Parliamentarians, senior European government officials and European Jewish leaders attended the conference of the European Jewish Alliance (EJA) in Prague and at the Theresienstadt concentration camp on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day to discuss ways of dealing with fake news and conspiracy theories against Jews in the media and on social networks, and with the rising antisemitism in Universities across the continent.
More than a hundred parliamentarians, senior European government officials and European Jewish leaders attended a conference of the European Jewish Alliance (EJA) in Prague and at the Theresienstadt concentration camp in the Czech Republic, where participants declared war on antisemitic fake news, conspiracy theories against Jews, and the growing antisemitism in the continent’s universities. They also agreed to support educational initiatives against hate speech.
The Action and Protection League (APL) was represented by Secretary Kálmán Szalai, Foreign Affairs Director Tamir Wertzberger and Yoram Cohen, legal assistant of the Paris office.
On the eve of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the EJA presented the King David Award to sportswear company Adidas for severing all commercial ties with rapper Kanye West over his antisemitic statements. Amanda Rajkumar, Adidas’ Executive Board Member and its head of Global Human Resources, People and Culture, said on receiving the award:
„Our former partner’s (Kanye West) hate speech was unacceptable, and while we are not always right, this time, we made the right decision. We will continue to support Jewish communities, stand for love and condemn all forms of hatred, racism and discrimination.”
In his opening speech, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, President of the EJA, stressed:
„Even today, fake news poses a tangible danger to the well-being of Jews throughout Europe, a tool of hatred that is unfortunately strengthened by social networks and mixes conspiracy theories against Jews. The dozens of European leaders who responded to our call to come to Terezin pledged to fight against fake news that encourages antisemitism and implement educational programs to eradicate it.”
Another speaker at the conference and on the tour was Gideon Lev, a survivor of the Theresienstadt camp who has become a TikTok star in recent years for his content fighting antisemitism. He said:
„When the Nazis took over the Czech Republic, it was the end for Jews in the country. Jews couldn’t stay outside at night, couldn’t own radios, and soon enough, we were all moved to Terezin camp, which was called a „Resettlement camp.” But it was far from it. They put us in very crowded barracks; there was no space, and wives and children couldn’t see their husbands unless from windows marching in silence. „Arbeit Macht Frei” is one of the most cynical Nazi atrocities: you are free when you are dead. The fight against antisemitism and combatting hate against Jews and any other minority is something we can and should all do.”
Later in the conference, a series of members of parliament and Jewish leaders from around the continent discussed the influence of social networks as a catalyst for the adoption of anti-Semitic theories that directly threaten the personal security of European Jews.
French MP Prisca Thevenot, the spokesperson for the Renaissance Party, said:
„Things are going faster. We must fight against false items that are appearing quickly on our phones. Macron presented himself as a puppet of the Jewish people because he is a former banker and has money. Fake news is using the same tropes against the Jews, time and time again. We must fight against fake news. If we don’t fight them, they spread and spread very quickly.”
Commenting on social media, David Stogmuller, Green Party MEP from Austria, said:
„We have to understand that social media works extremely fast. It is not enough to make laws to keep up with technological challenges; we must be quick to ban illegal social media hate speech.
Portuguese MEP Alexandre Poço stressed the importance of education:
„Although our problems may not be as large as other countries, we still must invest in education. A proactive attitude continues to be necessary. We have strong ties with Jewish communities. We continue to promote Jewish life, although we are a Catholic country. Our country is aware and will not stop working.
Joel Mergui, President of the Religious Association of Jews in Paris, said that the new antisemitism began in the early 2000s and resulted in murders that have tainted the recent history of France and Europe. Despite this, he decided to continue the work he started twenty years ago and to encourage members of his community to continue to live in Europe as long as they have people and decision-makers who will stand up to antisemitism and radical Islam.
Sigmount Königsberg, the Berlin Jewish community’s commissioner for combating antisemitism, warned:
„If we allow the enemies of democracies to shout, then we risk the end of democracy. Antisemites must be made to feel they have no chance and will be made to pay the consequences.
Alex Hearn, Director of Labour Against Antisemitism in the UK, said that the pattern of fake news about Jews is as old as antisemitism. He stressed that antisemitism goes beyond political affiliation and is used by people to gain power or to feel more powerful.
The conference was shocked by the reports of Jewish students from the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Spain, who spoke of the lack of awareness of Jewish issues among their fellow students, many of whom had never met a Jew. Some also said that they were confronted with antisemitic and anti-Israel hate speech in European universities and that university administrators were not responding to this phenomenon.
Anna Azari, Israel’s ambassador to the Czech Republic, noted that the Czech Republic is the best friend of Jews and the State of Israel in Europe. It was the first to support the state with arms during the war of independence and is now a leading player in helping Ukrainians, hosting half a million refugees so far.