Young people who have been locked down for the past year and a half, and who have been exposed “24/7 to online disinformation, extremism and antisemitism,” are being “intensively brainwashed,” the president of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), Dr. Moshe Kantor, told officials in Sweden this week.
Kantor made his remarks in an address to the plenary of the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism on behalf of Europe’s Jewish communities.
He called on world leaders to focus their efforts on fighting extremism and conspiracy theories amongst youth.
“Over the past year and a half, young people have been locked down and exposed 24/7 to online disinformation, extremism and antisemitism,” Kantor said.
“Never in history was a young generation so intensively brainwashed with conspiracy theories and lies, and at the same time so unfamiliar with the tragedy of the Holocaust.
“Therefore, preventing young people from falling into extremism is one of the fundamental challenges of our time. But so far, the majority of our strategies have failed.”
Kantor stressed the importance of a multi-faceted approach to the problem of extremism by providing solid economic foundations and channeling the force of social influence for good.
“We must invest more in young people; we need a new social contract between generations. We must adapt to the digital age and to find the most relevant influencers online and build social platforms that will attract our younger generations and open their souls and minds.
“We cannot win the fight against antisemitism without winning the fight against extremism in general. We can turn social media from a potential mental health catastrophe into the most effective way of combating extremism,” he added.
Heads of state and government, researchers, experts and civil society representatives from around 50 countries were present at the forum, which had originally been scheduled for October 2020 — 75 years after the end of World War II and the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau — but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Forum was hosted by Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and attended by many national leaders, including Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, UN Secretary General António Guterres, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Sweden’s HM King Carl XVI Gustaf and HM Queen Silvia were also in attendance. Leaders of hi-tech and social media companies like Google, Facebook and Tik Tok also participated.