PRAGUE – The World Jewish Congress Executive Committee gathered in Prague this week for its bi-annual meeting, to discuss the pressing issues facing their communities around the world, including a frank discussion on the response of Jewish communities to the rising anti-Semitism on both the far right and the far left, including in political parties.
“There are few countries that have a longer history of support for the Jewish people and the State of Israel than the Czech Republic, which makes this meeting and its location all the more important,” WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said in a message to Executive Committee members. “I want to personally thanks Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and the Czech people for being a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people. We hope the move of the Embassy will happen very soon.”
In an off-the record discussion moderated by President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities Noemi Di Segni, European Jewish leaders including WJC Vice President and President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews Marie van der Zyl, WJC Executive Member and Honorary President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Austria Ariel Muzicant, WJC Vice President and President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary Andras Heisler and President of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland Lesław Piszewski spoke of their own experiences in combating anti-Semitism in its many guises and across the political spectrum.
"We are witnessing a global process of radicalization of the political spectrum and the rise of a triangle of extreme ideologies: The far right, the far left and radical Islam,” said European Jewish Congress President and WJC Vice President Moshe Kantor. “The common perception is that these radical movements have entirely opposing views. This is true to some extent. However, radicals often converge on certain unified goals and against certain political targets. Unfortunately, and with no surprise, the common element that unifies radicals seems to be their hatred of Jews."
“Anti-Semitism is unique in its durability and adaptability. Like the disease that it is, it morphs and transforms to ensure its survival from generation to generation,” said WJC Commissioner on Anti-Semitism Julius Meinl. “While most racism is predicated on the inferiority of the victim, portraying them as less intelligent, less capable, and less human, anti-Semitism uniquely portrays the Jews as supremely powerful, as controlling, as pulling the strings behind global capitalism or global communism, as being behind either a left-wing or right-wing bias – always dependent on the accusers’ own politics. And that is where anti-Semitism is exactly like all form of racism – in its total irrationality.”
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš told members of the Executive Committee in a keynote address at the opening dinner of the gathering, hosted by President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic Peter Papoušek, that he was “very proud that the Czech Jewish communities are once again strong and vital enough to be able to put together and organize such an important and major global event… Prague has always been a city of not only Czechs and Germans, but also of Jews, who lived here for centuries.”
Over the course of the two-day meeting, the Executive Committee reviewed reports delivered by WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer and WJC Treasurer Chella Safra, who welcomed all in attendenced and expressed the organization’s appreciation for the dedication of the WJC’s lay leadership and professional staff to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. The Executive Committee also heard reports by WJC Communal Security Committee Chair Mary Kluk, Co-chair of WJC Policy Council and Chair of Credentials Committee Robert Goot, WJC Israel Chair Gad Ariely, Latin American Jewish Congress President Adrian Werthein, and EuroAsian Jewish Congress President Mikhail Mirilashvili.
The Israel Council on Foreign Relations, which operates under the auspices of the World Jewish Congress, also led a panel discussion on recent developments in the Syrian conflict, the Iranian nuclear deal, and generally in the Middle East, with speakers MK Avi Dichter and Prof. Charles D. (Chuck) Freilich.