For the first time ever, the speaker of the Israeli parliament the Knesset has addressed the Belgian parliament. On Tuesday, January 23, Knesset speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein spoke at a special session of the Belgian parliament held to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Also speaking were Belgian Federal Parliament speaker Zigfrid Brakke and Holocaust survivor Paul Sobol.
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky attended and met with Edelstein.
Knesset speaker Edelstein both praised and criticized the Belgian government, and reminded the audience a Belgian citizen had entered and won a monetary prize in an anti-Semitic cartoon contest sponsored by the government of Iran.
“I will mention with a sad smile that recently the Antwerp municipality attempted to move the city’s Holocaust memorial to a quieter place where it would have less of an impact on traffic. In another case, which I will mention without any smile at all, praise was lavished on a Belgian teacher who won a cash prize in Iran for a cartoon demeaning the Holocaust and the state of Israel. Last year after he won the award his hometown here in Belgium named him a cultural ambassador par excellence. To judge from his cartoon, however, I am not certain what culture he represents. We must not forget the heinous attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels in which four people, including two Israelis, were murdered. The list of tragic events can be continued,” Edelstein said.
“After the Holocaust, it dawned on the world that the Jewish people would never be safe without a country to call their own,” Edelstein continued. “Today the state of Israel insures that no Jew can ever lack for a home or suffer the neglect of indifference, but while this is the national mission of the state of Israel, the scourge of anti-Semitism demands a global response. Ladies and gentlemen, Holocaust remembrance cannot belong to only a single day, one day in a year. It must pervade our lives everyday and inspire us constantly. As Elie Wiesel once warned, if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices. In the words of the author of the Psalms, it is not enough to turn from evil, we must also do good. Let us put an end to the complacency. When we hear anti-Semitic slurs, we must stand up. When we see Jewish victims of hate crimes, we must come to their aid. When we read anti-Jewish canards thinly veiled as criticism of Israel, we must not make excuses. We must raise our voices in collective protest. This effort is not easy or pleasant,” the speaker of the Knesset told the Belgian Federal Parliament.