Wednesday, April 07, 2021

The bad news and the good news in the fight against antisemitism in 2020

Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry has issued an extract of its annual report on antisemitism. 

Its main findings are that during 2020, violent antisemitic incidents were reduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but much Jew-hatred migrated online and specifically to the darknet where it is more difficult to monitor and combat. The most notable antisemitism for the year was blaming Jews for the pandemic itself, as well as comparing the pandemic or vaccines to the Holocaust. There were other important events like the far-Left groups using anti-racism riots as an excuse for antisemitism and BDS, EU's Court of Justice in Luxembourg permitting states to ban kosher and halal slaughter, and the increase of mostly right-wing antisemitism in Germany especially attacks on Holocaust memorials. 

The news isn't all bad, though. The report mentions promising events of 2020 in the battle against Jew-hatred, which would typically not be mentioned in the media. Here are the highlights:

First, more special envoys, responsible for combating antisemitism, were appointed in several countries, like the Netherlands, Romania and Canada, and the envoy of the US State Department was promoted to the rank of Ambassador. UN Secretary-General  Antonio Guterres appointed Miguel Moratinos as UN Focal Point for combating antisemitism.

Second, the Working Definition of Antisemitism was adopted during 2020 by a growing number of countries, universities, sports clubs, municipalities and local councils, and this trend continues in 2021. The Kantor Center is currently mapping the adoption of the Definition worldwide, and the total number exceeds 450. Recently Bahrein also adopted the Definition, and most important: it was adopted by the Global Imams Council, following the signing of the Abraham Accords.38 The EU published a detailed handbook recommending a correct and comprehensive use of the Definition, as part of a more general decision to recognize the battle against antisemitism as a clause in its political plans.

 Third, allocation of funds for protecting Jewish communities: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, former President Donald Trump, Germany's Office of the Interior, the Sachsen-Anhalt state where the city of Halle is located, the Austrian government – have all announced that they would increase their existing funding or allocate new funds to the protection and development of security means for the Jewish communities.

 Fourth, Jewish education and Jewish life: Morocco has announced that it would include chapters on the history and culture of Moroccan Jews in its curriculums. Germany plans a series of events in 2021, to celebrate 1700 years of Jewish life in Germany, including the battle against antisemitism. Former President Trump approved the Never Again Education Act, authorizing the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington D.C. to promote the teaching and awareness of the Holocaust. The European Council regards antisemitism as an "attack on European values", and indicates the need to combat it decisively.

 There has been progress in developing tools enabling the detection of antisemitic discourse on the internet, based on the Working Definition. Israel's Ministry of Diaspora Affairs has developed the Antisemitic Cyber Monitoring System, which identifies antisemitic expressions in several languages on several networks, and in 2020 even began to monitor websites in the darknet, which are more difficult to access. However, despite repeated declarations on the part of the leading services, and some progress made so far, there is still a long way to go...Financial interests, the ignorance of younger generations about antisemitism, the Holocaust and the situation in the Middle East, the wish to address broad audiences and create visibility for the companies, still prevent full progress in removing antisemitic content from open networks.