Speech by EJC President Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor at the Meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Moscow
Dear Mr. President!
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Before discussing some proposals, I would like to thank you and, through you, Russia’s leadership for supporting the initiatives and projects of the European Jewish Congress over the years.
Your idea to modernise Russia will certainly bear much fruit in terms of industrial and social development, just like the idea of computerisation gave birth to the Internet.
However, without proper spiritual and moral development society will never get a real taste of economic progress.
History knows many examples when thriving economies with backward mass ideologies not only sent themselves to the verge of collapse, but also inflicted global catastrophes on the whole world.
In this respect, we thank you for promoting the ideas of tolerance and reconciliation in society and particularly among young people in Europe’s largest country.
We express our deep gratitude for your decision to join with the U.S. President and other leaders of Allied States in addressing the participants of the third World Holocaust Forum, scheduled for January 27, 2010. The Forum will mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Red Army.
Briefly about the Congress
For 25 years since its founding, the European Jewish Congress has pursued the traditional tasks of a central political Jewish organisation in Europe, uniting 42 national organisations and 3 million Jews. These tasks include:
- fighting anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and extremism;
- designing and implementing pan-European tolerance and reconciliation programmes;
- counteracting universal threats, in particular the threat of nuclear catastrophe;
- supporting the State of Israel.
Introduction to our proposals
1. Threat of nuclear catastrophe – Iran
As we discussed with Mr. Lavrov at our recent meeting, we are living in an age of crises evolving in different directions. These include the crisis of the conventional parliamentary democracy and the much-discussed economic crisis.
However, I would like to draw your attention to one crisis in particular – the crisis of nuclear proliferation outside the framework of any relevant treaties.
Why does this happen? Humanity has become snared in the trap of trivialising threats. It is much easier for 99% of people to put up with the threat of nuclear catastrophe than “to cut off a hen’s head in order to cook it for dinner.” They care more about the results of English football matches than about the fact that it may take Iran just 300 to 500 days to have nuclear weapons in hand.
Another reason is that 6,000 European companies with a total turnover of about $100 billion cooperate with Iran on a daily basis. They forget the deplorable experience of the collaborators who earned money cooperating with Nazi Germany.
We see this as evidence of trivial thinking and a money-centred consciousness on the part of big business, with the mind merely doing the bidding of a blind will. Their burning desire for profit prevents them from realising possible consequences to global security.
We often hear that “Iran, unlike the other threshold states, is a highly educated country with a developed culture and diverse population. Despite statements that indicate a degree of hegemonic ideology, Iran will not launch a first strike.”
We should mention two facts here:
1) 20th century Germany was one of the most educated and cultured European countries, yet it unleashed two world wars;
2) Iran’s extensive Hezbollah network is represented in almost every European country, and Hezbollah is an extension of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. Iran finances and controls this network.
Through this network, Iran can launch a strike in any part of the world, not only in Israel. The threat is global, not regional.
We should also remember a third fact: when speaking of Iran, we mean the whole club of threshold countries. Iran is the worst from our perspective, but it is not the only one. It is accompanied by North Korea, and this considerably aggravates the problem.
In the light of the general threats posed to such key players as the U.S., the European Union, Russia, India, China and Israel, as well as the real threat of nuclear catastrophe, it is necessary that we stop treating each other with distrust.
This crisis of the non-proliferation system calls for establishing a “quick response system.”
Such a system could consist of a quick response control headquarters with executive functions directly supervised by the U.S. and Russian Presidents, so that emergency measures can be taken to counteract the proliferation of nuclear materials, critical technologies and nuclear weapons. The headquarters should have a separate subdivision to counteract nuclear terrorism.
Dmitry Anatolyevich, you have said that sanctions rarely lead to productive results, but in some specific cases their application is inevitable. Perhaps now it is high time Russia headed the fight for sustaining the non-proliferation regime and prevented the aggravation of the threat posed by Iran, including by means of activating Articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter.
We, European Jews, are extremely concerned about the fact that the Iranian President has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and its lessons, as well as threatened to destroy the State of Israel, the U.S., the U.K. and other countries.
Thus, we are dealing with direct threats posed to UN member states, which have every right to defend themselves. This is no mere threat, taking into account the fact that Iran may activate the nuclear potential of its international terrorist network.
The EJC is grateful to the Russian Federation’s leaders for their firm stand on the Iranian issue.
We also ask that Iran be not supplied with S-300 ground-to-air missile systems, as this would reduce Iran’s responsibility for a possible attack conducted by Iran directly or through regional branches of Hezbollah.
Russia holds the key to preventing nuclear catastrophe and certainly has a decisive role to play in ensuring global and regional security.
Clearly, the limits of tolerance in modern society cannot be vague.
The UN proclaimed 2009 the Year of Reconciliation. This is cause for specific steps to be taken.
Similar to the proposed non-proliferation control headquarters, it is advisable to establish, with the participation of the European Union, the U.S. and Russia, a central headquarters to counteract humanitarian threats.
Such a centre could pave the way for promoting the principles of secure tolerance as a continuous programme of practical actions, including legislation, education, migration policy, actions by national and supranational authorities and, of course, culture.
The establishment of a pan-European Secure Tolerance University in the heart of Europe with Russia’s participation could provide the platform for a policy of international security.
The interpenetrating synthesis of the security and tolerance notions is an obvious call of the day.
3. Third World Holocaust Forum
In cooperation with many partners, primarily the European Parliament and its President, the EJC will hold a Forum to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th, 2010, as well as the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Red Army.
Once again, we express our deep gratitude for the Russian President’s address and his decision to send a high-ranking Russian representative to participate in the Forum.
I would like to stress that this Forum fundamentally differs from the first Forum held in Krakow in 2005, which was basically a Forum of the joint political will of over 30 presidents of European states, including the Russian President.
This Forum welcomes both politicians and European parliamentarians to ensure law-making activities in the sphere of historical memory and tolerance education.
4. Day of Auschwitz-Birkenau Liberation by the Red Army
On the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we have a special proposal for Russia.
Taking into account the key role Russia played in defeating fascism and for the purpose of respecting historical justice and preventing revision of history’s lessons, we propose that Russia proclaim January 27 the official day of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Red Army.
We find this initiative to be very timely, taking into account current attempts at historical revisionism, such as parallels drawn between Stalinism and the Nazi regime.
In this respect (and now we speak from the position of a major victim of Nazism), we declare that we see fundamental differences between Stalinism and Nazism, between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.
Not defending Stalinism in any way, we believe that this difference is determined by two facts:
1) who started the fire of the Holocaust, and who put it out;
2) who unleashed the global Jewish catastrophe, and who liberated the peoples of Europe and stopped WWII.
One more request: only two liberators of Auschwitz-Birkenau are still living.
We ask that you give these people top state awards, thus publicly emphasising their merits. We will pass along a letter in this regard.
5. Protecting Human Rights, Anti-Semitism in Europe
Anti-Semitism remains a grave problem in Europe as evidenced in reports by leading expert institutions, in particular the Stephen Roth Institute and the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.
The European Jewish Congress is concerned about such developments in European countries. In this context, we deplore the UN Human Rights Council for its recently issued Goldstone Report.
We are grateful to the Russian Federation and to the leadership of most EU countries and the U.S. for denouncing this report.
We believe that the UN Human Rights Council neglected its original mandate, causing a European gap in the place of which a new organisation, the Pan-European Human Rights Agency, should be established.
We would like to ask for Russia’s support in this matter.
6. Russian Bureau of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation
Finally, we are co-founders of a very representative body of European civil society, the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation.
The European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation brings together leading European politicians of undisputed authority, among them former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, former Czech President Vaclav Havel and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.
We ask you to support the establishment of a Russian Bureau of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation.
I want to emphasise that this is not a Jewish organisation, but an organisation of interethnic and interfaith dialogue which strictly fits into the pan-European format.
The Bureau’s activities can become a clear example of how a full-fledged civil society is shaping up in the Russian Federation, a society that is open to interact and cooperate with foreign institutions, and how a fruitful dialogue is conducted between society and the government.
In closing, I want to say the following:
The European Jewish Congress, as an international organisation that actively cooperates with politicians and civil society representatives from various countries, is often perceived as a goodwill ambassador.
We want to thank you once again for the opportunity to meet, and we will do our best to meet the expectations laid on us. We hope that the messages will be positive and will serve to ensure global and regional security.
In the Jewish tradition, a blue thread is inserted into the sacred cloth of every Tallit prayer shawl, but only a person who has the gift of seeing the future can see the thread, even if the thread and the future are hidden from our eyes.
You, as President of Russia, have your own programme. This is your blue thread which will definitely lead you to success.
The last words of the Torah are “Be firm and resolute!” These words emphasise the qualities without which we will never progress on our way, even if we have a blue thread in our hands.