Israeli leader warns against ‘enlightened’ anti-Semites at Balkan region conference

Online conference host Albanian president: Jew hatred is “a threat to our civilization.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Balkan region held its first-ever conference Wednesday night on anti-Semitism in an event held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Balkan Forum on Combating Anti-Semitism was a joint effort of the Albanian parliament, the Jewish Agency, and the U.S.-based Combat Anti-Semitism Movement. Just last week, Tirana approved the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism – the first Muslim-majority country in the world to do so.

Top officials from Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, and North Macedonia who addressed the conference agreed to work together to eliminate Jew hatred from their region as a necessary step in creating societies that respect people’s differences.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama called Jew hatred “a threat to our civilization.”

“We need to continue to fight every form of anti-Semitism, not only as a threat to Jews and Israel, but as a threat to our own civilization and values, on which our future is being built,” he said.

He took special aim at its growing online presence.

“Let us not forget that the very first pogroms originated from the ‘fake news’ and slanders of the day against the actions of Jews. This is where it all originated. The new form of spreading this in the digital world should worry us. There is a lot of hope in digital society for progress, but this must not turn into a nightmare spiraling out of control.”

Other major political figures such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and EU President David Sassouli also addressed the conference, as did Knesset Speaker MK Yariv Levin.

Pompeo called on others to join Albania in accepting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism because, he said, “We share the responsibility of those before us to crush [anti-Semitism]. We can do it. First we must define this threat and understand it clearly.”

So far, fewer than 20 countries in the world have formally adopted the non-legally binding IHRA definition that was formulated in May 2016.

Speaking for Israel, Levin called out the latest models of anti-Semites.

“Anti-Semitism has never disappeared,” he said. “Today there are also ‘enlightened’ anti-Semites who hide behind delegitimization and boycotts of the State of Israel, behind movements of ‘social justice’ and ‘political correctness.’ It happens not only in the darkest corners of the internet, but in public.”

He also praised Albania for its long-standing, principled stand against Jew hatred.

“It should be emphasized that Albania is the leader among the Balkan countries in the fight against anti-Semitism today. During the Holocaust, the Albanians made an extraordinary effort to save Jews, so that Albania is the only country on the continent where the number of Jews after World War II was higher than before it. No less than 73 Righteous Among the Nations come from this small country, which has less than three million inhabitants today.”