2014 saw a breakthrough at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a multilateral organization charged with, among other priorities, combating anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance. For the first time in more than a decade of tackling modern incarnations of Judeophobia, the 57 governments that make up the OSCE codified core principles of the fight against anti-Semitism in a high-level ministerial declaration. “We reject and condemn manifestations of anti-Semitism, intolerance, and discrimination against Jews,” the document intoned.
2014, meanwhile, was also a year that saw a spike in anti-Semitic incidents across Europe and the former Soviet Union. A wave of anti-Israel demonstrations has swept the OSCE region in 2014 and 2015; these gatherings typically have featured blatantly anti-Semitic themes and often have turned violent. Attacks on Jewish individuals and institutions have increased in frequency and intensity, as the landscape from Belgium to Bulgaria, Germany to Greece, Holland to Hungary, and Ireland to Italy has witnessed violence against Jewish targets. This spread of hatred has been accompanied by a corrosion of the public discourse with respect to Jews and Israel and has left European Jewry fearful for their safety and security.
The rise of anti-Jewish hatred also has resulted in a proliferation of anti-Semitic propaganda, much of which is directed against the State of Israel. Tragically, the demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish state has become a daily occurrence, as Israel’s enemies repeatedly accuse it of being a Nazi-like occupier and an apartheid state that disenfranchises the Palestinians. Falsehoods about Israel are repeated so often that they become widely accepted in the popular culture and sometimes impact government policy. The effort by Israel’s relentless critics to denigrate the Jewish state is not only evidence that anti-Semitism is alive and well 70 years after the Holocaust—this new variation of the world’s oldest social illness actually poses a security threat to the Jewish state by intensifying its international isolation.
Against this backdrop, an OSCE human dimension implementation meeting that B’nai B’rith attended in Warsaw this month underscored that while much has been done to fight anti-Semitism in the past decade or more, much work remains. The need for practical and effective strategies to combat and defeat this pathology is still crucial.
B’nai B’rith’s recommendations to the Warsaw gathering included a call for OSCE member-states to affirm commitments made at the landmark 2004 Berlin Conference on Anti-Semitism— and reiterated in last year’s ministerial declaration—and assess the implementation of those commitments. B’nai B’rith also urged:
- Member-states must fulfill their reporting requirements with respect to hate crimes data. Far too few of the 57 governments have done so until now.
- Governments should widely promote, within the OSCE, the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency’s comprehensive working definition of anti-Semitism and the U.S. State Department’s Fact Sheet on anti-Semitism. It is crucial that governments and other institutions understand how to identify anti-Semitism in order to properly combat it.
- The OSCE must enhance funding for the tolerance and non-discrimination unit of its Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. The TND unit has now become a fixed and integral part of the OSCE’s work in combating hatred. We must enable them to sustain and expand their critical activities, which include educational programs on anti-Semitism in more than a dozen countries.
- Finally, we must strongly reinforce the crucial principle declared at the 2004 Berlin Conference—that no political position, cause, or grievance can ever justify anti-Semitism—and make clear that the demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish state is often none other than a pretext for the hatred of Jews themselves.