(February 15, 2018 / JNS) A recently released Israeli government report shows that the international community needs a “principled policy” as well as a comprehensive education system to address Jew-hatred, said a prominent scholar and public speaker specializing in contemporary anti-Semitism.
Dr. Charles Asher Small, founding director of the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy (ISGAP), called an Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs report on worldwide anti-Semitism, which was presented to the Knesset in January, an important step towards “putting more resources into monitoring and developing ways to understand contemporary anti-Semitism.”
“Anti-Semitism has become a threat to notions of Jewish peoplehood, and the hatred targeting Jews and state of Israel,” Small told JNS. “It’s good that the Israeli government is taking this more seriously than they did in the past.”
For its report, the Israeli government surveyed 1,363 Jews living outside of Israel and conveyed various differences between European anti-Semitism and American anti-Semitism. The U.K. reported a 78-percent rise in cases of physical violence perpetrated against Jews. The U.S. saw anti-Semitic incidents surge by 86 percent in early 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Eleven-percent of Jews living in North America felt unsafe, compared to 27 percent in Europe, according to Israel’s study. Similarly, 22 percent of respondents felt unsafe wearing Jewish symbols in America, compared to 51 percent in Europe. In the U.S., 14 percent experienced anti-Semitic physical violence, compared to 10 percent in Europe.
Small explained that the difference in these numbers might stem from the contrasting manifestations of anti-Semitism in the U.S. and Europe. He said that while European anti-Semitism is often driven by immigrant Muslim populations that “bring the baggage of ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamism ideas to Europe,” anti-Semitism in the U.S. is exacerbated by politicians “such as under the [Bill] Clinton and [George H.W.] Bush administrations, and accelerated under the Obama administration” that have supported the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist Iranian regimes at different junctures, thereby “turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism propagated by political Islam that uses Nazi imagery and perception of Jews.”
“When the U.S. supports that same ideology in the Middle East, it’s not surprising that it’s cropping up in U.S. We shouldn’t be so shocked because we’ve tolerated and embraced it for decades,” said Small.
“And now, with [President Donald] Trump,” he said, “we see the increase of racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim imagery that is fueling extreme nationalism and backlash in Europe.”
While the Trump administration is taking a principled said stand on radical Islam, Small said, there is currently “a dangerous mixture of fear of the other, which includes anti-Semitism as we saw in Charlottesville, and is not being condemned strongly enough by the Trump administration.”
The Israeli report documented a record number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. and Europe, with most anti-Semitic events occurring on social networks and media. It found that 80 percent of respondents had experienced anti-Semitism on social networks and media, but 73 percent of those who experienced anti-Semitism of any form did not report the incident because they were “afraid” and believed that “the authorities would do nothing.”
Eitan Behar, director of the World Zionist Organization’s Center for Diaspora Communications & Countering Anti-Semitism, noted, “Most of the surveys, including ours, do not reflect reality. If 73 percent of incidents are not reported, no matter how many official numbers we give, the whole picture is not being reported.” Nevertheless, Behar said, “There has been a shift of anti-Semitism in the last few years towards new media. This is problematic because we can never control content uploaded on the media. With one click, each and every one of us can rewrite history and spread hate.”
Ambassador Emanuele Giaufret, the European Union’s envoy to Israel, said, “Since 2015, we have been working to combat the phenomenon and are working in cooperation with Facebook and other sites to combat anti-Semitism and hate.”
According to the report, anti-Semitism and persecution do not stop with online networks.
In America, 24 percent of respondents expressed that their politicians are anti-Semitic, compared to 32 percent in Europe. Benjamin Guttmann and Benjamin Hess, co-presidents of the Austrian Union of Jewish Students, the political and social body representing Jewish young adults in Austria, maintain that the far-right Freedom Party, which is now part of the country’s governing coalition, is blatantly anti-Semitic and threatens Jews and democracy. “Far-right populism is something on the minds of many European Jewish students,” they said in a joint statement provided to JNS.
Guttmann said, “For the first five years after the Second World War, in 1949, members of the Nazi party were allowed to vote again and the Freedom Party was their political home. It is an anti-Semitic party, and members of the party were jailed in 1990 for participating in illegal Nazi associations in Germany.”
Likewise, ISGAP’s Small called Austrian politicians with direct or indirect ties to Nazism “a stain on democratic principles.”
“My grandfather came from Vienna, and here we are in 2018 and those ideas are back with us, and out in the open,” he said.
Preserving democratic principles can combat anti-Semitism worldwide, according to Small.
“We should have zero tolerance for reactionary social movements that objectify Jews, moderates, women, gay people, and we should stand up for democratic principles and put them above and beyond short-term business interests and short-term political interests,” he said.
Small recommended launching educational efforts to inform people about the history and dangers of anti-Semitism. His research center organizes trainings at the University of Oxford for professors from around the world on issues of contemporary anti-Semitism. The professors proceed to teach courses on anti-Semitism at their universities.
“When we started, there were literally no courses on contemporary anti-Semitism and now we have 92 graduates…and that’s an effective way to take back the classroom and not only fight anti-Semitism on campus, but in classrooms and curriculums as well,” said Small.
Similarly, Behar suggested teaching Jews worldwide the importance of strengthening Jewish education and pride, which would ultimately encourage them to report anti-Semitic incidents.
“It starts with education about Judaism, to know one’s past and where you’re coming from,” he said, “and then that education leads to exposing and reporting anti-Semitic attacks.”