CEJI Speaks at EU Anti-Racism Summit 2022
On 21 March, CEJI Director Robin Sclafani and CEJI Board Member Ronny Nafthaniel joined MEPs, Commissioners and UN Representatives as speakers at the European Anti-Racism Summit 2022.
Both speakers spoke in break-out sessions during the summit: Robin on the effects of racism in education, and Ronny on the decolonisation of public spaces.
In the break-out session on the effects of racism in education, Robin noted the challenges posed by antisemitism within education systems. Asked by moderator Ghidei Domenica, bureau member of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), ‘what impact or evolution have you seen in the field of education?’
‘There is still segregation, schools serving predominantly racialised communities – and school serving predominantly white pupils. The opportunities afforded to each are different,’ Robin noted.
‘If unconscious biases perpetuate the same dynamics of privilege and disadvantage, what has changed is the awareness of these. There is more literacy on racism, antisemitism, islamophobia and homophobia.
Much of the progress made thus far depend on individual teacher initiative, especially from teachers who may, or may not, have received training to do this kind of work. These efforts are usually ad-hoc, and not sustainable or institutionalised. We hear from teachers that they do not feel supported on these initiatives, as well as from parents who feel frustrated that their concerns over antisemitism, racism and islamophobia are not heard by school personnel. We hear from pupils who are scared to raise these issues with teachers, that feel they must remove markers of their identity to participate in school activities, and who have to work twice as hard compared to other pupils. We see white students struggle to understand their identity in a decolonising world, and either becoming allies or becoming vulnerable to dangerous identitarian discourses… this is why there are increasing calls for more training and more representation of diversity in school personnel, in order to create an equitable and fair education system for all.’
In the break-out session on the decolonisation of public spaces, Ronny explored the idea of restitution and reparation.
‘For more than 20 years, I have been involved in negotiations with banks, insurance companies and governments regarding Jewish property stolen during the Nazi period. These negotiations, on looted art for instance, go on until today. In fact, it is no different from the demand that colonial art has to be returned to the original owners.
I often ask myself, why am I doing this? There are three reasons:
1. To do justice. No governmental organisation or private person should earn money because of the genocide of the Jewish people or any other people. What is left of what Jews once owned should not belong to the perpetrators or those who did nothing to protect the victims, but only to the victims themselves or their heirs.
2. To expose the role of the civil servants, who were mostly obedient, without showing their own conscience. They registered during the war their fellow citizens as Jews and later the properties of the Jews, because the Nazis ordered it. This attitude facilitated the deportation to the extermination camps and the expropriation of all their belongings. After the War, mostly the same civil servants were in charge of restituting the stolen properties, often in a cold legalistic way. Why were these civil servants that obedient? Can we learn something today from this past attitude?
3. To fight the mentality that one can be proud of stolen goods. A painting might be a beautiful Van Gogh, but if it is looted, no museum should expose it. What do you teach people by showing looted art, whether it was stolen during the Nazi era or the colonial period? That theft pays off? This is pedagogical and morally wrong.’
Comments heard by the expert speakers will be passed on to EU actors who will consider them as valuable feedback on upcoming and future EU initiatives.