Introductory speech by Moshe Kantor at the Fourth International “Let My People Live!” Forum


Honourable participants of this assembly, ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the European Jewish Congress, I wish to express our deepest gratitude to President Zeman for hosting The Fourth International ‘Let My People Live!’ Forum the day before the 70th anniversary of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. My sincere gratitude also goes to Prime Minister Sobotka, the Czech government and to President of the Parliament Hamaček for their tremendous assistance in organizing this event.

Let me start with a joke. During a heavy storm, one Jew remained very calm in a vessel. Everyone but him was nervous, rushing back and forth. A friend asked him, ‘Moshe, why are you not worried?’ And Moshe replied, ‘Because this is not my boat.’

I would like to say to you today, ‘We all are in the same European boat!’ And it is facing the rising tides of radical Islam, neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism. Today we are witnessing the renaissance of Nazism, which we call neo-Nazism and the ultra-right. It is flourishing not only on the streets. Neo-Nazis have already entered national parliaments, the European Parliament and local governments. Soon they could lead national executive power. Do you think their behaviour will be much different from their predecessors?

Who thought seriously that Herr Schicklgruber, a modest artist from Linz in Austria, would become the emperor of Europe in the middle of the last century? And respected world leaders were happy to appease him in every possible way.

Please, no political correctness today. We have many journalists with us here, and one would say that we need to be very careful and politically correct, and send simple messages. I think that today we need to speak in a very clear manner and discuss deep issues without thinking about political correctness and how it would sound. We see the same things on the horizon again. I am absolutely sure that tomorrow, when the ultra-right and neo-Nazis lead governments, they will immediately force us to forget about tolerance and political correctness just the day after tomorrow.

Now, about radical Islam, or jihadism. Neither Islam as a religion nor the global Muslim community, the Ummah, can be held responsible. Ninety-nine per cent of Muslims are normal, law-abiding people who never think of persecutions, pogroms or murder. Islam is their common denominator. It is more than a religion; it is a crucial factor of personal identity for more than a billion and a half people. Our Muslim neighbours have come to Europe to stay forever. Only our common enemies, neo-Nazis, can talk about finding a solution to make them leave Europe.

Radical Islam is the force to blame. The features of this phenomenon are well known. Arrogance, unshakable belief in your own righteousness, contempt for other faiths, creeds and ideals. Total rejection of such notions as freedom of thought and speech. Narrow and rigid fundamentalism, precluding any free discussion. And intolerance. Absolute lack of appreciation of the value of human life.

The background of Nazism is quite different. But if we try to feel the atmosphere, the spirit, if we compare the general approach to human values, we will be struck by a horrible similarity. Yes, in certain vital aspects jihadism is very close to Nazism. One could even say that they are two facets of the same evil.

Let us remember that Osama bin Laden created not only the infamous Al-Qaeda but also the World Islamic Front for the jihad against Jews and Christians. And if we analyse the content of Bin Laden’s appeals, declarations and manifestos, it is quite easy to see the same intolerance, the same contempt for freedom and human rights. Is such intolerance and ruthlessness directed against Jews only? By no means.

About anti-Semitism itself. One of the dear fairy tales constantly repeated by anti-Semites is that Jews are too rich and too influential. Almost 75 years ago, Simon Dubnow, an outstanding historian who died in the Riga Ghetto, made a very potent observation: ‘Those who hate Jews always love their money.’ For me as a businessman, it is a very clear issue. We believe in creating jobs, paying taxes, making investments. Everything that makes an economy flourish.

But look at the chart behind me. We have compared the growth ratio of European economies with the level of anti-Semitism. The correlation is obvious. Only three times in history, GDP dipped below 1 per cent a year: before World War I, before World War II and just now. Economic recession leads to the increase in the harassment of Jews. The logic is trivial. Funds and assets are needed. And today these curves diverge once more. A threatful warning! Another fact. The current relative scale of Jewish emigration (the yellow curve) from Europe is close to the level of the mid-1930s! There are two reasons for this exodus: economic pressure (as in Hungary and Greece), and threats from radical Islam.

Of course, by confiscating money and businesses and by expelling Jews, one can give a short-term boost to any type of expansion, including the military one, as it was in Germany; but it also destroys the integrity of an economic system built up over centuries and based on the reliability of human capital at a very high level, because nobody can find more law-abiding people than the Jews living in Europe for the last 3,000 years. The law of the country is our law.

Today, Jews are the only European minority that is afraid of sending children to school. Interesting fact. The thickness of the iron door at my children’s preparatory school is 25cm. Not every mother can open such a door without someone’s help. In response to my complaint, Federica Mogherini said, ‘Europe, where parents are afraid to send their kids to school, is not Europe any longer.’ But not everybody has such deep understanding.

Nothing can compensate for the lack of foresight demonstrated by democratic leaders. And what are many of them to blame for today? Short-sightedness, certainly. But not only that. The fear of being called an enemy of freedom, tolerance, political correctness and human rights. For some people, it is easier to turn a blind eye to violence and barbarity than to risk being accused of opposing multiculturalism.

Maybe because of that, we are a bit late. I have sensed the smell of violence in the air of European cities. I have heard slogans ‘Hitler was right’, and ‘Jews go to ghetto!’ I have read on the walls, ‘Close Guantanamo, reopen Auschwitz!’ But Europeans remained in comfortable arrogance. And terrible tragedy happened in Paris. My heart is of course with those people who were marching against terrorism and violence. But my mind understands that solidarity alone is not enough. We need a strong action plan.

That is why we invited journalists here, as well as lawyers and, of course, our respected guests, legislators. We believe in these powerful representatives of civil society. We believe that responsibility, democracy and law can prevent the unthinkable. I very much appreciate your coming here and your willingness to discuss the issues in a concentrated manner and without political bias.

The tragedies in Paris, Brussels and Toulouse are visible implications of the deep structural problems embodied in European society:

• Radical Islam, imported into our democracies and spewing forth into violence and murder;

• A multiculturalism that is tragically giving birth to monocultural ghettoes;

• An era of instant mass communications, and of mass migration and changing populations with very little or even no control;

• And finally, a media conditioned by sensation and instant profit rather than social responsibility.

I claim that Europe is at the edge of a ‘new Middle Ages’. Today totalitarian doctrine is openly destroying the continent’s Judeo-Christian values as it did seventy years ago.

That is why we have prepared the detailed and practical Azimuth Map, Model Law and Declaration, which, it is proposed to parliamentary speakers to sign. These three documents were drawn up by top experts and complement each other to counteract the threats of radical Islam, neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism in Europe. Please, support our mutual initiative by real, honest and concentrated discourse.

Thank you.