Anti-Semitism emanates from a host of sources and manifestations. B’nai B’rith is committed to fighting it in all its forms. Combating anti-Semitism begins with understanding it and its origins.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism
One of the greatest challenges in combating anti-Semitism has been defining the problem for a global audience. Far more than merely a religious freedom issue, anti-Semitism is a human rights matter in the broader sense, as it encapsulates a hatred of Jews based on their identity as members of a unique ethnic and religious group. Many of its contemporary manifestations relate to a hatred of the State of Israel that exceeds the boundaries of legitimate policy criticism and relies on traditional anti-Semitic motifs.
Anti-Zionism is a pernicious modern form of anti-Semitism, which seeks to deny the legitimate rights of the Jewish people to self-determination in their ancestral homeland, Israel. Anti-Zionism often finds expression in the tropes of more classical anti-Semitism, wherein the individual Jew or the wider Jewish community are adapted and aimed at Israel.
Faith Based Anti-Semitism: Islamist Extremism and Christian Anti-Semitism
One of the oldest strains of anti-Semitism targets Jews because of their faith. Christianity and Islam have particularly close connections to Judaism but have also contended with anti-Jewish theology that has at times inspired persecution. Interreligious dialogue and shared interests – including the preservation of religious freedom – provide opportunities to build mutual respect and cooperation.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement promotes hostile campaigns through a variety of tactics against Israel in order to demonize and isolate the world’s only Jewish state. Rather than promote efforts for genuine peace and compromise, BDS activists proliferate an extremist agenda and sow further seeds of division. For years, B’nai B’rith International has been the leading voice fighting this anti-Semitic movement.
Anti-Semitism on Campus
Anti-Semitism in the form of anti-Israel groups on college campuses has become increasingly more prevalent over the last few years. Too many groups engage in radical behaviors that leave Jewish students feeling attacked and unsafe. These radical actions take different forms, but they most often include boycotts of Israeli academics or educational institutions or pro-Israel groups on campus, heckling pro-Israel speakers, removing or damaging Israeli flags from displays, referring to Israel as a settler-colonial state and, in extreme cases, attempting to get pro-Israel students banned from joining student organizations or access to campus services.
Anti-Semitism and Political Extremist Ideologies
While combating anti-Semitism has traditionally been and must remain a bipartisan issue, extremist ideologies on the left and right of the political spectrum threaten that support. Social media has enabled the dissemination of anti-Semitic beliefs, policies and caricatures and has emboldened anti-Semites as these beliefs become increasingly visible in mainstream politics. Around the world, increased anti-globalist sentiment and economic anxiety have once again drawn people to extremist groups that target and discriminate against Jews, scapegoat Jews and characterize them as disloyal citizens and a national security threat.
While social media and the internet have become useful tools in bringing the world closer together, they have also increasingly been used as tools for spreading hate, intolerance and anti-Semitism. Social media enables anti-Semitic beliefs, policies and caricatures to be widely disseminated, incites hatred and violence, and emboldens anti-Semites as these beliefs become increasingly visible in mainstream politics. From major networking platforms to deep channels of the dark web, misinformation and hate speech on the internet provide a medium for harassment against Jews that can manifest in physical, psychological and political harm toward Jewish communities.
The Fight Against Anti-Semitism in International Bodies
Fighting Anti-Semitism at the United Nations
B’nai B’rith has led Jewish engagement at the U.N. from its very inception in San Francisco in 1945. Sadly, the global body that was built upon the ashes of the Holocaust has, for much of its history, not served as a true ally to the Jewish community in combating anti-Semitism. Indeed, far too often, the U.N. has been a forum where this hatred festers.
Fighting Anti-Semitism at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
B’nai B’rith has played an active role within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in efforts to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred in Europe, Eurasia, and North America. The OSCE is a consensus-based organization with more than 50 member countries. Its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) raises awareness of anti-Semitism, develops educational tools and facilitates the exchange of best practices.
Fighting Anti-Semitism in the European Union
The European Union is comprised of three main branches – the Council of the European Union (which brings together the 27 member states, usually in a consensus approach); the European Commission (which acts, broadly speaking as an executive body, but also initiates legislation); and the European Parliament (which represents EU citizens and vets legislation). Each have their role to play in tackling anti-Semitism. In addition to the three main branches, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency provides monitoring and reporting on topics that include anti-Semitism.
The State of Anti-Semitism Around the Globe
Anti-Semitism in the United States
For as long as the United States has existed, anti-Semitism has been within its borders. Sadly, anti-Semitism in the U.S. is at a near-historic high, and shootings at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life and Chabad of Poway synagogues have drawn renewed attention to the challenges facing the American Jewish community. In the United States, anti-Semitism manifests in many different modalities, growing throughout society and across the political spectrum. Social media has likewise become an increasingly common breeding ground for the spread of these anti-Semitic activities and ideas.
Anti-Semitism in the Middle East
Various manifestations of anti-Semitism are ingrained in the Middle East. However, Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan and other Muslim countries, as well as covert relations with many other Muslim and Arab states, prove that tolerance and even acceptance in the region are possible. Anti-Semitism is a deep-seated phenomenon in the Middle East that has its roots in both religious tenets and the historical narrative of Islam, going back to its foundation some 1,500 years ago, and in the rivalry between Israel and the surrounding Muslim populations and countries dating to the early period of Jewish renaissance in the Land of Israel.
Anti-Semitism in Latin America
While deriving from both traditional and more modern manifestations, anti-Semitism is a pernicious trend throughout the Western Hemisphere. With a membership that includes 20 countries in Latin America, B’nai B’rith International is at the forefront of tackling anti-Semitism in the region, both at the bilateral and multilateral levels.