RIGA - In the first ever visit to the Baltic states by an Israeli president, Moshe Katsav met with his Baltic counterparts, visited Holocaust sites, and praised Latvia and Estonia's efforts to fight anti-Semitism.
Katsav warned that anti-Semitism was rising in Europe. In Estonia and Latvia, however, the phenomenon was marginal or nearly non-existent, he said.
As The Baltic Times went to press Katsav had not arrived in neighboring Lithuania.
In Tallinn, Katsav laid the founding stone for Estonia's first new synagogue since World War II. He also met with the local Jewish community and visited a Holocaust site with President Arnold Ruutel.
While in Riga, Katsav praised the state's Holocaust education program and commemorated the death of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, who passed away earlier that day in Vienna at the age of 96.
He called anti-Semitism in Latvia a "marginal phenomenon," attributing state efforts to educate the population.
During the Israeli's press conference, however, a journalist from DDD, the notorious newsletter of the far right Latvian National Front, was barred from participating. According to the Leta news agency, security police did not approve the paper's accreditation for the event.
DDD, an acronym for Deoccupation, Decolonization, and De-Bolshevization, has in the past serialized the protocols of the Elders of Zion, the bible of anti-Semitism.
Tensions flared between Israel and Latvia earlier this year when the erstwhile head of Parliament's foreign affairs committee, Aleksandrs Kirsteins, told the Jewish community "not to behave as it did in 1940 when it welcomed in the enemies of the country."
To show its displeasure, the Israeli Foreign Ministry recalled their ambassador to Jerusalem. Kirsteins, who first made waves by hiring Apine as his secretary, was removed from his position and expelled from the People's Party in the furor that followed. Apine remains in her position in the Foreign Affairs committee. o