(TPS) Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Brussels called on Europe to fight online antisemitism on Thursday, stressing that “the Holocaust was not conceived in a vacuum.”
Addressing the European Parliament ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, Herzog denounced rising levels of antisemitism in Europe.
“Today we see movements on the extremes of European and world politics, which proudly raise the ugly banner of antisemitism, which once more threatens to turn democratic and civilized societies into ones that devour their own people. Unfortunately, the picture is disturbing. Deeply disturbing,” Herzog said.
“Antisemitic discourse festers not only within dark regimes; but within the heartlands of the free, democratic West. Jew-hatred still exists. Antisemitism still exists. Holocaust denial still exists,” he noted. “The latest reports point to new records of hatred, as antisemitism continues to don new guises, and this time it is active on virtual platforms as well—fueled by them, striking roots in them, thriving, spreading poison.”
The President also called on the European officials to take stronger measures against antisemitism on social media.
“The distance between a viral video and a physical attack hardly exists at all. The distance between a Facebook post and the smashing of headstones in a cemetery is shorter than we would think. Deranged tweets can kill. They really can. Antisemites draw inspiration and ideas from virtual platforms.”
He also urged European nations that have not already done so to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. The non-binding definition was developed in 2016 by the Berlin-based IHRA, an intergovernmental organization that seeks to strengthen Holocaust education.
Herzog also stressed to lawmakers the distinction between what he called “legitimate” criticism of Israel and antisemitism.
“Our country is open to criticism like all members in the family of nations, and Israeli democracy certainly excels in fierce and penetrating internal criticism. However—and this is the important and critical difference—criticism of the State of Israel must not cross the line into negation of the very existence of the State of Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish People, as recognized by the institutions of the international community,” he said.
“Casting doubt on the nation-state of the Jewish people’s right to exist is not legitimate diplomacy. It is antisemitism in the full sense of the word, and it must be thoroughly uprooted. The rule is simple: criticism of us must pass the basic test of fairness and integrity, and it must not cross the line into dehumanization or delegitimization.”
Herzog’s itinerary in Belgium includes meetings with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and ambassadors from its member countries, as well as members of the Belgian Jewish community.
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