Anti-Semitism - News

September 10, 2016 – Brussels – An AJC delegation just ended a visit to Brussels, the last stop on a trip that began in Santiago, continued to Buenos Aires and London, before ending in the European Union's capital city.

The trip was highlighted by private meetings with Kristalina Georgieva, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Budget and Human Resources; Věra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice; and Helga Schmid, the Secretary-General of the European External Action Service (EEAS). The delegation also saw the new Israeli Ambassador to the European Union, Ronny Leshno-Yaar, and the EEAS Managing Director for the Americas, Edita Hrda.

AJC CEO David Harris, who led the group, was also invited to address a group of 25 officials from the European Commission and EEAS who focus on issues related to anti-Semitism, migration, education, and security in the EU.

That session was hosted and organized by Katharina von Schnurbein, the European Commission’s Coordinator on Combatting Anti-Semitism. She introduced the session by saying that AJC "was one of the first to warn about the new anti-Semitism in Europe," and after the more than 90-minute session, she described it via social media as "powerful."

Harris spoke about AJC's 16-year-long effort, starting in 2000, to alert European leaders to three emerging threats to Jewish communities and Europe as a whole -- radical Islamists, right-wing extremists, and those who seek to delegitimize Israel, the world's only Jewish state, and demonize its supporters.

He cited examples of political leaders and institutions that were incapable or unwilling to see the emerging challenges, while noting that the situation has begun to change in recent years, however late in the day.

Harris stressed, as a lifelong friend of Europe, that these issues should not be seen as uniquely Jewish, but rather European, as they undermine the EU's core commitment to the protection of human dignity. If Jews no longer feel confident in Europe's ability to ensure their safety, then it is an indictment of Europe, and must be seen as such.

The answer, he noted, must be a long-term commitment, a wide-ranging approach, and an eyes-open assessment of current realities. "There is no overnight solution, nor a one-size-fits-all strategy to a pathology that has endured for far too long," he stressed. Among the several steps he proposed is what he termed a "values contract" for newcomers to Europe, who need to understand the foundational principles of today's Europe, including democracy, gender equality, freedom of sexual orientation, religious freedom (including the right to be free from religion), and peaceful coexistence.

More broadly, among the principal topics discussed in the various meetings were: (a) the major migration and integration challenges confronting the EU and European identity; (b) Islamist radicalization and recruitment in Europe; (c) the 2016 United States presidential elections and the potential impact on U.S. foreign policy; (d) the aftermath of the nuclear deal with Iran, in which the EU, and Ms. Schmid in particular, had played a central role; and (e) opportunities and challenges in the EU-Israeli relationship.

The AJC Transatlantic Institute, based in Brussels and founded in 2004 through the generosity of Rhoda and the late Jordan Baruch, is chaired by Robert Elman and directed by Daniel Schwammenthal.



June 6, 2016 – Washington, D.C. – A two-page AJC ad in today's Wall Street Journal lists the 508 U.S. and European mayors and municipal leaders who have signed on to its Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism initiative, pledging to combat the rise of anti-Semitism. Click here to view the ad.

"Bravo to those urban leaders from cities, big and small, across the U.S. and Europe, for their courage, conviction, and commitment,” said AJC CEO David Harris of the 189 European mayors from 31 countries, including 26 of the 28 EU member states, and the 319 mayors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia who have so far joined what could be the most far-reaching transatlantic campaign of its kind ever against anti-Semitism.

“Only a few European mayors refused to sign, disappointing as their stance obviously was,” Harris added.

The AJC initiative, calling on mayors to publicly address and take concrete actions against anti-Semitism, was launched last July, following AJC's groundbreaking strategy conference, “A Defining Moment for Europe,” held in Brussels in May 2015.

“Anti-Semitism is not compatible with fundamental democratic values,” the Mayors United statement asserts. “As mayors and municipal leaders, we have a special responsibility to speak out against the growing menace of anti-Semitism.”

Three of the mayors who signed will discuss the initiative at the AJC Global Forum 2016 in Washington, D.C. They are Mayor Setti Warren of Newton, MA, who helped conceive the idea; Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who also serves as President of the United States Conference of Mayors; and Mayor Yiannis Boutaris of Thessaloniki, Greece, who wore a yellow star at his inauguration in memory of the more than 96 percent of Thessaloniki Jews deported to Nazi death camps.

The Mayors United statement emphasizes that “in a world of global communications where anti-Semitic ideas can and do spread quickly, the impact of the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe does not stop at Europe's borders.”

It affirms a core set of principles, including the condemnation of anti-Jewish hatred in all forms; rejection of the notion that anti-Semitic acts may ever be justified by one's view on the actions or existence of the State of Israel; a declaration that anti-Semitism and any other prejudices due to religious differences are inconsistent with core American and European values; and the belief that the promotion of mutual understanding and respect among all citizens is essential to good governance and democratic life.

The signatories pledge to work within and across U.S. and European communities to advance coexistence, and affirm that anti-Semitism is incompatible with fundamental democratic values.

Other mayors who wish to join this growing transatlantic effort should contact mayorsunited@ajc.org.



May 26, 2016 – New York -- AJC commends the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and the government of Romania, which holds the chairmanship of that body, for adopting a working definition of anti-Semitism. The action took place at the IHRA’s plenary in Bucharest.

“IHRA’s consensus decision encourages European governments to employ the working definition in educating police, prosecutors, and judges about the nature of anti-Semitism today,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC’s Director of International Jewish Affairs. “We salute Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and Ambassador Mihnea Constantinescu, the IHRA chair. They promised to make combating anti-Semitism a priority of their chairmanship, and they have delivered.”

The IHRA definition is based on the 2005 European Monitoring Centre (EUMC) Working Definition. It offers a clear and comprehensive description of anti-Semitism in its various forms, including hatred and discrimination against Jews, Holocaust denial, and, of particular note, anti-Semitism as it relates to Israel.

IHRA Chair Constantinescu said: “By adopting this working definition, the IHRA is setting an example of responsible conduct for other international fora and hopes to inspire them also to take action on a legally binding working definition.”

The IHRA consists of 31 countries, including 24 members of the European Union,the U.S., and Canada. In Europe, it encompasses those countries where anti-Semitism and anti-Israel animus as a mask for anti-Semitism have been most problematic.

AJC worked closely over a decade ago with the EUMC in developing this working definition as a tool for monitors and law enforcement officials.



March 23, 2016 – Los Angeles -- AJC applauds the Regents of the University of California (UC) for unanimously approving the “Report of the Regents Working Group on Principles Against Intolerance,” a new policy against anti-Semitism on UC campuses. In recent years, Jewish students have been threatened by a wave of anti-Semitic incidents across several UC campuses.

“We commend the UC Regents for taking action against hostility toward Jewish students on UC campuses,” said Janna Weinstein Smith, Director of AJC Los Angeles, and Sarah Persitz, Director of AJC San Francisco.

“We also applaud the Regents for pointing out that some individuals and groups pursuing a virulently anti-Israel agenda on UC campuses have crossed a threshold into discrimination against Jewish students.”

Anti-Semitic incidents have included attempts to oppose candidacies of students seeking to serve in student body governments on account of being Jewish, vandalism of Jewish property with racist insignia, and the use of anti-Semitic tropes and stereotypes against advocates of Israel on campus.



March 12, 2016 -- Boston -- The American Jewish Committee (AJC) New England Office deplores the anti-Semitic chants during a local high school basketball game, and expresses confidence that the Catholic Memorial High School will address this deeply unfortunate incident.

During the game between Newton North High School and Catholic Memorial High School, some Catholic fans chanted “You killed Jesus.” The Catholic school leadership reacted immediately, reprimanding students after the game. “Each student personally apologized to the Principal of Newton North High School and shook his hand before leaving the arena,” the school announced in a statement.

“Incidents like this underscore that anti-Semitism persists. We are gratified, however, that the Catholic Memorial High School principal took immediate and firm action,” said Robert Leikind, AJC’s New England Regional Director, and Regional President Mel Shuman. “Cardinal O’Malley and the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston have been deeply committed to the fight against anti-Semitism. This is a teachable moment and we are confident that our friends in the Catholic community will make it just that.”

On March 10th, Cardinal O’Malley addressed more than 700 people at an event at Temple Emanuel in Newton sponsored by AJC and ADL to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate. This document was promulgated by the Catholic Church to promote understanding between the faiths and address anti-Semitic teachings that had fueled anti-Semitism for nearly two millennium. In his address, Cardinal O’Malley affirmed the Catholic Church’s commitment to continuing the fight against anti-Semitism and the effort to strengthen Catholic-Jewish amity.

In a statement issued by Catholic Memorial High School, President Peter Folan commented that “we have been the subject of hurtful chants as well and we will work diligently within our community and with other schools to end this abhorrent behavior.”

AJC's mission is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world.



March 7, 2016 – New York – Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena today signed on to Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism, an AJC initiative calling on municipal leaders across the United States and Europe to publicly address and take concrete actions against rising anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism is unacceptable,” declared Mayor Carmena.

Carmena is the first mayor in Spain to join the campaign of AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization. Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism was launched in the United States in July, and expanded to Europe in the fall. To date, 56 European mayors from 16 countries, representing over 40 million people, and 309 mayors and municipal leaders from 47 states across the U.S., representing over 80 million people, have signed the statement.

“Mayor Carmena’s commitment to safeguarding Madrid’s Jewish community, and to being a vanguard against anti-Semitism and proponent of democratic values, is deeply appreciated,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs, who attended the signing ceremony today in Madrid, together with an AJC delegation composed of lay and staff leaders. Siegel Vann thanked the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, an AJC partner, for being in close contact with the mayor and her staff.

To date, mayors in Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Ukraine and the United Kingdom have signed on to the Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism statement.

The statement calls upon “mayors, municipal leaders and other officials in Europe to join us in affirming that anti-Semitism is not compatible with fundamental democratic values.” It emphasizes that “in a world of global communications where anti-Semitic ideas can and do spread quickly, the impact of the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe does not stop at Europe’s borders.”

The Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism statement affirms a core set of principles, including the condemnation of anti-Jewish hatred in all forms; rejection of the notion that anti-Semitic acts may ever be justified by one’s view on the actions or existence of the State of Israel; a declaration that anti-Semitism and any prejudices due to religious differences are inconsistent with core democratic values; and the belief that the promotion of mutual understanding and respect among all citizens is essential to good governance and democratic life.

The statement pledges a commitment to working within and across European and American communities to advance the values of respectful coexistence, and to affirming that anti-Semitism is incompatible with fundamental democratic values.



January 7, 2016 – New York – Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC’s director of International Jewish Affairs, has been reappointed Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). This significant, high-level position was created by the OSCE in 2005; Baker was first appointed to the post in 2009, and has been reappointed each year since then by the rotating chairmanship.

“Your task makes an important contribution to the OSCE work to combat intolerance and discrimination which will be a priority of the German OSCE Chairmanship in the human dimension,” said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is the current OSCE Chairperson-in-Office.

The OSCE organization’s 57 members include the governments of all European and Eurasia countries, Canada and the United States.

“I am grateful to Minister Steinmeier for reappointing me to this critical position, which allows me to focus OSCE efforts on combating anti-Semitism, and I know that Germany intends to make this one of the priorities of its OSCE Chairmanship,” said Rabbi Baker.

“Unfortunately, as we begin the New Year, many European Jewish communities continue to face serious security threats, while lesser incidents of physical and verbal harassment have become commonplace,” said Baker. “Reversing these trends will require the active engagement of governments and civil society alike.” Baker has worked intensively with governments and Jewish communities across Europe on programs and policies to combat anti-Semitism. He regularly visits European capitals to assess threats to Jewish communities and how to confront them. In that spirit, he was intimately involved in a ground-breaking OSCE project to train law enforcement on monitoring and countering hate crimes.

“With the rise in anti-Semitism across Europe, OSCE efforts to combat this scourge are increasingly important,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“We are proud that the OSCE continues to display such trust in Rabbi Baker, to help guide this essential intergovernmental organization in confronting anti-Semitism,” said Harris. “Indeed, it puts him in an absolutely unique position, with the involvement of the 57 governments of the OSCE, to prepare strategies for addressing the dangers that today cast a long shadow on Europe and its Jewish communities.”



November 13, 2015 - New York - AJC Executive Director David Harris: “As the horrific events in Paris unfold, AJC stands in full solidarity with the government and people of France. We mourn the loss of so many innocent lives, wish for the recovery of the wounded, pray the hostages will soon be freed, and know the authorities are seeking to bring this barbarism to an end as quickly as humanly possible. We have no doubt that France will prevail in this deadly assault on its citizens – and on everything the country stands for. At this time, all people of good will should proudly and loudly say #JeSuisFrancais.”



October 7, 2015 – New York – Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has signed on to Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism, an AJC initiative calling on municipal leaders across Europe to publicly address and take concrete actions against rising anti-Semitism.

“The City has a responsibility to fight anti-Semitism, otherwise it will develop in the midst of it,” said Mayor Hidalgo. “Paris, which is home to the biggest Jewish community of Europe, needs to be a pioneer in the fight against hate so that other cities can benefit from its expertise and commitment.”

Hidalgo is the first mayor in Europe to join the AJC initiative, launched in the United States in July, and now expanding to Europe. More than 300 mayors and municipal leaders from 47 states across the U.S. have so far signed the statement.

“We call upon mayors, municipal leaders and other officials in Europe to join us in affirming that anti-Semitism is not compatible with fundamental democratic values,” states the Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism statement. The Mayors’ statement emphasizes that “in a world of global communications where anti-Semitic ideas can and do spread quickly, the impact of the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe does not stop at Europe’s borders.”

"Anti-Semitism is a cancer that, left unchecked, will metastasize and threaten to destroy the democratic and pluralistic nature of Europe," said AJC Executive Director David Harris at the Brussels gathering. The Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism statement affirms a core set of principles, including the condemnation of anti-Jewish hatred in all forms; rejection of the notion that anti-Semitic acts may ever be justified by one’s view on the actions or existence of the State of Israel; a declaration that anti-Semitism and any prejudices due to religious differences are inconsistent with core democratic values; and the belief that the promotion of mutual understanding and respect among all citizens is essential to good governance and democratic life.

The statement pledges a commitment to working within and across European and American communities to advance the values of respectful coexistence, and to affirm that anti-Semitism is incompatible with fundamental democratic values.

For more information, please contact AJC’s Paris-based Europe Director, Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, at rodans@ajc.org.



July 6, 2015 – New York – U.S. mayors across the country are joining an AJC initiative calling on their European counterparts to publicly address and take concrete actions against rising anti-Semitism.

"We call upon mayors, municipal leaders and other officials in Europe to join us in affirming that anti-Semitism is not compatible with fundamental democratic values," states the Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism statement. The Mayors' statement emphasizes that "in a world of global communications where anti-Semitic ideas can and do spread quickly, the impact of the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe does not stop at Europe's borders."

The Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism project comes on the heels of AJC's groundbreaking strategy conference, "A Defining Moment for Europe," held in Brussels. At the May gathering, attended by representatives of nearly all European Union countries, AJC released the Call to Action, a detailed plan for European governments to prioritize and fight the escalating problem.

"Anti-Semitism is a cancer that, left unchecked, will metastasize and threaten to destroy the democratic and pluralistic nature of Europe," said AJC Executive Director David Harris at the Brussels gathering.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, addressing the recent AJC Global Forum, said "AJC released a very thought-provoking ‘Call to Action' on anti-Semitism that raises important recommendations that all of us can benefit from."

U.S. mayors who have signed on to the initiative include Bill De Blasio of New York, Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, Ed Murray of Seattle, Annise Parker of Houston, Kasim Reed of Atlanta, Tomás Pedro Regalado of Miami, Marty Walsh of Boston, and Setti Warren of Newton, MA.

New York Mayor de Blasio, addressing the AJC New York Region annual meeting last month, called for an "unmistakable and consistent" response to acts of anti-Semitism in Europe. Anti-Semitism "is the cancer that never went away," said de Blasio. "That cancer was not eradicated at the end of World War II."

The Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism statement affirms a core set of principles, including the condemnation of anti-Jewish hatred in all forms; rejection of the notion that anti-Semitic acts may ever be justified by one's view on the actions or existence of the State of Israel; a declaration that anti-Semitism and any prejudices due to religious differences are inconsistent with core American values; and the belief that the promotion of mutual understanding and respect among all citizens is essential to good governance and democratic life.

The statement pledges a commitment to working within and across U.S. communities to advance the values of respectful coexistence. And it calls on mayors and municipal leaders in Europe to add their names and to affirm that anti-Semitism is incompatible with fundamental democratic values.

Mayor Warren, along with AJC's Boston Regional Office, conceived the initiative.

AJC Regional Offices across the country are gathering mayoral signatures during the summer. For more information, please contact Melanie Pell at pellm@ajc.org.



June 18, 2015 – Washington -- AJC joined with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in a Capitol Hill briefing on“The Rise of Anti-Semitism in the United States and on College Campuses.”

Senator Gillibrand and AJC sought to raise consciousness about the problem, as a recent Pew poll showed that 22% of Jews aged 18-29 years reported being called offensive names during 2013, and an online research study carried out by Trinity College found that 54% of Jewish college students reported being subjected to, or witnessing, campus anti-Semitism over the previous six months.

“Some of the conversations on American campuses about Middle East politics have turned to actions that are blatantly anti-Semitic,” said Senator Gillibrand. “For anti-Semitism and such hateful behavior to go away, we all have a responsibility to raise our voices and call it out wherever it exists, whenever we see it. The only way we are going to win the war of ideas is with better, stronger ideas.”

The briefing on Tuesday featured presentations by AJC Director of National and Legislative Affairs Richard Foltin; Frederick Schaffer, General Counsel and Senior Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs of the City University of New York; and Lauren Rogers, a recent graduate of UCLA who, as a member of the school’s student council, had her right to vote challenged because she had visited Israel on an AJC Project Interchange educational seminar.

“More than 60 percent of victims of anti-religious hate crimes in the U.S. in 2013 were Jews,” said Foltin, citing FBI statistics. On campuses, “there is an intersection between BDS and anti-Semitism,” he said, referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that seeks to delegitimize the State of Israel. “We have too often seen BDS proponents resorting to anti-Semitic tropes directed at Israel, if not to actions and expressions directed at Jews.”

Combatting the rise of anti-Semitism is a priority for AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization. AJC convened a conference in Brussels in May on the issue and released an action plan under the title “A Defining Moment for Europe.”

AJC encouraged the formation in the U.S. House of Representatives of a bipartisan Task Force on Global Anti-Semitism. And, AJC has created a new full-time staff position dealing with campus affairs, with a focus on countering the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement on American college and university campuses across the country.



 

May 21, 2015 – Berlin --Following the intervention of AJC Berlin, the German government has expanded its recently formed blue-ribbon commission on anti-Semitism, adding two long-time experts and professionals from the Jewish world.

"We applaud the appointment of additional members to the German experts commission on anti-Semitism who will represent the viewpoints and concerns of the Jewish community," said Deidre Berger, Director of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations.

"We appreciate the response of the German government to our criticism of the original makeup of the commission. After all, how can such a body be called a commission of ‘experts’ without the expertise of those most directly affected by anti-Semitism?” Berger continued. “In light of the ongoing incidents of anti-Semitism in all sectors of society, it is not a moment too soon for the commission to begin its work."

Berger also announced that AJC, together with two German partners—the Moses Mendelsohn Center of the University of Potsdam and the Berlin-based Amadeu Antonio Foundation—will hold a conference in Berlin on July 2 on the challenges of addressing anti-Semitism. The three organizations have formed NEBA (Network for Researching and Combating Anti-Semitism) to raise awareness about the dangers of anti-Semitism and promote more extensive monitoring, research, and education. NEBA was formed in direct response to the controversy about the government commission.

Earlier this month, at the AJC strategy conference on combating anti-Semitism, “ A Defining Moment for Europe,” in Brussels, AJC presented a “Call to Action" that urges all European governments and  the European Union to create central coordinating bodies to accelerate responses to outbreaks of anti-Semitism and to work more consistently to prevent them. In this regard, Berger called on the German government to create an inter-ministerial authority to initiate and coordinate measures to combat anti-Semitism.

AJC Berlin hosts the European Forum on Anti-Semitism, which brings together European Jewish leaders and experts to discuss strategies on combating anti-Semitism, as well as the Task Force: Education on Anti-Semitism, a national forum of educators and representatives of civil society who create educational material to counter anti-Semitism.



May 6, 2015 -- Brussels -- AJC has presented an action plan for European governments to address the intensifying crisis of anti-Semitism. The Call for Action came during a groundbreaking AJC strategy conference, “A Defining Moment for Europe," in Brussels.

"Anti-Semitism is a cancer that, left unchecked, will mestatize and threaten to destroy the democratic and pluralistic nature of Europe," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. Unlike 15 years ago, when European governments would too frequently dismiss AJC's oft-voiced concerns about attacks on Jews and refuse to identify their sources, the recent tragic events in Belgium, France, and Denmark have led some leaders to begin addressing the threats head-on.

Jan Jambon, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Security and the Interior, and Věra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers, and Gender Equality, delivered keynote addresses at the opening session Tuesday. Both speakers recognized that the surge of anti-Semitic incidents poses a fundamental threat to individual European countries and, more generally, to the European Union.

Many EU officials, Members of the European Parliament, ambassadors of EU member states, and leaders of Jewish communities from across Europe participated in the gathering. Senior AJC leaders attended the conference, including AJC President Stanley Bergman, who kicked off the conference. Altogether, 25 of the EU's 28 member states, plus the United States and Canada, were‎ officially represented.

Jambon said the Belgian government is committed “to improve the level of security to the fullest extent” and to redouble efforts “to uphold and assert our own values and standards.” He reasserted his government's recent announcement that it will provide adequate resources for the security of synagogues and Jewish institutions, a move AJC welcomed.

"It is a tragedy, a disgrace for Europe, when Jewish communities feel unsafe in places of worship and in their homes," especially 70 years after they faced similar dilemmas on whether to stay or leave, said Commissioner Jourová, who has helped spearhead EU efforts to combat anti-Semitism.

The AJC action plan calls on European governments to make the fight against anti-Semitism an urgent priority for individual countries, and collectively for the entire EU. It specifies steps for governments to assess the severity of the problem; provide for the security of Jewish institutions and communities; invest in education that imparts European values; take on purveyors of anti-Semitism on the Internet and in social media; and recognize that vilification of Israel too often is a cover for expressions of anti-Semitism. The full Call to Action is available at www.ajc.org.

The current efforts of the U.S., French, and German governments were highlighted in a panel that featured Gilles Clavreul, France's Inter-ministerial Delegate on Racism and Anti-Semitism; Ambassador Dr. Felix Klein, Special Representative of Germany's Federal Foreign Office for Relations with Jewish Organizations and Anti-Semitism Issues; and Ira Forman, the U.S. State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

Another panel featured European Muslim leaders--activists committed to defending and reinforcing European values in their own communities. They discussed the challenges and necessary strategies to confront and defuse Islamist extremism. A third panel addressed the steps required to secure vulnerable Jewish communities and assure a European Jewish future.

There was general agreement among the speakers throughout the conference that investing in education is essential -- but not sufficient. Of immediate concern is radicalization in prisons, inadequate intelligence cooperation among EU member states, and, above all, a failure of some national leadership to honestly assess and confront the sources of anti-Jewish violence. In his remarks, Harris poignantly asked about the meaning of education in a demographically changing Europe.

"How do you teach in the 21st century about events that took place 70 years ago when witnesses are dying, and some teachers and especially students are pushing back” on accepting the curriculum, he asked.

The AJC plan "calls on the European Union to promptly organize a high-level governmental conference on the ominous rise of anti-Semitism,” and “calls on the political institutions of the EU and its Member States to express at the highest levels a fundamental commitment to fight anti-Semitism.”

It also calls on civil society -- including faith leaders and other opinion-shapers -- to carry the message that anti-Semitism is socially, politically, and religiously unacceptable.

"If necessary, and however tragically, the Jews will leave, but where will Europe go?" asked Harris. "Will Europeans uphold their values or will they succumb?"

Prior to the conference, a senior AJC leadership delegation, led by Bergman and Harris, met privately with Věra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers, and Gender Equality; Jan Jambon, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Security and the Interior; Fernando Gentilini, the recently appointed EU Special Representative to the Middle East Peace Process; Ambassador Walter Stevens, Chair of the Political and Security Committee of the European External Action Service; and Israeli Ambassador to the EU and NATO David Walzer.

In 2004, AJC established the Transatlantic Institute to foster close relations among the U.S., Europe, and Israel. The institute is chaired by Robert Elman and directed by Daniel Schwammenthal.



May 4, 2015 – New York – AJC has named Jacob Levkowicz as the global advocacy organization’s newly-created Assistant Director of Campus Affairs.

The position will address the rise in activities targeting Israel and its campus supporters across the country, and monitor and combat incidents of anti-Semitism.

“The American college campus has become a front-line battleground for those who seek to denigrate Israel and to undermine the Middle East’s only true democracy,” said Daniel Elbaum, AJC Assistant Executive Director and Director of Regional Offices, who will supervise the effort.

AJC has long worked with university students, faculty, and staff to deepen knowledge about Israel, and to bolster efforts to respond to organizations that seek to use campus settings to vilify Israel. In recent years, resolutions to boycott and otherwise assail Israel have become a routine occurrence. In some instances, there have also been virulent acts of anti-Semitism of a nature not seen on the American college campus in many decades.

The new AJC position will help develop strategies to enhance Israel’s image on university campuses, and combat campus-based anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

“Jacob Levkowicz is a passionate advocate for Israel with deep and abiding relationships on college campuses across the United States,” said Elbaum. “I look forward to working closely with him.”

Levkowicz, a graduate of Weslyan University, has spent the past year at AJC as a Goldman Bridge Fellow with ACCESS, AJC’s acclaimed Young Leadership Program. Prior to joining AJC, he worked at The David Project, a Boston-based advocacy organization that focuses on Israel and young people.

“I am honored and delighted to represent AJC as the agency embarks on a new chapter of engagement with colleges and universities across the country,” said Levkowicz.  “AJC is well-placed to help provide student leaders, faculty, and administrators with the critical engagement, support, and resources to positively impact the campus conversation on Israel-related issues.”

Levkowicz pointed out that the stepped-up AJC effort to address the critical situation on campuses is both timely and essential. “I am thrilled to return to my campus roots and to again work with a robust network of talented pro-Israel student advocates, dedicated campus professionals, and other groups focused on the university community,” he said. “Sadly, these same voices standing on the front lines have borne the brunt of rising anti-Israel activity -- and, in some cases, unadulterated anti-Semitism -- on a growing number of campuses in recent years.”



May 3, 2015 -- Brussels -- AJC welcomed Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel’s announcement that the government will commit the resources necessary to protect the country’s Jewish community.

The pledge comes ahead of the AJC strategy conference on combating European anti-Semitism that will take place in Brussels on May 5. AJC established an office, the Transatlantic Institute, in Europe's capital city in 2004.

The Belgian Jewish community, as well as Jewish communities across Europe, has witnessed a rising tide of threats and assaults against Jewish individuals and institutions. Anti-Semitic acts in Belgium increased by 60% in 2014. The most violent attack was the terrorist assault on the Jewish Museum that left four people dead last May.

Michel, in an interview with a local Jewish newspaper, said his government would provide sufficient funding for security measures at Jewish institutions, and adopt a zero-tolerance law enforcement policy on anti-Semitic incidents.

“We applaud this commitment by the Belgian leader,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The threat is serious and, tragically, only getting more so. Standing up to those who would endanger the Jews of Europe not only serves to protect Jewish communities, but, no less, the democratic values at the heart of Europe today.”

AJC will present an action plan, “A Defining Moment for Europe,” at the conference it is holding in Brussels on Tuesday.

Jan Jambon, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Security and the Interior, will deliver a keynote address at the opening session. Many EU officials, members of the European Parliament, ambassadors of EU member states, and leaders of several European Jewish communities will be participating in the gathering, together with AJC leaders.

“My government and I are fully aware of the gravity of the situation. We are determined to clamp down hard on this resurgence in anti-Semitism,” Prime Minister Michel said in a speech to the Belgian Jewish community earlier this year.



April 17, 2015 -- Paris – AJC praised the French government for launching a comprehensive plan to fight anti-Semitism and racism. The multi-pronged plan, announced today by Prime Minister Valls, comes three months after the fatal terror attacks against Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket in Paris.

“This ambitious plan reflects a true commitment by the government to confront the scourge of anti-Semitism that threatens French society,” said AJC Paris Director Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, who attended the official announcement in Creteil at the invitation of the French government.

Valls has been outspoken on the need to rigorously combat anti-Semitism, stressing that attacks on Jews are assaults on all of France. “We have to make sure that security is provided but we also need to combat anti-Semitism and racism at its roots,” said Valls. “Words and acts need to be punished severely. Public policy needs to integrate the fight against anti-Semitism and racism."

Several French ministers joined with Valls in announcing the plan, including Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin, Deputy Minister for Digital Affairs Axelle Lemaire, and Deputy Minister for Urban Affairs Myriam El Khomri, as well as Gilles Clavreul, the interministerial delegate for the fight against anti-Semitism and racism.

The plan has four interrelated components dealing with community mobilization, strengthening the legal system to prosecute and punish purveyors of hate speech, training educators to teach about secularism and French civic values, and stepping up efforts, notably creating a special governmental unit, to confront hate on the Internet.

“It is through education, teaching skills and understanding of the other that we can counter the stereotypes and negative images,” said Valls.

AJC actively engaged with the government as the plan was developed, and will continue to work closely with senior officials, as well as with Jewish community and civil society leaders, in the ongoing efforts to combat anti-Semitism and racism.

“No doubt the process of implementing the plan and effecting real, substantive changes will be long and difficult, but for the sake of France defeating anti-Semitism will be essential,” said Rodan-Benzaquen.



April 1, 2015 – New York – AJC welcomes Spanish parliamentary action to strengthen punishment for anti-Semitic acts and rhetoric.

“Spain has taken a significant step in the fight against anti-Semitism, signaling with this reformed law that there will be zero tolerance for acts of hatred against Jews,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs. “Our concerns about rising anti-Semitism have been articulated, together with our partner, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, during meetings with Spain’s Justice Minister and other government officials in Madrid over the past several years.”

The revised penal code, adopted on March 31, will punish those convicted of inciting hatred, discrimination or violence against Jews, and those who deny or trivialize the crime of genocide. The code also applies to promotion of hatred towards others in Spain on the basis of gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation.

Anyone convicted could face imprisonment up to 15 years.



March 26, 2015—Austin—AJC applauds today’s passage by the Texas House of Representatives of a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, a measure that AJC has long advocated. In taking this action Texas is poised to become the fourth state to go on record against the rising tide of global anti-Semitism, following Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California.

The Texas resolution condemns both official and unofficial government sanctioning of anti-Semitism; expresses “continued commitment to combating anti-Semitism”; urges governments “to take all steps necessary to eradicate anti-Semitism”; and calls for expanded Holocaust education programs.

AJC was joined in its successful advocacy of this legislation by Latino leaders who are partners in the Jewish Latino Alliance, an interethnic initiative launched by AJC Dallas seven years ago. The chief sponsor of the bill, State Representative Rafael Anchia, is a longtime friend of AJC and the Jewish community.



March 13, 2015 -- New York – In a letter to University of California President Janet Napolitano and Board of Regents Chairman Bruce D. Varner, AJC has praised the UC leaders for their unequivocal condemnation of recent anti-Semitic incidents at UCLA and UC Davis.

Napolitano and Varner, in a joint statement, condemned expressions of bigotry, particularly anti-Semitism, directed against any members of the university community and reaffirmed the universal responsibility to preserve “bedrock values of respect, inclusion and civility.”

The UC leaders specifically referred to recent incidents at UCLA where students tried to block a Jewish student from serving on the campus Judicial Board, and at UC Davis where a Jewish fraternity was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti.

“Anti-Semitic incidents such as these, as well as bigotry directed against any members of the UC community because of their faith, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, will not be tolerated,” said Napolitano and Varner.

AJC also expressed appreciation for UCLA Chancellor Gene Block’s condemnation of “anti-Semitism as repugnant, as is any other form of prejudice,” and for UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s condemnation of anti-Semitism as “repugnant and a gross violation of our values.”

The “clear and unequivocal condemnation by the university chancellors in these cases is gratifying,” wrote Steven Bayme, AJC Director of Contemporary Jewish Life, in the letter to Napolitano and Varner.

“Hopefully, this incident will serve as a wake-up call that anti-Semitic prejudice has by no means disappeared, and that university leaders need both to speak out in opposition and initiate educational programs to counter it,” said Bayme.

AJC has engaged directly with Chancellors Block and Katehi. AJC Los Angeles met earlier this week with Block and initiated a dialogue with university leadership on how to enhance the campus climate positively. Katehi is a past participant in AJC’s Project Interchange, which brings U.S. university presidents to Israel for educational seminars to gain a greater understanding of the country.



February 26, 2015 – Brussels – A senior American Jewish Committee (AJC) official urged European lawmakers today to move immediately to develop an action plan to confront the rising tide of anti-Semitism in their countries – and change the reality of Jews living in fear in Europe.

“What must come first is the will of European leadership to assure the security and the European future of Europe’s Jews, and to defend the values, the security and the future of Europe as a whole,” Jason Isaacson, AJC Associate Executive Director for Policy, told a group of European Parliament (EP) members in Brussels.

Isaacson shared examples of what AJC colleagues and Jews generally are confronting across Europe. “Every day, my colleagues in AJC’s offices here in Brussels and across Europe – and Jews throughout the European Union – are facing a personal quandary and making wrenching personal decisions” about sending children to Jewish day schools, attending services in synagogues and Jewish communal events – indeed, weighing whether to stay or leave their countries of residence.

“It is an abomination that these are the thoughts – the entirely justified worries – of more than a million Jews in Europe, a continent that has been home to Jews and enlivened by Jews for more than two millennia, a continent that was saturated in the blood of Jews seven decades ago,” Isaacson added.

He called for “an action plan to combat anti-Semitism” to be implemented country by country across Europe. “Heads of state must speak out clearly and sincerely,” said Isaacson, adding that the first step, “already taken by many national leaders, including German Chancellor Merkel and French Prime Minister Valls, is to express at the highest levels that fundamental commitment to fight anti-Semitism.”

European governments should step up and better organize the collection of data on anti-Semitic incidents and perpetrators in order “to know as precisely as possible the dimension and the source of the threat we’re facing,” he said.

Isaacson called on the EU and its member states “to formulate and implement broad-ranging counter-radicalization programs, working in partnership with Muslim and other faith and civil society leaders.”

He stressed the need to halt “radical preachings now commonly disseminated in European prisons” and offered several recommendations for improving the teaching of tolerance and democratic values in European schools, adding that “educators must be encouraged to develop accessible new curricula imparting the core message that anti-Semitism is incompatible with fundamental European values.”

Another critical communications vehicle to confront is social media and the Internet. Isaacson called on European governments to consider modifying existing laws to allow for shutting down websites and social media accounts that promote and share anti-Semitism.

And, he urged governments to take steps to prevent European jihadists from traveling to and from Middle East conflict zones, substantially bolster security of Jewish communal sites, and institute other safeguards against anti-Semitic violence.

“Jewish communities and the general public need to hear directly from European leaders that anti-Semitism violates core European principles and will not be tolerated,” said Isaacson. “Civil society – including faith leaders – must be summoned to carry the message that anti-Semitism is socially, politically and religiously unacceptable.”

The hearing by the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Israel was the first time an official body of the current EP dealt with the issue of anti-Semitism. Isaacson’s testimony is part of AJC’s stepped up efforts to raise consciousness among European leaders about the increasing threats to Jews and European societies – and urge governments to make the fight against anti-Semitism a high national priority.



February 18, 2015 – Washington – Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs, told the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism today that Jews in Europe are living in fear and criticized the hesitancy of many European leaders to identify publicly the roots of rising anti-Semitism and the perpetrators of the violence that has struck fatally Jews and the general population.

“European Jews feel doubly at risk,” said Rabbi Baker. “They know the dangers are real, but how can they have confidence that their governments also know this?”

AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization, has been warning for more than 15 years about ominous elements in European countries that specifically target Jews, but ultimately threaten the democratic societies in which they live.

“Some have been reluctant to identify the victims or to identify the perpetrators or even to call it anti-Semitism,” said Rabbi Baker, referring in particular to the recent Islamist terror attacks in Copenhagen and Paris. “It should be obvious that this radical Islamist extremism is also deeply anti-Semitic.”

Elaborating on his concerns about European readiness to respond adequately to the threats, Baker recounted his conversations about security for Jewish institutions two years ago with Belgian officials in Brussels and last fall with Danish authorities in Copenhagen.

“Even today the Belgian Jewish community is awaiting an answer from the government to its request for additional security and funding,” said Baker, though he pointed out that Belgian officials acknowledged to him that the Jewish community needs security on the level of the U.S. and Israeli embassies.

Similarly, Danish government officials told Baker last fall that they had rebuffed Jewish community requests for a police presence in front of the synagogue and Jewish school because they were concerned that armed guards in front of these buildings might disturb the sense of ease that Danish citizens so value.

While security has been enhanced in France, Denmark and several other European countries, Baker reminded the audience that government, civil society leaders, and media need to be crystal clear about who is responsible for the acts of terrorism already taking place and ongoing looming threats.

“In many Western European countries today elements of the Muslim population are the primary source of anti-Semitic incidents and of physical and verbal harassment,” said Baker. “These threats have slowly and steadily eroded Jews’ sense of security and comfort in their day to day lives. They are why nearly 40 percent of Jews in the EU, when surveyed over two years ago, were already considering emigration.”

Baker offered a ray of hope for responding to the crisis of violent extremism in Europe. Last November an OSCE conference on anti-Semitism in Berlin drew nearly 500 participants from governments and civil society organizations. Baker, who also serves as the OSCE Chair’s personal representative on combatting anti-Semitism, said that the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights delegation was one of the most impressive.

“This broad coalition of organizations delivered the message that anti-Semitism, at least here in the U.S., is everybody’s problem,” said Baker. Duplicating this approach in Europe “will not be easy,” added Baker, “but the crisis we face in Europe demands an urgency to respond and search for new tools and methods” to effectively fight anti-Semitism.



February 18, 2015 – New York – Ambassador Jarl Frijs-Madsen, Consul General of Denmark in New York, addressed a special ceremony at AJC headquarters today to commemorate the victims of the twin terror attacks in Copenhagen. Representatives of New York’s diplomatic, interfaith and political communities joined with AJC leaders for the somber event.

“The terror that has hit Europe this year has sadly now also become a part of Denmark’s recent history,” said Frijs-Madsen. “In these difficult times, it has given us enormous courage, comfort and strength to know that we are not alone, but surrounded by friends all over the world.”

A Danish Muslim first attacked a free speech event at a Copenhagen café, killing a Danish filmmaker, and several hours later murdered Dan Uzan, a Jewish security guard at Copenhagen’s Krystalgade synagogue, and wounded two Danish police officers. The shooter died in a confrontation with police after the two attacks.

“In the middle of our grief and shock, we are thankful that Dan Uzan and the Danish police officers posted at the synagogue did manage to protect the 80 people inside the synagogue who were gathered for a Bat Mitzvah,” said Frijs-Madsen.

The consul general vowed that, “Denmark will continue to protect our countrymen in the Jewish community” and that the Danish people will not allow anti-Semitism “to take root in Denmark,” as demonstrated by the “Prime Minister’s statements, the sea of flowers and condolences by the synagogue, and, perhaps the most powerful statement of all, 40,000 Danish citizens at a candlelight vigil in Copenhagen.”

AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has visited Copenhagen numerous times, spoke fondly of the Danish people, for their principled rescue of Jews during the Holocaust and for building in the post-war period a country that regularly comes at the top of the UN human development index. “Denmark is a world leader in human dignity and human rights,” he said.

Harris pointed out that the sequence of events in Copenhagen were similar to the deadly violence that transpired in Paris a month ago. “The first attack was on European values, and then the Jewish community was attacked,” said Harris. “Jewish security is inextricably interwoven with European security, and European security is equally interwoven with Jewish security.”

“What happened in Copenhagen is tragically consistent with what AJC has been saying to our friends in capitals across Europe for more than 15 years,” said Harris. “First and foremost, we need absolute clarity in confronting this challenge. The perpetrators of these terrorist outrages need to be named – they are jihadists, and they came after Denmark and France because these countries embody democratic and pluralistic values.”

Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC director of Intergroup and Interreligious Affairs, led the more than 100 attendees in prayer and remembrance. "Our solidarity today is inseparable from our long-held and deeply felt gratitude that Denmark played a historic role in saving Jews during our darkest hour. We are here today for you, Denmark, during this dark hour,” said Marans.

Diplomats representing Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, the Philippines and Slovakia attended. Moreover, representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Latter Day Saints, and the Episcopal Church, as well as officials from the offices of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and New York Mayor Bill De Blasio were present for the ceremony.



February 17, 2015 -- New York – AJC is appalled by the ISIS execution of 21Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya, the latest act of brutality from a terrorist organization that has already claimed thousands of victims across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in Europe.

“Christians have been under assault in the Arab Middle East, but this particular outrage, the kidnapping and subsequent beheading, is beyond monstrous,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris “We share the pain of our Christian brethren.”

Pope Francis, reacting to the ISIS beheadings of the Copts, said, “They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians.”

And Cardinal Dolan of New York said, “This is part of an orchestrated fanaticism that sees Christianity, Judaism, and any religion of peace as the enemy.”

ISIS is thriving and expanding by violently taking advantage of the political and security vacuums in Syria, Iraq, and Libya, seizing large swathes of territory, terrorizing local populations, and willfully murdering Christians and Yazidis, as well as Muslims with whom they disagree. The group has also struck with deadly violence in Egypt, Afghanistan and Algeria. Moreover, ISIS veterans and sympathizers have reached Europe, killing four people at a Paris kosher market, and four at the Brussels Jewish Museum.

“ISIS is a threat to civilization that must be vanquished,” said Harris. “Pure, grotesque terrorism glorified through video, online publications, and other media is the trademark of ISIS’s twisted ideology.”

AJC urges greater international resolve and cooperation to confront and destroy ISIS. “Certainly, defeating ISIS is not the job of any one country alone, but requires the active collaboration of the U.S., Europe, Japan, Arab nations, and other like-minded countries,” said Harris. “In the region, Jordan and Egypt, responding to direct attacks by ISIS on their own citizens, have taken important actions that others in the Arab world should emulate, making clear that ISIS is their enemy, too.”



February 15, 2015 -- New York -- AJC Executive Director David Harris called yesterday's attacks in Copenhagen, including against a synagogue, “deplorable and despicable acts of terror” that are another “wake-up call to European leaders of the urgent threats to democratic societies and the values they embody.”

Dan Uzan, a Jewish security guard at Copenhagen’s Krystalgade synagogue, was killed and two Danish police officers were wounded by a lone shooter. Earlier in the day, a man was killed when gun shots were fired at an event on free speech, where a featured speaker was the cartoonist who has faced repeated death threats since he drew caricatures of the prophet Muhammad in 2007.

Details about the shooter, who died in a confrontation with police, have not yet been released.

“One can only imagine the horror if the shooter had succeeded in actually entering the synagogue, where a Bat Mitzvah ceremony was in progress,” said Harris. Some 80 people were inside the synagogue at the time, a leader of Denmark’s Jewish community told a Danish radio station.

The Denmark synagogue attack comes barely a month after a radical Islamist terrorist killed four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris, which occurred two days after other jihadists carried out a murderous atttack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. In total, seventeen innocent people were killed in three Paris attacks.

“As AJC has been saying for 15 years to Europe's top political leaders, European core values such as freedom of speech, freedom of worship and pluralism are inextricably intertwined with the well-being and security of the continent’s Jewish communities,” said Harris. “European nations individually and collectively must confront anti-Semitism with utmost urgency. Jews should not once again have to live in fear in Europe.”

Harris and other AJC representatives, including the directors of AJC's offices in Berlin, Brussels, Paris and Rome, have been pressing European leaders to recognize the urgency of the danger, the specificity of anti-Semitism, and the need to take concrete steps to make clear that confronting anti-Semitism is a high and sustained priority.

AJC urges the EU and its member states to establish a high-level task force on anti-Semitism, enhance round-the-clock security at synagogues, schools and other Jewish institutions, and utilize all other tools available through education, law enforcement, justice, and transnational cooperation to confront the threat to Jewish communities and European democratic values.

“Sadly, no country can assume today that jihadist violence against Jews and other symbols of liberal democracy will not happen there,” Harris added.



February 11, 2015 – New York – AJC is shocked by the brutal murders of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Deah Barakat, a student at the University of North Carolina; Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, who was to enroll at UNC in the fall; and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, a student at North Carolina State University, were shot dead by a lone gunman at a condominium near the UNC campus.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families, as we await further details from investigators regarding the shooter’s motive for these brutal killings,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “But some things should be absolutely clear and non-negotiable. In America, we must always affirm the sanctity of human life, the blessing of pluralism, and the commitment to freedom of worship for all.”

Craig Stephen Hicks was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Law enforcement authorities have not yet determined if the murders were hate crimes.



February 5, 2015 – Berlin – AJC Berlin is disputing a new study by the Technical University’s Center for Research on Anti-Semitism (ZfA) that charges Jewish and civil society organizations with exaggerating and exploiting anti-Semitic incidents in Berlin for their own gain.

"We need studies that clearly define the problem of anti-Semitism instead of questioning its very existence," said AJC Berlin Director Deidre Berger. “Trivializing hatred of Jews is dangerous.”

“At a time when the future of Jews in Germany and in Europe as a whole is being called into question, downplaying the danger of anti-Semitism is unacceptable,” Berger continued. “The new ZIA study displays a disturbing lack of sensitivity to the justified fears of Berlin’s Jews, which have grown considerably in the wake of the numerous anti-Semitic incidents last summer.”

Berger expressed surprise about charges of exaggeration, saying, “Instead of taking seriously concerns in the Jewish community about the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism, the study charges Jewish organizations and individuals with biased judgment. Such sweeping generalizations defame and vilify Jews and Jewish organizations.”

The recent study, “Anti-Semitism as Problem and Symbol – Phenomena and Interventions in Berlin,” was compiled by the Center for Research on Anti-Semitism on behalf of the Berlin state government’s State Commission against Violence. The goal was to obtain an overview of anti-Semitism manifestations and develop strategies for dealing with them.  Instead, the study focuses much of its attention on what it terms the “symbolism” of anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism is not a symbol,” said Berger. “It is an attack on democratic values. Instead of providing insights into the nature and sources of contemporary anti-Semitism, the study delivers a political broadside against postwar German democracy, which the authors accuse of instrumentalizing anti-Semitism, German-Israeli relations, and Holocaust memory.”

She added: “Rather than providing an objective academic analysis, this report promotes an anti-Israel and anti-German government political agenda.”

Berger noted that the study seems to defend anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments within Muslim society by linking it to “direct personal painful experience, or experience of the parents’ or grandparents’ generations, related to the conflict in the Middle East,” and by asserting that anti-Semitic statements uttered by young Muslims are the consequence of the widespread discrimination and racism that they experience in Germany.

“Anti-Semitism – regardless of the circumstances in which it is expressed – can never be justified,” said Berger. “Characterizing Muslim pupils primarily as victims of discrimination is paternalistic and robs them of the opportunity to assume their rightful role as responsible citizens in the fight against anti-Semitism.”
AJC Berlin has issued a commentary, “Defining Anti-Semitism: The Battle for Interpretation,” which warns about the dangers of trivializing anti-Semitism by deeming it a justified reaction to policies of the Israeli government.

It suggests specific measures to fight anti-Semitism, including the incorporation of background information and counter-strategies in training programs for teachers, police, law enforcement authorities and other government officials.  Another suggestion is a major revision of police reports on anti-Semitic incidents to provide greater detail about the circumstances and perpetrators.

Since the opening of the AJC Berlin Lawrence and Lee Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations in 1998, AJC has worked on strategies and educational programs to combat anti-Semitism.  With its bi-monthly Taskforce: Education on Anti-Semitism meetings, AJC Berlin provides an ongoing platform for NGO representatives and educational experts to exchange best practices on pedagogical approaches to fighting anti-Semitism.



January 27, 2015 -- Paris -- AJC welcomed French President François Hollande's renewed call for a government action plan to combat anti-Semitism in France. Speaking at Paris's Holocaust Memorial, Hollande said the rise of anti-Semitic acts in France was “an unbearable reality,” and that new laws would be implemented soon, including measures to penalize websites containing anti-Semitic content.

Hollande's speech, on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, came as the Jewish Community Protection Service (SPCJ), in cooperation with the French Interior Ministry, issued a new report showing that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in France had increased by 101 percent during 2014.

“The SPCJ report is another wake-up call to the severity of anti-Semitism in France,” said AJC Paris Director Simone Rodan-Benzaquen. “The urgent need for concrete measures to eradicate this cancer is clearer and more pressing than ever before.”

There were 851 reported anti-Semitic incidents in 2014, compared to 423 in 2013, according to Interior Ministry statistics included in the SPCJ report. Violent incidents were up by 130 percent, with 241 reported in 2014, compared to 105 in 2013.

“Anti-Semitic acts represent 51 percent of racist acts committed in France while Jews make up only one percent of the French population,” the SPCJ stated.

“The jihadist terrorist attack and murder of four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris was only the latest, violent act of anti-Semitism in France, where we have seen a steady trail of rising anti-Semitism for years,” said Rodan-Benzaquen.

AJC Paris praised President Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls for their continuing commitment to fight anti-Semitism. “Recognition at the highest levels of government that this cancer threatens not only Jews, but endangers France, is vital for developing and implementing effective measures,” said Rodan-Benzaquen. "President Hollande's proposal to stipulate in the French penal code that anti-Semitic and racist content on the Internet and social media are criminal acts will be essential to this campaign.”

The Paris office of AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization, works closely with authorities, Jewish community and civil society organizations on combatting anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred and racism. “Government alone cannot tackle this evil. All French citizens of goodwill must further step up their efforts against those who are consumed by hatred of Jews,” said Rodan-Benzaquen.



January 26, 2014 – New York – AJC Executive Director will attend, as a member of the U.S. presidential delegation led by Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew, the commemoration event at Auschwitz, marking the 70th anniversary of the Nazi concentration camp’s liberation. In addition, AJC President Stanley Bergman will lead a delegation from the organization at the event.

The UN designated January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, when the world body and countries around the world recall and commemorate the Nazi destruction of six million Jews, including one-and-a- half-million children.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary, AJC issued the following statement:

We Remember

In the Jewish tradition, we are commanded to remember (zachor) and not to forget (lo tishkach). On January 27, we commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this solemn occasion, 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz:

We remember the six million Jewish martyrs, including 1.5 million children, who were exterminated in the Holocaust.

We remember the entirely new alphabet created by the Nazis for the Final Solution — from the letter “A” for Auschwitz to the letter “Z” for Zyklon-B.

We remember not only the tragic deaths of the six million Jews, but also their vibrant lives—as shopkeepers and craftsmen, scientists and authors, teachers and students, parents and children, husbands and wives.

We remember the richly hued and ancient Jewish civilizations that were destroyed—from Salonika to Vilna, from Amsterdam to Prague.

We remember the slippery slope that began with the rantings of an obscure Austrian-born anti-Semite named Adolf Hitler and led, in the course of less than 15 years, to his absolute control over Germany.

We remember the fertile soil of European anti-Semitism—cultivated over centuries by cultural, political, and religious voices—that created an all-too-receptive climate for the Nazi objective of eliminating the Jewish people.

We remember the courage of Denmark, as well as Albania, Bulgaria, and Finland, for their extraordinary efforts to protect their own Jewish communities.

We remember the courage of thousands of Righteous Persons—whom we call, in Hebrew, Hasidei Umot Ha’olam—who risked their own lives so that others might live.

We remember the millions of non-Jews—Poles and Russians, Roma and the disabled, political opponents and homosexuals—murdered under the relentless Nazi onslaught.

We remember the valiant soldiers of the Allied nations who, at such great human cost, vanquished the Third Reich.

We remember the survivors of the death camps, who endured such unimaginable suffering and who have inspired us all with their indomitable courage, spirit, and will to live.

We remember the absence of an Israel in those war-time years—an Israel that, had it existed, would have provided a haven when so shamefully few countries were willing to accept Jewish refugees.

We shall never forget those who perished.

We shall never forget those who saved even a single life. As it is written in the Talmud: “He who saves one life has saved the world.”

We shall never forget the importance of speaking out against intolerance, whenever and wherever it occurs.

We shall never forget the inextricable link among democracy, the rule of law, and protection of human rights.

We shall never forget the age-old prophetic vision of a world of justice, harmony, and peace.

And we shall never forget that each of us, in ways large and small, can help bring us closer to the realization of that prophetic vision.



January 14, 2015 -- Washington -- More than 700 people gathered at Congregation Adas Israel for an AJC program of solidarity with France’s Jewish community and memorial for the 17 French men and women murdered by Islamist terrorists in Paris last week.

“We are at war against terrorism, against radical Islam,” declared Gérard Araud, Ambassador of France to the United States. “Journalists and Jews are on the front line of democracy,” he added, referring to the deadly attacks on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo and a crowded kosher supermarket.

"We will not waver in our commitment to defeat the scourge of anti-Semitism," said White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. “This is not an issue for any single community or nation to deal with by itself,” he continued. “From the President on down, you have my commitment that we will wage this fight together.”

The solidarity and memorial event took place four days after an Islamist terrorist killed four of his hostages shoppng hours before the onset of Shabbat at a kosher supermarket. The four Jewish victims were buried in Israel today.

A rising tide of anti-Semitic violence in France has placed the Jewish community, the largest in Europe, on edge and prompted 7,000 French Jews to move to Israel in 2014 alone.

Echoing French President Hollande's concern for the well-being and security of the country’s Jewish community, Ambassador Araud said, “We want the Jews of France to remain in France.”

Other Obama Administration officials attending Tuesday evening included Julieta Valls Noyes, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs; Ira Forman, State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism; and Charles Kupchan, National Security Council senior director for Europe. U.S. Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch and Jan Schakowsky participated. Representatives of the Muslim and French communities also attended.

“We are here to insist that anti-Semitism and all forms of religious and racial hatred are intolerable, that the fight against violent extremism must be waged comprehensively and relentlessly, and that the Jews must not and will not be driven out of Europe," said Jason Isaacson, AJC Associate Executive Director for Policy.

Isaacson read aloud a letter from the Tunisian Ambassador to the United States, M'Hamed Ezzine Chelaifa, who eulogized one of those murdered at the Paris kosher supermarket, Yoav Hattab, a son of the Chief Rabbi of Tunis.

AJC has longstanding ties with the Jewish community in France and with the Fench government, and maintains an office in Paris, headed by Simone Rodan-Benzaquen.

A memorial gathering took place Monday at AJC headquarters in New York, addressed by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre, and Consul General of France in New York Bertrand Lortholary.



January 13, 2015—New York—AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following statement regarding Congressman Randy Weber’s outrageous tweet:

“The notion that President Obama and Adolf Hitler would be mentioned in the same sentence is beyond reprehensible, but that is exactly what happened in a tweet sent by Rep. Randy Weber of Texas last night.

“We fully understand the legitimacy of the debate over U.S. representation at the major rally in Paris on Sunday. However, resorting to comparisons with the leader of the Third Reich, who was responsible for nearly 60 million deaths, including six million Jews, as well as brutal occupation policies, including in Paris, should have no place in American political discourse.

“We urge Congressman Weber to withdraw his language immediately and issue an appropriate apology.”



January 12, 2015 – New York – U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre, and Consul General of France in New York Bertrand Lortholary addressed a crowd of more than 150 people gathered at AJC today to remember the 17 victims of the recent Islamist terror attacks in Paris.

The event, which was moderated by Rene-Pierre Azria, Chair of AJC Paris, was also attended by diplomats from ten other countries: Argentina, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Lithuania, the Philippines, Poland, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom. Several religious leaders from the Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints also attended the service.

Ambassador Power, speaking powerfully on behalf of the Obama Administration, told those gathered: “Anti-Semitism isn't just a threat to the Jewish people. Anti-Semitism is a threat to everything Europe stands for. It cannot be left to Jewish organizations and the Jewish people to fight this scourge alone.”

Echoing that sentiment and underscoring his long-time friendship with the Jewish community, Ambassador Delattre commented that: “The fight against anti-Semitism is an existential threat to all of us.”

And Consul General Lortholary, in a heartfelt address, stated: “Jews in Paris were murdered simply because they were Jews.”

 “We must be clear about the challenges that are ahead of us. We cannot fight transnational threats nationally. We must fight them together. The stakes could not be higher,” AJC Executive Director David Harris told the audience. “It is high time that we, as democratic societies, stand up resolutely to the threat posed by those who loudly invoke their Islamic faith and teachings to justify their heinous deeds.”

Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC's director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, led the audience in reciting a psalm and the traditional Jewish prayer of mourning.

The audience was also addressed, via live video, by AJC Paris Director Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, who has appeared on CNN, Fox, BBC, and many other international media outlets in the past few days. Rodan-Benzaquen stated: “President Francois Hollande is determined to confront the issue of anti-Semitism. We hope to transform this terrible event into something good."



January 8, 2015—Paris—AJC criticized the decision by key media outlets in Great Britain and the United States—such as the London Daily Telegraph, the New York Times, CNN, and NBC—to omit or blur the Charlie Hebdo cartoon images that, according to confirmed reports, motivated the reprehensible attack on the paper’s offices that killed twelve people.

“Through this act of self-censorship, these news organizations are depriving the public of its right to know exactly what Charlie Hebdo had done to arouse the ire of the jihadists,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Keeping this information from the public not only betrays the canons of free journalism, but also furthers the goal of the killers and their sympathizers: to create an atmosphere of fear where freedom of expression is limited and make Islam, alone among all other world religions and secular ideologies, immune from public criticism.”



January 7, 2015 -- Paris -- AJC is appalled by the terrorist attack on the office of a French newspaper. At least 12 are dead, and several of the wounded are in critical condition, after hooded gunmen shouting “Allahu Akbar” and “Avenge the prophet,” stormed the office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in the center of the French capital.

“Islamic terrorism has struck once again in the heart of our beloved France,” said Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of AJC Paris. “Their target was both those who worked at the magazine and the laudable values of an open, democratic society they embodied. There can be no compromise with such murderers and their heinous world view.”

The terror alert in France was raised after the attack to its highest level. French President Hollande, condemning the attack on Charlie Hebdo, said several other terror attacks had been thwarted in recent weeks.

Three years ago, Charlie Hebdo's offices were the subject of an arson attack in response to its publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed on its cover.

The perpetrators of today’s terror attack in Paris remain at large.



December 22, 2014 – New York – AJC is deeply disappointed with the European Parliament's failure to establish a task force to fight the rise of anti-Semitism across Europe.

"European Parliament inaction on an anti-Semitism task force is simply an inexcusable dereliction of duty," said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has long been urging stepped-up European action to counter anti-Semitism. “Anti-Semitic violence and attitudes have increased in key EU member states, and an increasing number of Jews wonder what the future holds for them, yet the European Parliament refuses to establish a special body to deal with the resurgence of this ugly hatred targeting Jews -- and, no less, core European values.” 

While the European Parliament refused to establish a task force on anti-Semitism, despite strong support from a number of members, it did create an all-inclusive body to deal with racism and diversity in general.

“The roots and motives behind anti-Semitism are often different from other forms of bigotry,” said Harris. “Subsuming this very specific problem among other forms of racism (and diversity) reveals how some parliamentarians, despite the long shadow of anti-Semitism on the European continent, have yet to come to grips with the seriousness and uniqueness of the problem.”

"We urge lawmakers to revisit the proposal for an anti-Semitism task force at the earliest possible moment," Harris added. "The stark facts demand no less."



December 3, 2014 – Paris – AJC is horrified by the brutal assault on a Jewish couple, an act of violence that French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has labeled anti-Semitism.

“Enough is enough!” declared Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, Director of AJC Paris, who, together with AJC Executive Director David Harris, will meet this week with Gilles Clavreul, France’s new Inter-ministerial Delegate to Fight against Racism and anti-Semitism.

Three armed men broke into the home of a Jewish family in the Paris suburb of Creteil, gagged one of the sons and sexually assaulted his girlfriend. “Tell us where you hid the money,” demanded the attackers. “You people, you always have money!” After securing an ATM code from the victims, cash was stolen. Two suspects have been arrested.

This latest anti-Semitic incident in France, one of the most savage since the kidnapping, torture, and murder of Ilan Halimi eight years ago, comes amidst a dramatic rise in assaults on French Jews this year. According to the Jewish Community Protection Service (SPCJ), there was a 91 percent spike in the first seven months of 2014.

“While government officials at the highest levels have been mobilizing to fight anti-Semitism, a new action plan is urgently needed to confront this growing menace, which threatens not only Jews, but French society at large,” said Rodan-Benzaquen. “The fight against anti-Semitism is a fight for France's values.”

Regarding the Creteil attack, Rodan-Benzaquen pointed out that 25 percent of the French population believes Jews have "too much power" in economics and finance, according to a recent survey on anti-Semitism in France by The Foundation for Political Innovation (Fondapol), a leading French think tank.



 

The Huffington Post
Simone Rodan-Benzaquen and Dominique Reynié
November 18, 2014

 

For more than 10 years, the Jews of France have been living in a state of anxiety. They no longer recognize France, the Republic they love, the country of human rights and of universalism. They see the resurgence of a dark side of the French experience that they had thought was eradicated forever.

Anti-semitism is again showing its violent face. Over the course of the past decade France had never had less than 400 anti-Semitic acts a year, including the brutal murder of Ilan Halimi by the "gang of Barbarians" in 2006 and the massacre at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse in 2012. And then there was the outrage in May in neighboring Belgium, where yet another Frenchman, Mehdi Nemmouche, committed atrocious murders.

Anti-semitic speech is taking more and more space in the public sphere, as sadly revealed by the "Dieudonné affair." This anti-Semitic "stand up comedian" expresses and widely disseminates insulting and hurtful remarks to incite hatred.

In France, Jewish community leaders and concerned politicians had to work hard to get the reality of anti-semitic violence recognized. But today, the warning signals are on everywhere in Europe. To simply admit the problem is not enough anymore.

It is time to break out of the defensive mode and act. In order to do so effectively we must identify the sources of anti-semitism in France. Political action in the battle against anti-semitism cannot be solely based on assumptions.

With this in mind, the American Jewish Committee, the Jean Jaurès Foundation, and the Foundation for Political Innovation (Fondapol) held a seminar on the topic to to gain a better understanding of the sources of anti-Semitism in France and to develop clear policy recommendations. Afterward, Fondapol with the survey institute IFOP -- conducted two unprecedented opinion surveys of French attitudes toward Jews. The first was an online, self-administered survey of 1,005 people, and the second consisted of face-to-face interviews with 575 people over age 16 who said they were born to a Muslim family.

The results give cause for grave concern. One-quarter of French people think that Jews have too much power in the economy and in finance; 22 percent say that Jews have too much power in the media; 35 percent are of the opinion that Jews use their status as victims of the Holocaust in their own interest; and 16 percent think there is a global Zionist conspiracy. Even worse, 14 percent of French people consider the attacks against the Jewish community that took place during the summer --including the targeting of synagogues and Jewish-owned shops, and the shouting of vile anti-Semitic slogans during anti-Israel demonstrations -- understandable.

Hostile opinions towards Jews are more prevalent among people who distrust political institutions and the media. Anti-parliamentarianism, rejection of Europe, distrust of the state and of traditional media, animosity toward globalization and toward foreigners tend to go together with anti-Semitic views.

Furthermore, anti-Semitic attitudes tend to be most prevalent in three specific subgroups of the

French population: the extreme right, the radical left, and the Muslim community -- itself the object of considerable animosity in France.

Fully half of the supporters of the extreme-right National Front believe that Jews have too much economic power, and 51 percent say Jews have too much power in the media. And while 16 percent of the entire sample said that French Jews are not really French, 39 percent of the National Front supporters think so.

Among those respondents who support the Left Front, 51 percent believe that Jews use their status as victims of Nazi genocide in their own interest. And 24 percent of these Left Front sympathizers think there are "too many in France," as compared to 16 percent of the entire sample.

Muslim respondents were two and even three times more anti-Jewish than French people as a whole. Thus, for example, 19 percent of the entire French sample adhered to the idea that Jews have "too much" political power, but the rate was 51 percent for all Muslim respondents. While there were no significant differences in Muslim responses on the basis of age, education or social status, anti-Semitic views tended to correlate with the intensity of Muslim religiosity: 37 percent of those born in a Muslim family without religious involvement thought Jews had too much political power, but 49 percent of Muslim believers thought so, and 63 percent of believing and practicing Muslims.

The data also showed the effect of social media on anti-Semitism. Those respondents who say they receive their information on social networks, forums and online videos (such as YouTube) have a much higher degree of anti-Semitism. Indeed, the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonné and "intellectual" Alain Soral are the main sources for anti-Semitic discourse on the internet and in the broader public domain. Now the two of them are in the process of creating a political party to have another tool at their hand to unite all anti-Semites.

We cannot let the anti-Semitic demagogues exploit our society's problems for their political ambitions. The good news from this survey is the broad consensus it reveals in French society on the need to fight anti-Semitism and racism. All of us have to ensure France remains true to itself, a land of liberty, equality, and fraternity.

This post has been translated from the original version featured on Le Huffington Post.

Simone Rodan- Benzaquen is the Director of AJC Paris and Dominique Reynié is the General Director of the Foundation for Political Innovation and Professor at Sciences Po Paris



November 17, 2014 – Paris – Three distinct groups in France are noticeably more anti-Jewish than the overall population, according to two new public opinion surveys on French anti-Semitism.

The groups are supporters of the National Front party (extreme right), to a lesser extent supporters of the Left Front coalition (extreme left), and members of the Muslim community.

“These groundbreaking surveys are important for understanding the complexities and sources of anti-Semitism in France,” said Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of AJC Paris. “Clearly, the government and civil society must not be afraid to identify and name the sources of anti-Semitism. Only then can a comprehensive plan be developed to address a problem that fundamentally threatens all of French society.”

The Foundation for Political Innovation (Fondapol), a leading French think tank, commissioned the surveys following a series of seminars, co-organized with AJC Paris, on anti-Semitism in France. The seminars met amidst a pronounced increase in anti-Semitic activity in France. According to the Jewish Community Protection Service(SPCJ), there was a 91 percent spike in the first seven months of 2014, with more than 200 incidents this summer, during the Hamas-instigated war against Israel, targeting Jewish individuals, shops and synagogues. The seminar discussions sought to gain a better understanding of the sources of anti-Semitism in France and to develop clear policy recommendations.

One survey, conducted by the polling firm IFOP on behalf of Fondapol in October 2014, was completed online by 1,005 respondents, who were asked if they are supporters of the National Front or Left Front. Separately, 575 self-identified Muslims were polled by IFOP in individual face-to-face interviews. The surveys are available here.

The surveys are both unprecedented, the first for breaking down respondents by political affiliation, and the second for exclusively polling Muslims. Both gauged attitudes towards Jews and opinions on the Holocaust, Zionism and other issues. Also, these surveys for the first time examined the correlation between anti-Semitism and heavy reliance on the Internet for information and news.

On the positive side, the surveys found broad support across all sectors of the French population for Holocaust education and for efforts to combat anti-Semitism and racism. Seventy-seven percent of all survey respondents agree and only 12 percent disagree that teaching the Holocaust to younger generations is important. Laudably, Holocaust denial is virtually absent in French public opinion.

On the other hand, significant percentages of the French general population maintain stereotypical views of Jews, particularly that they have too much influence in key sectors of society. For example, 25 percent of Frenchmen, 33 percent of Left Front sympathizers, 51 percent of National Front sympathizers, and 61 percent of Muslims say Jews have too much power in the media.

Perceptions that Jews use their Holocaust victim status “in their own interest” resonate strongly among National Front supporters (62 percent), Left Front supporters (51 percent) and Muslims (56 percent). But that view is held by 35 percent of the French population as a whole.

Regarding Zionism, the Jewish national movement, 46 percent of the entire sample agree,12 percent disagree, and 42 percent say they don’t know that Zionism is “an ideology which claims the right of Jews to have their own state on the lands of their ancestors.” Interestingly, majorities of Muslims (51 percent) and Left Front supporters (60 percent) agree, while only 37 percent of National Front backers agree.

And while 25 percent of all French people believe Zionism is “an international organization that aims to influence the world and society in favor of the Jews,” 57 percent of Muslims, 32 percent of National Front supporters, and 28 percent of Left Front supporters consider that statement true.

“The high numbers of French who assert no knowledge or a highly distorted view about the true nature of Zionism is disturbing, and doubtless is a contributing factor to misperceptions and lack of understanding of the movement and Israel prevalent in France today,” said Rodan-Benzaquen.

Rodan-Benzaquen also pointed out “the tolerance for violence targeting Jews among a rather significant percent of the population,” revealed in the surveys.

Seventy-three percent of all survey respondents said the protests and violence against Jews during the summer were unacceptable, while 14 percent said they were understandable. The 14 percent figure rose among the three groups under examination. Among National Front supporters, 65 percent considered them unacceptable and 20 percent understandable. Seventy-five percent of Left Front supporters found them unacceptable and 21 percent understandable. Among Muslims, 67 percent thought they were unacceptable and 25 percent understandable.

General attitudes towards fellow French Jewish citizens also are “disturbing,’ said Rodan-Benzaquen. While 84 percent of the French population says that a Jew is just as French as any other person, only 61 percent of National Front supporters do. More aligned with the general French population on this issue are Muslims (91 percent) and Left Front supporters (85 percent).

Within the Muslim community, the survey found that anti-Semitism tends to vary by degree of religiosity. For example, 51 percent of all Muslim respondents, compared to 19 percent of all survey respondents, say “Jews have too much power in politics.” But among the Muslim respondents, 37 percent of those who identify themselves as of "Muslim origin,” 49 percent as “believing Muslims,” and 63 percent as “practicing Muslims” agree with that statement. The Muslim sample consisted of 21 percent who identify as of "Muslim origin,” 34 percent as “believing Muslims,” and 42 percent as “practicing Muslims.”

Significantly, the surveys revealed for the first time a clear link between anti-Semitism and those who get most of their information online -- via social media, discussion forums, and videos such as YouTube.

Forty-two percent of those who watch videos online believe that Jews have too much power in finance, 59 percent that Jews have too much power in the media, 47 percent that Jews have too much power in politics, and 67 percent that Jews use their status of victims during the Holocaust in their own interest.

The surveys also found a correlation between views of French democracy and anti-Semitism.

Among those who say that democracy works well -- 32 percent of the total sample -- only 24 percent believe that Jews have too much power in politics. In comparison, of the 68 percent who say democracy does not work well, 76 percent believe Jews have too much power in politics.

“This confirms that anti-Semitism is linked to a more profound crisis that affects the very ideals of France, its democracy and republican model,” said Rodan-Benzaquen. “The fight against anti-Semitism is a fight for France's values.”



Vatican Insider
Lisa Palmieri-Billig
November 17, 2014

 

The 10th anniversary of the OSCE’s Berlin Conference on anti-Semitism coincided with other significant November anniversaries: 104 years from the end of World War I (begun in July, 100 years ago); 76 years since Kristallnacht; 25 years since the Berlin Wall came down. These anniversaries are marked by contradictions that still characterize today’s world.

Ten years after the international outcries and resolutions against anti-Semitism resounded from Berlin where 55 countries sent top level delegations, the number of international diplomats attending on this anniversary was down by one third, with fewer top level representatives present.

Nonetheless, 500 government and civil society representatives from all over Europe participated in this two day appointment which featured several poignant speeches including those of Germanys Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Samantha Power, plus those of high government and civil society delegates from France, Switzerland (the outgoing presidency of OSCE), Canada, Finland, Ukraine, the Slovak Republic, the Russian Federation, Israel, etc.

An Italian diplomatic delegation headed by Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and the Vatican’s Secretary of the Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, Fr. Nobert Hofmann were present part of the time as observers.

Speakers all agreed that worldwide anti-Semitism is on the rise, where peaks often coincided with periods of heightened tensions in the Middle East. They declared that while political protests are legitimate, they must never serve as an excuse for anti-Semitism or violence.

According to a recent EU Fundamental Rights Agency survey in eight countries, 25% of Jews interviewed reported they had been victims of an anti-Semitic episode in the past year. Many Jewish citizens of the EU are thinking of emigrating because of the worsening climate, and a mounting series of anti-Semitic violence has increased their security concerns.

Just recently, November 16, a rabbi walking home from an Antwerp Synagogue was stabbed in the throat; last May, 4 people were killed by a terrorist in the Brussels Jewish Museum; two years ago a teacher and three children – aged 8,6, and 3 were killed by a terrorist attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse and already in 2006 a young Parisian Jew of Moroccan origin, Ilan Halimi, was tortured and murdered.

The fact that these tragic episodes were nearly all motivated by Islamist terrorist ideology (not, however, to be confused with the true religion of Islam!) and fanned by Arab anti-Israel propaganda, coincides disturbingly with last summer’s massive demonstrations in European cities against the Gaza war that spilled over into anti-Semitic violence. During Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, 200 Jewish congregants were forced to remain locked inside the Don Isaac Abravanel Synagogue for half an hour awaiting help from police forces to disperse an angry mob chanting “Death to the Jews”, wielding knives, axes and iron bars, trying to storm inside. At the same time, Molotov cocktails were hurled against other synagogues in French and German cities accompanied by chants such as “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas” (in Dortmund) or “Jew, Jew cowardly swine, come out and fight on your own” (in Berlin).

Also recently and on November 16 in Dortmund, Dennis Giemsch, a City Council member of “Die Rechte”, a far-right” party created outrage by demanding “for political reasons” to receive data on the number, names and districts of Jews living in the city!

Mindful of such events, Ambassador Samantha Power, recalled that Elie Wiesel recently stated that “The winds of madness are blowing again” and that “The Holocaust began with words.”

In a powerful and moving speech, she told the Berlin conference that the “alarming increase in anti-Semitic attacks and attitudes in many parts of Europe…is not only dangerous in and of itself, but it speaks to a deeper, more insidious threat to the European liberal ideal that rose up when the Berlin Wall came down…the rise in anti-Semitism threatens the greater European project to promote liberal democracy and fundamental freedoms.” It is “often the canary in the coal mine for the degradation of human rights more broadly.”

Two Jewish youth leaders speaking at the concluding Civil Society Panel at the Berlin assembly, presented some valuable “good practice” recommendations for preventing anti-Semitism as well as Islamist extremist indoctrination. Ilja Sichrovsky, the Vienna-based Founder and Secretary-General of the Muslim-Jewish Conference – who had come accompanied by a Muslim colleague - told of how he was able to find public financing to bring Muslims and Jews from all continents to Vienna for meetings, and urged the OSCE delegates to cultivate interfaith activities and friendships. “There is a much bigger risk to sitting in a synagogue being firebombed than in crossing the street to talk” he said. Jane Braden-Golay, the Swiss President of the European Union of Jewish Students, pointed to funding available for prevention of radicalization programs, such as a Cambridge University project that has been proven to change attitudes. She stressed that Holocaust education must be supplemented by teaching about the lives and contributions of Jews as an integral aspect of European history.

Wade Henderson, leading an interfaith delegation from the U.S. of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights also emphasized the importance of working in a multi-religious context since anti-Semitism is “not a problem of the Jews: it is a threat to all society.”

Holocaust denial, the dangers of nationalism, strengthening political leadership, civil society networking, cyberspace anti-Semitism were amongst topics discussed in workshops.

The enormously expanding quantity of hate speech on the internet was seen as a major problem by many, and especially by Stefano Gatti, researcher at the Milan Contemporary Jewish Documentation Center. He gave a detailed presentation on Holocaust denial and distortion in Italy. Efficient ways of counteracting the cyberspace brainwashing of minds has not yet been found. However, since the corruptive power of these messages feeds on ignorance, efforts to enrich educational programs in schools was considered as the most important antidote.

Ambassador Felix Klein, Germany’s Special Envoy for Relations with Jewish Organizations, remarked that the Federal Republic had undergone and continues to undergo a soul-searching process regarding the past. He felt conscience-raising about anti-Semitism is necessary in other countries as well, “including the Vatican, which will hopefully open all its wartime archives now”, he said.

Deidre Berger, director of AJC (the American Jewish Committee) Berlin’s Ramer Institute hosted a special additional meeting of Jewish community leaders and security specialists from 21 European countries plus the U.S., to permit more detailed exchange of information regarding specific problems of different Jewish communities. Thomas Kraus, President of the Czech Republic’s Federation of Jewish Communities commented that while the atmosphere in Prague is good in comparison to the rest of Europe, the entire picture bears a worrisome resemblance to that of Europe in the 1920’s.

Rabbi Andrew Baker, Permanent Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism and the AJC’s Director for International Jewish Affairs, who played a leading organizational role in this conference, presented a list of key final recommendations, pleading that they be endorsed in all countries. He closed the assembly by stating, “After the war, no one thought Jews would return – but they did. Jews today are wondering whether there is a future for their children in Europe. Therefore, if Jews are wondering, shouldn’t Europe also wonder about its future?”



November 5, 2014 – New York – AJC welcomed a federal judge’s ruling against the Pine Bush school district, which sought to dismiss a lawsuit by the parents of several children victimized by anti-Semitic bullying.

“The families of children traumatized by rampant anti-Semitism at Pine Bush schools waited far too long for relief from systematic religious harassment,” said AJC General Counsel Marc Stern. “The Pine Bush school district must be held accountable for a longstanding pattern of hatred targeting Jewish students. Even now monetary relief can only provide partial relief for the trauma these students suffered at the hands of their classmates and, worse yet, from indifferent school administrators.”

Denying the school district’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, Judge Kenneth M. Karas ruled that a jury could reasonably find that the children had “suffered severe and discriminatory harassment, that the district had actual knowledge of the harassment, and that the district was deliberately indifferent to the harassment.”

The parents of five Jewish children filed a lawsuit last year against the Pine Bush school district, asserting that each child was traumatized psychologically, and some were harmed physically, by other students. Swastikas were frequently drawn on school walls, desks, computers and other places -- and often left to stand, notwithstanding complaints to teachers and school administrators.

In one case, according to the lawsuit, a sixth grader was held by one student while another drew a swastika on her face. Coins were frequently tossed at students, and in another case an eighth grader “attempted to shove a quarter down [the throat of a Jewish student]” while another “held [her] arms so that she could not move.”

Despite repeated attempts by parents to get teachers and administrators to stop this pattern of anti-Semitic bullying, school officials seemingly did little or nothing. “Your expectations for changing inbred prejudice may be a bit unrealistic,” Philip C. Steinberg, superintendent of the Pine Bush Central School District, wrote to a parent of one Jewish student who had complained about the continuing harassment.



 

Libération
Simone Rodan Benzaquen, Gilles Finchelstein and
Dominique Reynié
October 23, 2014

 

Ten years have passed since the release of J.C. Rufin’s report on racism and anti-Semitism. Rufin’s pioneering work, which was pretty groundbreaking at the time, addressed one of the major challenges of the 21st century, and could have marked a turning point in addressing it.

Instead, the situation has deteriorated. There is an accelerating cascade of resentments between groups. For many, someone who is racially, culturally or religiously different poses a threat and an injustice, so that the very notion of French people living together in harmony is becoming obsolete. At the same time, public confidence in the State and its politicians has eroded. Being “anti” the “system” is now an ideology exploited by populists and extremists. Old restraints on inflammatory language have fallen, and when anything can be said, nothing—not even the indefensible—is off limits.

This social context makes the specific case of anti-Semitism that much more worrisome. The French people as a whole are not anti-Semitic, but the number of anti-Semitic threats and acts is rising: the 91% increase in anti-Semitic acts from 2013 to 2014 is alarming. And it is only in France and Belgium that Jews have been murdered because they are Jews. Finally, a multitude of signs point to the widespread trivialization of anti-Semitism, not just among the poor and uneducated, but even among young people who are fully integrated into society.

To act is a republican imperative. Our response must be based on three pillars.

First pillar: Principles.

Fighting anti-Semitism is not only a Jewish problem, but concerns the entire nation: targeting a minority group threatens the Republic as a whole. We must not let religious differences and “competition” between victims poison the political sphere.

Second pillar: Legal Action

While France has an extensive battery of laws against anti-Semitism, their effectiveness depends on zero-tolerance application. Furthermore, governmental institutions must be provided sufficient means to enforce them. For example, the PHAROS device on the Internet is inadequate and lacks resources to deal with the emerging globalization of anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Third pillar: Education

Education against anti-Semitism must give priority to young people, especially those who come from low-income and immigrant families. Sessions with high school students that focus on the shared history of all French people have proven effective. We must redouble our efforts.

The future of the Republic depends on reducing racism and intergroup hostility in our society. We need to generate a new momentum that brings together all parties concerned and find solutions, so that ten years from now, when the next evaluation takes place, we can feel more hopeful about our national future.

Simone Rodan Benzaquen is Director of AJC Paris, Gilles Finchelstein is Director of the Foundation Jean-Jaurès, and Dominique Reynié is Director of the Foundation for Political Innovation



October 20, 2014 – New York – AJC praised the New York Police Department for apprehending the suspect, Shawn Schraeder, in the brutal beating of Leonard Petlakh, executive director of the Kings Bay Y in Brooklyn, New York.

The assault occurred as Petlakh and others were leaving the Barclays Center earlier this month, following a basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and Maccabi Tel Aviv. Out of the blue, Schraeder, a pro-Palestinian activist, punched Petlakh, in front of his two children, causing a broken nose and other facial injuries requiring stitches.

“We are gratified by the rapid response of the NYPD in investigating and arresting Shawn Schraeder for the vicious and unprovoked attack on Petlakh,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “However, we are surprised and disappointed that Schraeder has not yet been charged with committing a hate crime. Clearly, this violent assault has every indication of being just that.”



September 19, 2014 – Washington – AJC Executive Director David Harris briefed this morning a dozen key members of the U.S. House of Representatives on the surge in anti-Semitism across Europe.

The briefing took place on Capitol Hill today, after the House unanimously passed Thursday evening a resolution on global anti-Semitism, an action Harris warmly applauded. AJC had advocated for passage of the House measure, which forcefully condemns anti-Semitism and calls on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to take additional steps to curb the rise in anti-Jewish incidents.

The Briefing on European anti-Semitism was hosted by Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Peter Roskam (R-IL), and Nita Lowey (D-NY). The other invited speakers were Professor Deborah Lipstadt of Emory University and Sara Bloomfield, Director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Combatting global anti-Semitism has been a top AJC priority since the advocacy organization was founded more than 108 years ago in response to the pogroms against Jews in Tsarist Russia. A recent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe began in 2000 and has intensified in recent years -- some incidents have been violent, some have used vile language not heard since the Holocaust. They have taken place in major cities across Europe.

Harris, whose wife and children are EU citizens, visits European capitals frequently to meet with senior government officials. Moreover, AJC maintains offices in the EU capital of Brussels as well as in Berlin, Paris, and Rome, and has association agreements with several European Jewish communities.

“We are present, working with government officials, civil society representatives, and Jewish community leaders to energetically counter this surging tide of hatred that threatens not only Jews, but, make no mistake about it, the very fabric of the democratic societies where they live," said Harris.

Noting that most European heads of state now recognize the anti-Semitism virus that is spreading and must be checked, Harris cited Chancellor Angela Merkel as a laudable example. At a recent Berlin rally against anti-Semitism, the German leader declared: “Anyone who hits someone wearing a skullcap is hitting us all. Anyone who damages a Jewish gravestone is disgracing our culture. Anyone who attacks a synagogue is attacking the foundations of our free society.” He also praised the efforts of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, and several other European leaders.

 



September 17, 2014 -- New York -- AJC called on Bolivian President Evo Morales to urgently take concrete measures to counter the rise in anti-Semitism, some of it violent, in the South American country.

“President Morales’ hostility towards Israel has encouraged regular attacks against the country’s Jewish population in the media and violent attacks on Jewish institutions,” said Dina Siegel Vann, AJC Director of Latino and Latin American Affairs. “This is a very dangerous trend that only the government can and should vigorously turn back and end.”

In Cochabamba in Central Bolivia, the main Jewish cemetery was damaged in a dynamite attack last Saturday. The synagogue in that city has been attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails in April and again in July.

Ricardo Udler, president of the Jewish Community of Bolivia, has called on the government to fully investigate the latest incidents of anti-Semitism. “If these attacks continue to increase we are going to have problems to regret,” said Udler. “Now is the time to open the doors to ensure that this does not get out of hand and leave us lamenting the consequences.”

Morales severed diplomatic ties with Israel in January 2009, calling Israel’s treatment of Palestinians “a genocide,” and during the most recent Israel-Hamas war Morales called Israel “a terrorist state.” In another slight against Israel, the president also renounced a 1972 Bolivian-Israeli treaty that had exempted Israeli tourists from any visa requirements.



Jüdische Rundschau
Fabian Weißbarth
September 16, 2014

Over the past few weeks, following the emergence of anti-Jewish attacks and hate slogans in protests that have broken out across the country, a nationwide discussion about the extent of anti-Semitism in Germany has been sparked. Sadly, anti-Semitic assaults and hate propaganda are nothing new, yet the latest protests expose a new chapter of this ongoing problem. Meanwhile, an end to the escalation of tensions is nowhere in sight.

Responding to these developments, the popular Bild newspaper published statements from a number of prominent voices on its title page under the headline, “Never again hate against Jews.” Thousands participated online in the social media campaign #stimmeerheben (a German expression equivalent to “raising one’s voice”), including members of parliament across all parties. Chancellor Angela Merkel called the recent anti-Jewish outbursts and hate slogans an “attack on freedom and tolerance” that is simply unacceptable.

Her rebuke, however, comes across as a paradigmatic case of too little, too late. The open condemnation of anti-Semitism permeating politics and society is vitally important, and redressing anti-Semitism requires work that extends beyond symbolic politics. Indeed, the real work begins now. How do we go about translating the general indignation over the outbreak of anti-Semitic violence into political measures with long-term potential?

The German federal government has, to this point, failed to do its homework. Shortly before the end of the previous legislative period, the parliament adopted by a great majority a resolution geared towards combatting anti-Semitism, but only after a comprehensive report published by a third-party expert commission on anti-Semitism sat idle in a drawer for two years. The report highlighted the importance of strongly supporting initiatives and educational efforts to fight anti-Semitism and convey a different picture of Israel and Judaism. In particular, progress towards achieving these aims involves the inclusion of analysis and criticism of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on school curricula. The most recent Gaza protests have shown just how pervasive these theories have become. A number of pro-Palestine activists recently stormed a fast-food restaurant branch in Nürnberg based on the belief McDonalds and Burger King are owned by Jews.

In light of the current protests, the suggestions made by the expert commission are more necessary to implement than ever. Currently, however, there is no state-supported program with the goal of dealing with the problem of anti-Semitism. Many initiatives and programs were forced to shutter due to lack of funding and support. With the summer holidays drawing to a close, the situation is increasingly urgent. What will happen when the teenagers, stirred up by the summer demonstrations, flock back into the classroom this fall? Our teachers are often overwhelmed as it is when it comes to dealing with the themes of conflict in the Middle East and anti-Semitism.

The current Gaza protests have made two developments explicit. First, Salafistic groups in Germany are gaining self-confidence and not only since the recent round of military engagement in Gaza. Currently, up to 320 German jihadis are fighting in Syria, which poses a threat not just for the armed forces. The fighters in Syria serve as role models for many teenagers in Germany. The second development is that anti-Semitism, clearly fueled through the hate campaigns supported by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, is increasingly echoed in the Turkish community in Germany. In the demonstrations that have taken place in the past weeks, more than a few Turkish flags have been visible.

It would be reductionist to place the problem solely on the shoulders of Muslims in Germany, because anti-Semitic resentment finds resonance in all sectors of society, especially when it comes to representation of the conflict in the Middle East.

In the coming year, the German-Israeli schoolbook commission is expected to release a report on the portrayal of Israel in German educational texts. The preliminary findings are already clear: Israel is reduced solely to violence and conflict. Often, Israel is presented as a powerful “Goliath” in contrast to a weak Palestinian “David.” What’s more, media reports portray Israel as murderer of women and children, or speak of “eye for an eye” and retaliation. Through these representations, the border with anti-Semitism is often blurred.

Politics must assume responsibility in this situation. An emergency meeting hosted by the Minister of Culture would be an appropriate first step. A massive expansion of educational projects directed at eliminating anti-Semitism is long overdue. The coming weeks and months will show how seriously politicians are dedicated to addressing this challenge. Disapproval and outrage are important, but not sufficient to drive back a persistent wave of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism poses a significant threat to democratic principles in society as a whole. Both history and recent events have shown that one conclusion is abundantly clear -- the fight against anti-Semitism requires the relentless attention of Jewish and non-Jewish organizations alike.

Fabian Weißbarth is the Public Affairs Coordinator at AJC Berlin.



Miami Herald
Daniel Schwammenthal
September 12, 2014

With thousands of European Jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq, Western anti-terror officials have feared that many could one day return to carry out attacks back home. That day is now.

French journalist Nicolas Henin, a former Islamic State hostage who spent several months of his captivity with American reporter James Foley (later beheaded by a British jihadist), told a Sept. 6 press conference that Mehdi Nemmouche was one of his sadistic captors. Nemmouche, a French Islamist, is about to stand trial in Belgium for murdering four people in the Brussels Jewish Museum in June.

That this first terror attack by a European IS returnee targeted a Jewish site underscores the precarious situation of Europe’s Jews. Two years ago, French Islamist Mohamed Merah murdered three Jewish children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France.

Islamist terror is not the only threat. Almost daily Jews experience physical or verbal violence amid a highly charged anti-Israeli and often anti-Semitic public discourse from voices from the radical left and the extreme right.

The Gaza War brought this poisonous stew to a boiling point. Ostensibly pro-Palestinian rallies in West European countries turned viciously anti-Semitic, with calls such as “Hamas, Hamas, Jews into the Gas,” trashing of Jewish businesses and physical violence. Pogrom-like scenes played out in the streets of France. Riot police and Jewish security personnel had to prevent an angry mob from storming a Paris synagogue filled with 200 congregants praying at a Shabbat service.

Two factors complicate the fight against this explosion of Jew hatred.

• First, the perpetrators are disproportionally of Arab-Muslim background. Perhaps out of fear of stigmatizing an entire community, anti-Jewish sentiment among Muslims has so far been largely ignored, played down or, in the rare occasion when it is acknowledged, “explained” as an understandable reaction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The sheer dimension of the anti-Jewish outburst has finally shocked some European leaders into action. The German, French and Italian foreign ministers issued a joint statement in July condemning anti-Semitism. Other leading politicians have followed suit, but stay mum when it comes to identifying the source of this hatred.

We'd be much closer to solving this problem if politicians listened to and empowered those Muslims who speak openly about the bigotry within their community. Take Mehdi Hasa, the editor of Huffington Post UK, who last year wrote: “It pains me to have to admit this but anti-Semitism isn't just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it's routine and commonplace . . . .It’s our dirty little secret. You could call it the banality of Muslim anti-Semitism.”

• The second factor complicating the fight against anti-Semitism is that it increasingly hides behind so-called Israel-criticism. Here Europe’s politicians have thankfully started becoming more vocal. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says the old anti-Semitism of the extreme right has been “renewed” and “feeds off hate for Israel. It feeds off anti-Zionism. Because anti-Zionism is an invitation to anti-Semitism.”

Media miscoverage of the Gaza war may have won quite a few converts to this “renewed” anti-Semitism. As former AP Jerusalem editor Matti Friedman wrote in a recent critique: “The world is not responding to events in this country, but rather to the description of these events by news organizations.” And these descriptions were full of distortions, half-truths and outright lies. Israel’s unparalleled efforts to avoid civilian casualties were just as underreported as Hamas's use of human shields, creating the impression that Israel targets-even-enjoys-killing civilians.

Unless politicians start confronting this issue head on, the media and other opinion makers reassess how their distorted analysis of Israel fuels anti-Jewish violence and the silent majority of Muslims who oppose extremism and anti-Semitism becomes more vocal, the exodus of Europe's Jews will accelerate.

Daniel Schwammenthal is director of the AJC (American Jewish Committee) Transatlantic Institute in Brussels.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/09/11/4343101/europes-jews-under-assault.html#storylink=cpy


September 11, 2014 -- Paris -- AJC France warned today that the dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents this year demands urgent attention and action.

A new report from the Jewish Community Protection Service (SPCJ) and the French Minister of Interior shows a 91 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents, 527 in total, from January 1 to July 31, compared with the same period last year when 276 were reported. Many of the incidents were acts of violence, up 126 percent over 2013.

“This is a chilling report,” said Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, Director of AJC France. “2014 could be even worse than the record year of 2012 regarding anti-Semitic acts.” In May 2012, three children and a teacher were murdered at a Jewish school in Toulouse, and anti-Semitic incidents rose sharply after that terror attack.

According to the SPCJ, anti-Semitism peaked this year in January, when controversy erupted over comedian Dieudonné’s remarks regarding Jews and the “Day of Anger,” and again in July during the anti-Israel demonstrations in and around Paris.

“All French citizens of goodwill must stand together to eradicate this cancer, which is not the problem of one minority but a challenge to our society as a whole,” said Rodan-Benzaquen. “We call on the French government and civil society to work together to complete a thorough analysis and to develop concrete initiatives to prevent anti-Semitism.”

In July, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: “The fight against anti-Semitism is not the problem of Jews, it is the problem of the Republic, of all of France…. It is a national concern.”

The French office of AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization, works closely with authorities, Jewish community and civil society organizations on combatting anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred and racism.



On August 31, an estimated 3,000 demonstrators gathered at Frankfurt am Main's central plaza protested the large number of anti-Semitic incidents of recent weeks. National and local politicians denounced the anti-Semitic manifestations as a threat to the security of Jews and all minorities. Numerous speakers emphasized that criticism of Israeli government policies or of any other country cannot be used as an excuse for anti-Semitic expressions. Hundreds of members of the Kurdish Israeli Friendship Association attended the rally to express support for Jews and Israel. AJC's Deidre Berger called for coordinated European political action to counter anti-Semitism. The full text of her speech can be found below and is also available in German.

 

FRANKFURT RALLY
August 31, 2014
"No More Antisemitism"
Speech By Deidre Berger

 

Dear Dr. Graumann,
Dear Ambassador Hadas-Handelsman,
Dear Mayor Feldmann,
Dear Friends,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to see such broad participation in today’s rally, including members of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities, representatives of the political parties, friends and supporters of Israel. Today we stand together!

I would like to give special thanks to the Kurdish-Israeli Friendship Association members who are here today – our thoughts are with you. We do not look away when Kurds, Yazidis, Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria are persecuted, expelled and murdered.

Nor do not look away when anti-Semitism and hatred rear their ugly heads. And that is precisely what has happened in the last weeks and months. Whether in Frankfurt, Berlin or Essen, whether in London, Paris or Brussels, We have heard a torrent of anti-Semitic chanting, synagogues were attacked and there were even attacks against counter-demonstrators and bystanders.

We already see the results of the ongoing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic protests. There is greater anxiety about attacks in the Jewish community, security measures have been heightened and Jewish life has been curtailed. This is not just a matter for us in Frankfurt but everywhere in Europe, even in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Australia. For this reason, the growing number of anti-Semitic incidents have been the subject of increased attention in the American public, the media, Congress and the government.

As an American, this is my response: Our common transatlantic values can leave no room for anti-Semitism!

Therefore, we need to meet the challenges together. Antisemitism, particularly in Europe, has reached a level of everyday normality that many of us did not expect to happen again. There are concerns showing Jewish symbols in public in some places; there are concerns being public about demonstrating support for Israel.

If Europe can no longer guarantee the security of Jewish minorities that have lived here for more than 2000 years, Europe will lose part of its identity. This cannot continue. The flare-up of anti-Semitism in the past weeks and months is a wake-up call – but we are still waiting in vain for Europe to jolt to attention. Europe is at a turning point: What kind of society does it want to be? Will it be a community in which minorities are responsible for their own fate or does it want to be a community in which all minorities can live safely and securely? We are gathered here today to call on Europe to deal more seriously with the protection of all its citizens.

Despite 14 deaths the past two years due to anti-Semitic attacks in Toulouse, Burgas and Brussels, there has been no perceptible political reaction.

Why has there been no special meeting of all interior ministers to coordinate security measures and strategies?

Why has there been no special meeting of all education ministers to decide on new educational programs to fight anti-Semitism?

Why hasn’t the European Parliament set up a working group, a special commissioner and an action plan against anti-Semitism?

In Germany as well, beyond statements, there has been little undertaken in parliament or in the government. There have been no special sessions or meetings. Despite the outrage of past weeks, not one cent more has been allocated for programs against anti-Semitism.

This is not due to a lack of ideas. For three years now, the recommendations of a governmental expert commission on anti-Semitism have been consigned untouched to the shelves. We have lost three valuable years in which there has been almost no funds for research or programs to fight anti-Semitism. Three critical years in which NGOs have been forced to lay off employees, instead of gathering further expertise and experience amongst law enforcement authorities and in schools, sports clubs and other key institutions.

There is a larger problem with anti-Semitism amongst Muslim communities in Europe, due as well to the spread of Salafism and the problem of returning European jihadists from Syria and Iraq. These are European citizens and we need new answers as to how to confront this dilemma. On the right, the left and in the heart of society there are new facets as well of anti-Semitism, yes, also obsessive Israel criticism, that are too little researched in order to counteract effectively. Anti-Semitism is an age-old hatred but it needs new answers - and that demands time, money, experience and political attention. Three years have been wasted. We cannot allow a further year, a further month, not even a further week to go by without taking action. A signal is going out from civil society in Frankfurt today that we will allow no further delays in responding to anti-Semitism – we expect political consequences!

Dear Friends, dear Frankfurt residents,

The rally today is most encouraging. It is the largest protest to date in Europe against the most recent wave of anti-Semitism. Frankfurt is demonstrating its well-deserved reputation as a city of tolerance and co-existence. Here in Frankfurt today, we are sending a message to Europe: Peace and security in a democratic Europe is possible only when we stamp out anti-Semitism, hate and intolerance.



 

The Hill
Lawrence Grossman
August 26, 2014

 

A blog post has been making the rounds titled, “How to criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic.” I suppose that such a position is theoretically possible. But anti-Semitism is so deeply embedded in anti-Israel circles that it is virtually impossible to distinguish between the outcry against Israel’s recent actions against Hamas, on the one hand, and hatred of Jews, on the other.
 


Since hostilities broke out between Israel and Gaza-based Hamas in early July, raw, unadulterated anti-Semitism at a level not seen since the Holocaust years has become commonplace on the streets of Europe and elsewhere. Chillingly, a recent Newsweek cover story bore the title “Exodus: Why Europe’s Jews are fleeing once again.”
 


In England, about 100 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in July, double the expected number. Eighty percent of British Jews believe they are being blamed for Israel’s actions, according to an Institute for Jewish Policy Research survey, and the London Jewish Chronicle found 63 percent say that they “question” their future in the country. A potent symbol of the displacement of anger at Israel onto Jews was the decision by a Sainsbury supermarket in London to remove all kosher products from the shelves so that anti-Israel demonstrators outside would not ransack the premises.
 


In France, several pro-Hamas rallies that began peacefully degenerated into anti-Semitic mob scenes. In the course of one week in July, eight synagogues were attacked and cries of “Death to the Jews” and “Slit Jews’ throats” were heard. A Jew living in a Paris suburb, too afraid to give his name, told the London Sunday Times that the chants “took us back to 1938.” Roger Cukierman, president of CRIF, the umbrella organization of French Jewry, emphasized, “They are not screaming, ‘Death to the Israelis’ on the streets of Paris. They are screaming, ‘Death to the Jews.’”


The situation in Germany is much the same. A Jewish woman in Berlin told The New York Times that friends were removing mezuzot from their doorposts for fear of being targeted by anti-Semites. There have been attacks on synagogues. Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of German Jews, told the Guardian, “You hear things like ‘the Jews should be gassed,’ ‘the Jews should be burned’—we haven’t had that in Germany for decades.” And echoing Cukierman, he noted, “Anyone saying these slogans isn’t criticizing Israeli politics. It’s just pure hatred against Jews: nothing else.” 
 


Smaller Jewish communities are not immune. On August 16, protesters attempted to break into a synagogue in Geneva, Switzerland, during Shabbat services, carrying a placard declaring, “Every synagogue is an Israeli embassy.” A doctor in Antwerp, Belgium, refused to treat a Jewish woman for a fractured rib, telling her son to “send her to Gaza for a few hours, then she’ll get rid of the pain.” In Uppsala, Sweden, a Jewish woman wearing a Star of David necklace was beaten up badly, but refused to report the incident to the police for fear of retaliation. And a Jewish school in Copenhagen, Denmark—founded in 1805 and believed to be the second oldest in the world—was spray-painted with anti-Semitic slogans and had its windows broken.
 


It’s not just Europe. An alarming rise in anti-Semitic incidents has been reported in Australia, including teenagers threatening to kill Jewish elementary-school children on a school bus. In Venezuela, where the government itself is fomenting anti-Semitism, President Maduro told a regime-sponsored rally that “the Jews who live in our lands” had the responsibility to stop Israel’s killing of “innocent boys and girls.” Maduro, in fact, has outdone his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, whose regime repeatedly harassed the Venezuelan Jewish community and fomented anti-Semitism. 
 


Jews in European, Latin American and other countries should be able to feel as comfortable as Jews do here in the United States. But as a European Union survey revealed last year, 21 percent of Jews experienced at least one incident of anti-Semitism – verbal insult, harassment or physical attack – compared to only 7 percent in 2008. No
doubt the 2013 figure has increased significantly and is continuing to rise.
 


Some European leaders have spoken out against incidents of anti-Semitism. American leaders have done so as well, and there is now an initiative in the U.S. Congress on the subject. Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Peter Roskam (R-IL) introduced H.Res 707, condemning incidents and expressions of global anti-Semitism. Quick passage of this important measure and similar action by the Senate would make clear U.S. government concern for the well-being of Jews under assault, and step up American advocacy to encourage a worldwide effort to counter the evil of anti-Semitism.


Take Action: Urge your Representative to support this legislation.


Lawrence Grossman is the American Jewish Committee’s director of publications www.ajc.org



July 28, 2014 – New York – AJC is appalled by the anti-Semitic, threatening op-ed that renowned Spanish writer Antonio Gala wrote in El Mundo.

“Shame on Antonio Gala and shame on El Mundo for publishing his anti-Semitic screed,” said Dina Siegal Vann, Director of AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute.

In his op-ed, Gala cites the current war in between Israel and Hamas in Gaza as justification for the expulsion of Jews from Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries.

“The Jewish People could have done much good for mankind” but “it is a thought they were not made to coexist,” writes Gala.

“It’s not strange that they have been so frequently expelled,” Gala continues. "What is surprising is that they persist….Now you have to suffer their abuses in Gaza.”

The Jewish community of Madrid, which is a member of Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain (FICE), has vowed to file a complaint against Gala for violating a Spanish law prohibiting anti-Semitic hate speech. FICE is an international partner of AJC.

“AJC wholeheartedly supports the Spanish Jewish community as they are forced to confront this muck,” said Siegel Vann. “In the current environment across Europe, Gala’s scurrilous invectives are not only hurtful, but are downright dangerous.”



July 22, 2014 -- New York -- AJC welcomed today’s powerful statement on European anti-Semitism by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Italy.

“At a time when ‘Death to the Jews’ chants can be heard at public gatherings in European capitals, allegedly in protests against Israel, the bold, timely and unambiguous words of the three foreign ministers send a strong message that should be embraced by all EU member states,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "Now the challenge will be to translate the clear words into equally clear actions. Threats to Europe's Jews threaten Europe's core values and very future."

"Anti-Semitic agitation and hostility against Jews, attacks against people of Jewish faith and against synagogues have no place in our societies,” declared Ministers Laurent Fabius of France, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, and Frederica Mogherini of Italy.

The three foreign ministers denounced “the ugly anti-Semitic statements, demonstrations and attacks of the last few days,” and stressed that “nothing, including the dramatic military confrontation in Gaza, justifies such actions in Europe.”

Recognizing that anti-Semitism threatens not only Jews but the very fabric of European societies, the ministers vowed to use “all legal measures available to constitutional democracies when the threshold to anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia is crossed.”

“Together and in our individual countries, we will do everything to ensure that our citizens can continue to live safely and peacefully and free from anti-Semitic hostility,” the ministers concluded.

AJC offices in Brussels, Berlin, Paris and Rome have been in frequent contact with French, German, Italian and EU officials regarding the surge of anti-Semitism in several European countries.



July 21, 2014 – Brussels -- AJC calls on the European Union to convene an extraordinary meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers to address the wave of violence against Jews across Europe.

“From Berlin to Paris, from London to Brussels, we are once again hearing the blood-curdling screams of ‘Death to the Jews’,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has been cited by ten European countries for his work in human rights. “Ministers responsible for security and combating anti-Semitism should meet urgently to deal with this poisonous hatred that threatens not only Jews, but the very societies that comprise the EU.”

Moreover, Harris called on the 28 EU foreign ministers, who are slated to meet in Brussels tomorrow, to “unequivocally and unanimously condemn the targeting of Jews in the streets of Europe.”

Most manifestations of anti-Semitic hatred have been taking place at so-called pro-Palestinian rallies. “Jews are physically attacked in broad daylight and Jewish houses of worship and property are firebombed ostensibly out of ‘solidarity’ with Gaza,” Harris said. “Now is the moment for all European governments to speak up, as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls did. Speaking at a ceremony to commemorate the victims of the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup of Jews ahead of their deportation from Paris in 1944 to Nazi death camps, Valls condemned recent anti-Semitic violence that occurred during protests in France against Israel.

“Traditional anti-Semitism, this old disease of Europe,” said Valls, “is joined by a new anti-Semitism that cannot be denied or concealed, that we must face. It happens on the social networks and in workers’ neighborhoods, among ignorant young men who hide their hatred of Jews behind a façade of anti-Zionism or hatred of the State of Israel.”

Harris pointed out that the recent spate of assaults on Jews is not an isolated phenomenon. Rather, it comes on the heels of the horrific attacks in Toulouse, which left four Jews dead in 2012, and the murder in May of four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels by a French-born Jihadi. The new attacks provide further evidence of the already documented steady rise in anti-Semitic incidents in a number of European countries over the past few years.



July 20, 2014—Paris—AJC praised French Prime Minister Manuel Valls today for his forthright denunciation of a pro-Palestinian rally in Paris—conducted in defiance of a government ban—that turned violent and anti-Semitic.

He spoke on the anniversary of the notorious Vel d’Hiv roundup of French Jews in 1942 for deportation to the Auschwitz death camp. Prime Minister Valls declared that calls for “Death to the Jews,” heard yesterday at the pro-Palestinian gathering, clearly demonstrate the wisdom of the government’s move to seek to block such gatherings. That decision was taken after synagogues, with many Jews inside, were attacked last weekend.

The prime minster said: “The fight against anti-Semitism is not the problem of Jews, it is the problem of the Republic, of all of France…. It is a national concern.” At a time when rising anti-Semitism is causing many Jews to consider leaving France, the prime minister asked them “to have trust in their country.”

Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of AJC France, said: “Prime Minister Valls clearly understands that what we are seeing today is not simply the importation of the Israel-Palestinian conflict into the streets of Paris, but rather the exploitation of the Gaza situation by a small group of Jew-haters to unleash raw, unadulterated anti-Semitism.”

“How sadly ironic,” she added, “that on the anniversary of the deportation of Jews from Vichy France to Nazi death camps, the French leader needed to speak not only of the tragic past, but also of the dangerous present.”

“His welcome, unambiguous remarks,” she concluded, “make us hopeful that the French authorities will continue to do all in their power, including considering additional urgent measures, to curb this ominous threat to France and its Jewish community, the largest in Europe.”



July 14, 2014—Paris—During a large pro-Palestinian demonstration in Paris yesterday, a mob of 150 to 200 people tried to force their way into a synagogue in the center of Paris. Six policemen and four Jews were hurt by demonstrators shouting, "Death to the Jews!" “Hitler was right,” “We are going to burn you," and "Jihad, jihad, jihad."

"I am profoundly shocked by what happened yesterday in broad daylight in the center of Paris. The growing number of anti-Semitic attacks in France requires the strongest possible response,” declared Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, Director of AJC France. "No one should be fooled. This anti-Semitic violence is not only the consequence of what happens in the Middle East, but it is also a clear and unmistakable pretext for expressing hatred and violence against Jews. Tragically, this life-threatening anti-Semitism is gaining more ground in France.”

The SPCI (the French Jewish security office) and the Ministry of the Interior have already recorded 169 anti-Semitic acts in the first quarter of 2014, a 44 percent increase over the same period in 2013.

In a press release, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls “condemned the violence with great firmness,” declaring that “such acts against places of worship are unacceptable. They are extremely serious and will always be faced with determination by public authorities."

AJC France thanks the authorities for seeking to protect the community and condemning these despicable acts, but also calls on the government to intensify its efforts by combining a policy of zero tolerance with a comprehensive plan for the prevention of further acts of anti-Semitism.

 



July 14, 2014 – New York – AJC marks with deep sadness the 20th anniversary of the terror bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. “The target was a Jewish institution, the victims were of different faiths, and an entire country, Argentina, continues to search for justice,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute (LLAI).

Eighty-five people, Jews and non-Jews, ranging in age from five to 73, died, and another 300 were injured, when a powerful bomb leveled the AMIA building at 9:53 AM on July 18, 1994. An Argentine investigation concluded that Iran was responsible.

 AMIA is an AJC international partner, and AJC has stood at the side of the local Jewish community from the first moments of the tragedy, when an AJC group traveled to Buenos Aires, calling for justice and warning about the ongoing Iranian attempts to gain a foothold in the Western Hemisphere.

Several AJC regional offices across the U.S. will hold community memorial events on July 17 and 18.

In Miami, on July 17, AJC LLAI will host its ninth annual commemorative ceremony. Miguel Bronfman, the principal lawyer for AMIA, will deliver the keynote address, and the consuls general of Argentina and Israel in Miami will speak.

Similar commemorative events will take place in Chicago, on July 17, and in Philadelphia on July 18.

The AMIA attack was the deadliest against a Jewish target in the Diaspora in decades. In 2007, Argentine government prosecutor Alberto Nisman concluded that Iran bears direct responsibility for the attack, and Interpol has since been seeking the apprehension of five Iranian officials. In addition, there are pending investigations into the local connection and cover up of this crime which hindered the pursuit of justice.

Families of the victims and survivors are forever scarred. “My life changed forever,” says Anita Weinstein, who was inside the building that morning, preparing for the organization’s centennial celebrations that year. Weinstein and AMIA Executive Director Daniel Pomerantz addressed the AMIA tribute session at the AJC Global Forum in Washington, DC in May.

 



Die Welt
Stephan Kramer
July 9, 2014

 

Of all possible committees, Udo Voigt, Member of the European Parliament of the German neo-Nazi party NPD, has been assigned a seat in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

It is tempting to write off Udo Voigt’s membership in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament as a harmless, if bad, joke. But it is much more than that: it is sickening and a slap in the face of all democratic parliamentarians. It makes no difference that the NPD leader’s committee assignment went ahead in accordance with parliament’s formal rules of procedure.

A neo-Nazi, whose ideology includes hatred for anyone he considers “foreign,” who espouses both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and rejects democracy as such – a neo-Nazi of this caliber has no place in a democratic legislature, much less in a committee that seeks to defend civil liberties.

The grotesque assignment of the committee seat to Mr Voigt, who glorifies the Nazi regime and minimizes the Holocaust, does not merely elicit disgust. What is more, it presents a great challenge to all democratic forces, including all Jewish organizations. It must be our top priority to prevent the very idea of a Nazi acting as a guardian of human rights from gaining political legitimacy.  

Mr. Voigt must show his true face.

We have to expose to the European public the true face of this propagandist – who, regrettably, is a Member of the European Parliament – and the aims of his party, which he joined as a young man and now leads, spewing his poison. Finally, everyone has to be made aware of the danger the NPD and its allies represent.

I hope -- no, I want to be certain -- that all European democrats will be a part of this campaign to inform the public and confront the NPD politically. As a Jew and a citizen of Germany, I will do my utmost to contribute to this effort.

I am certain that true democrats will not be lulled or intimidated by the likes of Udo Voigt, regardless of the prestigious jobs that political circumstances may hand him. Anything else would be shameful.

The author is Director of the European Office on Anti-Semitism of the American Jewish Committee’s Transatlantic Institute (TAI) in Brussels.



June 18, 2014 – New York – AJC announced today that Stephan Kramer will be appointed to a newly-created position -- Director, European Office on Anti-Semitism.

“The rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe, which poses a threat to Jewish communities and to the very fabric and fiber of Europe's democratic societies, demands an enhanced AJC response,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Stephan Kramer has the requisite experience and vision to work closely with AJC's European offices and our many partner organizations throughout Europe -- and thereby to make a difference.”

Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC’s Director of International Jewish Affairs, who also serves as the Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), will continue to be centrally involved and work closely with Kramer. AJC’s European offices are in Berlin, Brussels, Paris and Rome.

“The beast of anti-Semitism is showing its ugly face again more often and violently than we would have expected in recent months across Europe,” said Kramer. “Combating anti-Semitism requires knowledge, networking, diligence and teamwork, together with passion and a deeply-felt sense of commitment. I am honored to join the AJC staff, who have excelled in establishing productive relationships with European governments and Jewish communities, ties that will be essential in our ongoing efforts to combat the scourge of anti-Semitism.”

Kramer previously served as Secretary General of the Central Council of Jews in Germany from 2004 until earlier this year, and as the council’s Executive Director from 2000 to 2004. He has also served as a press secretary and advisor on policy and government relations for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany. Kramer was also previously employed as the chief of staff for three different members of the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag).



June 2, 2014 -- New York -- AJC praised French authorities for apprehending, in Marseille, a suspect in the fatal terror attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. Three Jews were killed, and one remains in critical condition, shot in cold blood by a gunman on May 24.

The suspect, Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, is a French citizen from the city of Roubaix, near the border with Belgium. He has self-professed ties to radical Islam. Two years ago, another French citizen with similar links murdered four Jews, three children and a rabbi, at a Jewish school in Toulouse,

According to the French prosecutor, Nemmouche spent more than a year in Syria fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). But his extremism began while in prison in France, where he was incarcerated five times.

"In our many conversations with French and other European leaders, two themes have frequently surfaced," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "The first is the widespread concern that European citizens, from Britain, France, Germany, and other countries, are making their way to Syria to fight in what they view as a 'jihadist' cause and returning filled with battlefield training and violent impulses. The second is that prisons have too often become incubators for Islamic radicalization. In this particular case, it appears, both concerns have converged. European authorities would be well-advised, we believe, to step up still further efforts the monitoring of these perilous fronts.”

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.

 

 



May 26, 2014 -- New York -- AJC strongly condemns the horrific attack today in Creteil, near Paris, against two brothers, ages 21 and 18, wearing kippahs and walking toward a synagogue.

The French Ministry of Interior has confirmed the tragic incident.

Reports indicate that both individuals were severely beaten with brass knuckles, but, fortunately, are expected to recover. As of now, no suspects have been identified.

This assault follows yesterday's tragedy in Brussels, where four people were killed at the Jewish Museum. Belgian authorities are searching for the perpetrators.

"One anti-Semitic tragedy on the heels of another underscores the very real dangers for Jews today in the heart of Europe, even as we recognize that the governments stand steadfastly against any such manifestations," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "Clearly, far more still needs to be done -- from beefing up security at Jewish institutions to stronger intelligence-gathering, from tougher judicial action to, in the longer term, better education in the school systems for fostering a climate of mutual respect."

AJC has been relentlessly calling attention to the growing menace of anti-Semitism in Europe since 2000, when a noticeable rise took place. Most recently, AJC took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal on May 13th to highlight the issue, while French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, speaking the day before at the AJC Global Forum, forcefully condemned all forms of anti-Semitism and said the government would not tolerate any such hateful acts.

AJC Paris director Simone Rodan is in very close touch with French government officials and Jewish community leaders in response to today's attack in Creteil.



May 25, 2014—New York—AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following statement:

AJC is deeply saddened and dismayed by the attack yesterday in Brussels that left four people dead outside the Jewish Museum and another person critically wounded.

Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet said that "it is likely that this is an anti-Semitic attack," with a search under way for the perpetrators.

If the Interior Minister is proved right, this is yet another frightening reminder of the growing danger of anti-Semitism in the heart of Europe, amidst an increasing number of assaults on Jews, including the murder of four Jews, three of whom were children, by a French Islamist in Toulouse, France, in March 2012, and the expected success of openly anti-Semitic parties in this weekend’s European Parliament elections.

We mourn with the families of those who lost their loved ones in today's attack. We pray for the full recovery of the wounded. And we count on the Belgian government to do everything possible to arrest the assailants and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, while taking additional measures to seek to prevent any further such attacks.

AJC's Brussels office, headed by Daniel Schwammenthal, is monitoring the situation closely and in the process of reaching out to Jewish community leaders and government officials.



May 16, 2014 -- New York -- AJC welcomed the Argentine federal court ruling that the country’s agreement with Iran to co-investigate the 1994 AMIA bombing is unconstitutional. “For two decades, the Jewish community has suffered an enormously frustrating pattern of delays in seeking justice,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Bravo to the court for rejecting this myth of criminals and victims cooperating on resolving one of the most heinous acts of terror in our time.”

The Argentine-Iran Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed in January 2013, aimed to establish a “truth commission” to bring to justice those responsible for the massive terrorist attack, which destroyed the AMIA Jewish community building in Buenos Aires, left 85 dead and 300 injured.

But the Federal Criminal Appeals Court justices ruled yesterday that the MOU conflicts with and undermines an Argentine investigation approved years ago by the government’s executive and legislative branches. That probe, spearheaded by prosecutor Alberto Nisman, concluded in 2007 that Iran bears direct responsibility for the attack, and Interpol has since been seeking the apprehension of five Iranian officials.

When the MOU provision for a “truth commission” was first announced last year, AJC’s Harris compared it to “asking Nazi Germany to help establish the facts of Kristallnacht.”

Two survivors of the bombing -- Daniel Pomerantz, AMIA Executive Director, and Anita Weinstein, of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Argentina, addressed the AJC Global Forum in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday in an emotional tribute for the 20th anniversary of the attack. As they recounted the attack on July 18, 1994, photos of each of the 85 killed were displayed on the large digital screen behind them.  Watch the Global Forum session at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTjcj478QUI

AJC has stood at the side of the Argentine Jewish community from the first moments of the tragedy in 1994, when an AJC group traveled to Buenos Aires to comfort the victims and their families and call for justice. AJC delegations have returned at least annually since. AMIA is a longstanding AJC international partner.

The MOU was ratified by the Argentine legislature a year ago, but it has not yet been implemented because the Iranian legislature did not approve it.

 



April 13, 2014 -- New York -- AJC is deeply saddened by today's fatal attack at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas, a Kansas City suburb.

"Our hearts go out to the victims of this heartbreaking tragedy," said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

Two people were killed at the JCC and one person at the Village Shalom assisted living center. A 15-year-old boy is in critical condition at a local hospital.

Police have arrested one suspect in the shooting spree. The gunman reportedly shouted "Heil Hitler."

"As we await more details on the attack and its motive, we join in solidarity with the entire Kansas City area community, both Jewish and non-Jewish, in expressing shock, sadness and dismay," Harris added. "We can't help but note that this attack comes on the eve of Passover, a celebration of Jewish freedom from oppression and violence."

AJC maintains an office in Kansas City, together with the Jewish Community Relations Bureau.

 



March 23, 2014 -- Paris -- AJC is appalled by the violent assault on a Jewish teacher in Paris. The man, who was wearing a kippah, was brutally beaten after he left a kosher restaurant on Thursday evening. The assailants broke his nose, drew a swastika on his chest and reportedly shouted anti-Semitic epithets in French and Arabic.

“We pray for the recovery of the teacher, who clearly was targeted because he is a Jew,” said Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of AJC France.

The attack occurred the day after France commemorated the second anniversary of the terrorist murder of four Jews, including three children, in Toulouse. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Interior Minister Manuel Valls powerfully reaffirmed the government's determination to combat anti-Semitism in France, which has posed serious challenges for French society.

A European Union survey of Jews in eight countries, released last year, found that 60 percent of French Jews are worried they may become victims of physical attacks. A majority avoids wearing, carrying or displaying things in public that would identify them as Jews. And as many as 46 percent have considered emigrating because of the unfolding situation.

“We are confident that French authorities will fully investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of the horrendous attack on the Paris teacher,” said Rodan-Benzaquen. “But there is also a larger and longer-term challenge: Taking concerted action to address the roots of anti-Semitism and prevent this vicious cancer from growing in France. This must be a government priority, ever mindful that anti-Semitism poses a threat both to the largest Jewish community in Europe and to the very fabric and fiber of France's laudable democratic values."



March 21, 2014 – New York – On the second anniversary of the deadly terrorist attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls issued a powerful attack on anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism has been on the rise in France in recent years, and largely comes from the extreme right,” said Valls. “What is new is an anti-Semitism that feeds on hatred of Israel and Zionism.”

“Criticism of Israel that is based on anti-Zionism – that’s anti-Semitism today – is the refuge of those who do not accept the State of Israel,” the Interior Minister added.

Valls spoke at a Paris rally commemorating the four Jewish victims of the March 19, 2012, attack in Toulouse. Mohammed Merah, a French-Algerian, shot and killed Rabbi Jonathan Sandler; his two sons, Arieh, 6, and Gabriel, 3; and Miriam Monsenego, 8, at the entrance to the Jewish school. Merah died in a gun battle with French police at his home after the attack.

“Minister Valls’s powerful message is a clear recognition of the sad reality of today’s malicious campaign against the State of Israel and its very right to exist,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “At a time when some French Jews are feeling increasingly uncomfortable, it is encouraging to hear such profound empathy and support from the country’s Interior Minister.”

“French Jews, without you, France is not France,” declared Valls. The Paris rally was organized by the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities. AJC France director Simone Rodan was on the stage at the rally.

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.



February 20, 2014 -- Paris --  French Interior Minister Manuel Valls met today with an AJC delegation, led by AJC Executive Director David Harris, at the French Ministry of the Interior.
 
The hour-long session focused on strategies for combatting anti-Semitism and other forms of racism.
 
“Minister Valls’ clarity of vision and strong determination are laudable," said Harris. “Once again, we welcomed the opportunity to continue our important dialogue with him, which has taken place both in Paris and New York. As always, we found him absolutely determined and resolute."
 
"It is reassuring for Jews, other minorities, and the French people  to know that Minister Valls and the  French government are determined to fight anti-Semitism and radicalization," said Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, AJC Paris director. "We urge political, religious, and civil society leaders to unite in support of this national struggle against ignorance and hatred."

AJC maintains regular contact with France’s Interior Ministry via its Paris office, directed by Rodan-Benzaquen. AJC's last meeting with Minister Valls took place in New York in June 2013.

 



The New York Times
Simone Rodan-Benzaquen
January 30, 2014

 

To the Editor:

Sylvain Cypel suggests that the French clown Dieudonné’s anti-Semitism is not as much of a threat to French society as manifestations of hate toward Arabs, Muslims and blacks (“A French Clown’s Hateful Gesture,” Op-Ed, Jan. 24).

But anti-Semitism is central to Dieudonné’s twisted brand of humor. His disparaging remarks about the Holocaust, his claims that Jews are responsible for slavery or the killing of Christ, and his friendship with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former Iranian president, are clear examples of why France’s interior minister, Manuel Valls, banned Dieudonné’s latest national tour. He has been convicted seven times for hate speech against Jews, violating France’s anti-racism law.

The renewed focus on Dieudonné’s dangerous antics comes at a time of increasing concern among European Jewry about anti-Semitism. France is not exempt. Indeed, France is the only European country since World War II where Jewish schoolchildren were murdered because they were Jews, as occurred in the 2012 terror attack on a school in Toulouse.

Government and civil society leaders have condemned attacks on Muslims and blacks. More needs to be done to counter such expressions of hate. Belittling the seriousness and centrality of anti-Semitism in France, however, does not help those seeking to strengthen democracy and pluralism in France.

SIMONE RODAN-BENZAQUEN
Director, France Office
American Jewish Committee
Paris, Jan. 24, 2014



January 25, 2014 -- Rome -- AJC called for increased vigilance following grotesque manifestations of anti-Semitism in Rome during the Jewish Sabbath.

A box with a pig’s head was delivered to Rome’s Grand Synagogue on Friday and similar packages were delivered on Saturday to the Israeli Embassy and to the Museum of Rome, which is featuring an exhibition on the Holocaust. In addition, Nazi swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti were scrawled on the walls of a municipal building.

“The consequences of indifference towards such acts, as history teaches us, can lead to a serious degeneration of peaceful coexistence, and of the democratic fabric of society,” said Lisa Palmieri-Billig, AJC’s Representative in Italy and Liaison to the Holy See.

Coming on the Jewish Sabbath as well as on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday, these “vile and cowardly acts” constitute “a serious signal of alarm,” said Palmieri-Billig.

AJC called on Italian authorities to bring to justice those responsible for these anti-Semitic outrages, and for both government and civil society leaders to step up efforts at teaching a culture of mutual respect aimed at reinforcing the moral and ethical values.



 

Jewish Week
Andrew Baker
December 17, 2013

 

The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) decision to drop the longstanding “working definition of anti-Semitism” from its website has drawn considerable attention. Was this an honest error or a malicious act? To understand the controversy we must review the origin and use of this definition, see link:
http://www.european-forum-on-antisemitism.org/working-definition-of-antisemitism/english/

The working definition was released nearly a decade ago by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). At that time European countries were only beginning to react to the resurgence of anti-Semitism in their midst, and few people were willing to acknowledge that a new form of anti-Semitism was emerging that demonized the State of Israel and questioned its very legitimacy. The EUMC’s first study of anti-Semitism, conducted in 2004, revealed the lack of any clear, agreed-upon definition. AJC worked closely with the EUMC and with academic experts in Israel, the U.S. and Europe in drafting the working definition.

It was termed a working definition because it was never formally adopted as a political document by the EUMC board. Achieving consensus in the EU is never an easy process. In this case, the EUMC wanted something to place quickly in the hands of practitioners—government officials and civil society—to enable them to better understand and monitor the problem of anti-Semitism. And it succeeded.

Since its release, the working definition has been included in police training materials prepared by the OSCE. It has been adopted by the U.S. Department of State. It has been recommended by inter-Parliamentary commissions in the United Kingdom and Canada. Notably, it has helped many people come to recognize that anti-Semitism can take multiple forms, including some that relate to Israel.

Monitoring and recording incidents of anti-Semitism were severely lacking in 2004. If incidents were not identified or reported to police, or if they were not enumerated by government agencies, it was as though they had not happened. This enabled European leaders to say, with some justification, that anti-Semitism was not a problem. The working definition, which described the multidimensional nature of anti-Semitism, helped align the views of political leaders with those of Jewish communities.

In 2007, the EUMC was subsumed by the larger EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), which maintained that as a human rights agency it was not in the business of issuing definitions. In 2009, I hosted a roundtable discussion at the OSCE that brought FRA’s director together with European Jewish leaders and others. We met shortly after the end of the Gaza war, and participants offered numerous examples of Israel being vilified in the local media and of dramatic increases in attacks on Jewish institutions, presumably from people inflamed by the Middle East conflict and looking for targets closer to home. These were the very examples cited in the working definition that FRA seemed ready to abandon. It did not, and until recently it remained on the agency’s website, albeit without comment and with an old EUMC logo at the top of the page.

Ironically, FRA went on to conduct a detailed survey of Jews in nine EU countries and their experiences and perceptions of anti-Semitism, which was released last month. It demonstrated objectively and comprehensively that the problem remains a serious one, perhaps even more acute than any of us had realized. Jews are increasingly fearful of identifying themselves publicly. Thirty-eight percent will frequently or always avoid wearing or carrying something that will mark them as Jewish. Twenty-three percent say they avoid attending Jewish events or visiting Jewish sites because they do not feel safe.

The FRA study also took a page from one of the key elements of the working definition, asserting that European Jews recognize that equating Israelis to Nazis is an expression of anti-Semitism plain and simple.

The FRA findings also revealed that the vast majority of European Jews do not report their experiences of anti-Semitism, believing that police and other government agencies will not treat them seriously or even deal with them. So the problem of monitoring and recording that the EUMC recognized nine years ago is still with us, and the value of an operational definition ought to be self-evident. While there is clearly a growing awareness and understanding on the part of police and prosecutors throughout the EU, it is premature to think that a common definition of anti-Semitism with practical examples no longer has an important role to play.

It is puzzling and unfortunate that the working definition has disappeared from the FRA website, and hard to believe that this was just the result of tidying up some virtual space. I urge its return both in recognition to the important legacy of the EUMC as well as the obvious value it can still provide.

Rabbi Andrew Baker is the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Director of International Jewish Affairs and serves as the Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)



Huffington Post
Deidre Berger
November 22, 2013

 

Seventy-five years after the German government organized two days of gruesome pogroms against the country’s Jewish population, a seemingly overnight descent into depravity continues to suspend credibility. In the heart of the country that brought forth Goethe and Beethoven, thousands of Jews were snatched from the streets and from their homes, arrested, beaten and murdered. Synagogues were set ablaze – not just by Nazis but by ordinary citizens. Jewish citizens were hunted and publicly humiliated, with thousands sent to concentration camps. Buildings and businesses under Jewish ownership were attacked, smashed and plundered.

What was the consequence of this two-day orgy of hatred?The Nazi government sent the bill for property damages to the Jewish community.

The largely unchallenged events of Kristallnacht unleashed forces of hatred that resulted in grimly successful plans to exterminate European Jewry and decimate other ethnic and national groups, including the Sinti and Roma population.

From today’s perspective, the question is understanding the lessons for today. The large number of commemorative events throughout Germany, as well as ample reporting in national media, is testimony to the ongoing confrontation with the Nazi past.Nonetheless, there is a perceptible change in atmosphere. Disappointingly, there was no central ceremony organized by the German government or the German parliament to mark 75 years of the terrifying November Nazi pogroms.

The question is whether this should be understood as an oversight or as a sign of creeping commemoration fatigue to confront an uncomfortable history. The one government agency dedicated to an examination of the Holocaust and Nazi crimes, the Foundation Remembrance Responsibility Future, marked the Kristallnacht events by sponsoring a two-day international conference on anti-Semitism, co-organized by the Berlin Jewish Museum and the Berlin Technical University’s renowned Center for Research on Anti-Semitism.As such, the conference was a welcome event to examine contemporary problems of anti-Semitism, underscored by the release of an EU poll noting that one-third of European Jews are considering leaving their countries due to anti-Semitism.

Nonetheless, this conference transported a highly ambivalent message by featuring a philosophical keynote speech on definitions of anti-Semitism by Dr. Brian Klug, a British scholar and co-founder of “Jews for Justice in Palestine” known for contesting theories that Israel criticism can cross boundaries of anti-Semitism. True to form, Mr. Klug defended the right to criticize Israel without being labeled anti-Semitic.

Thrusting the debate about Israel criticism as a form of anti-Semitism into discussion on the anniversary of Kristallnacht deflected attention from issues more pertinent to the anniversary, including ways in which Germany came to grips with the Holocaust after WWII, the permutations of present-day anti-Semitism and the quality of engagement in Germany today to counter anti-Semitism. Furthermore, given that this was in all probability the last major anniversary where a number of survivors remain to recall the horrifying events of the two days of November pogroms in 1938, the absence of survivors on the podium was a lost opportunity to help a younger generation grasp first-hand the momentous events of Kristallnacht.

Indeed, the relevance of Germany’s ongoing confrontation with the past was poignantly expressed in the revelation several days prior to the conference of the discovery of a cache of stolen Nazi art. There could be no better illustration of the degree to which the legacy of the past maintains its grip on German society. Just days before the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the German magazine Focus revealed a spectacular discovery by Munich law enforcement officials of more than 1400 works of art seized or confiscated by the Nazis from their rightful owners, many of them Jewish. Survivors with long abandoned hopes of finding their recovery were speechless to learn that the cache was kept secret for nearly two years and only became public due to investigation by the media. Even more disconcerting were explanations by law enforcement officials that as Nazi law still stands regarding stolen art, there is little that can be done to restitute the property.

Such outrageous justifications of Nazi injustice 75 years after Kristallnacht underscore the need to reexamine legislation to ensure full restitution and compensation to survivors and their heirs of the crimes of the Nazi.After suggestions by AJC and other Jewish and non-Jewish organizations that a special task force was necessary to address issues of art stolen by the Nazis, an expert working group was instituted by the German government.The dimensions of such largely unaddressed chapters of the Nazi era demonstrates the importance of refocusing attention in German schools on the Holocaust and the many areas in which younger generations can and should address the unfinished business of confronting Nazi injustice.At a time of an increasingly diverse German school population, with growing numbers of pupils who have no link to German history, curriculum addressing the Holocaust needs to be reviewed and rewritten.A new focus on Jewish life and culture as part of German history is important, as is a better understanding of modern Israel and the importance of Germany’s alliance with Israel.

There is no question that the Federal Republic of Germany has taken major steps to address the crimes of the Nazi government, including compensation and restitution. Nonetheless, much remains to be done. Aging Holocaust survivors, many of whom live in poverty, often do not receive adequate resources to live out their last years with sufficient medical help and assistance. Due to the lack of implementation of existing legislation, survivors who were imprisoned in ghettos continue to be shut out of pension payments.

The German government needs to fund the current half-hearted attempts by museums to research the provenance of works in their collections and restitute art stolen by the Nazis to its rightful owners. Allied occupation authorities deemed the large-scale thievery to be a crime against humanity, nonetheless, much of the stolen art remains hanging in German museums or is stored in warehouses under wrongful possession.

Many stories of the survivors remain to be told but time is running out.Just days ago, on November 8, Saul Kagan, Founding Director of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, passed away. Mr. Kagan, himself a survivor, dedicated his life to obtaining compensation from the German government for Holocaust survivors. Stuart Eizenstadt, a former deputy secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, said Mr. Kagan for 50 years was “the heart, mind and soul of the search for justice for survivors of the Holocaust.” With his death, yet another witness and advocate for survivors has passed away.

The loss of such a personality makes even more immediate a resolution passed in June 2013 by the German parliament on fighting anti-Semitism calling for a wide-scale expansion of programs bringing together Holocaust survivors and young volunteers. Funds for such a program must be allotted immediately before this final living link is a lost opportunity. In fact, none of the many programs proposed in the resolution have to date been implemented, nor is it certain they will be included in the coalition agreement currently being forged, raising questions about the gravity of government efforts to fight anti-Semitism.

There are countless other stories to be told, about perpetrators, bystanders and resisters. While there are stumbling stones throughout Germany in the memory of the victims, why is no one stumbling on the names of the perpetrators? One answer can be found in a book written by German sociologist Harald Welzer, “Grandfather was Not a Nazi,” demonstrating metamorphoses of WWII narratives within families that resulted in the absolution of beloved family members from guilt.

Indeed, there were tremendous moral complexities to life in an authoritarian system. Nonetheless, the unspeakable crimes committed by large numbers of Germans with the aid of willing helpers in German-occupied territory must be the point of departure for examining the context. The stories of the perpetrators and their helpers are understandably difficult to tell but of critical importance in understanding the ease with which the veneer of civilization can crack.

Of great importance as well are the stories about the lack of recognition in post-war Germany of those who refused complicity with the Nazis. Why is the name of Fritz Kolbe, the German diplomat whose moral integrity and abhorrence of the Nazis led him to become the U.S.’s most important source of information on Nazi Germany, unknown today in Germany? The single biography to date written about Fritz Kolbe is only available second-hand while an emerging genre of voyeuristic literature and film profiles from and about the struggles of children and grandchildren of prominent Nazis to come to terms with their past receive a high level of media attention.

As the survivor generation passes away, the historical sites that bear silent witness to the enormity of the crimes require increased attention. In a united Germany, where many lived under communist rule, memorial sites face dilemmas of an adequate presentation of two totalitarian systems, while maintaining the uniqueness of the Holocaust.Pressure to draw comparisons between National Socialism and communism can be seen in growing controversy about the institution at an EU level of a national day of commemoration for the Hitler-Stalin Pact, which supporters view as a day of commemoration for victims of both the Nazis and of communist leaders.

The enormous number of concentration camp sites makes them costly to maintain as memorials. The German government has made a major contribution to a foundation dedicated to the maintenance of the memorial site of Auschwitz. Other major sites, however, have outdated exhibitions and crumbling infrastructures. The issue of the largely untended graves of Holocaust victims murdered by SS killing squads in towns and villages throughout Eastern Europe looms large. The German government is funding a pilot project in the western Ukraine, coordinated by the American Jewish Committee, to launch a process of protecting Holocaust mass grave sites and creating historical and educational material to recapture the memory of those lives cruelly extinguished.

As this brief enumeration of Holocaust-related projects demonstrates, the task of understanding the Holocaust grows instead of diminishing. There can in fact never be a finished account regarding the Holocaust as each generation defines anew the meaning of the horrific rule of the Nazi regime. There are streets, army barracks, and public institutions to be renamed as the complicity of ordinary citizens in the Nazi regime comes into ever clearer focus. There are lost degrees to be granted to those who were thrown out of school and robbed of the opportunity as young people to obtain an education.

While 75 years is a long passage of time, the events of Kristallnacht remain as relevant as ever, admonishing us to hold precious democracy, the best guarantor we have to protect civil rights, human rights and the dignity of man. As a Berlin survivor once said to me, “As I watched the flames engulfing our synagogue, I thought that those flames would burn higher and eventually engulf Germany.”

The astonishing fact that decades after the Holocaust, a considerable portion of Jews in Europe – also in Germany - fear ongoing anti-Semitism, while right-wing parties are flourishing, gives pause for reflection. Much remains for each of us to do to combat anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia in order to secure the post-war democratic order for which the European Union was rightfully honored with the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. Jews and non-Jews must work together to promulgate the core values and constitutional protections of rights that make possible freedom and democracy.

The vivid remembrances evoked by the anniversary of Kristallnacht remind us above all that there can be no expiration of memory. The still long list of unfinished business confronting the crimes of the Nazi era gives ample opportunity for current generations to take active part in redressing outstanding injustices. We can learn from the example of the city of Goslar, whose city council just recently, in October 2013, rescinded its honorary citizenship bestowed on Adolf Hitler. It is never too late for justice to be served.

Deidre Berger is Director, AJC Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations



 

EL PAÍS
David Harris
November 29, 2013

 

The European Union has had its share of daunting challenges.

From sluggish growth to punishing austerity, from high levels of unemployment to fears of brain drain, and from volatile political environments to relentless migration, there are more than enough issues to keep EU and national leaders focused 24/7. And while some countries are more at risk than others, the ties that bind the 28 member states mean that no one is entirely immune from the gusty winds and storm clouds.

Now, there is another issue to add to the list.

Earlier this month, the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) issued a comprehensive study on the experiences of Jews in eight of the 28 nations – Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom—whose Jews comprise 90% of the EU’s total Jewish population. Nearly 6,000 respondents took part.

Confirming the findings of earlier surveys done by outside groups and local Jewish communities, it raises serious concern. That concern should not be limited to Jews, since when Europe’s Jews feel at risk, the EU as a whole is endangered in two ways.

First, the EU’s laudable commitment to protecting the human dignity of each of its citizens is jeopardized.

And second, the history of anti-Semitism demonstrates that, ultimately, those who target Jews usually have democracy itself, including the rights of minority groups, in their crosshairs. In other words, bigotry may begin with Jews, but it rarely ends with them.

Here are some of the disturbing findings from the just-published FRA report:

Two-thirds of Jewish respondents consider anti-Semitism to be a problem today in their countries.

Three-fourths believe the problem has gotten worse in the past five years.

One-third fear a physical attack against themselves, as Jews, within the next 12 months.

More than one-half claim they personally witnessed an incident where the Holocaust was denied, trivialized, or exaggerated.

Twenty-three percent say they at least occasionally avoid attending Jewish events or visiting Jewish sites because of safety concerns.

And more than 40 percent of those surveyed in Belgium, France, and Hungary indicate they have considered emigrating because of the situation.

Equally troubling, to quote the study, is the following result: “A majority of the victims of anti-Semitic harassment (76%), physical violence or threats (64%), or vandalism of personal property (53%) did not report the most serious incident, namely the one that most affected the respondent, in the past five years to the police or to any other organization.”

In other words, if the majority of victims of anti-Semitic incidents are not even reporting them to the authorities, then they do not have confidence in the system, fear retribution from the perpetrators, are unaware of where to go for help, or have somehow come to accept the bigoted behavior as part of the “price” of being Jewish.

Whatever the explanation, it is unacceptable. Going forward, EU governments should strive mightily to ensure not only a dramatic decline in the number of anti-Semitic incidents, but also that those that do occur are reported to the proper authorities. Citizens of a democratic society should never have to feel helpless or abandoned.

And it should make no difference if the anti-Semitic act comes from extreme-right, extreme-left, radical Islamic, or other sources. Targeting an individual because of his or her specific group identity – in this case, as a Jew – is a potential hate crime, and should be treated as such.

AJC has devoted many years to developing response strategies to bias incidents, whether against Jews, Christians, Muslims, homosexuals, Africans, or others, and certain things are clear.

First, attitudes of tolerance or intolerance, respect or lack of respect, are formed primarily at home and at a young age.

Second, political leadership counts. Either governments act against bigotry, both symbolically and substantively, or, too often, they end up countenancing or rationalizing it. Neutrality is not an option.

Third, education, if utilized properly, can help teach respect and appreciation for difference. Otherwise, it is a lost opportunity.

Fourth, religious leaders can promote interfaith dialogue and friendship or, conversely, religious obscurantism and triumphalism. Which will it be?

And finally, the police and judiciary must understand the specific nature of hate crimes, collect proper data, and treat cases with the seriousness they merit.

The EU’s FRA report is a wake-up call. Sleeping through it, or pretending not to hear it, is not an option.

David Harris is executive director of the American Jewish Committee (www.ajc.org).



Wall Street Journal

Daniel Schwammenthal

November 13, 2013

This past weekend was the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the 1938 Nazi pogrom against German Jews, and European commentary focused predictably on the traditional anti-Semitic threats from the far right. The recent rise of openly anti-Jewish parties in Greece and Hungary shows that this remains a problem that authorities and civil society must confront without equivocation.

But in many parts of the Continent, things are more complex. As German author Henryk Broder quipped, if after 1945 Europe experienced anti-Semitism without Jews, we are now experiencing anti-Semitism without anti-Semites. As a 2011 study in eight European countries by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation concluded: "Data show anti-Semitism often appearing in the guise of criticism of Israel." Unlike classic anti-Semitism, which is now largely taboo in polite company, demonizing Israel is mainstream.

"The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," that Russian forgery purporting to reveal a Jewish cabal bent on world domination, may not be acceptable dinner conversation any more. But repackage the sentiment as criticism of Israel, and say that the Jewish lobby controls U.S. foreign policy against "true" American interests, and voilà, you are no longer dabbling in nasty old tropes about sinister Jewish power, but in bold political analysis.

Thus, when former British foreign minister Jack Straw, during a conference last month in the House of Commons, listed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its allegedly "unlimited" funds among the greatest obstacles to peace between Israelis and Palestinians, he thought nothing controversial about it. For many Europeans, U.S. support for Israel—the only democratic ally in a sea of dictatorships, terrorism and civil war—remains so unfathomable that they can only explain it as the product of nefarious Jewish money for equally nefarious purposes.

If a Labour MP can speak publicly like this without triggering any rebuke from his or other parties or from the mainstream media, one can only imagine what is said privately in daily European life.

We know what people are telling the pollsters, at least. According to the Friedrich Ebert study, 63% of surveyed Poles and 48% of Germans agreed with the statement that "Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians." Forty-one percent of Britons and 42% of Hungarians agreed. In the other surveyed countries, agreement was in the high 30s; the lowest level was 38%, among Italians.

Additionally, 55% percent of Poles and 36% of Germans agreed with the statement that "considering Israeli policy I can understand why people don't like Jews." For the other surveyed countries, the level of agreement with this statement ranged from the mid 30s to the high 40s.

Realizing the depth of the problem already in 2005, the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) drafted a working definition of anti-Semitism that specifically included the targeting of Israel, "conceived as a Jewish collectivity." The EUMC listed such examples as questioning the Jewish right to self-determination by calling Israel a racist endeavor, applying double standards against Israel, comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, or holding Jews responsible for Israel's actions. The draft definition, despite being praised by the U.S. State Department and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has yet to be adopted.

Now, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, the EUMC's successor, documents in a new study that an alarmingly high proportion of Jewish citizens have experienced harassment, threats, vandalism and physical attacks. This first survey to collect comparable data across EU states on Jewish experiences of anti-Semitism shows how European Jews suffer from Israel's vilification.

According to the survey, released last Friday, 21% of respondents have experienced at least one incident of anti-Semitic "verbal insult or harassment and/or a physical attack" in the past 12 months. Forty-eight percent of respondents have "frequently" or "all the time" seen or heard the accusation, in the last 12 months, that "Israelis behave to the Palestinians like the Nazis to the Jews." In Belgium, Italy and France, around 60% reported this. In the U.K., Germany and Sweden, 40%-50% did.

Twenty-three percent of respondents in all eight surveyed countries said that at least occasionally they avoided Jewish events or sites. Another 29% have considered emigrating in the past five years. In Hungary, France and Belgium, 40%-48% have considered emigrating.

EU leaders can no longer ignore the grotesque misconceptions about the Jewish state. By adopting the EUMC's working definition of anti-Semitism, the EU would have an excellent tool to differentiate between legitimate criticism of Israel on the one hand and bigotry on the other, while sending a strong signal that it won't tolerate the latter.

This is not just a question of the image of an entire nation or the future of bilateral relations between European countries and Israel. At stake is the future of European Jewry—or, given the high number of Jews who have contemplated emigration, whether there will be such a future at all.

Mr. Schwammenthal is director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute in Brussels.



 

JNS
Andrew Baker
November 11, 2013

 

WASHINGTON—The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has released its long-awaited survey of how European Jews perceive and experience anti-Semitism. The survey’s detailed information, based on the responses of nearly 6,000 Jews in eight countries that encompass 90 percent of the EU Jewish population, should dispel any suggestion that anti-Semitism in Europe is not a serious problem or is somehow only based on alarmist or anecdotal evidence.

Among the key findings:

  • European Jews express a high level of anxiety and uncertainty about the future. Well over 40 percent in France, Hungary, and Belgium say they have considered emigrating because of anti-Semitism.
  • Jews are increasingly fearful of identifying themselves publicly. Thirty-eight percent will frequently or always avoid wearing or carrying something that will mark them as Jewish.
  • Twenty-three percent say they avoid attending Jewish events or visiting Jewish sites because they do not feel safe.
  • Almost half (46 percent) worry about becoming a victim of anti-Semitic harassment in the next 12 months.

Of particular note is what the respondents think is the source of these anti-Semitic attacks and harassment. The largest number (40 percent) identifies “Muslim extremist views” as the motivating factor. An even greater percentage—which rises to 73 percent in France—fingers this same group as responsible for negative statements about Jews.

Until now, these European countries have largely been in denial. In some cases, national law or tradition may prevent them from collecting data based on religion or ethnicity. Or they may impose their own constraints, fearing that identifying the primary perpetrators might further exacerbate tensions with Muslim minorities that are themselves victims of prejudice and discrimination.

Some officials go so far as to suggest that this is a problem between two minorities—“inter-communal tensions” is the term one French Interior Ministry official described to me—even though there is no evidence of any Jewish attack on Muslims. But without a clear-headed recognition of the source of the problem, it is hard to believe that governments will be able to address it effectively. And in the meantime, their apparent indifference adds to the anxiety and uncertainty of their Jewish citizens.

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition that anti-Zionist or anti-Israel animus can also be a form of anti-Semitism. This was first noted in a working definition of anti-Semitism drafted by FRA’s predecessor in 2005, although it still evokes controversy. But the new survey should put this debate to rest. Alongside the traditional tropes of Holocaust denial and excessive Jewish power that respondents cite as among the primary anti-Semitic charges they face, we now find the statement that Israelis “behave like Nazis.” Nor should one think that negative views of Israel have no direct impact on European Jewry. Forty-four percent of those surveyed say they are always or frequently blamed for something done by the Israeli government.

The FRA survey also asked about a possible ban on ritual circumcision, and 76 percent said it would create a problem for them and their community. When the question was first posed, it may have seemed largely academic, since European Jews have been practicing this age-old commandment largely without hindrance for centuries. But in recent months, a Council of Europe resolution equated the tradition with female genital mutilation, and a number of EU states have begun action to impose restrictions on the practice. In some countries, such as Sweden, Jewish communities—and Muslims who also perform the ritual—accepted conditions and limitations as the price of maintaining its legality, but now face new calls to prohibit it altogether.

Although widely practiced in America, circumcision is far less common across the Atlantic, where critics describe it as a barbaric practice that violates the rights of children. In an increasingly secular Europe that already shows limited regard for religion, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim rhetoric has become a staple of the public discussion. A ban on circumcision, a basic practice of Judaism, would by itself pose a serious threat to the future of Jewish life in Europe.

Yet even as the FRA survey documents this increase in anti-Semitism, it also shows how few victims report what they have encountered to the authorities. Barely a third report incidents of physical violence, and only a quarter report incidents of harassment to the police or to any organization. Regrettably, most victims say they don’t believe such reports would accomplish anything. Yet this underreporting has undoubtedly served to limit public perception of the problem and postpone public debate on how to address it.

The FRA report clearly demonstrates that anti-Semitism affects the daily lives of European Jews. Now, European governments must step forward and act.

Rabbi Andrew Baker is the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Director of International Jewish Affairs and serves as the Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).



 

The Jerusalem Post
Kenneth Bandler
November 11, 2013

The most recent annual AJC survey of American Jews found that they are almost as worried about anti-Semitism in the United States as they are about anti-Semitism in Europe. Eighty-one percent consider anti-Semitism a problem in the US, compared with 90% who think it is a problem in Europe.

The high number for the US appears surprising.

After all, we live in the largest Diaspora community, free to express our Jewish identity, to practice our faith, and participate fully in the preeminent democratic, pluralistic society on earth.

Yet, as one Holocaust survivor pointed out at the joint AJC-German Consulate commemoration in New York of Kristallnacht last Friday, one can never be vigilant enough.

Recalling her childhood in Germany, Reni Hanau related the events preceding and during that fateful night with clarity and emotion, and warned that even in a country where Jews are successful in a variety of professions, welcomed as full participants in schools, businesses and society at large, “you never know what might happen.”

Hanau’s powerful reflections on the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht were all the more poignant given the stunning frontpage New York Times story that same morning detailing a pattern of anti-Semitism that has targeted Jewish public school students in a community only 90 minutes north of New York City.

One student was so traumatized by the innumerable incidents of swastikas scrawled on lockers, desks, walls, computers and student binders that he stopped reporting them because “nobody was doing anything.”

Yet, some parents were so appalled by the aggressive and unchallenged bullying of their children – including personal taunts and physical attacks, and joking about the Holocaust – that they filed a lawsuit against the school district.

“Your expectations for changing inbred prejudice may be a bit unrealistic,” Philip C. Steinberg, superintendent of the Pine Bush Central School District, wrote to a parent of one Jewish student who had complained about the continuing harassment.

Steinberg, by the way, is Jewish.

The Times article drew the attention of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who ordered the appropriate state agencies not only to investigate Pine Bush, but also to ensure that such unvarnished hate is not being spewed elsewhere in the state.

THE REVELATION of what Jews face today in Pine Bush comes just as the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) released, on the eve of the Kristallnacht anniversary, a survey of Jews in eight European countries.

The data show that they feel so threatened as Jews that, collectively, 34% percent have considered emigrating.

In France, which has the largest European Jewish community, the number is 50%, and in Hungary 47% One-third of the 5,847 FRA respondents reported that they have experienced anti-Semitic harassment at least once in the five years before the survey was conducted.

When asked to identify the incident that has had the biggest personal impact, 39% cited receiving offensive or threatening comments in person, and 21% mentioned offensive comments about them posted on the Internet.

Of those who had experienced anti-Semitic harassment, 17% said the most serious incident involved someone waiting for them or deliberately following them in a threatening manner, and 15% said offensive or threatening emails, text messages or letters.

Perhaps the most disturbing revelation of the survey was that European Jews are reluctant to report manifestations of anti-Semitism to the authorities.

“Many incidents of hate crime never come to the attention of law enforcement agencies or of the criminal justice system,” states the FRA report. “64 percent of victims of anti-Semitic physical attack or threats of violence did not report the most serious incident in the past five years, and 76 percent of victims of anti-Semitic harassment never reported the most serious incident to the police or any other organization.”

Why not? According to the FRA findings, Jews harbor a deep-seated distrust of law enforcement in their own countries. 60 percent did not report the most serious incident of physical violence or threats of violence to the police because they did not believe that anything would have changed after reporting the incident.

And, most damning of all, “20 percent also mentioned that they do not trust the police.”

Europeans apparently have a way to go to train law enforcement in methods of combating hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism, and thereby instill confidence in Jewish communities to speak up and report when they are victimized. In New York City, the police department’s hate crimes unit is well-trained and experienced to respond in a timely fashion.

They did come quickly when a swastika was found in the elevator of my apartment building in Forest Hills, and that was about 15 years ago.

But even as we encourage the EU to do more, Pine Bush is a sorrowful reminder that in the US, too, there is a need to educate and advocate against bigotry and racism, and, most importantly, anti-Semitism.

Kenneth Bandler is the American Jewish Committee’s director of media relations.



November 8, 2013 – Brussels – AJC is calling for greater pan-European coordination in combating anti-Semitism, following today's release of an EU survey of Jews across Europe.

The survey of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency’s (FRA) – Discrimination and Hate Crime Against Jews in EU Member States – was made public on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogroms in Nazi Germany. Comprised of responses from 5,847 Jews in the eight EU Member States with the largest communities, it is the first such study to collect comparable data on Jewish experiences of anti-Semitism.

 “Over the past few years, we have read report after report about the growing presence of anti-Semitism in Europe,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute. “The FRA survey confirms those troubling reports and truly gives voice to the concerns of Europe’s Jewish citizens.”

 According to the survey, 21% of respondents have experienced at least one incident of anti-Semitic verbal insult or harassment, and/or a physical attack in the past 12 months (an increase from 7% in the five years prior to the survey). More disturbing, 82% of those who “felt discriminated against during the period because they are Jewish did not report the most serious incident” to the authorities or competent bodies. As a result, 23% said that they, at least occasionally, avoided Jewish events or sites. Another 29% have considered emigrating in the past five years. In Hungary, France and Belgium the numbers are between 40% and 48%.

 “Police protection has long been a sad necessity for Jewish schools and houses of worship throughout Europe, but it is clear that current methods of protection are not sufficient,” said Schwammenthal. “The fact that the overwhelming number of anti-Semitic attacks go unreported and that almost a third of Jews have considered leaving Europe shows there is a lack of trust in the relevant authorities’ abilities to deal with the threat. That must change immediately.”

The survey findings underscore the severity of the threat of anti-Semitism to the Jewish communities: in Hungary, 92% of respondents felt it was among the top three social and political problems, while 80% of those in France said the same.

Moreover, it highlighted the prevalence of new forms of anti-Semitism – namely anti-Zionism. For example, 48% of respondents said they regularly hear people compare Israel to the Nazis. And around 60% of respondents in Belgium, Italy and France said that they are frequently or all the time blamed for Israeli actions. In the U.K., Germany and Sweden the corresponding proportion ranged from 40% to 50%.

 “The EU already has a working definition on anti-Semitism developed in 2005 by FRA’s predecessor organization which clearly spells out that such attacks, branding Israel as a racist entity or drawing comparisons to the Nazis, go well beyond the boundary of legitimate criticism,” said Schwammenthal. “This survey makes clear that it is now time for the EU to formally adopt this definition so that there is clarity and uniformity in the fight against anti-Semitism.”

Founded in 2004, the Brussels-based AJC Transatlantic Institute engages European lawmakers on issues related to anti-Semitism in the European Union.

 



October 25, 2013 – New York – AJC is calling on the Chilean government to reprimand Senator Eugenio Tuma for his ongoing public threats against Jews and Israelis.

Tuma, who chairs the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, repeated in a recent Controversia TV interview his charge that thousands of Israeli soldiers “dressed as civilians are in southern Chile mapping out the region.” Tuma added that the Chilean government “decided to do nothing given the power exerted by Israel and the U.S."

AJC, which three years ago called on Chilean government and civil society leaders to publicly condemn Tuma, reiterated its warning about the legislator’s provocative remarks.

“Senator Tuma’s baseless accusations are extremely dangerous, all the more so in a country that has experienced an uptick in anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in recent years,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute.

“The real danger to Chilean society is ignoring Tuma’s campaign of hate against Israel and Chilean Jews,” said Siegel Vann, adding that the anti-discrimination law adopted last year by the Chilean Congress should be used to take action against Senator Tuma.

Tuma, who is of Palestinian descent, has accused prominent Chilean Jews, including the country’s Interior Minister, of being Israeli government agents. Chile is home to the largest Palestinian community, some 300,000, outside the Middle East.

Comunidad Judia de Chile, the representative body of the Chilean Jewish community, is an AJC international partner.



July 12, 2013 – Paris – AJC France commended Twitter on its long overdue decision to cooperate with French authorities and civil society groups to combat anti-Semitism.

Twitter announced today that it had given account information to judicial authorities "enabling the identification of some authors" of anti-Semitic and racist tweets. The decision comes six months after a French court ordered Twitter to provide the data. Last month the court of appeals in Paris upheld that decision.

France’s Union of Jewish Students (UEJF), and four other non-profit organizations dedicated to combatting racism, had sued the social media company last November after the appearance of several hashtags, including #unbonjuif and #agoodjew.

Twitter also announced its agreement with the UEJF "to pursue actively their collaboration in fighting racism and anti-Semitism.”

French Minister Fleur Pellerin welcomed Twitter’s decision to abide by the court’s ruling. “It is important because it ends the impunity of individuals who are guilty of criminal offenses,” said Minister Pellerin, who is in charge of innovation and digital economy, “but it does not question the anonymity of the immense majority of Twitter users.”

"Twitter’s decision to cooperate with French authorities and the UEJF sends an important message to authors of virulent anti-Semitic tweets,” said AJC France Director Simone Rodan-Benzaquen. “Going forward, these hate-mongers will be on notice. They cannot hide behind a digital screen to spread anti-Semitic messages and other messages that incite hatred."



Holocaust Commemoration with Rabbi Andrew Baker in Riga, Latvia

Commemoration Remarks
July 4, 2013

The Psalmist tells us that the span of a lifetime is “three score and ten.” By this measure the events which we commemorate today are receding into history. Those eyewitnesses to the crimes of the Holocaust are now few in number. The obligation to remember has now passed to their children and their grandchildren. Those first person accounts with their power and immediacy have been supplemented and will soon be replaced entirely by museums and textbooks and official ceremonies such as this one.

Those crimes—the attempted murder of an entire people on the European continent which came to be known as the Holocaust and for which a new term, “genocide,” was coined—were carefully planned and publicly announced. Hitler’s intentions were spelled out, and once in power anti-Jewish measures were imposed and stepped up day by day. In occupied or allied countries Germany’s “war against the Jews” was fought alongside its military campaign. There were resisters and even rescuers among the local population but mostly the Nazis could count on docile by-standers and the help of local collaborators.

Latvia was no exception.

In nearly all of these countries anti-Semitism was commonplace. It drew on a combination of conspiracy theories about Jews, traditional Christian hostility to Judaism, and xenophobic nationalist movements and was further inflamed by a powerful Nazi propaganda machine. Certainly this unprecedented mass murder could not have happened without the Nazis. But it would not have been so complete without this anti-Semitism.

In the lifetime that has passed since those dark days we have witnessed much that is good. The Communist oppression which replaced Nazi rule in this region of Europe has been lifted. Democracy has taken root. Membership in NATO and the European Union has knitted us together and provided security and optimism. Inter-ethnic conflicts have not disappeared, but peaceful means are the tools of choice to resolve them.

Yet while much has changed anti-Semitism has not disappeared.

Despite their small numbers, Jews still face physical and verbal harassment and even violent attacks in some European countries. In some places anti-Semitic sentiments come in the guise of anti-Israel or anti-Zionist rhetoric. In others economic uncertainty and political inability have opened the door to new right-wing extremist parties which are strongly xenophobic and openly anti-Jewish.

A recent survey of 6,000 Jews in nine EU countries (including Latvia) conducted by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights found some disturbing results. Concerned about anti-Semitism, Jews in a number of countries ponder whether they should stay or leave. Forty-eight percent of Jews in Hungary, 46 percent of Jews in France and 40 percent of Jews in Belgium say they have considered emigrating. Twenty-two percent of all these European Jews say they now avoid attending a Jewish event or visiting a Jewish site for fear of encountering anti-Semitism.

Of course the nature and source of the problem may vary country by country. But the solution—at least broadly prescribed—is the same. We need to step up security. We need more and better education not only for tolerance in general but also on the specific challenge of anti-Semitism. And we need to encourage more voices to speak up and speak out in the political arena, on the Internet, in social media and in all those new and traditional venues where anti-Semitic and other hate speech have become endemic.

The lessons that we draw from today’s solemn commemorations are not only about the past. They are very much about our future.

 



AJC Berlin Asks German Press Council to Censure Paper for Anti-Semitic Cartoon

July 3, 2013 – Berlin – AJC Berlin called on the German Press Council to censure Sueddeutscher Zeitung (SZ) for publishing a cartoon depicting Israel as a horned monster. The cartoon in the prestigious German daily appeared alongside a review of two books critical of Israeli government policy.

“A German newspaper publishing age-old anti-Semitic imagery of Jews is outrageous,” said AJC Berlin Director Deidre Berger. “Cartoons that employ vicious stereotypes to criticize the Israeli government are insidious, and contribute to promoting hatred of Jews and Israel.”

The SZ caricature shows a young woman serving food to a monster with horns sitting at a table and holding up a carving knife. The caption asserts that Germany for decades has provided weapons to Israel, and that has allegedly provoked tremendous animosity toward Israel.

“We are shocked that a major German newspaper would publish a drawing that depicts the state of Israel in the form of an avaricious, bloodthirsty monster,” said Berger.“Ascribing savagery to Israel turns the tables on the perpetrator-victim relationship.This cartoon evokes primitive stereotypes of Jews while perpetrating the Nazi myth that Jews are allegedly responsible for their own misfortune.”

In response to an AJC inquiry, the SZ replied that the drawing was originally intended for other purposes and regrets misunderstandings related to its usage. AJC has filed a complaint with the German Press Council, a self-governing organ of German media, to investigate the incident.

“Publishing this cartoon is a major violation of press standards for ethical and balanced reporting,” said Berger. “The SZ explanation is totally unsatisfactory.”



June 13, 2013 – Berlin – AJC praised the German Parliament for passing today by an overwhelming majority a resolution on combatting anti-Semitism.

“We trust the German federal and state governments will create an immediate action plan to implement the educational and security measures mandated by parliament to fight anti-Semitism,” said Deidre Berger, Director of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute.

The resolution establishes a framework of annual reporting by the government to parliament on measures to combat anti-Semitism. It creates more government accountability regarding implementation of appropriate measures. And, it calls for the institution of long-term programs, rather than short-term model programs that are often dropped due to lack of funds for implementation.

Parliamentarians from three political parties thanked AJC and the Central Council of Jews in Germany for their assistance with the resolution.

The resolution accentuates the special character of German-Israeli relations, terming solidarity with Israel an integral part of Germany’s self-definition as a nation. It condemns Israel-related anti-Semitism, including support for Hezbollah and other terrorist groups targeting Israel.

“The resolution highlights the problem of an anti-Israeli animus,” said Berger. “Exaggerated hatred of Israel is often a new form of anti-Semitism. Importantly, the resolution also recognizes that criticism of Israel that oversteps boundaries is anti-Semitism.”

The resolution cites the recommendations of a 2011 government-commissioned report on anti-Semitism prepared by an independent committee of experts. The report documented a 15 to 20 percent level of latent and overt anti-Semitism in Germany. The German Parliament came under increased pressure by AJC and other organizations to act on the committee’s recommendations after Rabbi Daniel Alter was assaulted in Berlin on August 27, 2012.

Earlier this week, release of the 2012 government report on extremism showed an increase in supporters of Islamic extremist groups. AJC has repeatedly advocated for programs to fight anti-Semitism in the Muslim community.

Today’s parliament resolution also proposes larger-scale programs to anchor knowledge of contemporary Jewish life and Holocaust remembrance, calling for a significant increase of German volunteers working with Holocaust survivors in a program sponsored by the German church-based organization Action Reconciliation.

“Each day fewer and fewer survivors are left,” said Berger. “When, if not now, will young people have a last opportunity to engage in direct interaction with Holocaust survivors? Time is running out for such programs.”



AJC Welcomes Appointment of U.S. Anti-Semitism Envoy to Confront “Global Increase in Anti-Semitism”

May 20, 2013 -- Washington -- AJC welcomes Secretary of State John Kerry’s appointment of Ira Forman as Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, based in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

“This appointment could not be more timely,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Anti-Semitism and related violence have been on the upswing worldwide, and continued U.S. leadership to combat it is urgently needed.”

“Ira Forman has the knowledge, commitment and experience to focus government-wide attention on documenting and devising new ways to fight this ages-old scourge,” Harris continued. “We welcome his appointment as a successor to former Envoy Hannah Rosenthal and Interim Envoy Michael Kozak.”

The appointment of Forman was made today as the State Department issued an annual report on international religious freedom, ominously concluding that 2012 brought “a continued global increase in anti-Semitism.”

The Department’s International Religious Freedom Report specifically points to violence and desecration that has resulted from an increase in anti-Semitism “by government officials, religious leaders, and the media, particularly in Venezuela, Egypt and Iran.”

The Special Envoy provides input on anti-Semitism for these reports, which provides details on every country in the world, including a focus on anti-Semitic incidents, including personal and property attacks; government policies, court cases, and educational programs.

Forman previously served as Director of Congressional Relations for the Office of Personnel Management during the Clinton administration. He led the National Jewish Democratic Council for 15 years.

The post of Special Envoy was established by the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004, and is a part of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL).

A wide range of AJC programs in the United States and its overseas offices work to combat global anti-Semitism.



April 8, 2013 – New York – AJC called a new study of anti-Semitism in Europe, showing a 30 percent spike in incidents, a wake-up call that should lead governments and civic organizations to step up efforts to address this growing danger.

"The Tel Aviv University report confirms our own fears, based on regular contact with Jewish communities across Europe,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Anti-Semitism not only threatens Jews, but the very fabric of democratic societies in which they live. There must be a recognition of the extent of the growing threat, and a commensurate commitment to confront this age-old scourge.”

AJC delegations have discussed the issue of anti-Semitism, most recently during visits to Berlin, Paris, Athens and Rome, with top government officials. Moreover, AJC offices in Berlin, Brussels, Paris and Rome monitor and seek to combat anti-Semitism locally and in other European countries.

In addition, Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs, serves as the top advisor on anti-Semitism to the 57-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). He has reported on disturbing trends in a number of European countries and recommended steps to be taken in response. He also recently testified in the U.S. Congress on anti-Semitism. “Sadly, as we mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, this report reminds us that the depths of hatred of Jews, left unchecked, could lead to more tragedies,” said Harris. “Constant vigilance, by Jewish communities, by governments, by civil societies, and all people of goodwill, is essential.”

The report by Tel Aviv University’s Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry recorded 686 attacks in 2012, compared to 526 in 2011, ranging from physical violence to vandalism of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries.



February 20, 2013 – New York – AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization, is deeply concerned by the surge in anti-Semitic incidents in France, detailed in a new report by the SPCJ, the French Jewish community’s protection service. “The year 2012 was the most violent since 2004,” stated the SPCJ.

 

In 2012 alone there was a 58 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents, with 614 registered compared to 389 in 2011. The report also found an 82 percent increase in physical and verbal assaults – 315 in 2012, compared to 171 in 2011.

 

Notably, there was a surge in anti-Semitic attacks following the murderous assault on a Jewish day school in Toulouse that left 4 dead last March. The SPCJ recorded 90 anti-Semitic incidents in the 10 days following Toulouse.

 

“As always, AJC stands with our friends and partners in the French Jewish community. We also strongly believe that the French government, notably Interior Minister Manuel Valls, is committed to fighting the scourge of anti-Semitism, as are many groups in French society,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

 

“The SPCJ report is a sobering reminder that major institutions, both governmental and civil society, must further step up their efforts against those who would act in the name of such venomous and violent hatred -- hate that threatens not only the country’s Jewish community, but, no less, French society, and its core values structure, as a whole,” Harris added.

Anti-Semitism was one of the top issues an AJC Board delegation discussed with Minister Valls and other senior government officials in Paris last month. AJC France representative Simone Rodan-Benzaquen continues to raise the concerns.

The SPCJ report was presented today to Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.


Kenneth Stern
February 6, 2013

Last year, Jewish high school students from Queens told me, almost as an aside, that classmates roll pennies in front of them. Two years ago, a group of high school students from the Binghamton, N.Y., area told me they were called “cheapie,” had to listen to chants of “Heil Hitler” and “Nazi,” and were kicked and otherwise intimidated on a Facebook-promoted “Kick a Jew Day.”

A recent court case chronicles a similar environment at a Long Island school. A Jewish student (now 16 years old) at Northport High School was addressed not by his name, but by calls of “Jew” or “Hey, Jew” or “You dumb Jew.” He was told: “Jews are disgusting,” “Being Jewish must suck,” “Hitler was a good person.” He was subjected to “jokes,” such as, “How many Jews can fit into a car? Two in the front, three in the back, and 6 million in the ashtray,” and, “What’s the difference between a Jew and a pizza? A pizza doesn’t scream when it goes into the oven.”

The type of anti-Semitism we associate with the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s still occurs in some places in the United States where Jews are a distinct minority, school officials are indifferent and parents do not know what to do. Some parents fear that bringing up the problem might actually make things worse (if the school does not change, and even if it does, they worry that their child might be blamed). The Northport case offers an important cautionary tale.

The high school student was bombarded with anti-Semitic provocations. From time to time, coins would be dropped in his path, and classmates would implore, “Get them, Jew,” or “Pick it up, Jew.” And on Valentine’s Day 2011, a student walked up to him and read a poem: “Roses are red, violets are blue. My love for you is burning hotter than 100 Jews burning in an oven.”

Going home after school provided little relief. Classmates posted anti-Semitic slurs on social media — in particular on Facebook.

A month before that lovely Valentine’s Day poem, the Jewish student wrote an essay for his English class. It was titled simply “Anti-Semitism.” “It gets lonely in school” he wrote. He recounted how it felt to be greeted not by his name, but by “Hey, Jew,” and, when he sneezed, by “God Bless Jew.” He wrote that he did not know how to reply to the insults, that sometimes he would just stand there in shock.

On May 23, 2012, the Jewish student’s parents — having recently become aware of the extent of the anti-Semitic bullying — met with the principal of the school and the superintendent of the school district. The officials promised, as Judge Arthur Spatt summarized it, to “take steps to protect the [student] from harassment, and to educate the entire student body about the dangers of harassment and bullying.” Nothing that was promised was done.

The harassment escalated. According to the judge, two weeks later “a backpack [was dropped from a vantage point] overlooking the hall the plaintiff was walking in. Then, two other students ran up to [him], held his arms and feet and shook him, saying they wanted him to give them money.” A teacher saw this, but all that was said to the offenders was, “Boys, I can get you in trouble for this.” The next day, the student talked to this teacher, who promised to tell the assistant principal. Nothing happened — not even a follow-up call to the student’s parents.

Bravely, the student resubmitted his essay. His mother called the school about yet another anti-Semitic remark made at track practice. But the school continued to turn a blind eye to the bullying. The student is now attending a different school. His mother sued Northport.

The school filed a motion to dismiss. In December, Spatt ruled that while some of the student’s state claims could not go forward, the federal claims had validity, based on a denial of equal protection as evidenced by the school’s “deliberate indifference” to anti-Semitic harassment, which was “persistent and severe.”

The Northport case is very much like one the American Jewish Committee brought in 2011 regarding the Binghamton high schools. The schools were not responding in any meaningful way when the students or their parents complained, or when the AJC did. Then, at the AJC’s behest, the Department of Education opened a case, which settled when the school district agreed to specific steps to monitor and remedy anti-Semitic bullying.

If you think your child is being bullied, talk to him or her. Ask what is experienced, seen, felt. Anything great happen at school today? Anything bad? Children should be empowered to know that it is not okay for them to be bullied (or from them to be bullies). Seek out expertise about how to talk to your child.

Bring concerns to the school; discuss them with other parents; hold the school accountable. If the school continues to allow your child to suffer anti-Semitic abuse, consider enlisting the help of a lawyer. (Previously, as in the Northport case, some claims may have been lost because of time limitations or other problems.) Anti-Semitism — like bullying — thrives best in an environment in which authority figures turn a blind eye. This Northport teenager, like most victims of bigotry, will likely remember the hurt for as long as he lives. I hope he recalls, even more strongly, that he helped remove some very harmful blinders.

Kenneth S. Stern is AJC’s director on anti-Semitism and extremism.


New York – January 16, 2013 – AJC welcomed today’s New York Times editorial, “President Morsi’s Repulsive Comments,” following the paper’s front-page article on the same topic in yesterday’s edition.

The editorial notes that “His [President Morsi’s] comments from nearly three years ago about Zionists and Jews, which just came to light, have raised serious doubts about whether he can ever be the force for moderation and stability that is needed. As reported by David Kirkpatrick in The Times, Mr. Morsi is shown in a video from 2010 delivering a speech in which he urges Egyptians to ‘nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for Jews and Zionists.’ In a television interview months later, he described Zionists as ‘these bloodsuckers who attack Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.’ That kind of pure bigotry is unacceptable anywhere, anytime. But it is even more unacceptable from someone who becomes the president of a major country. Mr. Morsi’s comments deserve to be condemned unequivocally, as the Obama administration did on Tuesday…. The sad truth is that defaming Jews is an all too standard feature of Egyptian, and Arab, discourse.…”

“Yesterday’s major article and today’s editorial in The Times are much needed in the face of these absolutely vile comments,” said David Harris, AJC executive director. “No one should seek to ignore, minimize, or rationalize what the paper appropriately termed ‘pure bigotry.’ Indeed, the paper might have gone still further in noting that Mr. Morsi, today the leader of the Arab world’s most populous country and a recipient of U.S. aid and weaponry, also shockingly labeled President Obama a ‘liar’ in his comments. And it should be made clear that the phrase he used – ‘descendants of apes and pigs’ – is standard fare among too many Muslim preachers and other spokesmen when speaking about the Jewish people.”

“Moreover,” Harris added, “the editorial asks what, to us, is a moot question – ‘Does Mr. Morsi really believe what he said in 2010?’ Why would he have made his not one, but two sets of remarks, both recorded no less, if he didn’t believe what he was saying? And don’t those sentiments reflect the outlook of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mr. Morsi’s longtime political home, and an exponent of anti-Semitism since its founding more than 80 years ago?”

“AJC has long called for far more diplomatic and media attention to the endemic problem of anti- Semitism in the Arab world – in the mosque, media, classroom, political discourse, and street,” Harris concluded. “Too many observers, however, have chosen to overlook or underrate the potency of the issue, or its corrosive effect on creating an environment conducive to peaceful conflict resolution and mutual respect, two of AJC’s foremost goals. Mr. Morsi’s comments should trigger a new recognition of the depth of the problem and the need to speak up forthrightly in response.”

 



December 4, 2012 – New York – The president of Ecuador’s remarks on the 1994 AMIA bombing are a “disgraceful assault on the memory of the 85 who perished,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

President Rafael Correa, while visiting Argentina today, stated in a media interview that “I am familiar with the case, which is a very painful part of Argentina’s history.  But look at how many died in the NATO bombings of Libya. If we compare these two events, we can see where the true danger lies.”

Correa came to Argentina to meet with President Cristina Kirchner and to receive an award from the Universidad Nacional de La Plata. Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are previous recipients of the same award.

“Speaking so callously in Argentina displays extraordinary insensitivity on the part of President Correa,” said Harris. “The attack on AMIA was an assault on all of Argentina. One would expect Latin American nations to be empathetic and supportive of Argentina’s efforts to bring those responsible, including Iranian officials sought by Interpol, to justice. To compare a terror attack to a military campaign to assist Libyans seeking to overthrow a tyrannical despot is outrageous.”



David Harris

November 21, 2012

NEW YORK (JTA) -- Exactly 25 years ago on Dec. 6, more than 250,000 people gathered in Washington to call on the Kremlin to open the gates and let Soviet Jews emigrate. Freedom Sunday, as it came to be known, was the largest Jewish-organized gathering in American history.

The timing was not random.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was scheduled to meet with U.S. President Ronald Reagan the next day. It was to be the Soviet leader’s first official visit to the U.S.

In 1987, the number of Jews allowed to leave the USSR was pitifully low. Many Soviet Jews continued to languish in the Gulag for their activism, while some refusenik families were living in limbo behind the Iron Curtain for years counted in double digits.

I had the privilege of serving as the national coordinator of Freedom Sunday. It was an exhilarating and inspiring experience, but it had its challenges.

First, we had barely five weeks’ notice of Gorbachev’s arrival date to plan the event. The myriad details, big and small, made it a 24/7 job for the dedicated team in charge of assembling the pieces.

Second, the record attendance for a Jewish rally in Washington was 12,000 to 13,000 people. That was to support Israel in a defining time of war.

What would our number look like against that unimpressive backdrop? Could a poor turnout actually damage the Soviet Jewry cause by signaling to the Kremlin a low level of interest in the issue?

And third, despite the impression of a united Soviet Jewry movement, there were deep fissures between the so-called establishment and the activists -- in typical Jewish fashion. Would everyone put aside their perceived differences and stand together as one for this single day?

Much credit goes to Natan Sharansky, the legendary prisoner of conscience who spent nine years in the Soviet camps and was released in 1986, for setting the organizers’ sights high. He insisted there be a mass rally and set the goal at 250,000 participants. Frankly, no one had a clue how we would attain the number, but Sharansky, given his courageous and principled history, was not easy to dissuade.

It was extraordinary to watch those five weeks of preparation unfold. Most striking was to see the response of Jewish communities across the United States, in Canada and in other countries. Reports would trickle in of one bus or planeload from a given city or college campus, then an amended report of two, or three, or four, or five.

Anecdotally, organizers also began hearing about those planning to show up who had never attended a protest rally but felt this was history in the making and wanted to be a part of it. It was especially noteworthy to see how many times people referred to the Holocaust, saying that American Jews needed to learn the lessons of history and speak out.

In the end, more than 250,000 people participated. The weather was brisk but sunny. We had no shortage of prominent speakers, including Vice President George H.W. Bush. Media coverage was extensive. Indeed, Voice of America broadcast the rally to Soviet listeners, which we later learned was a huge morale boost for Jewish listeners.

And as history has recorded, when Reagan and Gorbachev met in the Oval Office the next day, the American leader cited the rally as an unmistakable expression of public opinion and urged his Soviet counterpart to heed the message.

The rest, as they say, is history. The gates began to open ever wider, and more and more Soviet Jews left. Eventually, more than a million Russian-speaking Jews settled in Israel, profoundly transforming the country and revitalizing the Zionist spirit.

Unexpectedly, Germany became the fastest-growing Diaspora community in the world, with tens of thousands of new arrivals from the Soviet space. And the U.S. drew hundreds of thousands, to the point where more than 10 percent of the Jewish community hails from the Soviet Union or now, in one of my favorite sets of initials, the FSU.

Not only is this history important as a remarkable chapter in the Jewish journey that should be far better known, but also it can serve as a case study in what is possible, against all the odds, if only the Jewish people stand together, persevere and join forces with others of good will.

Dec. 6 is a date worth celebrating for what it achieved -- and as a telling reminder of what is possible.

(David Harris is the executive director of the American Jewish Committee. He served as national coordinator for Freedom Sunday for Soviet Jewry, Dec. 6, 1987.)



November 21, 2012 – New York – AJC welcomed the strong American, British and French condemnations of today’s bombing of a bus in central Tel Aviv. At least 23 people were injured in the attack, which the terrorist group Hamas praised. It was the first terror bombing in Tel Aviv since 2006.

“We are reminded once again of the evil nature of Israel’s enemies,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Today’s bus bombing in Tel Aviv fulfills a Hamas vow to resume such attacks inside Israel. It is another dangerous escalation of the current Hamas-instigated conflict, which further belies any professed interest by the Gaza regime in a cease-fire. We pray for the full recovery of the wounded, and count on Israel to respond as it deems necessary to this brazen assault.”

President Barack Obama condemned the bus attack in the strongest possible terms. “These attacks against innocent Israeli civilians are outrageous.  The United States will stand with our Israeli allies, and provide whatever assistance is necessary to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of this attack. The United States reaffirms our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security, and our deep friendship and solidarity with the Israeli people.”

French President Francois Hollande condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the attack, and expressed “solidarity with the people and government of Israel.” He stressed that “terrorism, which can never be justified, must be fought with vigor.”

British Foreign Minister William Hague said that "terrorists must not be allowed to set the agenda."

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton is in the region seeking a durable cease-fire. She met yesterday in Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and reaffirmed that “America’s commitment to Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering.” She also met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, and today is in Cairo to meet with Egyptian President Morsi.



The Miami Herald

Brian Siegal

November 12, 2012

World War II and the destruction of European Jewry taught us that anti-Semitism not only kills Jews, but also poisons and ultimately destroys the society that harbors it. People of good will said, “Never again,” instituted courses on the Holocaust, and countered the image of the defenseless Jew by supporting the sovereign and democratic state of Israel.

Yet today, seven decades after the Nazi death camps became operational, that lesson seems to be already forgotten in much of Europe, where small and defenseless Jewish communities face a renewed surge of anti-Semitism. This Jew-hatred expresses itself in xenophobic politics; physical attacks and intimidation; and interference with basic elements of Jewish religious practice.

In some countries, openly anti-Semitic parties are growing alarmingly. Jobbik, the Movement for a Better Hungary, is the third largest party in the country. It calls itself a “radically patriotic party” that protects “Hungarian values and interests.” Openly anti-Jewish, it made news in August when its leader resigned after it leaked out that he had a Jewish grandmother.

Svoboda, a nationalist party that won 41 seats in the Ukrainian parliament in the November 4 elections, publicly praises the pro-Nazi Ukrainian Insurgent Army of World War II days and seeks to limit Jewish influence in the country.

And in Greece, the extreme nationalist Golden Dawn, which currently holds 18 parliamentary seats, has been rising in the public opinion polls. In September, 22 percent of Greeks viewed it positively, and in October, 14 percent said they would vote for it, which would make Golden Dawn the third largest party in the country. Its leaders deny the Holocaust and one has called Israel a “Zionist terror state.”

Elsewhere on the continent Jews have been assaulted on the street, often by young people of Arab extraction. In France, the number of anti-Semitic attacks during the first eight months of 2012 — including the cold-blooded murder of four Jews in Toulouse in March — was 45 percent higher than the comparable period the previous year. Although President Francois Hollande has pledged to protect the community, many French Jews live in fear.

Even in Scandinavia, with its tradition of tolerance, the minuscule Jewish communities face anti-Semitism. A recent survey found that “Jew” is the most common curse word in Oslo schools, and attacks and harassment in Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city, have triggered a Jewish exodus that has reduced the size of the community from 2,000 in 1990 to less than 700 today.

Ironically, while the physical threat to European Jews comes primarily from Muslim youths, the assault on Jewish religious practices emanates from circles that view both Jews and Muslims as alien elements. Circumcision and ritual slaughter of animals, central practices of Judaism that have analogues with Muslim rites, have come under attack.

Kosher slaughter is illegal in Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. The Dutch Parliament passed a measure making it illegal in 2011, but was overruled by that country’s Senate. In January 2013, a European Union regulation will come into effect barring “unnecessary suffering” by animals during slaughter, a provision that will likely trigger new efforts in some of the 27 EU member-states against kosher slaughter.

The campaign against circumcision went public with a judicial decision in June, in Cologne, Germany, that the practice constitutes criminal bodily injury. While the decision was denounced by Prime Minister Angela Merkel and other German leaders, and in any case has no legally binding effect, it energized anti-circumcision activism in Europe. Many hospitals have suspended the procedure, and legislators in several countries announced plans to introduce legislation criminalizing it.

Since World War II, Europe has made great strides in creating more open and tolerant societies. This progress must be maintained and guarded with vigilance. If allowed to grow unchecked, anti-Semitic political parties, physical and verbal assaults on Jews, and restrictions on the Jewish religion will make Jewish life in Europe difficult, if not impossible, to maintain.

Brian Siegal is director of the American Jewish Committee’s Greater Miami and Broward Regional Office. Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/12/3094067/anti-semitism-in-europe-is-back.html#storylink=cpy

 



By Kenneth Stern

October 22, 2011

Occupy Wall Street (OWS), and its spinoffs across the United States, is still not fully defined. It cannot fairly be labeled a movement, since movements have core ideologies, agendas and leadership. OWS, launched in mid-September, is a continuing demonstration, focusing anger around the economic status quo and the assertion that people are suffering in ways they perceive corporations are not. It prides itself on its lack of leaders, and, according to the OWS website, points to the non-violent Arab Spring protests as its model.

But it is also a magnet for people of various backgrounds, reflecting a hodgepodge of concerns and participants. Various political groups see opportunities. The labor movement and some Democrats see a natural constituency in opposition to Republicans and the Tea Party. Fringe groups of all stripes are trying to leverage OWS.

For anti-Israel groups, OWS is a no-brainer: people are talking about money, so the issue of U.S. aid to Israel is a natural. Or is it? Despite efforts to leaflet and organize OWS, there is no evidence to date that anti-Israel groups are gaining any real traction. OWS is too anarchistic, so attempts to organize there remind one of efforts to herd cats.

OWS is slightly different in each city, depending on the local activists. Occupy Boston may have the most significant contingent of anti-Israel veteran protesters, including a person with a history of picketing the Israeli consulate, a co-chair of a group advocating Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), and a contingent of Students for Justice in Palestine. Yet, few showed up for an “Occupy Boston, Not Palestine” event on October 18. It was generally ignored except for observers from the mainstream Jewish community.

Individuals holding up signs, like one person in New York’s Zucotti Park whose handmade sign states “Google: Jewish Billionaires,” have been few, and have frequently been countered by other OWS participants.

Furthermore, a poster promoted by “Occupy Together,” points to kindred “Occupy” activity in cities across the globe, and specifically lists Tel Aviv.

While the potential for increased anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activity associated with OWS is a concern that requires careful monitoring, and will be an ongoing focus of AJC attention, some recent complaints from partisan quarters and in the media alleging widespread anti-Semitism are unfair. They attempt to paint the episodic incident as routine and ignore both the repudiation in instances of anti-Semitism, as well as the hospitable environment for Jews. Yom Kippur and Sukkot were both celebrated at OWS.

Still, one anti-Semitic sign is too many. We live in a world where an image or moment can be captured by a cell phone camera and put on the Internet within minutes. A picture may be the equivalent of a thousand words, but it should not be taken as reflecting the ideas of thousands of participants.

A Canadian named Kalle Lasn is credited for instigating the call to occupy Wall Street. Lasn was a founder of the anti-consumerist group “Adbusters,” which has promoted projects such as “Buy Nothing Day” and “TV Turnoff Week,” and has been cited as a source of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic material. He may be responsible for initiating the call to action, but OWS is being carried forward by a diverse group of actors. There is no evidence that anti-Israel elements are playing a significant role in this anarchistic demonstration.



 

Why Some Jews Don't Speak Arabic

By AJC Associate Director of Communications Ben Cohen

The Cutting Edge, January 10, 2011

I always interpreted the term “rootless cosmopolitan,” a Soviet euphemism for “Jew” with a distinctly pejorative ring, as a compliment. The Jewish stevedores who hauled their loads along Salonika’s docks, the Jewish writers who populated the cafes of Vienna and Paris, the Jewish newshounds who bashed out copy for shoestring budget newspapers in London and New York—all conjured up hugely appealing images of a worldly people equally at home with the labor of the hand and the labor of the mind. Jews were building transnational networks, both rabbinical and revolutionary, before we even knew what to call such things.

Not for us the bunkum of “blut,” “boden” and “volk,” I liked to think. To paraphrase the historian Isaac Deutscher, we Jews were in but not of the societies in which we lived, enabling us to see past the parochial complaints and primitive hatreds of our neighbors.

A recent tussle I had with an Arab writer forced me, however, to consider that admittedly romantic notion from another standpoint. The trigger for the dispute was a piece I’d written about Al Akhbar, a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese newspaper that had been the subject of a flattering New York Times profile. My antagonist, a blogger rejoicing in the nom de plume “Angry Arab,” was irritated for a number of reasons: my discussion of Al Akhbar’s anti-Semitism, my reprise of the bloody end which typically meets Middle Eastern leftists when they align with nationalists and Islamists, my questioning of the paper’s “independent” credentials—but most of all by the fact that I don’t read Arabic.

No matter that this is a silly argument. (One would not, after all, need to be fluent in German to know that Streicher’s Der Stürmer was an anti-Semitic rag—and given that anti-Semitism lies at the heart of Hezbollah’s credo, describing a newspaper that cheerleads for these terrorists as anti-Semitic is hardly a leap.) It was a comment that struck me personally, for the simple reason that, had I been born into the circumstances of many of the friends with whom I grew up in London, the offspring of families long-domiciled in the United Kingdom, Arabic would have been my mother tongue.

In 1941, the year of the Farhud—the two-day pogrom against Baghdad’s Jewish community instigated by similarly “angry Arabs” allied with the Nazis and spurred on by the notorious Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, which resulted in hundreds of deaths and injuries and destroyed homes, my infant father and his family left Iraq. It was an odyssey which took them to British-ruled India, to British Mandate Palestine and then to England.

In the bosom of London’s Sephardic community, my father met my mother, herself the daughter of a Spanish-speaking Jewish mother from Gibraltar and a Serbo-Croat and Ladino-speaking father from Bosnia. I evolved in an environment where these displaced worlds overlapped and collided. In 1969, for example, my grandfather was manhandled out of the Iraqi Embassy in London following the hanging of 13 Jews by the Ba’ath on fabricated charges of spying for Israel—but it was my Bosnian grandfather who was frogmarched into the street. My Iraqi grandfather, whose brother’s family was among the tiny remnant of Jews who remained in Baghdad, could never have taken such a risk.

As I got older, I felt comfortable with the “rootless cosmopolitan” label. I didn’t consider myself a Yugoslav or an Englishman or an Arab Jew. I certainly didn’t think of myself as a refugee, though I suppose I have as much claim on ancestral properties in Travnik, Baghdad, and Basra as any UNRWA-registered Palestinian brandishing the key to a house in Haifa or Jaffa. I did not feel like a victim, even if my birth in London was the consequence of war and ethnic cleansing, rather than a corporate expat package or the indulgent wanderings of a bohemian ancestor.

Yet, however hybridized my sense of self was, it was not reflected in my linguistic range. English was not just my mother tongue; it was my only tongue. I was not taught Arabic, nor Serbo-Croatian. I did pick up a bit of Spanish, simply because it was the lingua franca of my maternal grandparents house’ in Maida Vale, northwest London, where we would sing Ladino songs around the dining table on Shabbat and on Jewish festivals.

This gets to the heart of my dispute with the Arab blogger who took me to task for being a non-Arabic speaker critiquing an Arabic newspaper. Like most Jews, I grew up knowing that England was a country where my family had arrived. Their past was elsewhere, reflected in the food we ate and the conversations, in other languages peppered with English words that I half-listened to. Yet what was absent in all this was an emotion common in other immigrant communities: nostalgia.

I wasn’t brought up speaking Arabic because my elders never thought I would have a use for it; we would not be “returning” to Iraq, after all. I was not encouraged to revere Iraq as a country, nor did I hear idyllic tales about Muslims and Jews living together. If Iraq represented anything, it was the source of our displacement, the land from which, as my father now puts it, we were “ethnically cleansed.”

I may have thought of myself as a “rootless cosmopolitan,” but I could so only because those who came before me were uprooted. These were people who, more than anything else, wanted to feel rooted. My youthful infatuation with gauchiste Left Bank intellectuals was my own; their passion was Zionism and with good reason.

The early Zionist writer Leo Pinsker defined Zionism as Jews wanting no more and no less than the Serbs or the Romanians. An Iraqi Jew emerging from imperial breakdown in the Middle East might well have added “the Arabs” too. Arguably the greatest insight of Zionism is the idea of “normalization”—that sovereignty over a territory will mark a definitive break with the forced displacement which has characterized Jewish history and Jewish geography. The kind of displacement which meant that I never learned Arabic, and that none of my elder relatives had any regrets about that.



"The Second Time As Farce": Lebanon's Al Akhbar Newspaper

Ben Cohen, AJC Associate Director of Communications

Comment on this article at The Huffington Post

Marx's observation, proffered in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, about history repeating itself first as tragedy, then as farce, has been regurgitated so often that one feels a sheep-like silliness in reciting it again. But that's the thing about transcendent quotes: there are times when no other words capture the nature of the moment as arrestingly.

This dog-eared insight of Highgate Cemetery's most famous resident came to mind while I was reading about Al Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper that was the subject of a New York Times report this week. Al Akhbar's editorial line is unabashedly leftist. Its editor sits under a framed portrait of Marx himself. The paper's support of gay rights and women's rights makes it, in the words of the Timesheadline, "a rarity" in a media environment dominated by Saudi-funded platforms that slavishly follow the imperatives of the conservative Arab regimes.

At the same time, Al Akhbar enthusiastically bills Hezbollah as a resistance movement. Its editors laud the late Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyeh as "Our Che." If there is a Lebanese address for the red-green alliance of leftists and Islamists, it seems that Al Akhbar is it.

Any competent dialectician knows that a thing is best understood in times of crisis. In Europe, the glaring contradictions incubated by the fusion of militant socialism (red) with militant Islamism (green) have resulted in bitter, vengeful breakdowns: witness the implosion of the Respect Party in Britain, or the signal failure of France's various leftist grouplets to build a base among the dyspeptic youth of the sprawling banlieues. However, compared to the epic misfortunes of similar alliances in the Middle East, these European examples seem almost banal.

Which is why that Eighteenth Brumaire quote is so apt. When Middle Eastern leftists have gotten into bed with Islamists or radical nationalists, they have invariably ended up dead. The first time this happened - as it did in Iraq in the late 1970s, when the Ba'ath Party butchered its erstwhile communist partners, and not long after in Iran, when Khomeini's enforcers set upon communists with zealous fury -- we witnessed unbearably gruesome tragedy. But should Al Akhbar one day undergo the same fate -- and I have no qualms in venturing that this is exactly what will happen if Hezbollah becomes the unrivalled source of power in Lebanon - how else, other than as farce, could such a conclusion be described?

Is Al Akhbar, then, staffed by amnesiacs, or can its journalists make the case that things will be different the next time around? We are not told. What does come through in Worth's dispatch is the cocksure certainty which Al Akhbar has in its mission, summarized with elevator pitch brevity as "anti-imperialism."

No doubt, such branding will appeal to western radicals enamored with the Cairo Declaration's iteration of leftish, third-worldish, politics. Equally, one must assume that part of Al Akhbar'srationale in adopting more progressive positions on matters of sexuality and gender is to increase its appeal to this constituency; according to Worth, the paper is launching an English-language site in 2011. If this is a marketing strategy, then it resembles the campaign of the execrable Iranian mouthpiece known as Press TV to strike a chord with disaffected opinion in Europe.

Inevitably, the anti-capitalist mutation of antisemitism is central here. Just as Press TV has promoted antisemitism, in the form of Holocaust denial, so does Al Akhbar, in the form of a program to ethnically cleanse the Jewish population of the territory currently known as Israel. Worth cites Al Akhbar's editor, Ibrahim al-Amine, waxing lyrical about Israel's coming elimination, and the subsequent deportation of the Jews "back to Europe," where, as the "hucksters" and "hagglers" dismissed by Marx in his On the Jewish Question, they will feel much more at home in its brazenly capitalist environment.

Socialism this may be, albeit of a particularly vulgar sort. A better descriptor is Strasserism, a political current named for the anti-corporate Nazi agitator who -- Al Akhbar please note -- ended up dead when Hitler purged internal opposition during the Night of the Long Knives in 1934.

Nevertheless, there is, in Worth's piece, an aspiration only the churlish would dismiss: that outfits like Al Akhbar, whatever their flaws, might herald the emergence of a critical, independent media in a region which desperately needs one. In that spirit, therefore, and despite my profound misgivings, I won't write off Al Akhbar just yet. Instead, I would urge the paper to break the mold of the Arab press by providing reportage and analysis of the following three stories:

Story One. An Italian human rights group has just a released a report concerning the detention, in the Egyptian border town of Rafah, of 250 Israel-bound migrants from various African countries. Their captors are Hamas-linked traffickers. Follow the money.

Story Two. The Iraqi city of Kirkuk is once more a flashpoint between the Kurdish regional government and the central government in Baghdad. The situation is all the more fragile because Kurdish memories of the ethnic cleansing carried out by Saddam's regime are still fresh. Revisit those events.

Story Three. South Sudan is readying itself for a January 9, 2011 independence referendum. Given the area's vast untapped wealth, what threat would the government in the north, led by the indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir, pose to a newly-independent republic? Go and investigate.

Incisive coverage of these stories, which, just by acknowledging the humanity of non-Arab minorities in the region, puncture the widespread Arab narrative of noble victimhood, have enormous potential to liberate the minds of young and inquisitive Arab readers. There are, as well, encouraging precendents in all parts of the world -- one thinks, for example, of the courageous exposes of the weekly Serbian magazine Vreme during the darkest days of the Milosevic regime. The conditions in the Middle East are ripe for a similar initiative.

So step up, Al Akhbar. For if history is indeed shaped by the struggles of ordinary people, then no outcome, farcical or otherwise, is preordained. 



 

Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC's director of International Jewish Affairs, interviewed on English-language broadcaster RT. 

AJC's Rabbi Andrew Baker believes that ongoing tensions in the Middle East may trigger anti-Semitic events globally. 

“At the very least, we can certainly demonstrate that conflicts in the Middle East may trigger anti-Semitic events elsewhere, and particularly in Europe, Western Europe, where you have growing Arab and Muslim communities,” he said. 

WATCH THE VIDEO OF RABBI BAKER'S REMARKS




New York – November 9, 2010 – AJC praised Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his forceful speech at the meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA) in Ottawa. Harper pledged that Canada would stand by Israel “whatever the cost,” while vigorously combating anti-Semitism in Canada and abroad.

“We pay tribute to Prime Minister Harper’s stirring words,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “We were particularly moved by the Prime Minister’s statement that support for Israel cost Canada a seat on the UN Security Council, yet he insists that support will never waver.”

Canada lost its bid for the UN Security Council seat in mid-October. Opposition from Islamic states scuttled Canada’s hopes of winning a temporary seat on the 15-member body.

Addressing the issue of anti-Semitism, Harper told the Ottawa gathering, “While its substance is as crude as ever, its method is now more sophisticated.”

“Harnessing disparate anti-Semitic, anti-American and anti-Western ideologies, it targets the Jewish people by targeting the Jewish homeland, Israel, as the source of injustice and conflict in the world, and uses, perversely, the language of human rights to do so,” Harper continued.

“We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is. Of course, like any country, Israel may be subjected to fair criticism. And like any free country, Israel subjects itself to such criticism – healthy, necessary, democratic debate. But when Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack – is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand. Demonization, double standards, delegitimization, the ‘3 D’s,’ it is a responsibility, to stand up to them,” the Prime Minister declared.

“This speech is nothing short of historic,” added Harris. “The Canadian leader minced no words in speaking with a remarkable moral courage and clarity that, sadly, is all too rare in today’s world.”



AJC attends largest conference of its kind

AJC staff experts will play a key role in this week’s 2010 Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism, hosted by the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA) from November 7 to 9, 2010. Over three days, AJC staff will work with parliamentarians and experts from over 40 countries to share data and exchange best practices on the most effective ways to combat anti-Semitism around the world.

AJC participants include:
  • Rabbi Andrew Baker, Director of International Jewish Affairs, who will speak during the plenary session of the Parliamentary Conference. Rabbi Baker is also the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chair-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism.
  • Hillel Neuer, UN Watch Executive Director, who will address a panel on “State-sanctioned and State-backed Anti-Semitism: Anti-Semitism in the International Arena.” Neuer will focus his remarks on the United Nations’ demonization of Israel.
  • Ken Stern, Director of Anti-Semitism and Extremism, who will participate in two sessions. The first will work with Members of Parliament as they look at policing hate crime issues, while the second will focus on anti-Semitic issues on university and college campuses.

Read press release from ICCA below:

Stepping Up To Stop the Hate

Parliamentarians and Experts From Around the Globe Gear Up For 2010 Conference on Combating Antisemitism

Ottawa, ON – November 1, 2010 – Parliamentarians and experts from over 40 countries are set to gather in Ottawa from November 7-9th to take part in the 2010 Conference on Combating Antisemitism. The conference, which is hosted by the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA) with sponsorship by the Government of Canada, is the largest of its kind. Over three days delegates will explore data and exchange best practices to learn about the most effective ways to combat antisemitism around the world.

“Unfortunately, antisemitism continues to be a problem both in Canada and internationally, with 2009 being judged as one of the worst years on record,” said British Member of Parliament John Mann, Chair of the British All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism and Co-Founder of the ICCA. “The lessons learned and the actions that will be put in place from this year’s conference will help in the study and hopefully the eradication of all forms of racism.”

The 2010 conference in Ottawa follows the inaugural ICCA conference which was held in London, England in February 2009, where Canada sent the largest international delegation of Parliamentarians. This year the Parliamentarian conference is running in parallel with the Experts portion and features a mix of guest speakers, plenary sessions, and expert discussions. With an impressive list of Parliamentarians from six continents, such as Michael Danby (Australia), Nthabiseng Pauline Khunou (South Africa), Chris Smith (U.S.), and Ram Jethmalani (India), the conference is shaping up to be a key international discussion on antisemitism, all taking place on Canadian soil.

“Antisemitism is the oldest and more enduring of hatreds – ‘a lethal obsession’ as it has been called – which has caused untold catastrophes, ” said Member of Parliament Hon. Irwin Cotler, Co-Founder and Chair of the ICCA. “As it has been said ‘while it may begin with Jews, it doesn’t end with Jews.’ We ignore antisemitism at our peril.”

The conference represents the largest ever international parliamentary gathering on antisemitism. The recommendations made by participants during the Conference will be made available broadly and be used as the basis for further action to help put an end to the world’s oldest and most enduring form of discrimination.

“I applaud the efforts of the Parliamentary Centre, the ICCA and the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism to host this conference,” said Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney. “By supporting this work, Canada continues to lead the worldwide struggle against antisemitism, a uniquely durable and pernicious form of hatred."

About the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA)
The Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA) brings together some 46 countries and over 250 parliamentarians from around the world to lead the fight against resurgent global antisemitism. Its principal purpose is to share knowledge, experience, best practices, and recommendations, encouraging their dissemination in an attempt to deal more effectively with contemporary antisemitism.




October 24, 2010 – New York – AJC is dismayed by the final communiqué of Catholic bishops gathered in Rome for the Vatican’s Special Assembly on the Middle East for its one-sided focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

"It is appalling that in their final statement of the Special Vatican Synod on the Middle East, the bishops did not have the courage to address challenges of intolerance and extremism in the Muslim countries in which they reside, and rather chose to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict their first focus" said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC's International Director of Interreligious Affairs. Rosen, one of only a select few Jews to have received the Papal Knighthood, was the lone Jewish representative to address the Special Assembly.

In the Synod's final statement, Greek Melkite Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, declared “The Holy Scriptures cannot be used to justify the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians, to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestinian lands.” The archibishop added: “We Christians cannot speak of the ‘promised land’ as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. This promise was nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people – all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people.”

Rosen responded, "The comments of Archbishop Bustros reflect either shocking ignorance or insubordination in relation to the Catholic Church's teaching on Jews and Judaism flowing from the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate. That declaration affirms the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish People, which is inextricably bound up with the Land of Israel. We urge the Vatican to issue a clear repudiation of Archbishop Bustros's outrageous and regressive comments." 



 

Ben Cohen in The Huffington Post

Anti-Zionists Plumb New Depths: Cliona Campbell's Story

I am certain that many of Israel's forthright opponents would disavow the treatment meted out to Cliona Campbell. Good enough, yet not enough. This sorry affair illustrates that the western debate over Israel has gone way beyond concern with Palestinian rights into the realm of the irrational. The thugs picking on Cliona may be responsible for acting out the script, but they didn't write it.

On the Huffington Post, Ben Cohen, AJC's Associate Director of Communications, relates the story of a courageous young Irish student who returned home from Israel to face intimidation and harassment - and stood her ground.

Read and comment on Ben's article here.



The Miami Herald
Germans honor victims
By Brian Siegal

Visiting the Sachsenhausen concentration camp on the outskirts of Berlin earlier this month brought home to me how much hatred lay at the heart of Nazi ideology, allowing so many to participate in a historically unparalleled genocide. The experience also made me realize how quickly the world has lost interest.

What else could account for the odious exploitation of the Holocaust's memory in recent months -- from the use of a Hitler photo in a billboard advertisement, to the overuse of the words ``Nazi'' and ``Nazism'' in columns and news talk shows, so they risk becoming as meaningless as an everyday cliché? And let us not forget Oliver Stone's suggestion that Hitler's actions should be put ``into context?''

These demonstrate a lack of empathy, at best, or politically motivated, deliberate disregard, at worst, that diminishes the legacy of the Holocaust, its victims and survivors, as well as the millions who gave their lives to end Hitler's tyranny.

More worrisome still, an Iranian delegation visiting Germany this summer refused to tour the memorial site of the Buchenwald concentration camp. But given President Mohammed Ahmadinejad's anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, this refusal is not surprising.

Clearly, constant vigilance will be required now more than ever, as the last generation of survivors passes on and first-hand accounts grow fewer, to preserve the Holocaust's memory. Present-day Germany provides one of the best models on how to do this. Such was my impression after spending a week in Berlin as the guest of the German Foreign Ministry.

The German government, individual foundations and a number of religious institutions all play a part in preserving the memory of the victims who lie hidden behind the anonymous numbers and ensuring that the lessons of the Holocaust are learned for the future. Rather than denying or disavowing their past, Germans for the most part seem to confront it while looking ahead toward a more promising future.

This was most apparent to me when I visited an elementary school in Berlin. The students were tasked with a project: Identify someone from their neighborhood who was killed in the Holocaust and find at least one thing in common with that person. Each student then created a brick to commemorate him/her, along with a brief description about who they were. The bricks are then joined together to form a ``wall of remembrance.'' It is through exercises like this done in schools around the country that memory is passed on to the next generation.

There are many other testaments to the Holocaust that can be found throughout Berlin, including brass cobblestone plaques placed outside the homes where Jews once lived before being deported and killed as well as the ``Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe,'' an abstract presentation of 2,711 coffin-like slabs that vary in height and cover an entire city block in the heart of Berlin.

But beyond physical reminders and remembrances, Germany is also heeding lessons of the Holocaust by combating intolerance, group hatred and Holocaust denial. It is one of over 80 countries that participate on the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, which recently signed an agreement to promote the remembrance of the Holocaust through education, research and upkeep of memorial sites.

A profound example of this commitment occurred when the delegation from Iran refused to visit the concentration camps and pay respect to the Jews who had been murdered there, and the mayor of Weimar was outraged and cancelled his meeting with them. Standing up against abuse of Holocaust memory helps counter the spread of Holocaust denial and assists in anchoring remembrance of the Holocaust in our common understanding of democratic values.

Another aspect of Germany's commitment to the preservation of memory is building a pluralistic and tolerant society. We visited a group called the Network for Democracy and Tolerance, located in the East Berlin district of Lichtenberg, which helps teachers and social workers in local schools and communities identify and confront racism. In addition, AJC's Berlin office is at the forefront of constructive engagement and dialogue among diverse groups in Germany.

We must confront the denial and misuse of the Holocaust. What I saw in Germany provides examples of why and how this should be done. Germany's progress in confronting the past, fighting anti-Semitism, and speaking out against Holocaust denial gives hope that even though this work is difficult, it can be done.

Brian Siegal is director of American Jewish Committee (AJC) Greater Miami and Broward County Regional Office.



 

July 26, 2010 – New York – AJC condemned the film director Oliver Stone for an interview with London’s Sunday Times in which he railed against “Jewish domination of the media.”

“By invoking this grotesque, toxic stereotype, Oliver Stone has outed himself as an anti-Semite,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “For all of Stone’s progressive pretensions, his remark is no different from one of the drunken, Jew-hating rants of his fellow Hollywood celebrity, Mel Gibson.”

Speaking to journalist Camilla Long, who did not challenge Stone’s anti-Semitism, the film director, who is increasingly known for his artistic flattery of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, declared: “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30m.” Asked why there was “such a focus on the Holocaust,” he replied: “The Jewish domination of the media. There’s a major lobby in the United States. They are hard workers. They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years.”



 

June 30, 2010 – New York – AJC denounced Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Minister Louis Farrakhan after it received a virulently anti-Semitic letter signed by Farrakhan along with two anti-Semitic books published by the NOI. The books use traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes and conspiracy theories to assert Jewish control of the African-American economy and the historic Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Reverting to a ploy he has used many times in the past, Farrakhan asked Jewish leaders for “dialogue,” while at the same time accusing Jews of “the most vehement anti-Black behavior in the annals of our history in America and the world.” If Jewish leaders decline his offer to help him “in the repair of my people from the damage that has been done by your ancestors to mine . . . ,” then “Allah (God) and His Messiah will bring you and your people to disgrace and ruin. . . “

“Farrakhan again demonstrates how central anti-Semitism remains to his organization’s worldview,“ said Ken Stern, director of AJC’s Department of Anti-Semitism and Extremism. Stern pointed out that the two new books are functional re-writes of the classic anti-semitic fabrication, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

“Just as the Protocols blamed all that went wrong in the world on a Jewish conspiracy, these latest NOI publications are fabrications designed to blame Jews for slavery and other historic misfortunes suffered by Blacks,” said Stern.



Daily Pilot

Sounding Off: MSU's suspension warranted

June 21, 2010

Marc Dworkin and Ken Stern

A college campus is supposed to be a place where learning takes place. Unfortunately, UC Irvine's Muslim Student Union continues to demonstrate its difficulty understanding that concept.

Earlier this week the UCI administration recommended that the MSU be suspended for one year, and be put on probation the next.

MSU had allegedly committed major violations of UCI policy and the core principles of academic freedom when it attempted to aggregate to itself the decision of who has a right to speak on campus and who does not.

It orchestrated a tag-team disruption of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's speech last February and then, as the administration learned from emails and text messages, MSU allegedly lied about what it had done.

Rather than take the opportunity to reflect on what had warranted administration action, MSU continues to try and paint itself as a victim, complaining that the university's recommended consequence is unfair collective punishment.

MSU also displays a remarkable capacity for unintended irony.

In February, it maintained that it had the right to shut down Oren's speech in order to express its members' free speech rights.

And now, complaining about UCI's actions, incoming MSU President Asaad Traina laments that, without the MSU, Muslim students would be denied "a sense of community with one another and with the broader UCI campus community."

But it was the disdain for the broader community — other's rights to hear speakers to whom they wanted to listen— that got MSU into this mess in the first place.

MSU has allowed itself to be run for years by hateful people. One can have an affinity for co-religionists without sponsoring program after program that demonize human beings from different backgrounds.

MSU may have had the right to bring hateful speakers, and the university supported its ability to bring even the most deplorable demagogues to campus.

But MSU was not satisfied.

It saw its mission as justifying intimidation, harassment and deceit. By its disdain for others in the UCI community, and its dogmatic belief that it could play by different rules, MSU got exactly what was warranted.

The question now is, whether it will learn from its mistakes, or continue to assert that its bad behavior was warranted.

Rabbi Marc Dworkin is the Orange County regional director for the American Jewish Committee and Kenneth Stern is AJC’s director of anti-Semitism & extremism.



 

June 16, 2010 - New York - AJC urged the immediate removal of Richard Falk, the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the Palestinians, after he expressed support in an official UN report for the international BDS (“Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions”) campaign against Israel.

“Richard Falk exemplifies the persistent problem of the UN when it comes to the Middle East: too many officials who dress up their hatred of Israel – and only Israel – in the language of human rights,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “For Falk to use the UN’s imprimatur in calling for BDS constitutes an unforgivable attack on Israel, a UN member state, and a stain on the UN itself. If the UN Human Rights Council is to become worthy of its name, Falk’s removal would be an important step in that direction.”

Falk, an American academic who was appointed to his position in 2008, has a long record of animosity toward Israel. His open support of Hamas has also led the Palestinian Authority to urge his removal.

Falk’s controversial statements include an endorsement of conspiracy theories concerning the 9/11 terrorist atrocities. “Any student of 9/11 is aware of the many serious discrepancies between the official version of what took place and the actual happenings on that fateful day in 2001,” he said last year. 

AJC's UN Watch has an action item urging the removal of Richard Falk - click here for details.



Rabbi Andrew Baker

AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs

Personal Representative of the OSCE Chair-in-Office

On Combating Anti-Semitism

Presentation to

Committee on Foreign Affairs

Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight

U.S. House of Representatives

April 14, 2010

I want to commend the House Foreign Affairs Committee for holding this hearing and for giving me the opportunity to testify today.

Introduction

Looking back at the beginning of this decade, it is evident that we were far too optimistic in believing that many problems—both international and domestic—were about to resolved, only to see them resurface with a new intensity. Thus it should come as no surprise that anti-Semitism was among them.

The UN Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa in 2000 served to foment anti-Semitism rather than combat it, and it renewed the Zionism is racism canard.

The breakdown of the Middle East peace process triggered unprecedented attacks on Jewish targets in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and other Western European countries.

Eastern European countries which had been pressed to deal with Holocaust-era issues during their bid for NATO membership now found those same issues—Jewish property restitution and Holocaust education and commemoration—sparking a populist, anti-Semitic backlash.

Ultranationalist parties in Europe, both old (France and Austria) and new (Hungary and Bulgaria), which fold anti-Semitism into a larger racist and xenophobic agenda are enjoying significant support, while pulling mainstream parties further to the right.

A virulent anti-Israel animus, which frequently crosses over into a “new” form of anti-Semitism, is increasingly manifest in settings as diverse as the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and student forums at the University of California.

In the time allotted me, I shall try to review some of these concerns and the initiatives intended to address them, drawing on my work at the American Jewish Committee and in my current role as the Personal Representative of the OSCE  Chair-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism in Public Discourse

An essential element of the problem in many countries is the increasingly normative presence of anti-Semitism in public discourse. It is offensive and pernicious in its own right, but it can also contribute to a climate which poses a security threat to Jews and Jewish institutions. The capacity to counter this anti-Semitism is frequently lacking.

Many European countries have laws which restrict or punish hate speech. They are intended to address incitement to racial or religious hatred which may appear in public speeches, in books, newspapers and other media, and on the Internet. This includes fomenting anti-Semitism and, in some cases, Holocaust denial. Rarely is the problem the legislation itself, but rather it is the infrequent and often unsuccessful record of employing it.

By way of example and drawing from some of my OSCE country visits and other personal experience,

  • In Spain there have been only two successful cases of prosecuting Holocaust denial in the last twenty years, and both of them took over seven years to adjudicate. In a country where the Jewish population is less than one one-hundredth of one percent the society is likely to know Jews only from their depictions in the press and media. As it is generally accepted that the Spanish media frequently depicts Israel in a negative light, some officials have suggested that this contributes to the population’s low opinion of Jews.

  • In Lithuania in 2004, the General Prosecutor opened a case against the publisher, Vitas Tomkus, after his newspaper ran a series of articles entitled “Who Rules the World?” loosely based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and illustrated with Nazi-like cartoons. Political leaders, although privately disgusted with the articles, remained publicly silent as the months-long investigation proceeded. A year later, when the case came to trial Mr. Tomkus was found guilty. But he was not required to appear in court and the $1,000 fine had little deterrent value to this multi-millionaire publisher. Such articles still appear regularly in his newspapers.

  • Last year the Jewish Community of Greece appealed to a 1979 hate speech law in its case against the author Kostas Plevris, who wrote that the Holocaust is a “profit making myth” invented by the Jews. He was initially found guilty, in the first successful use of this law, but the decision was reversed on appeal. The court may have been concerned about the free speech implications of the initial verdict, but its actions also emboldened this anti-Semite.

  • In September I sat in the Jewish Community offices in Bucharest while the President of the Jewish Federation described the personal attacks on him in the newspaper of the right-wing Greater Romania Party. Nearly two years passed since he had filed suit, but so far the public prosecutor had not responded. (Ironically, on my first visit to Romania in 1993, I sat in the same room and heard the late Rabbi Moses Rosen describe similar personal attacks on him from the very same newspaper.) I met later with the Justice Minister/Foreign Minister Catalin Predoiu during this visit, who readily acknowledged the lack of clarity in the law and its limited effectiveness. To his credit the Minister used the occasion of my visit to issue a statement stressing the moral obligation of public officials to speak out against acts of anti-Semitism.

  • We also witnessed a similar example of this problem in Sweden last year, when the newspaper Aftonbladet published a report from Gaza claiming that Israeli soldiers were harvesting organs from Palestinians they had killed. This updated version of the medieval blood libel charge was openly denounced by political leaders in the United States and in some European capitals. However, the Swedish Foreign Ministry maintained that its press freedom laws did not permit its own public officials to criticize the article, and it rebuked its Ambassador to Israel for doing so. It did indicate that an official ombudsman had the authority to investigate and bring charges if it was determined that racial incitement laws were violated. He quickly decided that they were not.

  • The Internet is often cited as an unchecked source for all manner of hate speech including anti-Semitism. Even those countries with some experience at reining in extremist material in traditional media admit to difficulties when it comes to this source. But it is not only impressionable young people—the most frequently cited target—who are affected by it. Three years ago the Government of Latvia and its Jewish Community reached an agreement on legislation that would resolve all outstanding property restitution claims. But by the time the bill reached Parliament, opposition to the legislation—much of it spread via the Internet and anti-Semitic in nature—so unnerved its Members that it failed to pass. During my visit to Riga Latvian authorities conceded that whenever the subject of Jewish property restitution is raised in public they anticipate a spike in anti-Semitism.

We can certainly reach some general conclusions from these examples.

Put simply, many hate speech laws have the unintended consequence of letting political leaders off the hook. In the United States and other countries with strong free speech protections manifestations of racism, anti-Semitism, and other extremist views in public discourse are generally addressed (or can only be addressed) by strong and swift rebukes from political and civic leaders. In this way such hateful speech is marginalized and isolated. But in countries with legislative remedies some political leaders will refer to the legal process as a reason or excuse not to speak out. As we see in practice those legal decisions are generally months or years away. In the meantime, there is no clear message being delivered that such hateful speech is unacceptable. Consider too that even some decent, mainstream political leaders, fearing the success of extremist movements, see calculated benefits in maintaining an ambiguous stance.

In nearly all places anti-Semitic speech is understood to be included within the larger categories of inciting racial, ethnic or religious hatred. But virtually no penal code includes a specific or detailed description of anti-Semitism, which means it is not always recognized by prosecutors or judges or (as witnessed in Sweden) by official ombudsmen.

Where they do exist, Holocaust denial laws are not uniform. In some places denial alone is illegal; while other countries require proof that the denial of the Holocaust is part of an intentional effort to inflict pain on survivors or members of the Jewish community. As a result prosecution under such a law can also vary widely.

Monitoring Anti-Semitism

Accurate and recognized monitoring of anti-Semitic incidents is frequently lacking or incomplete. The most recent Hate Crime Report of the Office of Democratic  Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) reveals that many governments are still lax in monitoring and recording hate crime data or in disaggregating the data they do have so as to better understand who are the perpetrators and the victims. But the problem is especially acute when the goal is to combat anti-Semitism.

Physical attacks on persons or the vandalizing of synagogues and cemeteries may be monitored (although with all the same gaps and limitations of hate crimes more generally), but many countries frequently ignore the anti-Semitism that appears in the press, on television, at public demonstrations, on the Internet and in anonymous hate mail. When these anti-Semitic incidents are not recorded or are underreported it conveys the misimpression to political leaders and policy makers that the problem itself is not so important.

Governments must be encouraged to do a better job of monitoring and recording anti-Semitism, and we should continue to do everything to urge them to live up to their commitments. But in the interim we can do more to assist local Jewish leadership in various countries or regions to develop their own monitoring centers and to do so in a standardized and internationally recognized way so that public authorities can accept their results.

A Working Definition of Anti-Semitism

In 2004, when the European Monitoring Center (EUMC) conducted its first study of anti-Semitism in the then 17-member European Union, it recognized the need for an operative and common definition of the phenomenon. At the time more than half of its national monitors had no definition at all, and of those that did no two were alike. In light of this the EUMC, now the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, developed a working definition, which has been adopted by the ODIHR, by the US State Department Special Envoy for Combating Anti-Semitism, and by Parliamentary Committees in Germany and the UK, among others. This definition (a copy of which is appended to this testimony) provides an overall framework for understanding what it is and offers a series of examples designed to aid police, monitors and NGOs in their work.

This definition is especially noteworthy in that it also describes where animosity toward the State of Israel can become a form of anti-Semitism. It offers clear examples of this, such as where Israel is described as a racist state, where comparisons are made with Nazism, and where Jews are held collectively responsible for the actions of Israel.

In some countries the working definition is part of police training programs, as it is in ODIHR’s Law Enforcement Officers Program (LEOP) manual, which trains police to respond to hate crimes. In nearly all meetings during my country visits I shared the definition with government officials, who welcomed it. Those of us who are focused on the problem may not fully realize that a lack of understanding on the part of these officials is not uncommon. While physical attacks on identifiable Jewish targets may be easily recognized as anti-Semitic in nature, certain public discourse or the vilification of the Jewish State may not be so readily identified.  Therefore, increasing the circulation of this working definition is a useful tool that can be promoted.

Conclusions and Recommendations

In April 2004, the Member States of the OSCE meeting in Berlin adopted a declaration that stated in part, “…international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism.” Governments expressed their commitment to combat anti-Semitism through legislation and monitoring and through a variety of educational programs. ODIHR, the programmatic arm of the OSCE, was tasked with following-up on these government commitments as well as developing its own educational and police training projects.

This declaration and the high-level Berlin Conference which issued it can be traced back here, to Capitol Hill. It was the direct result of you and your colleagues taking up the issue in meetings with foreign leaders and pressing the Administration to engage with the OSCE, despite its difficult consensus based decision-making process. It led to a decision to hold a first (and no doubt some governments thought “last”) conference on anti-Semitism in 2003, which in turn spawned the series of conferences, commitments and programs we now witness.

The OSCE remains an important international venue to address the problem of anti-Semitism. At the end of June the current OSCE Chair, Kazakhstan, will host the first high level conference in three years that will focus on anti-Semitism as well as other forms of intolerance, and the US should be fully engaged and seriously represented. The annual OSCE Mediterranean Seminar in the fall, which joins its members with the six Mediterranean partner states (Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco), can provide an opportunity to examine and address the spread of anti-Semitic materials in parts of the Arab world, but the US will need to be actively involved in the planning work carried out in Vienna to make it so.

I am pleased that today’s hearing also included testimony from Hannah Rosenthal, the newly-appointed Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism in the State Department. I know she has already taken up her work with vigor and commitment. While this includes visits to foreign capitals to address specific problems, it is equally important that the subject be “mainstreamed” within US diplomacy. When the Secretary of State or other senior officials or respected ambassadors take up the issue in bilateral discussions it has an impact.

And of course (and in closing) when Members of Congress receive foreign leaders here or meet with them during travel abroad there is a unique opportunity to remind them of the importance to remain continually vigilant, to speak out, and to do all within their power to confront and combat anti-Semitism. I and my colleagues at AJC will always be available to you and your staff to provide information and analysis for whatever meetings you may have.

Again, thank you for this opportunity to address you today.

APPENDED:

A WORKING DEFINITION OF ANTISEMITISM

(Adopted by the EUMC January 28, 2005)

The purpose of this document is to provide a practical guide for identifying incidents, collecting data, and supporting the implementation and enforcement of legislation dealing with antisemitism.

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.

In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.

Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to: 

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:

  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.  
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel. 

However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.

Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries). Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property—such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries—are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.  Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.



April 10, 2010 -- New York -- AJC is urging the Italian Bishops Conference to condemn the anti-Semitic libel statements of Catholic Bishop Giacomo Babini, published Friday on Pontifax, an Italian Catholic extremist right-wing website.
 
Babini, the retired Bishop of Grosetto, referring to the pedophile scandals, accused Jews of a “refined Zionist” media attack against the Church. He called Jews a “Deicide” people and inferred that the Holocaust took place due to Jews “strangling Germany economically” through “usury.”

“We urge the Italian Bishops Conference to categorically condemn these slanderous stereotypes, which sadly evoke the worst Christian and Nazi propaganda prior to World War II,” said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC's International Director of Interreligious Affairs.

AJC’s representative in Rome had conveyed the global advocacy organization’s dismay to the Italian Catholic Church.
       
"These remarks are entirely contrary to the official line and mainstream thought of the Catholic Church,” Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, one of the highest representatives of the Italian Conference of Catholic Bishops and former President of its Commission on Ecumenism and Dialogue, told the AJC.
 
Rabbi David Rosen added: “The high level of mutual trust and solidarity that binds our two communities today demands that there be zero-tolerance for such defamatory statements by religious representatives.”


April 2, 2010 -- New  York -- The American Jewish Committee (AJC) sharply criticized the Vatican prelate who likened the growing controversy over sexual abuse of minors by priests to the long history of anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews.

“To invoke the issue of persecution against Jews as a lever to try and deflect attention from the crisis inside the Catholic Church is not only unfortunate, but simply stunning,” AJC Executive Director David Harris told Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News tonight. 

In a Good Friday homily in St. Peter's Basilica, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa compared the accusations against Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church in the sex abuse scandal to "collective violence" suffered by the Jews. 

Father Cantalamessa, who is Pope Benedict XVI's personal preacher, spoke of a Jewish friend who had reportedly written to him to say the sexual abuse allegation reminded him of the "more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism."

“There can be no justification for referring to centuries of Jewish suffering, persecution and death at the hands of anti-Semites and the Catholic sexual abuse crisis in the same breath,” said Harris. “Linking to two entirely distinct issues, much less suggesting that those in the church accused of either practicing or condoning sexual abuse are themselves the target of an equivalent of anti-Semitism, is a grave disservice to the truth -- and to history, past and present."


March 17, 2010 – Washington – AJC, along with twelve other Jewish organizations, yesterday sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, urging that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 be interpreted so as to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and discrimination

The letter asks Secretary Duncan to review a policy enunciated by the department’s Office for Civil Rights that (in a reversal of an earlier departmental pronouncement) the protections of Title VI do not extend to Jewish students subjected to anti-Semitic conduct, because such conduct is not, by definition, racial or “national origin” discrimination as covered by Title VI.  Title VI does not include religion among its protected classifications. For Jewish students, the letter states, the narrowed policy means that they must endure a hostile educational environment because the law, while protecting other ethnic and racial groups, offers them no protection--even when intimidation or harassment is directed at them based on ethnic, as opposed to religious, identity.

“We recognize that Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not cover religious discrimination, but there is ample basis in the law to recognize that, in certain contexts, Jewish identity is ethnic (or ‘national origin’) in nature and therefore, under those circumstances, anti-Semitic harassment or intimidation is covered by Title VI,” said AJC Director of National and Legislative Affairs Richard Foltin, who spearheaded the drafting of this letter. “The courts—and the Department of Education—should seek to protect students from discriminatory harassment to the full extent possible under the law,” he said.

The letter urges the OCR to issue a clear statement, asserting that a Jewish student is entitled to the protections of Title VI, when that student is targeted in a school setting for speech or conduct based on the victim’s ethnic identity as a Jew. It also requests the OCR issue a directive to vigorously enforce the law to ensure the protection of Jewish students around the country from anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation.

The twelve other organizations that co-signed the letter include: American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, The American Jewish Congress, Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, Institute for Jewish and Community Research, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, and Zionist Organization of America.



 

March 3, 2010 - New York - AJC applauded the recent statement issued by University of California President Mark G. Yudof and the Chancellors of ten University of California campuses, condemning acts of racism while underscoring the importance of academic freedom and free speech rights.

“President Yudof and the UC Chancellors have demonstrated a real commitment to the core mission of the campus,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “We hope other campuses, faced with similar problems, follow this model.”

Noting the timeliness of this statement after a series of troubling incidents on a number of campuses, including the heckling of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California - Irvine, Harris said, “Too often, when universities are faced with acts that intimidate, harass, or restrain speech, campus leaders either stay silent or hide behind abstract notions of ‘free speech. The UC leaders have underscored that learning cannot take place where intimidation is tolerated. The remedy for bad speech is good speech, and leaders best demonstrate the importance of this principle by using their own voices, as these leaders have done.”

In 2002, AJC assisted a group of hundreds of university presidents in publicizing a statement decrying intimidation on campus and asserting that one of the key jobs of university presidents is to “sustain an intimidation-free campus.”  



 

March 1, 2010 - New York – AJC condemned Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrkhan for delivering an anti-Semitic speech to 20,000 followers in Chicago on Sunday.

“What we heard in Chicago was standard Farrakhan: poisonous anti-Semitic invective designed to stoke hatred of Jews,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “His message of hate - ‘Blame the Jews’ - must be forcefully rejected by anyone who values the tolerance and pluralism that is a hallmark of America.”

Farrakhan alleged that President Obama’s political difficulties, as he defined them, could be traced back to a meeting with Jewish leaders in the Oval Office. Asserting that the Jewish leaders were not pleased with the meeting, Farrakhan said, “When they left the White House, his problems began.”

Claiming that “The Zionists are in control of the Congress,” he named specific Jews and asked rhetorically, “Who does he have around him? The people from Goldman Sachs.”

Farrakhan’s organization, the Nation of Islam, continues to promote anti-Semitic material, including its own virulently anti-Semitic publication, “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews.”



February 20, 2010 -- New York -- AJC is dismayed that a guest on BBC Radio 4 was allowed to state unchallenged that the Israeli intelligence service Mossad relies on Jews around the world to assist in alleged assassinations.

"This baseless accusation crosses every red line between legitimate public discussion and bigoted fear-mongering," said AJC Executive Director David Harris.  “In less than a minute, the BBC has cast a shadow on the lives of Jews worldwide.” 

The claim by Gordon Thomas, author of Gideon’s Spies, came during a segment Wednesday about the assassination of a Hamas terrrorist in Dubai. Thomas, who argued that Mossad was responsible, stated that an “estimated half a million” Jews around the world are on call to assist Mossad in such operations.

“Of course, Mr. Thomas is irresponsible in making such unfounded assertions on a radio program heard around the world,” said Harris. “But, even more shocking is BBC, a premier public broadcaster with a far-reaching global network. How can the interviewer allow such aspersions to be cast on a community without the reporter calling the so-called expert to order?”

AJC is urging the BBC to examine this disgraceful transmission, apologize to Jews around the world and remove from its archive the slanderous words.


January 25, 2010 – New York – AJC condemned Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, one of the leading figures in the Polish Catholic Church, for describing the Holocaust as a “Jewish invention” in an interview with an Italian Catholic news website.

Pieronek also accused Israel of turning the Holocaust into “propaganda” and called for Palestinians to be commemorated through a day similar to International Holocaust Memorial Day, which falls on January 27.

“Bishop Pieronek’s shameful lies, broadcast in a week when the world reflects on the murder of six million Jews and millions of others by the Nazis, must be swiftly and unreservedly condemned by the Polish Catholic Church and the Vatican,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. AJC also urged that Pieronek be disciplined by his superior, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Archbishop of Krakow.

“After the recent controversy involving Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson, we expect the Vatican to act decisively against all manifestations of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism within the Church,” said Harris. “Bishop Pieronek’s odious comments highlight why such action is sorely needed.”



January 17, 2009 -- New York -- AJC is outraged by this morning’s arson attack that severely damaged Etz Hayim, the only synagogue on the Greek island of Crete. It was the second arson attack on the historic building in ten days.

“Our hearts go out to the Greek Jewish community,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “To target such a house of worship not once, but twice, within days of each other requires a swift public response from all in Greece who believe in the principles of religious freedom and mutual respect.”

Today’s blaze severely damaged or destroyed Jewish ritual objects and religious books, as well as the synagogue’s roof. The earlier arson attack, on January 5, destroyed the synagogue’s library.

Nearly 90 percent of Greek Jewry was murdered by the Nazis in World War II. Greece’s Jewish population today is only 5,000. After the Nazis destroyed the Crete Jewish community in 1944, Etz Hayyim stood empty and neglected for decades. A restoration project commenced in 1996, and the synagogue was rededicated in 1999.

“We count on Greek Prime Minister Papandreou and his government to do everything possible to apprehend the arsonists and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law,” said Harris. “The protection of all Jewish institutions in Greece must become a still higher priority in light of recent events. That attackers could strike the same target twice in ten days reveals the shortcomings of the security in place.”

AJC and the Greek Jewish community have had an association agreement for many years.

 


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