Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein met parliamentarians and politicians in Brussels ahead of International Holocaust Memorial Day Tuesday. The Knesset Speaker warned that the memory of the Holocaust was fading in Belgium and that dangerous overtones of anti-Semitism were being ignored.
Edelstein began his remarks by recalling the 25,000 Belgian Jews murdered during the Holocaust.
"Even after the war, many in Belgium preferred not to look too deeply into the past and instead return to normal. It took time to uncover what had happened during the Holocaust," Edelstein said.
"Only in 2002, did the Senate commission a report on the state's role under the Nazi regime. Only in the past ten years have local leaders issued apologies for helping round up Jews. Only five years ago was the national Holocaust museum opened.
"This country has taken additional, noteworthy steps to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust lives on. Throughout the country, Holocaust education is now part of the school curriculum. Visits to concentration camps and local memorials are standard and play a critical role in raising a generation that is engaged with its history.
He warned that there remains an indifference to anti-Semitic acts and those who call for the murder of Jews. "Yet with all these efforts, there are clearly signs that more work remains. 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, 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."
He noted that the author of the anti-Semitic cartoon was honored in Belgium as well. "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 goes on."
"After the Holocaust, it dawned on the world that the Jewish People would never be safe without a country to call their own. Like many other survivors, that little boy and his family boarded a boat to Haifa in search of a secure home and a new beginning. Having survived the darkest periods of Jewish history, they now took part in their people's rebirth.
"Today, the State of Israel ensures 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," he added.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Holocaust remembrance cannot belong to only a single day. It must pervade our lives every day and inspire us constantly. As Elie Wiesel once warned, 'If we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices'."
"Today is the day to take up this challenge as a national mission. We owe it to the 25,000 Belgian Jews who were sent to their deaths in Auschwitz and other Nazi camps. We owe it to the Belgian Jews of today who seek to be an active and appreciated part of this country. We owe it to ourselves and to our children, to begin building a better future for every citizen of Belgium—regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background.," he concluded.