The World Jewish Congress reconvened its forum for Special Envoys & Coordinators Combating Antisemitism (SECCA) last Thursday, in continuation of the forum’s exchange of best practices to confront and reduce antisemitism worldwide. In attendance were dozens of officials from national governments and international organizations.
During the second overall SECCA forum in October 2019 in Munich, Germany, WJC President Ronald S. Lauder praised participants as “perhaps the most important people helping the Jewish people fight antisemitism.”
The forum meeting was co-chaired by European Commission Coordinator on Combating Antisemitism Katharina von Schnurbein and WJC Executive Vice President Maram Stern. Stern opened the forum stressing the importance of coordination, collaboration and identified Facebook’s recent decision to remove Holocaust denial content from its online platforms, as an example of this success. In his remarks, Stern called for participants to “strive to build upon this momentum and continue working together to eradicate all hate speech—and we should replicate this development in the other areas of our shared struggle.”
In her remarks, Von Schnurbein described the forum as an “invaluable tool” and encouraged special envoys to “learn from each other and see what kind of ideas we can use from one another in order to combat antisemitism.” Von Schnurbein highlighted the growing understanding of the need to combat antisemitism in the international community, noting the growing popularity of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism, and steps social media organizations have taken to combat antisemitism and hatred.
The forum also featured remarks from several community leaders and special envoys.
Raya Kalenova, European Jewish Congress Executive Vice-President, discussed the state of many European countries during the coronavirus pandemic, noting that many Jewish communities have reentered lockdowns. She noted that, unfortunately, the pandemic has resulted not only in an increase of "the supply of online hate, but also in an increase in the demand for it."
Karin Wallensteen, State Secretary to Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, delivered an impassioned plea on the imperative to fight antisemitism, especially in the era of COVID-19, saying, “We continue to see attacks against synagogues and rabbis, against adults, against children, and on the streets, as well as online in Sweden and all over the world. We see an increase in Holocaust denial and Holocaust distortion and the COVID 19 pandemic has been no exception…. This must never be accepted. It's a responsibility for society as a whole, and it's a threat to democracy itself.”
Petra Mårselius, Head of Secretariat for the Malmö Forum, joined the meeting to update participants on the status of the planned 2021 Malmö Forum, which was previously canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. She noted that participatory countries and organizations will present pledges related to concrete steps for new initiatives to combat antisemitism due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The forum featured the participation of several new envoys, most notably, Council of Europe Special Representative on antisemitic, anti-Muslim and other forms of religious intolerance and hate Daniel Höltgen, United Nations Under-Secretary-General H.E. Miguel Ángel Moratinos, and H.E. Dr. Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi, Chairman of Hedayah - The International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism, and member of the UAE Federal Council
Special Representative Höltgen, shared that part of the reason the Secretary General of the Council of Europe formed his newly created position was so that the “Council of Europe would have a counterpart to the [SECCA] group.” He added that the fight against discrimination has been at the core of the Council of Europe's (CoE) mission since its inception, and the CoE has been active in promoting Holocaust remembrance across Europe.
Addressing SECCA, Under-Secretary-General Moratinos spoke about the importance of monitoring and reporting antisemitic incidents. Moratinos also highlighted the need for countries to adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism and for the international community to engage with social media companies to remove antisemitic content from their platforms, saying “stemming out antisemitism requires a holistic and growing approach.”
Speaking from Dubai, Dr. Al Nuaimi discussed the United Arab Emirates normalization agreement with Israel and the UAE’s unique approach to tolerance, saying, “We were fortunate to have the right leadership.” Al Nuaimi added that the UAE “knows that diversity is a source of strength and not a threat.” He relayed that normalization agreement should be compared to Israeli peace deals with Jordan or Egypt. It is not a political treaty, but rather “a treaty to bring two peoples and cultures together in the public sector” and a platform to “promote peace, not only in the region, but also around the world.”
The briefing concluded with several breakout working group sessions to deliberate concrete action plans to combat antisemitism. The sessions focused on security measures to ensure community safety, implementation of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, combating online hate speech, monitoring and reporting of hate crime data, and Holocaust remembrance, among others.
Participating Special Envoys & Coordinators Combating Antisemitism:
Dr. Ali Al Nuaimi, Chairman, Hedayah - The International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism; Amb. Luis Barreiros, Head of Delegation to IHRA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal; Amb. Darja Bavdaz Kuret, Permanent Representative of Slovenia to the UN; Amb. Jacek Chodorowicz, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland; Mr. Karel Fracapane, Programme Specialist, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; Mr. Georg Georgiev, Deputy Foreign Minister and National Co-ordinator for Combating Antisemitism, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria; Mr. Daniel Höltgen, Special Representative on antisemitic, anti-Muslim and other forms of religious intolerance and hate, Council of Europe; Amb. Dainius Junevičius, Ambassador-at-large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania; Dr. Felix Klein, Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Antisemitism, Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community; Dr. Efstathios Lianos-Liantis, Special Envoy on Combating Antisemitism and Preserving Holocaust Remembrance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece; Lord John Man, HM Government's Independent Adviser on Antisemitism, UK Government; Mr. Antonio Martino, Head of Unit, Federal Ministry of Interior of Austria, Mr. Miguel Angel Moratinos, High Representative, United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC); Lord Eric Pickles, United Kingdom Special Envoy for post-Holocaust issues, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Mr. Thomas Pollan, Human Rights Officer, OHCHR; Amb. Timo Ranta, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland; Mr. Ringo Ringvee, Adviser, Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Estonia; Ms. Yéssica San Roman, Director, Casa Sefarad-Israel, Prof. Milena Santerini, Coordinator on combating antisemitism, Government of Italy / Presidency of the Council of Ministers; Amb. Michael Suhr, Special Representative for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Amb. Ulrika Sundberg, Special Envoy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden; Amb. Szabolcs Takács, Special Envoy, Government of Hungary; Amb. Jovan Tegovski, IHRA National Coordinator/Special Envoy on antisemitism, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia; Ms. Katharina von Schnurbein, Coordinator for Combating Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life, European Commission; Ms. Draga Vukcevic, Institution of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality of the Republic of Serbia
Participating Jewish Community Representatives:
Mr. Mark Dainow, Vice-President, Central Council of Jews in Germany; Mr. Tamas Desi, Secretary of Foreign Relations, MAZSIHISZ - Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary; Mr. Oskar Deutsch, President, Federation of Jewish Communities in Austria; Mrs. Noemi Di Segni, President, Union of Italian Jewish Communities; Mr. Gennadi Gramberg, Head of the Jewish Museum, Jewish Community of Estonia; Mrs. Marika Guralnik, Member of the Board, Jewish Community of Estonia; Mr. Andras Heisler, President, MAZSIHISZ - Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities; Ms. Raya Kalenova, Executive Vice President & CEO, European Jewish Congress; Mr. Benjamin Nägele, Secretary General, Federation of Jewish Communities in Austrian Jewish Communities; Ms. Jana Nichota, Secretary General, Jewish Community in North Macedonia; Mr. Alexander Oscar, President, Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria "Shalom"; Mr. Uriel Perugia, Secretary General, Union of Italian Jewish Communities; Mr. Isak Reichel, Secretary General, The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities; Mr. Robert Sabados, President, Federation of Jewish Communities in Serbia; Dr. Maram Stern, Executive Vice President, World Jewish Congress; Mrs. Marie van der Zyl, President, Board of Deputies of British Jews.