversity” and said that the European Coalition for Israel and the participants of the present conference represent the diversity of backgrounds in the churches of Europe, with the conference having participants from 20 different European nations. Mr Sandell also mentioned that this conference also has a new ingredient in the form of African pastors. The European Coalition for Israel believes that a similar coalition could be born in Africa.
Shimon Samuels, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Paris, human rights activist on a global scale
Mr Samuels told that the development about five years before the pogroms should have set the alarm bells ringing, but the response was appeasement, a deaf ear. Hitler had published his plan in the early 1920’s in his book Mein Kampf. It should have shaken everybody, every journalist, every NGO of that day. In 2001, the Durban conference was a hate-fest without precedent since the Holocaust. The atrocities of 9/11 followed.72 hours after its conclusion. And now, as the following conference Durban II in Geneva in April 2009 is being prepared for, we are hearing, among other things, unveiled hints of a nuclear genocidal intent.
Mr Samuel’s subject was the globalization of anti-Semitism, from Durban to Durban. He also suggested some tactical measures to galvanize an early warning system. What starts with the Jews ends as a scourge for all humanity.
According to Mr Samuels Western world is still obsessed with the two greatest crimes in its history: colonialism and the Holocaust. The burden has been expiated by a very simple psychological mechanism: a role reversal or projection. It began in 1982, with Western media use of Holocaust language to describe the Middle East during Israel’s incursion into the Southern Lebanon to stop Palestinian terrorist rockets. It was a caricaturist’s treatment of the famous photo from the Warsaw Ghetto surrender, of a child with his arms upraised, facing the Nazi guns. In this role reversal West Beirut was compared to Warsaw ghetto, and the Jews were suddenly called Nazis. According to a quote from Abraham Heschel, “Auschwitz was built not with bricks, not with stones, but with words”. Words can kill, and the anti-Semitic words in the media did a lot of damage. This can be connected to the 1980 and 1982 series of 73 shootings and bombings of Jewish institutions in Western Europe, 29 of those in Paris. Also non-Jewish goals were targeted during these times. So, what starts with the Jews, inevitably touches the human condition.
In 2000 the Jewish condition seemed almost Messianic; the Jews believed in their return among the nations. This optimism was destroyed by the intifada and Durban I, a new threat to both the Jews and the human condition. Mr Samuels told that he was the only Jew elected to the steering committee of Durban I, the NGO Forum. The prep conference met in different cities, but in the last of the cities, Teheran, Mr Samuels could not attend. And “that is where the wheels fell off,” he said. There was no longer a Jewish Holocaust but three holocausts: the European responsibility for African slavery, the slave trade to America, and the Palestinian Nakba i.e. catastrophe. No Jew was mentioned in this context. The Durban ideology did not die but it found the continuation in the anti-globalization movement, the World Social Forum, which was born in Porto Alegre in Brazil in 2003. The World Social Forum has a satellite, the European Social Forum.
In Durban was born a mantra BDS – Boycott Divestment Sanctions – against Israel. This echoes the Kristillnacht language. This development could be called an anthropolozination of the Holocaust, where the anti-Semitic attacks of today are not remembered. Mr Samuels stated that the Holocaust cannot be separated from the Jewish victims of today, nor can its lessons be separated from contemporary anti-Semitism.
Durban II is under preparation, and the working group is led by Libya, Iran and Cuba, supported by Egypt, Sudan and Pakistan. The group now deals with only one holocaust: the Nakba. Here we can see that there is a need to redefine the Holocaust on the Shoa, and we must have education on the Holocaust which is connected to contemporary anti-Semitism.
To be present in Durban is not a pleasant experience, Mr Samuels admitted, and explained that he believed that we must be there. To be present is to engage oneself, and we can thus get the anti-racism movement back on track.
Mr Samuels suggested four tactics for counteraction. The first one is to divide and rule. We need to deal with all kinds of groups of victims, e.g. child slaves, victims of HIV, victims of natural disasters. He called the second tactic for third party endorsement, which means to protest for collective defense.
The third tactic could be called common grounding. Mr Samuels gave two examples of this, the first one relating to technology. Simon Wiesenthal Center has categorized the Holocaust as a meeting point between ideology and technology. Hatemongers attack all the minorities, not just Jews. So there is a solidarity platform, common ground against the hatemongers. Every year Simon Wiesenthal Center comes out with a list of all hate sites (not just anti-Semitic). In 2001 there were 148 such websites, and in 2008 as many as 8 600 problematic sites from all over the world.
The second example was an initiative together with the late Pope John Paul II in order to denote suicide terrorism as a crime against humanity. The chain of terror begins with those who recruit, who brain-wash, arm, train, finance, house and glorify terrorism, and all of these are complicit. What is missing is an adequate international definition for terrorism, because one man’s terrorist is the other man’s freedom fighter. The growing number of nations who are victims of suicide terrorism should create common ground for some type of definition whereby those who are complicit should be held to account.
The fourth tactic that Mr Samuels suggested was a project called “Educate for Life”, which was introduced in Paris this summer. It includes all those who have reverence to the sanctity of human life, to the celebration of the endurance of life, and all those who want to improve the quality of life for the future generations. The aim of the campaign “Educate for Life” is to enhance constructive survival skills and to create an on-line compendium of stories of people who have come out of hell and despair to rebuild their lives. Mr Samuel’s said that here the lessons of the Holocaust are central, as they validate the memory of the victims and the valor of the survivors. For years the Jews were the universal “otherhood”; today, he said, they must become the universal example, to sound the alarm, and to train societies for impending danger.
According to Mr Samuels, Iran’s President Ahmanijehad has moved from Holocaust denial to a nuclear genocidal intent, and this can be called a numbing effect, a Jew “fatigue”. Ahmanijehad has advanced and met with almost total silence from the others, which according to Mr Samuels is a test of appeasement. With Iran’s nuclear threat this might lead to the ultimate Holocaust that will not stop at the boarders of Israel. As to the 1990’s debate whether the Holocaust is universal or unique, Mr Samuels expressed his belief that the Holocaust is unique, but its lessons are generic and universal. We need to apply these lessons to those who are targeted today and all the others who are victims.
Michael Kuhn, Austria, seconded by the Austrian Bishops’ Conference
Mr Kuhn told the audience about different celebrations that they are organizing in Vienna, in order to try to connect to the Jews. To the question ‘Could this happen again?’ he answered yes, he thought it could. Even though the children receive teaching in schools and they may know the facts, the facts are not touching their hearts – or ours. We need to know these things with our heart. Preventing it from happening again, Mr Kuhn said that we actually need to talk one to one. It takes the time and energy of each of us.
Nassim Ben Iman, Germany, with Moslem background, now Christian, speaks out for Israel and against anti-Semitism
Mr Iman reminded the audience that the first signs were not really seen at the time of Hitler. Our greatest mistake even today is not to recognize the signs. When we give a platform to the Moslems on the basis of human rights, it is a big mistake. We should be open to people, and Moslems too, but at the same time we should not accept Islam and its values. We should open the doors to Moslems, for they are not our enemies, but we should still keep our Christian values. This is the challenge, he concluded.
Introducing the next speaker, Mr Sandell said that the reason to stand for Israel is not just a matter of corporate guilt. If that were the case, our brothers of African background would have no reason to be dedicated on this issue.
David Adeola, Pastor in London, Kensington Temple, one of the largest churches in Europe
Mr Adeola started by quoting Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Mr Adeola said that he could see the silence and the appeasement of the world leaders today. Even Hitler met no economic sanctions or similar things, just silence and appeasement. Mr Adeola said that it is time for us to stand with one voice, not only to condemn but to act. Today there are genocidal threats on the UN platform, and nobody says anything. This threat together with Iran’s nuclear ambitions cannot be ignored any more. Everything begins with words, Mr Adeola said, and concluded his speech with words by Martin Luther King. These words “We can make justice a reality for all of God’s children”, still ring true today, and something happened only because one man dared to speak out. We in Europe can also stand as one.
Mr Sandell mentioned the active role that the European Coalition for Israel is taking in Durban II. Last May Mr specht, Mr Gawel and Mr Sandell himself, were the only non-Jews in a strategy
conference of Jewish organizations, where they were discussing how to make a difference this time in Durban II.
Mr Sandell also told that he had asked a former ambassador to the EU, who now lives in Israel, about what should be done as far as Ahmadinejad is concerned. The person in question answered that he does not believe in gimmicks, i.e. taking him to the International Court of Justice or something similar. Mr Sandell then addressed to Mr Samuels with the question: What should we do as far as Ahmanijehad and the Durban II process is concerned?
Mr Samuels answered that as far as Durban II is concerned, we need to vigilant and we need to be there. As for Ahmanijehad, Mr Samuels believed that the matter is not black and white. We need to contain Ahmanijehad with wisdom. Iranians are proud people, but they can be made to understand that this is not good for them either.
Antti Hämäläinen, Finland, Board member of the European Coalition for Israel
Mr Hämäläinen made a comment that anti-Semitism is spiritual, so it will continue working until the Messiah returns and finishes with it.
Mr Green agreed with Mr Hämäläinen and said that anti-Semitism is the oldest hatred. It will be there, but what we can do, he said, is to make sure that the Jews will never face it alone any more. We will fight together against it.
An opinion on the contents of the Holocaust Memorial Day, as it is celebrated nowadays was shared. It is true that what starts with the Jews, eventually embraces the human condition, the speaker said. It is because of the activity of the human rights movements that the Holocaust day today is more generic in nature. Our challenge is to bring the focus back to the Jews, on the Shoa. The Holocaust Day celebration is good, the speaker said, but nowadays it is not the kind of day he would like it to be.
Question to Shimon Samuels
The academia is extremely anti-Israeli. Is there anything being done to combat the anti-Israeli views of the academic world?
Mr Samuels answered that the problem is growing. He said that we need a new generation of professors. What we do first of all is monitoring, which is easier now because of the internet. Secondly, we do counteraction. We need to apply research. And the third thing is prevention, which means long-term education.
Mr Sandell said that today we cannot make a clear distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism. The theme from now on is slightly different, and it has to do with the security of the modern state of Israel. Which are the new threats and what can we do to help Israel?
Ran Curiel, the Israeli Ambassador to the EU
Mr Curiel started by referring to the day before, the celebration of the 70th year after Kristallnacht. In 1938 Germany kept silent, and the whole Europe was silent. This year we also celebrate the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel and 50 years of the creation of the European Parliament. The creation of the Parliament was the response of Europe to the threat on its moral existence. The shared history of the Jews and Europe is even today the basis for the relations with Israel and the EU.
The problem is that Israel is often perceived through the prison of the conflict, but Israel is much more than the conflict in the Middle East, Mr Curiel said. Israel is a vibrant country with a stable economy, with an innovative creativity especially in the area of hi-tech. This is how Israel can contribute to Europe as well.
Speaking about threats, Israel is facing the same threats as the West and Europe; the only difference is that Israel is on the front line. One threat is Iran. Hizbollah is getting stronger, with the help of Syria and Iran. Lebanon has a state within a state, and Lebanon is in a way a hostage of Hizbollah, which is a very abnormal situation. What was achieved in the last war on the Lebanese border was a large degree of deterrence, and this has helped to keep the Northern border quiet. Israel is now having negotiations with Syria, because neither of these countries wants hostilities. The Palestinian Authority is divided between the extremists and moderates, which makes peacemaking more difficult. With Hamas the issue has to do with values and the right or non-right of Israel to exist. Israel is developing her relations with the moderate Palestinians, and they hope they will see some results in the following years, Mr Curiel said. So the peace process is going forward, but Israel wants to have a serious partner on the other side. Controlling others is not Israel’s policy, and Mr Curiel said that Israel has an interest in the Palestinians having a viable state of their own.
As far as the current development in the relations between Israel and the EU is concerned, we have seen a dramatic improvement, Mr Curiel said. Especially in relation to government, because the talks on the politic level are more frequent now. Relations are also improving in the fields of energy, transport, culture, youth and media. And it is natural to have co-operation to prevent human trafficking, data protection and similar things. Israel is not afraid of the international community any more, as it used to be. Israel also has European forces on her borders, UNIFIL for example. The Jews and Europeans are trying to rebuild trust, Mr Curiel concluded.
MEP Bastiaan Belder, Netherlands, Vice Chairman of the European Delegation to the Israeli Knesset, a long-standing friend of the European Coalition for Israel
Mr Belder said that the Jewish people and the state of Israel touch him as a politician and a historian. It is painful to see when other countries do not accept the Jewish essence of the state of Israel. That is at stake. Christians should also be aware of the difficult position of the state of Israel, in spite of her 60 years of existence.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on one occasion that the security of Israel is the security of Germany. Mr Belder wanted to add that the security of Israel is the security of Europe. We need to do our utmost to struggle for that security. He doubted whether we should have an association agreement at all with countries like Lebanon and Syria.
Mr Belder told the audience one striking example. In September he was in a delegation visiting the UN headquarters, the Security Council. They told the delegation that the UN has Sanction Committees, whose duty is to report about danger with certain countries for world peace. But Iran is not on the list because of a strategic agreement made by the super powers. Mr Belder expressed his utter amazement of how this can be possible. The EU needs to fight terrorism on all levels and in all manners, he said, but he asked: Who is stopping Iran? Like in the 1920’s and 1930’s, we should not underestimate the enemies of Israel. He added that this is a spiritual battle, but the Lord will protect Israel and also those, who bless Israel.
Comments from civil societies, from churches in Europe
Harald Eckert, Board member of the European Coalition for Israel
Mr Eckert wanted to address the church leaders in Europe and encourage them. He suggested three dimensions in order to get involved in supporting Israel. The first one is spiritual, the second one educational and the third one pragmatic. Mr Eckert concentrated on the last one: What can Christians do practically to stand alongside Israel? He gave some examples of what was done in Germany, and hoped these could be an inspiration to church leaders.
As Israel celebrated her the 60th anniversary this year, Mr Eckert told that this was also done in 50 towns and villages in Germany. He was involved in inspiring churches to do this. The churches were encouraged to thank God for His protection in the survival struggle during 60 years and the success story of Israel, and then to pray for the ongoing survival and success. They also met with the politicians in Germany out of which quite a few are positive to Israel, e.g. Chancellor Merkel. The German politicians said that the grassroots support for them is getting lower. So we need to involve Christians on a grassroots basis, Mr Eckert said.
Pastor Seyi Oladosu, Christ the Redeemer Church, London
If a country like Israel is threatened, we need to ask why, said Mr O. Is Israel so relevant, has that country other values? What we see in the media about Africa is always poverty, hunger and instability. What we see about Israel is bombing, and then they blame that the Israelis did it. But the reality is that Israel is strong and it has relevance. Every nation in her right mind wants to do business with Israel. We really need to see who Israel is, Mr O said, and for that reason we need to educate the entire world again, to use all the possible means to do that and to stand together against the threats towards Israel. The Africans, for example, can do a lot by bringing the knowledge about Israel’s greatness and relevance to all grassroots areas, education in schools etc. He concluded by asking why you would destroy something that has so much influence in what you are doing.
The European Coalition for Israel wants to partner and dialogue with the institutions of the European Union in a constructive, open way.
Glyn Gaskarth, from the UK TaxPayers’ Alliance
Mr Gaskarth spoke about the Palestinian hate education. Palestinian children are taught to hate Britain, the West and Israel. This has to be changed, since every euro that is donated should be spent on contributing toward peace and not on sustaining conflict, Mr Gaskarth stated.
As a starting point Mr Gaskarth had the publication called “Funding Hate Education”, which the TaxPayers’ Alliance compiled in January 2008. It includes information about the British and the EU funding to the Palestinians. Mr Gaskarth said that they are ready to cooperate with others who want to investigate similar things in their respective countries.
Britain provided the Palestinians with a funding of 18 million pounds in 2006. Indirectly Britain funded them through the EU with 340 million in that same year. According to Mr Gaskarth, Britain does not fund the production of school text books, but they fund the teachers who are teaching from those books. Actually the difference is cosmetic.
Britain and the EU are favouring the two-state solution in the Middle East. They have decided to fund the Palestinian Authority (PA) and not Hamas, Mr Gaskarth said. Hamas is engaged in violence and they refuse to accept the right of Israel to exist. PA, on the other hand, has committed itself into non-violence, recognition of the state of Israel and acceptance of the previous peace agreements. The British TaxPayers’ Alliance is interested in every euro going into improving life and not into terror.
For that reason The British TaxPayers’ Alliance wanted to investigate how the PA spends its money. They investigated three areas: Palestinian education, TV and radio, and the press. Mr Gaskarth told the audience that the Palestinians have an educational system operated by the PA that is funding the school textbooks. They also have a TV station and a radio station. The TV station situated in the West Bank is under the Palestinian Broadcasting Company, headed by Mahmoud Abbas. The other TV station Al-Aksa is under Hamas and operates in Gaza. The PA owns to major newspapers: the official paper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda and Al-Ayyam. The third one, Al-Quds, is based in the West Bank and controlled by the PA, but it is a bit more independent than the two others. Before these newspapers can be published and distributed, they have to be checked by the government.
All the textbooks used in Palestinian schools are produced by the Palestinian Broadcasting Company, which means that they are under the responsibility of Mahmoud Abbas. Of the Palestinian population 51 per cent are under the age of 18, so the majority has known nothing else except hate education, Mr Gaskarth said. He gave some examples of quotes from different school textbooks used in all schools in the West Bank. He also quoted some of the Palestinian leaders.
Mr Gaskarth stated his belief that increased hatred produces increased violence. He did not suggest, though, that Britain and the EU would suddenly stop funding the Palestinians, but the PA should end its programme of hate education immediately. They must also remove the current textbooks from all schools immediately and create a new educational curriculum. In this Britain and the EU could assist. In Britain they noticed that education was the key element for bringing peace to the conflict in Northern Ireland, as people learned to respect and value themselves and others and to find how to solve conflicts in non-violent ways.
President John F. Kennedy wisely said, “Peace is in the minds and hearts of people, and not in the treaties that the nations sign.” Currently the words and deeds of the PA do not match, Mr Gaskarth said. That is why he said that we need to pressure them to sign up for non-violence, the recognition of the state of Israel and the acceptance of the existing peace treaties. And the PA needs to teach their children to implement those principles as well.
Leonidas Tezapsidis, Greece, Head of Unit responsible for the Middle East and the Southern Mediterranean, under the Commission’s External Relations Directorate General
Mr Tezapsidis told the audience that he comes from the town of Tessaloniki, a town where, in the beginning of the 19th century, the majority of the inhabitants were of Jewish origin.
He told that the Palestinians are per capita the most important beneficiaries of the EU assistance. This is very important for the Palestinians themselves, for the building of institutions and also for lessening the suffering of people, Mr Tezapsidis said. The EU channels funding through UNWRA, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Regufees, which engages itself in humanitarian assistance. UNWRA is practically the only independent institution in Gaza. The EU is for a peaceful solution according to the Road Map principles, which means that they favour the solution of the Palestinian State living in peace with Israel and its neighbours. According to Mr Tezapsidis, the EU has condemned all the acts of terrorism.
The building of a viable Palestinian state is vital to the security of Israel itself, he said. As the previous speaker said, the EU was funding the Palestinians with 340 million pounds in 2006, and the amount rose to nearly 700 million in 2007, because the needs of the Palestinians increased.
Education indeed plays a fundamental role in state building. EU Subcommittees have been set up, and one of them discusses human rights with the Palestinians. Mr Tezapsidis said that the EU is not directly funding Palestinian textbooks. The mechanism for the EU funding to the Palestinians consists of fiscal reform, accountability governance, social protection, economic and private sector development and the development of infrastructures. Of course, he admitted, the situation in the Palestinian territories is not ideal. Mr Tezapsidis referred to a report by Israeli-Palestinian Center for Research and Information, which analysed the Palestinian curriculum. The report said that their educational material is based on religious tolerance. Experts, Mr Tezapsidis said, say that the Palestinian system is not based on hatred.
As for peace education, after the Oslo agreements the EU recognized the need to re-enforce the understanding of different narratives and cultures. That is why the EU Partnership for Peace programme was initiated, in order to support and fund initiatives promoting peace and mutual understanding.
MEP Jana Hybaskova, Czech Republic, Chairwoman of Delegation for relations with Israel
Ms Jana Hybaskova told the audience that in Czech Republic they have learnt the lessons of tolerance. That is why they want to enrich the EU with their experience, because they know what it is to fight for democracy, freedom and the freedom of expression.
A week ago an important statement was made in a Paris policy conference: “Israeli people are still part of European structures.” From the year 2004, Ms Hybaskova said, the Delegation for relations with Israel is trying to bring those who used to belong to the European structures as close back as possible. The Mediterranean region is considered as part of European culture, tradition and language. She said that they really try to bring Israel close to Europe. It is an on-going dialogue, which is called an “Upgrade of Relations” between the EU and Israel. During the Czech EU presidency in 2009 this is one the three points that are the highest on the agenda.
Before 2004 the EU was participating in the Middle East, but quite one-sided. Since 2004 the “Upgrade of Relations” consists of more influence, finances and finding common interests between the EU and Israel. Since the Iraqi war and the fact that Israel no longer is the only envoy of the USA in the region, this is also a request of Israel that Europe and Israel get closer each other.
The first “Next Generation Action Plan EU-Israel” is being prepared right now, Ms Hybaskova said. During the Czech presidency they will try to accomplish it by April or May 2009. She concluded with a belief that bringing Israel back to normal relations with Europe is one the strongest signs of reconciliation of the last 60 or 70 years.
MEP Paolo Casaca, Portugal, one of the founding members of the European Friends of Israel
Mr Casaca thought of Mr Shimon Samuels’s presentation as outstanding. One of the important things he had said was the fact that, indeed, words can kill. Kristallnacht was prepared
systematically through a propaganda campaign. We cannot tolerate our world to engage in similar events in our day, he said. Ahmanijehad’s rhetoric last September was similar to the Nazis’, but most people and institutions did not react. We need to be very clear on these issues, Mr Casaca said.
Mr Casaca told about the relatively new initiative by the European Commission called the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights. The initiative financed a Lebanese organization called Khiam Rehabilitation Center, a friend organization of Hizbollah, with 647 000 euro in order to give medical, psychological and social rehabilitation to the Palestinian prisoners who were victims of torture. The report of the project stated that 87 per cent of the victims were tortured, which Mr Casaca put in question. Among others, the famous prisoner Samir Kuntar was liberated, and he was pictured on the report as a hero, together with the text that the project received funding from the EU. The funding in this case was used for supporting the political message, which Mr Casaca said is disgraceful. He had asked the Commission about this, and they answered that it was all right. Mr Casaca expressed his opposition strongly, and said that we need to continue to raise our voices and change the course. He said that we cannot surrender under the pressure of pseudo-political correctness, but we must be strict on principles and never accept this kind of behaviour. This is my struggle while I am in the European Parliament, Mr Casaca concluded.
Shimon Samuels, comment to Tezapsidis
Within the context of what Mr Casaca just said, Mr Samuels wanted to make a comment to Mr Tezapsidis that the Palestinian welfare system is linked to Hamas, which has to be taken into account. Mr Samuels also told that he had been in the Frankfurt Book Fair, where he is every year to find books of hate and violence. He found a Palestinian stand which carried books that incited to hate, violence and jihad, violating the Frankfurt Book Fair contracts and the EU policy.
Mr Tezapsidis said in reply to the previous comments that the European Commission is not funding organizations but programmes. Every year the best programmes are chosen. The contents of the publications must not reflect the views of the EU. The Commission tries to direct the funding to the right people and to the right purposes. And of course, he continued, if the members of Parliament or citizens contact the Commission about whatever matter, the Commission is obliged to respond in a satisfactory manner. So probably Mr Casaca is going to write to us again, he said. Mr Tezapsidis also wanted to stress that they target the funds on the accounts that are under the full control of the EU.
The start of the project and dialogue of “Learn from History” 2008-2009
MEP Elmar Brok, Germany, launching the “Learn from History” campaign on behalf of the European Parliament
During Kristallnacht 70 years ago, Mr Brok said, 400 were murdered, 30 000 were arrested and deported to concentration camps, and 200 synagogues were burned in one night. In Munich, where it all started, a new synagogue was opened this year, which Mr Brok saw as a positive development. Kristallnacht was the beginning of the Holocaust of the Jewish people. In the Holocaust, thousands of years of Jewish culture went into ashes. It is a shame for Germany, who is responsible today for making the younger generation know the facts, so that anti-Semitism will never have any place again. Angela Merkel said in a synagogue in Berlin last Sunday that the Germans cannot be indifferent on anti-Semitism, because indifference is the first step towards the endangering of central values.
Tolerance has a very special place in the EU treaties, Mr Brok continued. Tolerance bans every type of discrimination because of religious, ethnic or other reasons. Churches and religiousorganizations also have great responsibility to educate people. We need to influence the values and the will of people, Mr Brok said. This cannot be ordered by the state, but it needs to be done by churches and other organizations, discussions and the like. The European Parliament works in close coordination with faith communities and civil organizations to ensure that their voice will be heard. In the end of the day the common European values must be in the foreground more than ever.
There will never be zero anti-Semitism, Mr Brok said, but the anti-Semites should never get the power. Democracy and the rule of law must be kept and fought for. After 1948 the goal has been not to have any war or any dictatorship any more, and we need to stick to the founding principle of the European integration process, Mr Brok said. He also said that the Palestinian people must have a chance to live in a viable state. But the only democracy in that area is Israel, and we need to stand for the safe, Jewish state of Israel. The project “Learn from history” will help to bring these ideas forward. We must learn from our European history, even from the most horrible events.
Lennart Fjell, Sweden, Board member of the European Coalition for Israel
As a practising Christian, Mr Fjell said, he is trying to live his life towards Israel and trying to teach others to stand for Israel. In his church in Sweden they try to involve the whole church, all the members – and not just on the Holocaust Day in January but all the year round. They have about 2 800 members in their church from 50-60 nationalities, and Mr Fjell said that it is wonderful to see them all stand for Israel. He said that “Learn from History” is a great opportunity for churches to involve the whole church in standing for Israel.
In the Israel work that Mr Fjell is involved in they have a slogan “To bring Israel to Christians and Christians to Israel”. That means that they give education about Israel to Christians, and also take them to Israel, to see the land. They have also organized study tours to Poland, to see the concentration camps, and Mr Fjell said that he has personally been leading those tours. One half of the bus is always school students. Mr Fjell concluded by encouraging the audience to download material from the Learn from history website and do whatever they can in their own churches.
Jobst Bittner, Germany
Mr Bittner said that his heart is closely connected with Israel. He referred to Mr Specht’s introduction in which he mentioned Southern Germany having a lot of anti-Semitic thinking. Mr Bittner comes from Southern Germany himself and has a ministry in a little city called Tübingen. In that city they had Nazi symbols on display as late as 2003. Nazi criminals still have streets named after their honour. Fortunately, Mr Bittner said, they have a new Mayor who has now pointed that out to the public. The Mayor in Nazi time used to be involved in war crimes and mass murder; they now have a Mayor who is of Jewish descent and very consciously so.
Mr Bittner said that in Southern Germany they are working through their own historical background. There is still a thick veil of silence, which is hiding the negative attitudes towards Israel. Earlier this found an expression in the concentration camps that used to surround their city; and they also had death marches there. Mr Bittner told that they felt it was important to organize Marches of Life. He uttered his conviction that confession and truth always go together. Believers from various churches organized a March of Life, which became a reconciliation and repentance march. Another march was organized in Eastern Germany, where neo-Nazism is easy to find. The marches met great interest in the media drew the attention on political level, and people’s hearts were deeply moved.
Mr Bittner said that he is convinced that we in Europe can only be blessed through Israel. Christian faith needs to be linked with the Hebrew heritage. It is also important to confess our link to the Messianic congregations in Israel. Mr Bittner concluded by stating that we need to raise a visible banner against anti-Semitism, and this starts with each individual when we face the truth of our own history.
Andrey Avramov, pastor, Bulgaria
Mr Avramov started by reading from the Bible: “And Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. A new king came to power in Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1). This shows that the new generation did not know the history.
Mr Avramov told the audience that the Protestant churches of Bulgaria commemorated the Holocaust Day on 27 January this year, for the second year in a row. The theme was “Remember, so it does not happen again”. They launched a website that could be used for information and for sermons. There were a lot of visits to that website. The immediate reactions, however, were negative. About 80 percent of the young people reacted negatively, which means that the ignorance among them about the Holocaust is high. On the other hand, the positive feedback showed how powerful a website can be to inform the young people who do not know about the Holocaust.
We need to know the whole truth and remember. History must be preserved and passed on, otherwise it will disappear, Mr Avramov said.
In 2008 Bulgaria marked the 65th anniversary of the salvation of the Bulgarian Jews. The lives of 49 000 Jews were preserved in Bulgaria. Denmark and Bulgaria were the only countries in Europe which saved their Jews.
We need to speak out and act, Mr Avramov said, and concluded with a passage from Psalm 78: ” The things which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us, we will not hide from our children. We will make them clear to the coming generations, so that the generation to come might know, even the children that will be born, who will arise and tell them to their children.”
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Europe’s External Relations Commissioner (message per video)
Ms Ferrero-Waldner started by quoting Abraham Heschel: “Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.” She said that the Europeans know what racism and anti-Semitism is, because of the crimes of 70 years ago. Their wounds run deep. Our task is to make sure that we never forget the lessons of the past. WE have to invert Heschel’s equation: minimizing hate and maximizing reason. The EU is the testimony of Europe’s religious, linguistic and cultural diversity. Still, we can never take tolerance and respect for granted. There is the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, fighting the scourge of anti-Semitism. Israel’s independence is a fact, and for the EU the security and prosperity of the state of Israel is non-negotiable. On the other side, she said, we need to see a viable Palestinian state. Today, 60 years later, the relationship of the EU with Israel is stronger than ever before and will grow even further. According to Ms Ferrero-Waldner, the result of the process will be ‘More of Israel in Europe, and more of Europe in Israel’. That is the objective, and Ms Ferrero-Waldner assured that she will continue working for it as Europe’s External Relations Commissioner.
Helmut Specht, Chairman of the European Coalition for Israel
In his closing words Mr Specht thanked all the speakers and participants and said that the conference ends, but the work starts. It means work for all participants in their respective communities and churches, among family members and friends, to spread the word. We are living in freedom and can do so now, so we must act, because the time may be short. Mr Specht also urged everyone to vote on June 7th, the election day of the European Parliament. It is important to vote; this is how democracy works when people participate. The chairman welcomed everybody back to celebrate the Holocaust Remembrance Day in the European Parliament on 27 January.