May 4, 2020 — New York
A new AJC Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI) report concludes that antisemitism is both a persistent threat to Jewish security and a human rights challenge, requiring urgent responses from governments, social media platforms, civil society, political and religious leaders, and multilateral organizations .
The report, Antisemitism: A Persistent Threat to Human Rights, and its annex survey incidents of antisemitic expression and violence in countries around the world from October 2019 to April 2020, both before and since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The JBI report comes six months after an unprecedented report by a United Nations expert recognizing global antisemitism as a serious human rights challenge.
Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion of Belief, in October, expressed alarm about rising antisemitism and told the UN General Assembly that it not only threatens the security and human rights of Jews and members of other minority communities, but also is “toxic to democracy” when left unchecked. AJC lauded the report as a historic achievement. Since then, Dr. Shaheed has continued to warn about the danger of antisemitism, and specifically called for action to counter its expansion online during the COVID-19 pandemic in an April 17 statement.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic has upended people’s lives worldwide, it has not disrupted the trend of rising global antisemitism that so alarmed Dr. Shaheed,” said Felice Gaer, Director of AJC’s Blaustein Institute. “Its persistence and proliferation at this time of global upheaval underscore the need for leaders to recognize and condemn antisemitism as a threat to human rights, wherever it originates, and take actions in line with their human rights obligations to curb its spread.”
JBI’s report expresses serious concern about the potential for antisemitic rhetoric to inspire harassment, discrimination and violence. In a detailed listing of incidents are a number of recent cases in which individuals who expressed antisemitic attitudes online subsequently committed or attempted violent attacks against sites and individuals, Jewish and non-Jewish alike. The report also notes the heightened impact of antisemitic speech in the COVID-19 era, in which online threats and harassment can dissuade Jews from participating in the very limited opportunities available to them to engage in communal religious activities and education.
The JBI report’s detailed recommendations call on government authorities to provide Jewish individuals and communities with effective protection from antisemitic violence and discrimination, to establish and strengthen collaborative arrangements with them to ensure these measures are effective, and ensure that measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic do not have a disproportionate or discriminatory impact on Jews’ ability to practice their religion.
The JBI report calls on public officials, UN leaders and bodies, religious leaders, and others in positions of influence to promptly and publicly condemn antisemitic acts and rhetoric. It stresses that social media companies should step up efforts to remove antisemitic content from their platforms, with the same degree of resolve that they have pledged to combat misinformation about the coronavirus. It calls on governments, the UN, and others to promote training and education on recognizing antisemitism with reference to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, which Dr. Shaheed endorsed in his report and which AJC has long encouraged governments to adopt.
“Over the last six months, we have seen several instances in which governments, and even the United Nations, have taken bold steps to recognize the danger of and combat antisemitism,” said Gaer. “It is crucial that leaders not allow the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine this progress, and instead redouble their engagement with Jewish communities to ensure they are protected and able to exercise their rights.”
AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, founded in 1971, is chaired by Jerry Biederman. Its Director is Felice Gaer.