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WJC head praises Canada, issues warning about Europe

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From left, WJC CEO Robert Singer and Moshe Ronen, WJC Canadian vice-president [Stephen Sweet photo]

Things may be good for Jews in Canada, but that isn’t the case in much of the rest of the world, as 69 years after the end of World War II, anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer said during his first official visit to Canada.

Singer spoke May 8 at an early-morning briefing for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) at the Lipa Green Centre.

“Israel, and the Jewish communities worldwide, need friends,” Singer said. “They need allies and they need partnerships with different communities.”

Finance Minister Joe Oliver was also in attendance, along with WJC Canadian vice-president Moshe Ronen, and Singer spoke glowingly of CIJA’s work in conjunction with the international body, as well as Canada’s strong stands in support of Israel and against anti-Semitism.

“Every time we have a problem, we come to Canadians first, because we know the ties are a lot deeper than just political,” Singer said.

“I can say on behalf of the World Jewish Congress, the Israeli government and worldwide Jewry, we say thanks, and we hope it will continue this way.”

Singer said there is cause for concern about the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe.

“Hungary is probably the best example of the changes Europe is going through. They had an election April 6 and the Jobbik party, which has a very clear neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic agenda, won 20.4 per cent of the votes,” said Singer, a former IDF lieutenant colonel and official in the Israeli prime minister’s office.

“In 2006, [Jobbik’s result] was 2.2 per cent, [so] it increased 10 times,” he added. “When you just think about it, a country in the centre of Europe that 70 years ago, lost about 440,000 Jews, and [now], over 1 million people [in Hungary] voted for a party with a clear anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi agenda.”

This is a trend in Europe, where the WJC estimates that about 20 per cent of the new European Parliament will consist of right wing or neo-Nazi parties, including Germany’s National Democratic Party and Golden Dawn in Greece.

“There are many reasons why situations like this are happening in the world today,” Singer said. “Seventy years after the Holocaust, after what Europe went through, Europe is once again not a nice place for Jews to live in.”

In another recent example, in Donetsk, Ukraine, Jews were reportedly asked to register their property or face deportation.

But while things in Ukraine have become more dangerous, Singer said there’s no reason to believe the current situation poses a greater security risk for Jews.

“At this stage, no specific harm was caused to Jews in Ukraine,” said Singer, who was born in Ukraine and immigrated to Israel with his family when he was 15.

“The police are investigating things and no one’s sure right now where the letters came from. We are monitoring the situations there, including the upcoming referendum.”

 Singer touched on some other pertinent topics, such as the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, where a group formerly totalling 30 per cent of the population has dwindled to less than 10 per cent amid unrest in Syria and Egypt.

“This is a major issue for the World Jewish Congress, and we, as the Jewish people who went through the Holocaust, won’t remain silent as other groups are being prosecuted the way Christians are in the Middle East,” Singer said.

“In Israel, there are over 180,000 [Christians], and it’s the only place in the Middle East where the Christian population is growing.”

Singer said the WJC will continue to look to Canada and CIJA for support.

“The World Jewish Congress is monitoring things and we’re sharing our information with different governments,” Singer said. “From what I saw [during my time in Canada], I’m not sure that anything like CIJA exists anywhere else in the world.

“There is the level of professionalism, involvement, the level of integration into the communities and the level of outreach to government.”

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