The Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism is a very important international conference. The first one was held in 2007, followed by two more events in 2008 and 2009. May 28-30, 2013, the fourth Global Forum will take place in Jerusalem. Fighting antisemitism, hatred of Israel, Islamism, anti-Zionism, and the distortion of the Shoah are tremendously timely and important topics.
Israel is a tiny country and the only one facing genocidal threats. Anti-Zionism is a religion in Europe and particularly in the Arab world, and parts of the Muslim world. Iran denies the Holocaust and agitates in a Nazi-style against Israel. Islamism is a huge threat on a worldwide level, but particularly in the Middle East, just look at Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey with the more veiled but influential, equally legal form of Islamism and Jihad (remember the Mavi Marmara) or Saudi-Arabia with its decades long spread of Islamist ideology via funding of extremist groups, mosques, cultural centers and the like. Qatar is home of one of the world’s leading Sunni Islamists, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who urges the Muslim world to fight Israel, who supports suicide bombing by unveiled females and who thanked Hitler for having punished the Jews. No one is criticizing or isolating Qatar for being host of that influential antisemite and his world-wide media network, including al-Jazeera.
Therefore, the Global Forum will be a very important gathering of those dedicated to fight Islamism, Muslim antisemitism, anti-Zionism and hatred of Israel in all its forms.
However, is it a good idea to invite someone to an event dedicated to fight antisemitism and a possible ‘second Holocaust’ who is known for distorting, veiling or even affirming the Holocaust? Are politicians or representatives of countries known for their efforts to whitewash their own pro-Nazi legacy allies in the fight against Holocaust denial and distortion of history? Is it a reflection and sign of a change in public relations to invite the very same country to the very same event four years later, again?
Some tiny and not powerful countries have learnt to pay lip-service to Israel while promoting the above mentioned Holocaust distortion in their own countries. This is the case in Hungary and Lithuania.
In December 2009 I was part of a struggle against Lithuanian antisemitism at the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism, organized by the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. In a working group, Professor of Yiddish Dovid Katz and I, supported by British MP John Mann, criticized Lithuanian antisemitism and Holocaust distortion!
Now, in May 2013, the very same Lithuanian government will be invited to the fourth Global Forum. Are the representatives at the MfA just lazy and have no other countries in mind when it comes to Israel and antisemitism? Was our criticism in December 2009 completely useless?
Now, facing the next Global Forum end of May 2013 in Jerusalem, Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, said senior government officials from Lithuania, Greece, Hungary and Ireland should not be allowed to attend — and speak at — the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism. “The opportunity to address the conference by visiting dignitaries should be a prize given to people who are leading the fight against anti-Semitism, and not to individuals representing countries in which the problem is among the worst in Europe, if not the worst,”.
In December 2009 Zuroff already criticized the invitation of the then Lithuanian Foreign Minister: