June 10, 2018 — New York, NY
A detailed action plan for governments across Europe to combat anti-Semitism, first issued by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) three years ago, has been updated. The original AJC Call to Action came out of a groundbreaking daylong strategy conference, “A Defining Moment for Europe,” in May 2015, in Brussels.
“Ongoing challenges to effectively combat anti-Semitism today are just as severe, if not more so, than three years ago. This pervasive evil that threatens not only Jews, but European society, should compel urgent, concerted action by governments,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs. “We appreciate that several of the AJC recommendations were implemented, but we remain concerned that most have not been given the attention needed in order to develop a comprehensive strategy to combat this hatred as it continues to metastasize.”
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 issue of security remains at the top of the agenda” for Jewish communities across Europe, notes the updated AJC plan. There has been “a steady erosion of European Jews’ sense of physical security,” as “incidents of verbal and even physical harassment have been commonplace in major European cities.”
The AJC plan commends the European commission for appointing a special coordinator for combating anti-Semitism and the few EU member states that created and filled similar positions. Establishing a senior level position in governments across Europe was a key recommendation in the 2015 AJC Call to Action.
To combat anti-Semitism, the updated AJC plan emphasizes both the need to define the problem and to establish protocols to monitor it. The AJC plan reiterates as a priority adoption of the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism. The definition, which AJC played a key role in developing, “offers a concise definition and set of examples that illustrate the multi-dimensional nature of the problem,” states the plan. Several more governments have adopted the definition since the 2015 Brussels conference, recognizing that it “is an important educational tool for both civil society monitors and governments, where it can inform the work of police, prosecutors and judges.”
But the capability of EU member states to collect data continues to be inadequate. “To understand the problem and to devise the proper counter-measures it is necessary to have a detailed picture that fully describes the incident of anti-Semitism and where possible also provides information on the perpetrators of those incidents,” states the AJC plan. “Only a minority of EU Member States collects comprehensive and disaggregated data on anti-Semitic hate crimes.”
The AJC plan acknowledges that civil society organizations play a critical role in monitoring and raising awareness and engaging the problem on a grass roots level. But recognizing that these groups are generally underfunded, AJC encourages governments to provide them with direct financial support.
Given recent political trends, the updated AJC plan notes with deep concern the rise of far-right and xenophobic political parties, long a part of the European landscape and a traditional source of anti-Semitism. “As governments become more populist and nationalistic, anti-Semitic incidents are also increasing,” states the AJC plan. “In some countries where political leaders should otherwise be the first to challenge such language they are instead employing it for their own partisan goals.”
Moreover, how to counter purveyors of hate who are using social media is a major concern. “The internet and multiple forms of social media have allowed for the instant and universal dissemination of anti-Semitism,” states the AJC plan.
AJC has urged social media companies to police their sites and supports the EU code of conduct signed with social media companies last year, following on one of the recommendations in the original AJC Call to Action.
“While most governments will monitor and report anti-Semitic hate crimes, few do the same with the Internet and social media postings,” observes the updated AJC plan. “As anti-Semitism in the virtual world can quickly lead to anti-Semitic incidents in the real world, we call on individual governments to undertake their own monitoring of social media sites and/or to support civil society efforts to do so.”
The updated AJC plan also emphasizes “the importance of education in the fight against anti-Semitism.” It recommends that teachers be trained to teach about various forms of anti-Semitism, including conspiracy theories about Jews, and to be alert to its presence in the classroom. Holocaust education and education about Jewish life in Europe, historically and present day, is critically important in the fight against anti-Semitism.
In addition to his AJC portfolio, Rabbi Baker has served since 2009 as the leading monitor of anti-Semitism for the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
The full AJC Call to Action on combating anti-Semitism in Europe is available at https://www.ajc.org/a-call-to-action-combating-anti-semitism-in-europe