Participants included Albania’s Prime Minister, Speakers of Parliament from the Balkans, plus international officials including US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and President of the European Parliament David Maria Sassoli.
Parliamentary representatives and officials from Balkans countries pledged to stand together against anti-Semitism at Wednesday’s first ever Balkans Forum Against Anti-Semitism.
The landmark virtual event came just days after Albania’s parliament’s unanimously endorsed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism.
Participants in the event, organized by The Parliament of the Republic of Albania, in partnership with the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) and the Jewish Agency for Israel, included Michael R. Pompeo (United States Secretary of State), David Maria Sassoli (President of the European Parliament), Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama, Miguel Ángel Moratinos (High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations), Gramoz Ruçi, (Speaker of Parliament of the Republic of Albania), Vjosa Osmani (Speaker of Parliament of the Republic of Kosovo), Talat Xhaferi (Speaker of Parliament of the Republic of North Macedonia), Aleksa Becic (President of Parliament, Montenegro), Yariv Levin (Speaker of Parliament of the State of Israel), Elan Carr (United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism), human rights icon Natan Sharansky and Robert Singer (Senior Advisor, Combat Anti-Semitism Movement).
Participants discussed how Balkans countries can work together to eradicate anti-Semitism, creating better, more tolerant societies for future generations and the important role that the IHRA definition can play in this process.
Michael R. Pompeo (United States Secretary of State) told the Forum, “We are here because anti-Semitism is sadly still with us. We share the responsibility of those before us to crush it. We can do it. First, we must define this threat and understand it clearly.” He called on other countries and companies to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which was adopted by the US Federal government following President Trump’s Executive Order last December. Pompeo added, “The task of combating anti-Semitism is pressing, especially as we have seen a disturbing uptick during the pandemic.”
David Maria Sassoli (President of the European Parliament) said, “The shameful and sad truth is: In 2020, 75 years after the end of World War II, many Jewish people all over Europe cannot live a life free of worry” adding “This shows that we must never rest, that we must never stop, that we must never allow ourselves to think that the story we believed was over 75 years ago cannot repeat itself.”
Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said, “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.” Prime Minister Rama also took aim at the dangers of online anti-Semitism, saying “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.”
Gramoz Ruçi (Speaker of Parliament of the Republic of Albania), commented “All nations that aspire towards democracy, pluralism, diversity and tolerance should join the front against ant-Semitism.”
Aleksa Becic (President of Parliament, Montenegro) voiced concern at the increase in anti-Semitism in Europe and across the world, commenting “It is the obligation of our generation and of generations to come to never again allow this to happen. Anti-Semitism is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated in the modern world.”
Vjosa Osmani (Speaker of Parliament of the Republic of Kosovo) said, “This forum is a great opportunity to have the space to understand where we stand and how we can come together to respond responsibly to the rising levels of anti-Semitism and bigotry around the world.” She added, “The role of parliaments in this is indisputable, but so is the role of every community.”
Talat Xhaferi (Speaker of Parliament of the Republic of North Macedonia) said, “Holocaust education is one of the key things that individuals should acquire to raise awareness in order to create values of respect for difference and to build an equal society.” He added, “Even the smallest contribution to eradicating this phenomenon [anti-Semitism] is a contribution towards building more tolerant societies.”
Yariv Levin (Speaker of Parliament of the State of Israel) said, “Anti-Semitism happens not only in the darkest corners of the internet but also in the open. We must ask how we got here and how we can combat it. We need to use all the tools available, legislation, education to stop hate speech and anti-Semitism. We must urge adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. I hope that the message of Albania’s vote will inspire other parliaments in the Balkans and around the world.”
Robert Singer (Chair of the Center for Jewish Impact, Chair of World ORT and Senior Adviser to the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement) said, “This is an extraordinary event. It is the first time that a European parliament has led such an initiative alongside a global movement fighting anti-Semitism. Successful cooperation has brought about this unique and groundbreaking event, with the participation of senior officials from Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Montenegro, led by the US Secretary of State, European Parliament President, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin and others. The fact that Albania, as a country with a Muslim-majority population, is hosting the conference is amazing. I call on other countries to follow suit and fight anti-Semitism.”
Isaac Herzog (Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel) said, “I welcome this important Balkans Forum and in particular the Prime Minister of Albania and the country’s leadership for the significant step it has taken in the fight against anti-Semitism. The adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is the most important and effective tool currently in place in the international arena to take practical action against the scourge of anti-Semitism. I call on countries around the world to adopt the same just decision and join the moral struggle against hatred and racism.”