Nazi hunter chides Israel over anti-Semitism confab invites

Hungary, Lithuania, Greece and Ireland ‘are part of the problem and not part of the solution’ and should not be allowed in, says Efraim Zuroff

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff in 2009. (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)
Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff in 2009. (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

A leading Israeli Nazi hunter scolded the Foreign Ministry this week for extending invitations for an anti-Semitism conference to representatives of four European countries, which, he says, “are part of the problem and not part of the solution” when it comes to anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli bigotry.

Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, said senior government officials from Lithuania, Greece, Hungary and Ireland should not be allowed to attend — and speak at — the Foreign Ministry’s 4th International Conference of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, which is scheduled to take place later this month in Jerusalem.

“The opportunity to address the conference by visiting dignitaries should be a prize given to people who are leading the fight against anti-Semitism, and not to individuals representing countries in which the problem is among the worst in Europe, if not the worst,” Zuroff said.

The officials from the four countries are scheduled to deliver welcoming addresses at the conference. Yet according to Zuroff, these countries are likely to abuse the stage to downplay their problematic histories and justify their government’s current controversial positions.

“I don’t think it is a wise idea to give representatives of those countries a platform to try to whitewash the sins of the past, which will only pave the way for worse sins in the future,” Zuroff told The Times of Israel on Sunday.

Lithuanian Vice Foreign Minister Neris Germanas should not have been invited because of his country’s support for the Prague Declaration, which states that “both the Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes … should be considered to be the main disasters, which blighted the 20th century,” and other policies promoting anti-Semitism, according to Zuroff.

The Nazi hunter also objected to the presence of the Greek deputy minister of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights, Konstantinos Karagounis, due to Athens’ inaction regarding the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. Hungarian Secretary of State Bence Retvari should not be welcome at the conference because Budapest is doing too little to fight the anti-Semitic Jobbik party, Zuroff said. Alan Shatter, Dublin’s minister forJustice, Equality and Defense, who is Jewish, “is personally not part of problem, but Ireland is problematic because of the government’s fierce hostility to Israel,” according to Zuroff.

“If would be one thing if these people were coming to deliver some very significant news about an achievement,” said Zuroff, who sent a letter of complaint about the speakers’ lineup to Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin. “But I find it very hard to believe that the deputy foreign minister of Lithuania is about to say that they are dropping their support for the Prague Declaration, or that the Greek minister is going to announce that Golden Dawn is to be outlawed or that the Hungarian minister is going to announce [that convicted war criminal] Laszlo Csatary is going to be put on trial and that every effort is going to be made to fight Jobbik.”

Hungary received a grade of “B” — or “practical success” — in Zuroff’s 2013 report on the state of prosecution of Nazi war criminals, while Greece received an “E” for not harboring any known suspects. Lithuania received an “F-2” for its “complete failure” to investigate or prosecute Nazi war criminals. Ireland did not receive a grade.

The spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, Yigal Palmor, dismissed the criticism, saying all speakers at the conference are very relevant to its subject matter.

“The point of the conference is to discuss the phenomenon of anti-Semitism not in any abstract manner, but in its realized manifestation and in the concrete efforts of fighting it,” Palmor told The Times of Israel. “As for the assessment of the quality of diplomatic relations with Israel, I believe the Foreign Ministry is a better judge of that. There are many good reasons to hold this Global Forum exactly the way it is. It is regrettable and disappointing that Mr. Zuroff can’t see any of them.”

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