Photo Credit: Hadas Parush / Flash 90
French President Emmanuel Macron in Israel, January 22, 2020.

European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor called on leaders, decision-makers and opinion-shapers around the world to rethink the way antisemitism is fought, and to reorient policy towards younger generations.

Kantor spoke at an official International Holocaust Remembrance Day event alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Council Charles Michel and former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, newly elected President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola, Vice President of the European Commission and European Commissioner for Promoting the European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas and President of the Representative Council of French Jewish institutions (CRIF) Francis Kalifat.

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The event, organized by the European Jewish Congress, was held in cooperation with the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union and CRIF.

“Today’s youth are not aware or concerned about the lessons of World War Two or the Shoah,” Dr. Kantor said, noting that 2022 has been designated as the European Year of Youth. “We have to understand better their concerns and aspirations and speak to them in their language”.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, young people have spent even more time online, soaking up information, some of it accurate, much of it not. We have to battle extremism, because without battling extremism, we cannot fight antisemitism. The two are inexorably linked.

“There has been a tsunami of lies about Jews, Israel and the Holocaust over the last couple of years, so we have to create new strategies to reach those who are consuming this information innocently. We have to create new tools, reach out to both micro and macro influencers to ensure they have accurate information.” Kantor added.

President Macron spoke about the commitment that the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union has made fighting all forms of discrimination as one of its priorities, and it will reaffirm the specificity and unique nature of antisemitism.

“It is a battle to ensure there is no repetition of the mistakes of the past, and a battle for the dignity of all,” President Macron said. “This fight has unfortunately become a reality once more, as ill winds have risen again, as political discourse has set in, as falsifications of history are back, and as certain acts remind us on a daily basis that we have not finished this battle. We will yield no ground.”

This is only the second time that President Macron and all three heads of the EU institutions have spoken at an International Holocaust Remembrance Day event, following the World Holocaust Forum held in Jerusalem in 2020. As 2022 marks the 80th anniversary of the round-ups of French Jews, the ceremony focused on the Holocaust in France. As such, testimonies of French survivors and historical footage were also featured.

“On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we remember all those who survived, and the millions who perished in the Holocaust. We must never forget. Because Jewish life is an integral part of Europe’s history and of Europe’s future,” European Commission President von der Leyen said. “The Commission will continue fighting antisemitism and defending human rights and dignity in Europe and in the world. You can always count on the European Commission to stand by your side.”

“Today the lessons of the Shoah are more relevant than ever. First, because Jewish people feel threatened, and they are threatened,” European Council President Michel said. “They are even attacked in Europe. Just because they are Jewish. We do not accept this. We will never accept it. It cannot be repeated enough. Europe would not be what it is today without Jewish people. And Europe without Jewish people would not be Europe.”

“The European Parliament’s responsibility to remember is institutional, but it is also very personal. Today we remember the atrocities committed towards the Jewish people and all the victims of the Holocaust.” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said. “Our generation has a sacred responsibility to teach the lessons of history and to remind our youth of how low humanity was allowed to sink.”

Vice President Schinas spoke about the ever-growing threat of Holocaust trivialization, especially that which compares the Holocaust to Covid-19.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how old antisemitic prejudice can resurge and fuel new conspiracy myths and hatred both online and offline,” European Commission VP Schinas said. “The comparison of the pandemic measures with the policies that led to the genocide of the Jewish people minimizes and trivialises the experiences of Holocaust victims and survivors. This is unacceptable. Holocaust distortion if left unchallenged nourishes antisemitism, polarises and creates dangerous forms of nationalism. This constitutes a threat to our democracies.”

There was also a panel discussion with former Prime Minister of France Manuel Valls, renowned philosopher Raphaël Enthoven, and writer and columnist Abnousse Shalmani. The discussion was moderated by journalist Jean-Charles Banoun and addressed the current challenges, such as the rise of antisemitism and extremism, Holocaust trivialisation, youth radicalisation and the spread of conspiracy theories, hatred and disinformation on social media. Closing remarks were delivered by CRIF President Francis Kalifat.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.