The two-day 2009 Global Forum for Combating Anti-semitism (GFCA) opened in Jerusalem on Wednesday, with 500 participants from over 50 countries.
Among those taking part is Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas, Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney, and the Czech Republic’s Minister of Human Rights Michal Kocáb. In addition, legislators, jurists, academics, and Jewish and non-Jewish organization heads from around the world are also among the participants.
Conference co-chairman Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein, of the Likud party, addressed the conference’s opening session, and quoted Martin Luther King’s writings equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.
Specifically, in Saturday Review XLVII (August 1967), pg. 76, and reprinted in "This I Believe: Selections from the Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." (New York, 1971), King writes:
"...You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely 'anti-Zionist.' And I say... When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews - this is G-d's own truth... And what is anti-Zionist? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the Globe. It is discrimination against Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short, it is anti-Semitism... Let my words echo in the depths of your soul: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews - make no mistake about it."(Though some have said that this passage was never penned by King, Dr. Seymour Martin Lipset of George Mason University and Stanford University wrote in 1969 that he heard King respond to an anti-Zionist remark by saying, "Don't talk like that! When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-Semitism!")
Edelstein said that traditional anti-Semitism has morphed into political anti-Semitism that is manifest in the international activities against Israel. In keeping with this line of thought, a major topic of discussion at Wednesday’s sessions will be contemporary instances of anti-Semitism around the world, concentrating on the links between them and the delegitimization of the State of Israel.
The conference will be marked this evening by a Chanukah candle lighting ceremony with Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin. Certificates of honor will be awarded to five parliamentarians from various countries.
Among Wednesday’s speakers will be conference co-chairman Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, ADL Executive Director Abraham H. Foxman, Prof. Yehuda Bauer, Malcolm Hoenlein, Prof. Robert Wistrich, Hannah Rosenthal of the U.S. State Department, Canadian MP Mario Silva, Sergio Widder of the Latin American branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Dr. Andre Oboler, and others.
On Thursday, the speakers will include Prof. Gerald Steinberg, Social Services Minister Yitzchak Herzog, Canadian MP Irwin Cotler, Italian MP Fiamma Nirenstein, UK MP John Mann, Anne Bayefsky, Dr. Charles Small, Dr. Daniel Pipes, Prof. Penda Mbow of the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Senegal, Avner Shalev, Rabbi Michael Melchior, and Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky.