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NEW YORK— WJC President Ronald S. Lauder outlined the organization’s priorities in the fight against antisemitism during an event in New York on Thursday. In his remarks delivered ahead of an expert panel discussion organized together with the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations and the country’s Consulate General in New York, Lauder declared, “There is an urgent need for governments, international organizations, including the UN, to redouble their efforts to fight antisemitism. It is particularly important to create a national action plan.”
He added, “I am happy to hear that the Czech Republic is currently drafting one, a critical step in demonstrating its commitment to fighting the world’s oldest hatred.”
The Czech Republic, which current holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, is in the process of developing a national strategy to address antisemitism.
H.E. Jakub Kulhánek, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, and Mr. Arnošt Kareš, Consul General of the Czech Republic in New York, also delivered welcoming remarks underscoring the government’s commitment to fostering Jewish life in the country and ensuring that necessary measures are in place to provide security to the local community.
Kulhánek said “above all our efforts to combat antisemitism should be informed by one simple guiding principle, that is we should never forget. Never let the horrific memory of the Holocaust fade away. Only then can we be successful in uprooting the terrible scourge of antisemitism.” In a stark reminder of the dangers of remaining indifferent to antisemitism, the Ambassador concluded his remarks by reading the words of German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Kareš said "we have to speed our efforts to speed our efforts in implementing and developing national strategies on combat antisemitism forward. Let's aim high. Let's act now, but we shall never forget the past and testimony of survivors."
Participants in the panel included Ms. Ilze Brands Kehris UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Amb. Tomáš Pojar Czech National Security Advisor and Deputy Prime Minister for Security Affairs, Mr. Petr Papoušek President of Federation of The Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic and WJC Vice President, and Karel Fracapane Programme Specialist for Global Citizenship and Peace Education Section at UNESCO and the organization’s Focal Point for hate speech.
Ms. Ilze Brands Kehris United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, addressed the need to understand antisemitism not as only as a local problem, but also as a global phenomenon, noting that “antisemitism exists even in places where there are no Jewish communities alongside other forms of bigotry.” Warning about the dangers of antisemitism for world at large, not only the Jewish community, the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights noted that there is a direct link from “violent incidents and attacks that are perpetrated by speech.”
Amb. Tomáš Pojar, advisor to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister for Security Affairs of the Czech Republic, called on good intentioned individuals to call out antisemitism, saying “We should talk about antisemitism wherever it is. We should not be silent and pretend that nothing is happening.” Amb. Pojar added that “We should be talking about it frankly. We must admit that we are not good that that. Not good at that at home, at the UN, and anywhere else.”
Mr. Petr Papoušek President of Federation of The Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic and WJC Vice President, addressed the origins of antisemitism, lamenting that antisemitism often surges in times of uncertainty, such as the coronavirus pandemic or Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“When people are worried and afraid, they look for a scapegoat. And Jews are once again the scapegoat,” said Papoušek, adding that “It’s important that the Jewish community works with the institutions to draft and complete the strategy to combat antisemitism.”
Mr. Karel Fracapane Programme Specialist for Global Citizenship and Peace Education Section at UNESCO & Focal Point for Hate Speech, spoke about the need to develop a national strategy to combat antisemitism. Noting the importance of education to combat antisemitism Fracapane called on the strategies to combat antisemitism to “address antisemitism practically through education, educate about antisemitism—it’s uniqueness and history, and last but not least ensure that education authorities can respond to antisemitism in educational environment.”
Antisemitism impacts Jews around the globe. The number of antisemitic incidents, including antisemitism on social media, intimidation and even physical attacks against Jews have dramatically risen and this is deeply worrying. For example, antisemitic incidents now account for a high percentage of all hate crimes in Europe, even though Jews comprise less than 1% of the population.
To learn more about the origins of antisemitic conspiracy myths click here.