5. Should democracies fight Antisemitism through legislation - and does it help?

Professor Deborah Lipstadt, a staunch believer in free speech, is hesitant about supporting legislation on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial. However, she very carefully expresses her reservations in relation to Europe, its history, and thus its special circumstances. One might say that this is with due and justifiable concern, given the proliferation and escalation of both antisemitic phenomena in Europe and the 'our hands are tied', declarative modes of various European governments and their law enforcement agencies.

Each country to its own, but the overall picture is none too encouraging, judging by a few main examples [for Australia and Germany, please see earlier references in #Q4]:

The US Constitution allows almost anything in terms of the rights to freedom of speech and assembly, as well as of dissemination, unless there is proven cause of physical danger. Nonetheless, since 9/11, there has been a major change of attitude towards these rights, but primarily in terms of intelligence-seeking via the electronic media on threats to the United States - as a country, and as a collective. There is no US law of libel or slander: the fomenting of antisemitic libels anti-Israel campaigns - on campus, in the country, and in the media – thus grow unchecked. It should also be noted that many Jewish students on campus today and adults situated on the periphery of the Jewish population feel intimidated or alienated from Jewish identification by the hostile ambience in media reporting in relation to Israel, as evidenced by recent surveys.

Professor Lipstadt makes the point that free speech includes the right not to publish, and one might add that it includes the right and duty to expose lies, hate and incitement. It is up to the major organizations [UJC, ADL, AJC, etc.] and each campus [Hillel, AIPAC, etc.], to work separately or together, but the means to do so are spread very thinly and diversely over the large continent.

The international organizations of Jewish Jurists and Jewish Parliamentarians have an active US and Canadian membership.

In Canada, where there is both libel and anti-incitement legislation, the Jewish community works closely with Bnai Brith, and the Jewish community's eminent parliamentarians and jurists. In Canada, there is a strong right-wing public which is classically and latently antisemitic, also incorporating a similarly oriented post-World War II immigrant population from the Ukraine, including Nazis and neo-Nazis; French Canada is also home to many Muslim immigrants from France and North Africa. Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, for example, has been a hotbed of vicious anti-Jewish sentiment and violence, underlying its student body's virulently anti-Israel activity.

Both the UK and France have extensive legislation against Racism and Antisemitism:

France is the only country to have banned several neo-Nazi and Nazi websites, or mirror websites, selling Nazi memorabilia and propagating Nazism. One problem has been the specification of both descriptions in Police reporting of incidents, and in the rare cases of sanctions or prosecution. This has only changed in recent years, due to the public outrage at acts of physical violence, such as the Halimi murder in France, in 2006. Much of the French Jewish community lives in the inner urban neighbourhoods, as well as the newer satellite cities, and rubs shoulders with the immigrant population. However, despite long-awaited public condemnations of Antisemitism in France, the Police and the Public Prosecution have brought almost no cases to trial, simply because they claim they cannot trace the perpetrators; their general policing and education record are also very poor. Most antisemitic assaults, arsons and desacrations in the escalating surge of Antisemitism in France have been perpetrated by young, 'disaffected Muslims' from the urban ghettos – which is also a political hot potato. Discussion can be seen in the EU Monitoring Committee Report and in the Jewish Quarterly

A number of industrial cities in the UK have also been awash with racial conflict in recent years - which has resulted in some enfranchisement of the immigrant population and a number of race and community relations initiatives. These remain largely divergent from the Jewish community's initiatives in the main UK cities to represent Judaism in British life, work for ethnic harmony, and look after the Jewish communities' themselves. Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks speaks out, but calls for restrained action only, and has come in for some scathing criticism in view of rising Antisemitism.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone (Labour) and prominent politicians like Jenny Tonge (Lib-Dem) made some very unpleasant remarks about Jews, but penal, civil and political attempts to address these outbursts as Antisemitism ended in a whimper – sending a clear message of impunity. There are some underlying reasons and processes behind this:

  • Cultural Antisemitism is respectable in many circles of the British establishment and politics. The anti-Shechita campaign, moved by the Animal Rights' lobby (on the liberal and socialist left), is a separate phenomenon and particularly strong in the UK and Switzerland (the latter with very few Jews!); the pro-hunting and anti-animal rights' lobby is also antisemitic. Paradoxically, both political left and right are thus united by their anti-Jewish sentiments: one of its symptoms is the serious threat to Shechita and Hallal slaughter; the main effect, however, is the marginalization of the Jewish community through the religious and political re-alignment of mainstream, Christian-oriented hierarchies. See also Professor Robert Wistrich's article in Azure.
  • The various Trade Union, Church divestment campaigns, and anti-Israel campaigns on campus have also provided fertile ground for intense antisemitic sentiment in areas where there is little Jewish opposition to their existence, and have had a knock-on effect nationally, particularly in the media and in Jewish student life. The new Archbishop of Canterbury has been particularly outspoken against Israel; Bolton Council, near Manchester, banned Holocaust Memorial Day in January 2007 - allegedly in response to Muslim pressure.
  • The main enlighteners to the general and Jewish public on how democracy and dialogue are being manipulated by the media in British life have been various Christian groups and some noted journalists: Ruth Gledhill and Melanie Phillips .
  • Furthermore, despite earlier legislation on race relations [1975] and more recent legislation to protect the Jewish community against unfair discrimination, interfaith and race relations events requiring Jewish representation, trade union votes, student union votes, and university examinations have been held on Saturdays – and the Jewish establishment has usually been the last to make its voice heard.
  • Notwithstanding, there are wide Holocaust education programmes in the UK; some schools in France and Germany with large immigrant populations have refused to implement them.

The history and phenomena associated with Antisemitism in Russia and the USSR are integrally related to contemporary Antisemitism in Europe, as well as the UN.

While Antisemitism and the scapegoating of Jews were both official policy and widespread among the general population in Czarist Russia - home to the dissemination of the notorious, forgery, the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and the pogrom - the emergence of Communism legitimized and legalized it in additional ways. The process leaves Antisemitism deeply ingrained in many levels of Russian cultural and political life, as well as in the domains of government and law enforcement.

  • Firstly, the Bolsheviks and subsequently Soviet Communism defined Jews as not belonging to the proletariat, and thus its enemy, even a 'fifth column' - leading to legalized victimization, disenfranchisement and persecution, as well as false trials and executions. This was backed by vicious antisemitic propaganda based on every traditional antisemitic libel from the Christian, European, and communist repertoire which were disseminated throughout the press, media and education, and especially in relation to Israel.
  • This same definition of Jews as non-proletarians, together with the same propaganda, was and still is disseminated around the world since the era of the Cold War - by the socialist left, the Marxist left, or in any countries that define themselves as proletarian, as well as the Soviet-aligned Arab and Muslim states - to delegitimize Jews, their human rights and the genocide of the Shoah [Holocaust].
  • Laws relating to national ethnic groups in the USSR specifically excluded the Jews and their representative rights, or the protection of their languages, religion, and culture. Indeed, the persecution of the Jewish religion and its observance went far beyond that of any other religion by the atheist regime. In addition to all these forms of persecution, Jews were subject to a numerus clausus in academia, residential rights, and employment.
  • Holocaust denial occurred de facto and de jure via the USSR's censorship apparatus. Information about Nazism and its antisemitic threat were suppressed before, during and after the Second World War. The term use was Fascism, under which the Holocaust did not enter the equation: the USSR recognized neither its Jewish victims in Europe or the USSR, nor the presence of Jewish heroes in the Red Army. This received knowledge is still the legacy of the overwhelming majority of the public in Russia, the CIS, and its satellite countries.
  • This is the legacy, too, of Soviet propaganda in its former close allies, during and after the Cold War: it is another reason why Holocaust denial is so deeply-rooted in Arab states and the Arab media, where it found fertile ground in the 1960s.
  • The current situation in Russia, the CIS and many of the former constituent Republics of the USSR is that there is Antisemitism continues to find expression in the nationalistic press, the Internet, and in politics, as well as in assaults on Jewish property and members of the organized Jewish community. But there are no specific laws against Antisemitism in mainstream political, social or cultural life, or relating to antisemitic groups on the fringe.
  • Moreover, the spheres of politics, law enforcement and public prosecution are dominated by entrenched castes created during the Soviet era, unmotivated to protect - or actively hostile to - Jews, Judaism, and countering Antisemitism. This leaves the organized Jewish community essentially undefended.

Many Arab countries and Muslim states, including some so-called non-aligned countries, allow or foster Antisemitism in a wide range of virulent polemics, despite the fact that they have either insignificant or no Jewish communities at all within their borders. They do so for political reasons and export it extensively.

  • These libel-styled polemics, misinformation, and  images are derivatory from Nazi and Soviet propaganda; they appear in the state-controlled, faction-controlled and commercial media, as well as in official school text-books, political speeches, and literature. Much of this is core-Antisemitism in the classic sense (the 'Protocols', blood libels, spurious allegations of Jewish control) - such as that in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iran – but it also forms the basis of other campaigns, and includes incitement to actual violence against Jews and Israel.
  • The motivation behind the propaganda is for the most part not for the purpose of scapegoating the Jews within their own countries, but rather to foster support for and foment Antisemitism in local culture, particularly to bolster opposition to Israel.
  • There is no legislation in neo-totalitarian or Islamic countries against Antisemitism - or none that would be enforced to protect audiences from incitement: the most recent case of threatened violence occurred in January 2007 in Yemen, when one of its remaining small Jewish communities was officially advised to leave their homes and village, following death threats by a group purporting to be affiliated to Al Qaida.
  • They also export it via expatriates, satellite TV, the Internet and the press into communities, campuses, politics and schools in the form of anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, anti-western, and anti-American propaganda, as well as Holocaust Denial. Some of the radical Islamic satellite channels have been banned in France, under legislation against incitement.
  • Another significant feature of the use of media-on-demand and the blogosphere is the paradigm of targeted webcasting/broadcasting/press: there is a vast difference between the savage hate and incitement often delivered to captive audiences – the Arabic and Farsi speakers - and the polished, mediated language and moderate tones that are branded for the rest of the world.

Where to find information about legislation on Antisemitism, and its implementation:

  1. The Jacob Blaustein Institute's  made its recommendations to the OSCE/Human Rights Watch [2004] on Antisemitism, and particularly on legislative protection.
  2. The ADL urged greater implementation of existing laws in its recommendations [2006]
  3. The EUMC report, 2006.

Where to find information about propaganda in the media and in education:

The Arab media are translated and monitored by the Middle East Media Research Institute;
The Palestinian Media are monitored by Palestinian Media Watch, Israel;
The Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace translates and analyzes Antisemitism and xenophobia from school textbooks in the PA, Egypt, Syria, Saudia Arabia, and Israel [1993-2003];
The Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, holds an annual "Herzliya Conference" which addresses a wide range of media impacts. Please see dedicated website: the Augean Stables.

 
 
 

 

 

 

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12 Feb 2007 / 24 Shevat 5767 0