A Who’s Who of world politics

February 19, 2009

The main players at the first London Conference on Antisemitism read like a who’s who of world politics. There were a dozen ministers from different governments and different continents, the president of the Austrian parliament, the vice-president of the Bundestag, the state prosecutor for Argentina and British government ministers and MPs. The conference differed from previous such events because they were usually occasions for Jews to speak to Jews. In London, deliberately, the majority of the participants were non-Jews.

On Monday they spent the day in workshops, aided by 80 experts, taking the role of civil servants advising their MPs. The event was in effect two conferences — one for the politicians, the second for the experts.

The keynote speech at a dinner on Monday night in the Banqueting House in Whitehall was given by Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. Alongside him was Jim Murphy, Secretary of State for Scotland.

Canada had the biggest single contingent, with former Justice Minister Professor Irwin Cotler leading a delegation of 11 people. US New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith led the Americans, including historian Deborah Lipstadt, while former Israeli deputy premier Natan Sharansky contributed to the second day’s work with British Foreign Office Minister Lord Malloch-Brown.

The experts were just as high-powered: Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League; Hershell Ezrin of the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy; Jeremy Jones, director of international and community affairs for Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council; Professor Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor in Israel; and Charles Small, director of the Yale Initiative for the interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism.

Last updated: 5:51pm, February 19 2009