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Speech of the Special Secretary for Religious and Cultural Diplomacy and Head of the Greek Delegation to the IHRA, Dr Efstathios Lianos Liantis, at the Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism in the OSCE Region (Bratislava, 5-6 February 2019)
“Those of us who have been involved in studying the phenomenon of anti-Semitism, we witness that not only does such social virus keep spreading and contaminating more and more people regardless of social status and age group, but is unfailingly transmuting into milder or more aggressive forms, depending on the social environment, the education level, the national, political or religious groups where the phenomenon grows. Yet, it is fed by sources of misinformation and propaganda, which may be either cognate or contrary to each other, such as political extremes and religious fundamentalism, be it Islamic or Christian.
As a political stand, a religious perception or an ideological trend, anti-Semitism is a major social issue, plaguing Europe for a number of centuries and calling into question the moral status of the Western Civilization. The irrationality of this phenomenon can be easily perceived if we consider the doubts cast on the Holocaust, the most vividly documented and thoroughly recorded massive crime in human history. The anti-Semites who endorse any freakish pamphleteering of conspiracy theorists, either reject or doubt the Holocaust, which has been actually recorded by its ruthless perpetrators themselves.
The dominant political forces in Europe, albeit quite belatedly, adopted legislative initiatives and educational activities against anti-Semitism and the distortion of the historical facts related to the Holocaust. Yet, the results prove that these measures are rather inadequate. In such an uneven fight between rationalism and unreasonable hatred, all sound intellectual and religious forces should be brought together. I think the time has come for us to see a joint, powerful Declaration against anti-Semitism by the leaders of the three major Christian denominations of the European Continent. A text to be read to all Christian places of worship and be disseminated through the media networks of Churches to every single believer. The Muslim religious leaders in Europe should try to do the same.
In Greece, during the last twenty years, we have managed to coordinate all competent government bodies so that their actions give out a strong and perpetual result, especially as to legislation, its practical application and education. The foundation of the Holocaust Museum of Greece in Thessaloniki in 2018, by the Israeli President and the Greek Prime Minister has been a milestone. The mission of the museum lies on three pillars, which are actually policies for combating anti-Semitism. First of all, to pay tribute to the Greek-Jews who perished during the Holocaust. Secondly, to celebrate the 2,000 years of one of the most ancient Jewish communities in Europe, including its re-establishment in 1945. And thirdly, to inspire the future generations in understanding that our lessons of the past may help us shape our future. Also, I have to signalize that the last plenary meeting of IHRA in Ferrara unanimously decided that Greece will hold the annual chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) for the year 2021.
To all political, intellectual and religious forces, a position of principle to be upheld at all times should be the analysis of and objection against the problem of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism remains a structural stereotype of modern societies; as a result, its transformations are channeled among us, expressed as new arguments and introducing new concepts.
The most common example is the use of Judeo-phobic stereotypes when it comes to criticizing the State of Israel. Regardless of the level of diplomatic relations and contacts with Israel, no country is entitled to question the importance of this state’s existence, because, as stressed by the Holocaust survivor and philosopher, Jean Améry, “Who questions Israel’s right to exist is either too stupid to see that he engages in the realisation of a new Auschwitz or he consciously aims at this new Auschwitz”. Israel, as the state created in the ashes of the Holocaust, continues to be the last line of defense for the Jews in a strongly anti-Semitic world.
Any anti-fascist action without an explicit objection to anti-Semitism would be deficient. Therefore, it is necessary for us to stand out against any reemergence of anti-Semitism, whatever form it takes. The fight against such a political, intellectual and moral decline needs to become a pan-european affair before it is too late.”