Jewish leaders appealed to the European Union today to take a
lead in combating a perceived revival of anti-Semitism, warning
that official indifference was leading to a return of the
Continent's historic "monster."
"Jewish communities in Europe live in fear," said Elie
Wiesel, the Nobel Peace prize winning author and Holocaust
"How is it that the reverberations of the 20th century
still spread into the 21st century? Haven't we learned
Mr Wiesel was addressing government, religious and community
leaders attending an unprecedented seminar organised by the EU in
response to concerns about a return of anti-Semitism.
Romano Prodi, the European Commission President, stressed that
"the Europe of today is the not the Europe of the 1930s and
1940s." But, he added, "We must never forget what
Anti-Semitic acts must be dealt with severely and the rights of
our minorities must be safeguarded."
Mr Prodi conceded that anti-Semitism, spreading among
disaffected Arab minorities in Europe and fuelled by the Middle
East conflict, presented a "new challenge."
He said that the EU would act on calls to toughen penalties for
anti-Jewish crimes and improve education about the legacy of
centuries of persecution on the Continent.
"We must use all the instruments available to deal with
anti-Semitism of this sort, ranging from police and judicial
action to education and social measures," he said.
Recent attacks against Jews and their properties in Europe -
including fire-bombing of synagogues and schools or desecration of
graves - have been linked to the intensification of violence in
the Middle East.
Youths from the large Arab immigrant communities in France,
Belgium and other European countries have been blamed for many of
Jewish organisations have reproached European authorities for
failing to take a tough enough stance, or for inflaming
anti-Semitism through "unbalanced" criticism of Israeli
Nathan Sharansky, Israel's Minister for Diaspora Affairs, told
the meeting that his Government accepted criticism, but he said
there was a "fine line" between legitimate differences
and anti-Semitic "demonisation".
He called for Europeans to put pressure on Arab nations that
allowed the release of anti-Semitic material, referring to books
from Egypt, movies from Syria and sermons delivered in Saudi
Cobi Benatoff, president of the European Jewish Congress, said
that the EU should join Jewish organisations in monitoring
anti-Semitic incidents and back a draft UN resolution condemning
"We bring a message today and that message is a warning to
Europe," Mr Benatoff said. "Anti-Semitism and prejudice
have returned. The monster is here with us once again."
Mr Benatoff and Edgar Bronfman, president of the New York-based
World Jewish Congress recently accused the EU of
"intellectual dishonesty and moral treachery" in
They took the EU's head office to task for suppressing a study
highlighting the involvement of Europe's Arab minorities in
anti-Semitic attacks, and for a "flawed and dangerously
inflammatory" EU opinion poll that put Israel at the top of a
list of nations seen to threaten world peace.
The accusations infuriated Mr Prodi who has highlighted the
EU's role in promoting tolerance and whose first foreign visit
after taking office in 1999 was to the Nazi death camp at
Auschwitz in Poland to pay homage to the victims of anti-Semitism.
Mr Benatoff praised Mr Prodi today for his "courage and
vision," but he said that the EU needed to do more.
"We see today that words simply are not enough ... We
expect robust positions to be taken by European authorities."
At a separate meeting in Brussels today, Prince Saud al-Faisal,
Saudi Arabiaís foreign minister, hit out at "negative
stereotyping" and warned against imposing Western values on
the Arab world.
He said that the fixed idea in the West characterised Islam as
followed by "backward characters who should be dragged
kicking and screaming into Western civilisation".
He pleaded: "Donít let small numbers of terrorists
tarnish this religion. What is needed is mutual understanding and
"You cannot just dismiss a 1,400-year-old culture and
civilisation and stigmatise it as merely a hatchery for