The leaders of Project Aladdin and the Abraham Accords Institute Germany (AAI) launched the “Franco-German Committee for Tolerance and Coexistence” on Monday, January 22, at the Bundestag in Berlin.
This committee, which will work on a European level to mobilize governments and civil society actors to counter antisemitism, racism, and xenophobia, brings together political, cultural, academic, and artistic figures. It is co-chaired by Leah Pisar and Joël Herzog from Project Aladdin and Armin Laschet, the former Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia and Bundestag deputy. Laschet led the CDU and its allies in the last general elections in Germany.
During his opening speech, Armin Laschet noted that the organizers chose the symbolic date of January 22 for the launch of their initiative because it marked the sixtieth anniversary of the Elysée Treaty between France and Germany. He quoted Jean Monnet, “We cannot change humanity, but we can change human behavior by transforming confrontation into mutual recognition.”
Leah Pisar, former advisor to President Clinton at the White House, noted that the launch in Berlin was taking place just days before the seventy-ninth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, of which her father, the late Samuel Pisar, was a survivor.
“The surge in anti-Semitism, racism, and hatred in Europe since the terrorist attacks of October 7, 2023, and the war in Gaza demands a new level of response from the European Union, member states, and all relevant stakeholders,” said Pisar. Stressing the importance of a collective effort to counter hatred through education, Leah Pisar praised the efforts by Armin Laschet to launch a Europe-wide effort to counter hate and antisemitism in joining forces with Project Aladdin.
The launch conference brought together many notable figures, among them Christian Wulff, former President of the Federal Republic of Germany; Rita Süssmuth, former Speaker of the Bundestag; Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, coordinator of the campaign against anti-Semitism in North Rhine-Westphalia and former Federal Minister of Justice; Otto Fricke, member of the Bundestag; Baron Eric de Rothschild, co-founder of Project Aladdin and President of the Shoah Memorial; Bülend Ürük, former spokesperson for the CDU party in Germany; Jean-Marc Lieberherr Monnet, co-founder and President of the Jean Monnet Institute; and Elsbeth Muller, former director of UNICEF. The ambassadors of Israel and Azerbaijan also participated, while the ambassadors of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates were represented by their advisers.
Jean-Marc Lieberherr Monnet, drawing on his grandfather’s writings during and after World War II, emphasized that his vision of establishing lasting peace and reconciliation between two peoples after centuries of conflict was not limited to the European continent. He expressed the Jean Monnet Institute’s willingness to initiate a strategic cooperation with the Franco-German Committee.
Joel Herzog thanked Armin Laschet and Eric de Rothschild for laying the groundwork for this new initiative. He stated that a sustainable and just peace could not be built on lies or hatred and highlighted the importance of education as the sole antidote to these scourges.
Former German Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger provided several examples of her work against antisemitism and hatred at the Ministry of Justice and today in the region of North Rhine-Westphalia. She concluded that informing and building resilience in young people against the virus of hate, antisemitism, and xenophobia should be among the priorities of all European governments.
Abe Radkin, Secretary-General of the Franco-German Committee, unveiled three major projects to be undertaken by the Committee and its partners:
– A program for university exchanges in the Middle East and North Africa for students and researchers, modeled on the European Erasmus program.
– A training program for teachers and educators to raise awareness among schoolchildren and young adults about online misinformation, conspiracy theories, and hate speech, in close collaboration with education ministries and the European Commission.
– A partnership bringing together football clubs, UNESCO, and the Franco-German Committee to inform young supporters about the ravages of racism, antisemitism, and xenophobia.
In his closing speech, Eric de Rothschild emphasized the need to mobilize governments and European institutions to invest more in teaching tolerance and combating intolerance. “The challenges ahead of us, the sheer magnitude of hatred and intolerance might seem insurmountable, but we believe that there is no alternative to tolerance education. We all hope that the combined forces of these two organizations will create a new dynamic with a positive impact both here in Europe and in the Middle East,” he said.
On the picture, from left to right, Éric de Rothschild, Leah Pisar, Joël Herzog and Armin Laschet.