Ex-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has a new job and he’s using it to fight anti-Semitism in Europe.
Last week, Blair revealed that he would be serving as chairman of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, after announcing his resignation as Middle-East Peace Envoy for The Quartet (a group comprised of the UN, United States, EU and Russia) at the end of May. In an editorial (paywalled) for The Times (UK), Blair and Moshe Kantor, the founder of the ECTR and president of the European Jewish Congress, outlined a plan to tackle “racism and discrimination in the name of religion” with “tough new laws,” including the criminalization of Holocaust denial throughout Europe. The article is titled: “Intolerance is tearing the fabric of our society.”
The ECTR was founded in 2008 to be, according to its website, “an opinion-making and advisory body on international tolerance promotion, reconciliation and education.” Blair and Kantor write that they will help the ECTR to perform this important function, in part, by “championing appropriate legislation” that will introduce “legal parameters of tolerance.” This legislation, which they say is currently being discussed in parliaments throughout Europe, involves:
…giving greater power to judiciaries to prosecute hate speech, lowering the barriers to what constitutes incitement to violence, making Holocaust denial illegal, entrenching state funding for religious institutions into law, creating clearer definitions of what is racist and antisemitic, and securing educational programmes about tolerance in national legislation.
They justify the Jewish orientation of their proposed hate-fighting legislation by stressing that anti-Semitism is not an exclusively Jewish problem.
“Prejudice and racism often starts with the softest targets, be it Jews or others, but it never ends there,” Blair and Kantor write. To this end, they cite a university study that highlights the spike in worldwide anti-Semitic attacks that have occurred in recent years:
According to the Kantor Centre at Tel Aviv University, last year was one of the worst years in the past decade for antisemitic incidents. The centre registered 766 violent antisemitic acts — a sharp increase of 38 per cent compared with 2013, in which 554 violent incidents were registered.
For the good of the “fabric of society as a whole,” Blair and Kantor argue prejudice of any kind, that attacks any group of people, must be confronted together as a community. “Our individual success depends on that of the collective… If we wait for our armies to act it will be too late.”
The Times reports that Blair will not be paid for his new role, however his interfaith philanthropic organization, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation will receive an annual donation of an undisclosed amount.