ECI co-hosts Emergency Summit on Global Antisemitism as faith leaders and diplomats face their “Evian moment” ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Emergency Summit on Antisemitism GVA 2024

Emergency Summit on Antisemitism GVA 2024Geneva, January 26th, 2024 – Diplomats and faith leaders from across Europe met in the premises of the UN Headquarters in Geneva on Wednesday 24th January for a one-day symposium to discuss the surge in antisemitism after the October 7 massacre in Israel.

“This is our Evian moment”, said ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell in his opening remarks. When US President Franklin D. Roosevelt called together world leaders in Evian in 1938, less than an hour away from Geneva, to decide whether to help the fleeing Jews from Nazi Germany and confront Hitler in his evil schemes, they failed on both accounts. “Will we be any different, at a time when Israel is being openly threatened with annihilation by the Islamic Republic of Iran and these calls are being echoed on the streets of Europe?” Sandell asked.

Many speakers pointed out the troubling fact that this rise of antisemitism began immediately after the terror attack on October 7 and not only after Israel had begun its military defence operation in Gaza several weeks later.

“Even in Berlin, the capital of Nazi Germany, sweets were handed out to children to celebrate this massacre”, Matthias K. Böhning of the World Evangelical Alliance noted.

In their respective interventions, both the Permanent Representative of Germany to the UN in Geneva, Katharina Stasch and Israel’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Meirav Eilon Shahar expressed their genuine shock over the inability of the UN institutions in Geneva to condemn the terror attack of October 7. Ambassador Shahar did not hide her disappointment in explaining how she felt that the UN had again failed the Jewish people. Replying to those ambassadors at the conference who wanted to differentiate between criticism of Israel’s military operation in Gaza on the one hand and a clear stance against antisemitism in Europe on the other hand, she said that “it is one thing to criticise Israel, it is another thing to undermine the very existence of the State of Israel. When the calls for annihilation of Israel, from the river to the sea, are heard on the streets of Europe no Jew feels safe”, she concluded.

CEO Gady Gronich from the Conference of European Rabbis called for a concrete action plan to stem the spike of Jew-hatred before it is too late. Tomas Sandell pointed out that just as Russian TV stations were closed down after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we may need to consider what we should do with those media platforms which are now spreading antisemitism and misinformation about the events of October 7, especially the Qatari funded Al Jazeera. “Those nations which are actively financing hatred and antisemitism in Europe and elsewhere in the world need to be singled out, among them Qatar, Turkey and Russia, but especially the Islamic Republic of Iran”, he said.

The one-day summit, which was co-hosted by the World Jewish Congress, concluded on Wednesday evening with a Holocaust Memorial in Paroisse de l’Oratoire in the old city of Geneva with a concert by French pianist François Dumont. Among the speakers in the evening were Bishop Teemu Laajasalo from the Diocese of Helsinki of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the German Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Nikola Gillhoff.

Other speakers at the Emergency Summit included co-host Dr Leon Saltiel of the World Jewish Congress, Dr Gregory Lafitte of the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy, Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, Father Christophe Le Sourt of the French Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Dr Arto Hämäläinen, Chairman of the Pentecostal Commission on Religious Liberty, Dr Elizabeta Kitanovic from the Conference of European Churches (CEC), Dr Christian Staffa, Director of the Evangelische Akademie zu Berlin and Michael Wiener from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Video messages were received both from the EU Coordinator in the combat against antisemitism, Katharina von Schnurbein and the US Special Envoy in the combat against antisemitism, Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt. Also the former Prime Minister of Slovakia, Eduard Heger sent a much-appreciated message to the conference by sharing how his nation under his leadership had publicly asked for forgiveness for the treatment of Jews during the Nazi occupation. He asked the audience to be on the guard as antisemitism is once more on the rise.

In a special message to the summit the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton said that he is not optimistic about the future and asked leaders to be on their guard. “Israel is under threat on a level that seems equal to anything they have experienced after 1948. Christian people must stand with Israel at this time. To do otherwise would be a rejection of our faith and democracy.”

 

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