President Herzog: “Antisemitism remains, and Holocaust denial still exists”

Isaac Herzog, President of Israel, addressed MEPs during the plenary session to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day © European Union 2023

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog called on MEPs to work to eradicate antisemitism in Europe and adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.

Opening the commemoration ceremony, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola called the Holocaust “history’s greatest crime. A crime intended to wipe out a people from the earth. A crime designed to inflict horror on generations. A crime that has shaped our modern European project, into an embodiment of the timeless promise: Never again”.

She pointed out that the Holocaust did not happen overnight and that alarm bells should have rung long before they eventually did. Despite the years that have gone by, it remains essential to continue commemorating the Holocaust because antisemitism still exists, and because this is the last generation to bear witness to first-hand accounts from Holocaust survivors, President Metsola continued.

The European Parliament will always defend the values of respect, human dignity, equality and hope, she pledged, adding that Parliament will never be silenced in its fight to defend human values and push back against hate and discrimination.

Israel’s President Herzog opened his address by saying: “I stand before you today as the President of the State of Israel, the democratic nation-state of the Jewish People, but my heart and thoughts are with my brothers and sisters killed in the Holocaust, whose only crime was their Jewishness and the humanity they bore.”

“Europe could not be what it is without the Jews”, President Herzog said, but antisemitism, “like an autoimmune disease”, made Europe attack part of its own DNA, and a shared millennia-long history was erased. He emphasised that this antisemitism did not emerge in a vacuum but that “the Nazi death machine would not have managed to carry out its nightmarish vision had it not met soil fertilised with Jew-hatred.” For President Herzog, antisemitism remains, and Holocaust denial still exists, in new guises and spread through new channels – particularly on the internet. “The distance between a Facebook post and the smashing of headstones in a cemetery is shorter than we would think,” he said. “Deranged tweets can kill. They really can.”

Europe has a vital role to play in pushing back against this antisemitism, he pointed out. Calling on MEPs not to stand by in the face of rising antisemitism, President Herzog implored them to “read the warning signs, detect the symptoms of the pandemic of antisemitism, and fight it at all costs. You must ensure that every Jew wanting to live a full Jewish life in your countries may do so safely and fearlessly.” Through education, legislation and any other tools at their disposal, MEPs and the EU should commit to eradicating racism, hatred, and antisemitism in all their forms, he said. President Herzog also called on the European Parliament to fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.

He underscored that “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.” Speaking of Europe-Israel relations, he said the “State of Israel and Europe are bound together in an unbreakable bond. Our shared interests, and even more so, our shared values, dictate our present and shape our future.” He called on MEPs and the EU to broaden, deepen, and strengthen their partnership to better fight the contemporary challenges Israel and the EU face, including the threat posed by Iran to its own people, to Israel and in the wider Middle East and Ukraine.

Watch the full speech here


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