By Pagine Ebraiche staff

Today there are “too many signals of a rising anti-Semitism. We have to fight it, because our own safety is at stake”, pleaded the Italian foreign minister, Angelino Alfano, during the International Conference on the Responsibility of States, Institutions and Individuals in the Fight against Anti-Semitism.

The conference, held in Rome on January 29th, was promoted by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHIR), the Foundation Jewish Contemporary Documentation Centre (CDEC) in Milan and the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI).

When opening the conference, Mr. Alfano said that Italy’s OSCE chairmanship in 2018 “will promote the fight against the discrimination of Jews, Christians, Muslims and other religious communities”. With regard to the rising anti-Semitism in Europe, Mr. Alfano explained that “we have to worry when anti-Semitism grows with no reaction. Silence always helps the attacker, not the victim”. He added: “We cannot allow awful claims of racial superiority any longer”. Mr. Alfano also mentioned Tikkun Olam, the Jewish concept meaning “repair of the world”. “We are not deceiving ourselves into thinking that we can change the world as a whole, but we suggest that every OSCE country begins the operations needed to fight anti-Semitism”, among others, the implementation of the definition of anti-Semitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA, which will be chaired by an Italian from next March). Mr. Alfano continued: “At the suggestion of UCEI’s president Noemi Di Segni, I also talked to our Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni about creating a national monitoring centre on anti-Semitism”.

The alarming resurgence of anti-Semitism was also discussed by the president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder. “Germany has laws against anti-Jewish hatred and speech. Every other country should implement such laws as well. Anti-Semitism must have its consequences”, said Mr. Lauder, who spoke after OSCE secretary general Thomas Greminger and ODHIR director Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir.

UCEI president Noemi Di Segni stated: “Together we must enhance a path to go from the denial of rights (during the thousand-year-old presence of Jews in the Italian diaspora, but most of all during this year’s eightieth anniversary of 1938 racial laws) to the protection of rights. Those are mostly natural rights, to be protected both in our real spaces, whether national or international, and in our virtual ones. Mrs. Di Segni added that, if the issue of anti-Semitism has no borders, “what are national and supranational institutions, which have to follow “traditional” rules of lawmaking limited by their jurisdiction and mandate, supposed to do? How can we involve and make those who design the Net feel responsible, instead of fishing out those who surf it?”. “Hatred is not the Jews’ problem, it is the problem of the peoples surrounding our lives and borders, those who reject diversity”, Mrs. Di Segni explained. “And the most humane of solutions, the one that the Jewish people has always wanted and that we want to propose again, is that of peace and cooperation, through laws, common values and prayers, and through the many unknown heroes that work every day to foster dialogue and rescue those in need – thinking about the youth, about our children”.

The time for words is over, warned the chairman of the Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor. “It is time for real action”, also against the hatred for Israel and against the people trying to delegitimise it. The issue of masking anti-Semitism as anti-Zionism was raised by several other speakers as well.

“We thought that after the Shoah, anti-Semitims was over”, stated rabbi Israel Meir Lau, president of Yad Vashem. The rabbi started by quoting the words Pope Francis’ spoke during his visit to Yad Vashem: “The Pope mentioned the question Ayeka? Where were you?” A question we have to keep asking ourselves, explained the rabbi, who survived the Shoah for eight years. Where were the United States and the European citizens while the atrocious Shoah was happening?
Mr. Alfano thanked councilor Alessandro Ruben, among others, for his ideas and for helping with the event.

Translated by Federica Alabiso, student at the Advanced School for Interpreters and Translators of Trieste University, intern at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities.