Israeli ambassador: Croatia is mature for IHRA chairmanship

NEWS 26.01.2023 17:41
Gary Koren Twitter

Croatia is mature to take over the chairmanship of the alliance of guardians of Holocaust memory, Israeli Ambassador Gary Koren told the Croatian state news agency Hina in an interview.

Croatia takes over the one-year chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) on 1 March. It will organise two plenary sessions, one in Dubrovnik in June and the other in Zagreb in November, which are expected to be attended by 400 people.

The IHRA was formed in 1998 on the initiative of the then Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson to promote Holocaust education, remembrance and research. It consists of 35 member states and 10 observer states. Croatia joined in 2005.

We very much appreciate the fact that last week the Croatian government adopted the IHRA’s working definitions of antisemitism, Holocaust denial and distortion, and anti-Romani racism and discrimination, the Israeli ambassador said.

Croatia takes over from Sweden, which Koren said has done an excellent job. Israel wants the Croatian chairmanship to be successful as well, he added.

Subtle pressure

Asked if subtle pressure had been used to ensure that Croatia adopted the three definitions before it took over the chairmanship, Koren said he could confirm that there were expectations, talks, not just on our part, but with other countries as well.

I am sure the Swedish chairmanship wanted this very much, and a special envoy of the United Kingdom was here as well. Messages were conveyed and I can confirm that there were positive responses from the Croatian side, the ambassador said.

He added, without going into detail, that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic had met with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in Davos, Switzerland last week.

Koren showed understanding that at the time Croatia was focused on joining the euro zone and the Schengen area the adoption of the definitions of antisemitism and Holocaust was not a priority for it. As soon as these two strategic goals were fulfilled, Croatia quickly moved forward, he said.

‘Jasenovac must not be a criterion’

The IHRA’s non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism says that “antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Koren said that Croatia is mature for the IHRA chairmanship, stressing that every EU country should be mature for that.

I am confident that every country has certain issues and gaps it needs to address and pay attention to. There are always failures and problems, Croatia is not the first nor the last one to face them. But speaking of maturity, there is a strong government and a strong commitment, and I am confident that Croatia’s chairmanship will be successful, Koren said.

The fact that the only World War II death camp that was not under Nazi administration was situated on Croatian soil is not and must not be a criterion, he said.

 First remembrance march

Croatia had been doing a lot about Holocaust education even before it joined the IHRA, which was certainly a plus in deciding on its membership. About a thousand teachers have attended seminars in Croatia or in Israel, including 375 at Yad Vashem.

Croatia deserves high praise for that, Koren said.

Although there is always something that remains to be done, for example in commemorating the Holocaust or in the way historical facts are presented, the Israeli ambassador is pleased that this year for the first time a remembrance march will be held in Zagreb to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January.

The march will move from the site of a synagogue in Praska Street, which was razed to the ground by the Nazi-allied Ustasha regime, to the Holocaust memorial at the central rail station.

There will be a lot of events, which is good because it shows the need and desire to commemorate that day, the ambassador said.

Education is not limited to schools, and Koren is pleased that civil servants, such as judges, prosecutors and police officers, will also be educated to understand what antisemitism means.

An Israeli delegation, including two vice-chairmen of the IHRA and a representative of Yad Vashem, probably the most important institution in the world for Holocaust commemoration, research and education, is due to visit Zagreb next week, the ambassador announced.

Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, including 1.5 million children. Eighty per cent of the Jewish community in Ustasha-ruled Croatia perished. About 17,000 of Jews were killed in the Jasenovac concentration camp and some were transported to Auschwitz.

Today the largest number of Holocaust survivors live in Israel, more than 150,000. A fifth of them are over 90 years old and 1,100 are over 100 years old.


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