Euro 2012 and the upsurge of racism in an Olympic summer
Whatever the true scale of the outbursts, it is a sad reflection on the supposed universal nature of sport that Euro 2012 revealed a serious truth; that prejudice remains and erupts quickly and aggressively when other loyalties come into play. An LJCC representative recently attended an International Conference on the Holocaust in Belgium where the upsurge in anti-Semitism in Norway, Greece and Hungary was extensively discussed. It has become a very 'live' issue in 21st Century Europe, making the Holocaust and Anti-racism education work we do here at the LJCC all the more important.
At the start of 2012, in partnership with the International Task Force and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, we (LJCC) initiated a groundbreaking series of seminars for journalists from Eastern Europe. Our aim was to raise the awareness of leading journalists and opinion formers from the Ukraine and Eastern Europe about the rise of Aniti-Semitism and racism in their countries. We invited journalists from Hungary, Latvia, the Ukraine and Poland to come together with journalists and academics from the UK to discuss the responsibility of the media, and to begin to examine the role the media has on the rise of anti-Semitism and racism. We have stayed in touch with the participants and are closely monitoring their progress. We now look forward to welcoming a new group of journalists at a second conference in the autumn.
That inaugural conference was just one step towards changing views and attitudes in countries where the media is still subject to censorship and state control. It also played an important role in encouraging journalists to take real responsibility for their words. This vital work was mentioned in Parliament by David Lidington (Minister of State (Europe and Nato), Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Aylesbury, Conservative).
I believe that these emotive and complex issues need to be discussed openly and that we must allow the debate to include topics that also make us, as Jews, uncomfortable. It is only through meeting and dialogue that we will open doors; engaging the community with what are often difficult subjects.
A few months ago, the LJCC hosted Mithal al-Alusi, an Iraqi politician and the leader of the Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation, who drew a packed audience discussing 'Iraq in Crisis?' We also partnered with Yachad to host a debate of 'Jerusalem's Future - United or Divided' with two Jerusalem experts, Nadav Greenberg and Danny Seidemann who had flown in from Israel. And most recently, together with the UK Task Force and the Pears Foundation, we heard powerful words from Forsan Hussein, a young Muslim Israeli who is striving to make diversity work by exemplifying how bridges can be built across cultures for the benefit of the local community.
As we move into an Olympic summer here in London, my hope is that the Games prove to be a powerful endorsement of multicultural Britain and that here, in the UK, we will continue to find new ways to tackle injustice and racism wherever it is found.