4. Where do international, inter-faith, and other organizations stand on countering Antisemitism?

There are many levels of international and inter-organizational work that are ongoing ­─ from grass roots, through advocacy, to the juridicial, legislative and diplomatic. However, in comparison to major lobbies, many of these organizations and international committees depend on the goodwill of volunteers and professionals; others are 'new forms' that appear to lack inherent and pro-active synergies with the organizational structure and functions of their umbrella institutions. It is a pity that almost all those at the highest level do not have the status or capacity to operate as integral think tanks, in terms of policy development and planning.

In many countries, there are longstanding inter-faith and statutory community relations forums at local and national levels, often in cooperation with the institutions of law enforcement, local government and public education. The statutory and voluntary community organizations may work with a model for race relations and tolerance, such as that promoted by ADL or the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Inter-faith organizations, usually depend on voluntary participation of clergy and lay leadership; their dialogue is delimited by the areas of shared interest – from pastoral to theological, depending on the nature of the organization. In general, these have not proven to be decisive forums for addressing Antisemitism, but rather demonstrated their effectiveness as channels of communication with established religious leaderships and for initial outreach. Moreover, weak or ineffective inter-faith forums can thus become part of the problem, rather than the solution.

At the international level, the drama is played out on a different scale. When Antisemitism developed and spread rapidly worldwide in 2000-2002, as a side-effect of the second intifada, in general, Jewish communities did not receive effective response and action from major international organizations.

In 1991, the UN passed the long-awaited rescindment of UN General Assembly Resolution #3379 [1975] that equated Zionism with Racism. The UN Human Rights Commission adopted a resolution condemning Antisemitism in 1994. Nonetheless, the UN's record on condemning expressions of Antisemitism (usually in frameworks related to other forms of racism) remained very poor and began a new downward spiral towards the debacle of the 2001 'Durban conference' on the Elimination of  racism, all forms of racial discrimination and Xenophobia, with its blatant hate platform against Israel [See: Q#2]. A resolution  specifically including the condemnation of Antisemitism was finally passed in committee only, by the UN GA Third Committee in 2004.

Following a number of dedicated forums and conferences related to the Shoah [Holocaust] and Antisemitism, the UNO became more concerned at the related phenomena and in 2005 officially marked the 60th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Israel's diplomatic efforts further succeeded when the UN  instituted International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27th January, as a worldwide annual memorial. This can be considered a landmark in international political, diplomatic, and educational efforts related to the Shoah. However, there has already been a backlash against this in the Muslim and western world, in refusals to mark this day, and through the creation of mega events that disseminate Holocaust Denial.

Israel's recent diplomatic efforts in the UN have been geared to bringing a resolution that specifically condemns Holocaust denial [UN GA 61 #44], and it expects the new UN Secretary General will be more pro-active in this sphere and in combatting Antisemitism. This resolution is linked to the recent 'historical review' conference on the Holocaust, namely, contesting and denying the Shoah. There was wide international condemnation, but progress with specific measures depends more on international diplomatic action than declaration: it is vital to encourage UN member states to censure, or isolate, countries that deny other member states the right to exist, or that threaten them directly: this is particularly urgent, given the substance of speeches by the present Iranian President, denying Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and threatening to destroy Israel.

Most of the initiatives to survey and assess the situation appear to have originated in Europe and it is perhaps significant that they were produced only after 9/11. These reports came from the OSCE and the EU, largely based on documentation provided by Jewish communities and other institutes, with the US report essentially reproducing key data for its own analysis.

Indeed, the EU's Monitoring Centre's 112 page report, due to be presented at a special Conference in 2003 was so devastating that it was shelved for several months. Jewish and general protest forced the EU to publish it in March 2004 - but it appeared in only censored form, with the 'disaffected Muslim' origins of most antisemitic activity remaining outside the important 'Executive Summary', buried deep in the report – particularly concerning the escalation of violent Antisemitism in France and the UK.

The OSCE passed the 'Berlin Declaration' , a resolution condemning Antisemitism at its Berlin Conference of 2004, but it has not seen serious continuity.

Moreover, the EU Parliament has just seen the birth of a far-right xenophobic and antisemitic pan-European parliamentary group (faction), called 'Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty', with roots, inter alia, in Le Pen's French National Front membership.

Today, there are two EU bodies that vie for the status of reporting bodies (the EU Commission and the EU Monitoring Centre), while a recent conference to address Antisemitism shows that the statutory monitoring body is becoming increasingly ineffective.

The picture is uneven, and the mandate to act uncertain. Germany is one of the few countries to have taken serious steps towards legislation, while the French government has finally made some direct gestures towards addressing escalating Antisemitism emanating from the urban ghettos. Parliaments may have their own watchdogs or committees in sensitive areas, and these may include Antisemitism. They provide a focal point for information about the overall trends and may serve as a potential lobby for legislation or censure. Italy is finalizing legislation to make Holocaust denial and hate dissemination illegal, to catch up with several other countries.


Here are some examples of working organizations with national and international mandates, in no particular order:

     
     

     

     

     

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    12 Feb 2007 / 24 Shevat 5767 0