Deputy Prime Minister of Hungary Tibor Navracsics publicly acknowledged Hungarian responsibility for the Holocaust in Hungary.
Navracsics was speaking at an international “Conference on Jewish Life and Antisemitism in Contemporary Europe,” hosted by the Tom Lantos Institute, almost two weeks ago. The conference, which I attended as a participant, was symbolically held in the Upper House of the Hungarian Parliament, the site where 70 years earlier the Hungarian government decided to betray its Jewish population by submitting to the Nazis.
Navracsics also declared that Hungary would fight antisemitism and outlined a detailed action plan, including legislation, to fight racism, protect citizens, and safeguard democracy. Indeed, there has been an increase of antisemitic incidents in Hungary recently. This includes the dangerous growth of the far right wing political party, Jobbik, which holds 43 seats in the Hungarian Parliament and whose members have verbally attacked Jews during their speeches before parliament.
Navracsics’s announcement, in the name of the Hungarian government, continues an important process in Hungary. The government already allocates resources for constructing memorial centers, renewing the Great Jewish Synagogue, investing in the Jewish life museum in Budapest, and repairing Hungarian Jewish community facilities.
Representatives from other countries at the conference relayed similar efforts taking place in other parts of the Europe. Sir Andrew Burns, the first ever UK special envoy for Post-Holocaust issues, declared that the British government is committed to preventing antisemitic and racist activities. Additionally, Greece’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kyriakos Gerontopolulos, shared the latest news regarding the crackdown against the neo-Nazi political party Golden Dawn.
These examples, and the fact that the European Union invests in frameworks such as Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to combat antisemitism, indicate a promising trend in the European fight against antisemitism.
On the other hand, however, as NGO Monitor research shows, the EU and European governments continue to fund NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that are involved in antisemitic activities and rhetoric. For instance, Miftah, a Palestinian NGO founded by Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi, published an article repeating ancient antisemitic blood libels against the Jewish people. In April 2013, an Arabic-language article appeared alleging that “the Jews used the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover.” Miftah is funded by the European governments of Austria, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland through different funding frameworks.
Israeli Committee against House Demolitions and Coalition of Women for Peace, fringe Israeli NGOs, are further examples: Representatives of CWP and ICAHD participated in a May 12, 2010 anti-Israel divestment rally in Brussels. The event featured an antisemitic episode, when one rally leader drank fake blood out of a wine glass – an apparent reference to the libel of Jews drinking Christian blood as wine – to highlight Israel’s alleged brutality. Both NGOs are indirectly funded by the governments of Denmark, France, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. This funding contradicts the stated foreign policies of these governments. The question is why European governments continue funding NGOs involved in antisemitic activities that contradict their declared policies?
One important step European governments can take is stopping the flow of funding to NGOs involved in antisemitic activity. But, Europe can do more to follow Hungary’s example. Will Member States of the EU promote legislation on combating and countering hate crimes, racism and antisemitism by means of criminal law, according to Council Framework Decision from 2008, as mentioned by Michael Whine, the Director of the Government and International Affairs at the Community Security Trust? Will European governments respond immediately and comprehensively to every single attack on Jews, as suggested by Ira Foreman, the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to monitor and combat Antisemitism, during his speech at the conference?
Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, said in a video message to the conference participants that “to be antisemitic is to be anti-Europe and to resist European Culture.” It has to be clear that an attack on the Jewish people is an attack on European democracy. If the European Union wishes to preserve its cultural character, it must protect all its citizens from racism by legislation and its vigorous implementation. At least one thing was clear in this conference: the participants recognized that antisemitic attacks on Jews, against the Jewish people, and on the right of the Jewish nation to sovereign equality (Israel) are all part of the same threat.