Five hundred neo-Nazi cells were identified in Brazil last year, Latin America’s envoy for fighting antisemitism said Monday.
The startling figure was cited in Tel Aviv, at the annual Global Forum of the New York-based America Jewish Committee, which included a plenary with seven international antisemitism envoys, and came weeks after the launch of the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.
“People in Latin America tend to think that this [antisemitism] happens in Europe,” said Fernando Lottenberg, the Organization of American States’ commissioner for monitoring and combating antisemitism. “It is not as strong as in the U.S. but it is gaining traction.”
The speakers in Tel Aviv noted that governments the world over have joined the struggle against antisemitism that previously fell to Jewish community leaders alone, appointing scores of envoys to combat the scourge and adopting the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism.
Insecure in Europe
Still, the European Union special envoy conceded that this government support was not being felt by Jewish communities across Europe, which feel increasingly insecure.
“Antisemitism has to be addressed in a more coordinated way fostering Jewish life free from security concerns,” the European Commission’s Coordinator on Combatting Antisemitism Katharina von Schnurbein said. “We do not see the change is felt across the board in the Jewish community.”
She noted that anti-Israel views are often infused into the antisemitism facing European Jews.
“We know that Jews sometimes hide their identity in Europe because of questions [asking] what ‘their’ prime minister is doing,” she said. “Many people have positions on Israel without ever being here,” she told the Tel Aviv gathering.
“It starts with the Jews, but doesn’t stop there,” von Schnurbein said of antisemitism.
Eddo Verdoner, the government-appointed national coordinator to counter antisemitism in the Netherlands, said, “The big incidents will be condemned.
“The real problems are day to day,” he added, decrying the “growing indifference of the multitudes” coupled with the noxious influence of social media in the country of Anne Frank.
Lord John Mann, an adviser to the British government on antisemitism, said, “There is an intimidation of silence, of people being shunned and not being confident in being themselves.”
He cited a growing awareness of the problem in the U.K., with three parliamentarians, including former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, being ousted for antisemitism.
An American problem
“What we [once] thought was a European problem has become an American problem,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, the AJC’s director of international Jewish affairs.
Baker, who also serves as personal representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) chairperson-in-office on combating antisemitism, noted that as recently as last year the feeling in the U.S. government was that antisemitism should be addressed as part of a broader effort to combat intolerance.
“Now there is an understanding that antisemitism is a unique problem and not just a subset of other forms of intolerance,” he said.
2023 Upper West Side Manhattan
“Many Americans are frightened and concerned,” said Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.
She said she was recently approached by New York Jews who said they replaced their yarmulkes with baseball caps when riding the subway.
“This is 2023 Upper West Side Manhattan,” Lipstadt said.
The optimists are asking if this is 1933 while the pessimists are asking if it is 1938, she noted.
“To that question, I say no,” Lipstadt said. “At that time antisemitism was from governments, including our own State Department which made it impossible for Jews to get to the U.S.”
Today, nearly eight decades after the Holocaust, “we have much to be thankful for,” she said.