As the representative of over 100 Jewish communities worldwide, combating antisemitism is a core issue of the World Jewish Congress. The WJC is in a unique position to actively counter this phenomenon stemming from our thorough understanding of the situation on the ground and our extensive experience and strong ties with both international organizations and national authorities, as well as affiliated local Jewish communities.
Under the leadership of WJC Commissioner on Combatting Antisemitism Julius Meinl, the WJC Counter Antisemitism Unit serves as the information base for the WJC on relevant matters, and as a specialized asset to coordinate both global and national initiatives through active monitoring, utilization of the WJC network to forge decisive movements and swiftly engage to reach desired results.
The Unit's mission is to monitor, research and implement activities to counter antisemitism, while fully supporting WJC’s affiliated communities in their efforts to counter this phenomenon. This mission is based on the clear duty to name, reply and proactively counter antisemitic manifestations; to defend WJC affiliate communities against antisemitic assaults; to enhance the public perception of problematic nature of antisemitism; to provide world Jewry with the tools to defend itself against this ancient hatred.
The Unit closely follows and reports on all developments regarding antisemitism in relevant international forums and individual countries and to clearly present WJC’s positions to the appropriate public. The Unit also acts in the field of developing and implementing a strategy on implementation of International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism in countries, companies and global organizations and campaigning for more countries to use it.
The Unit is also responsible for developing and implementing a strategy on countering CyberHate, in close cooperation with the WJC Digital Advocacy Unit, and works closely with the WJC Security Department as well to develop a global approach to antisemitism and security.
About WJC Commissioner on Combatting Antisemitism
Julius Meinl was appointed WJC Commissioner for Combatting Anti-Semitism in October 2017.
He is the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Meinl Bank AG and Julius Meinl AG, and actively engaged in Jewish philanthropy, supporting support to Jewish communal institutions in Austria, in particular, to the Lauder School of Entrepreneurship in Vienna. He also supports Jewish communities in countries, where Meinl Bank AG is active in: in the former Soviet Union, Central and Eastern Europe as well as in Israel. Significant assistance was provided to the Yitzhak Rabin Peace Center in Tel-Aviv.
At the autumn of 2013 on Julius Meinl V initiative the Foundation for Jewish communities and community programs in Eurasia was established. On October-December 2013 the Foundation has provided financial support to several communities in the region and the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress activity.
Julius Meinl V was President of the EuroAsian Jewish Congress from 2014-2017.
Current events: Responding to antisemitism in the global arena
EVEN IN AMERICA: THE LATEST OUTRAGE
On October 27, 2018, white supremacist Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh armed with an AR-15 assault rifle and three Glock .357 handguns. Shouting antisemitic epithets, he proceeded to open fire on the congregants killing eleven Jews worshipping at three separate prayer services in the building. It was the deadliest attack on American Jews in history. Six others, including four police officers, were wounded in the attack. The youngest of the dead was 54 years old, the oldest 97. Bowers said clearly that he wanted “all Jews to die.”
Immediately upon learning of the massacre, World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder expressed shock and horror of the heinous attack.
„This Shabbat, our worst nightmares came true. Innocent people were killed and wounded for the simple crime of being Jewish. This was an attack specifically targeting the Jewish community, in a deliberate and callous manifestation of antisemitism and hatred, and it should serve as a wake-up call to all Americans that such horror can and has happened here. We must be vigilant in making sure that this never happens again,“ Lauder said.
The following day, President Lauder led a WJC solidarity delegation to Pittsburgh. After paying his respects at the site of the massacre and meeting with community leaders and members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation, Ambassador Lauder and the WJC delegation joined the community and thousands of supporters at an interfaith gathering and vigil, organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh together with religious congregations and Jewish organizations.
Representatives of the WJC, including members of its Jewish Diplomatic Corps (JD Corps), a worldwide network of young Jewish professionals, remained in Pittsburgh to attend funerals of the victims and comfort their families.
THE UK LABOUR PARTY’S “JEWISH PROBLEM”
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Britsh Labour Party, has long been accused of harboring antisemitic attitudes and of condoning antisemitic behavior within the party. Recent reports reveal that antisemitism remains at historically high levels in Britain, compounded even further by the Labour Party’s reticence to contend with the manifestations of this kind within its own ranks. The controversy over some of Corbyn’s associations with antisemites and his membership on three Facebook pages featuring antisemitic postings came to a head in 2018.
The WJC strongly supported the Board of Deputies of British Jews’ positioning on this matter, with. President Lauder urging the Labour Party “to take the necessary measures to create a zero-tolerance policy for such hatred. Antisemitism and issues pertaining to the safety and well-being of the Jewish community cannot become partisan. These are issues that affect society as a whole.”
On September 27, 2018, Ambassador Lauder published an op-ed article in The Telegraph in which he wrote: „The far Left and far Right are thus engaged in a pincer movement on the only long-standing democracy in the Middle East and on the Jewish community in the Diaspora – a true Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact for our times.“
The WJC Digital Ambassador Club (DAC) was notified in August that the Board of Deputies of British Jews would be organizing a massive demonstration on September 16th in Manchester, England called “Say NO to Antisemitism #EnoughIsEnough” to protest the recent surge of antisemitism in the UK.
Under the leadership of WJC Chief Program Officer Sonia Gomes de Mesquita, and in coordination with the WJC JD Corps and the organization’s social media team, WJC’s Digital Advocacy Unit devised a plan of action to support the Jewish community in the UK, gaining international support with calls to action on the WJC and DAC Facebook pages, Instagram, and Twitter pages.
In total, some 500,000 people were reached by the WJC’s “Say NO to Antisemitism” campaign. Numerous other Jewish organizations joined in as well and referenced the WJC for its production of the concept.
PARTNERING WITH UNESCO
On June 4, 2018, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) co-launched a guide on “Addressing Antisemitism through Education – Guidelines for Policymakers.” This was the first time a United Nations agency published a guide focusing on antisemitism. On this occasion, the WJC participated in a panel discussion organized at UNESCO headquarters, stressing that antisemitism needs to be combatted in all its manifestations, including anti-Zionism.
On September 26, Ambassador Lauder spoke at a UNESCO conference on the power of education in preventing racism and discrimination, with a focus on antisemitism. The conference was held at UN headquarters in New York City, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
The conference sought to place political leaders’ support behind the need to develop capacity building workshops for education policymakers to address antisemitism in and through education and build the resilience of youth to violent extremist ideologies, on the basis the guidelines that were launched in Paris a few months prior.
On this occasion, the WJC announced its support for UNESCO’s “Addressing Antisemitism through Education” project by offering organizing and executing capacity-building workshops to decision-makers, based on geographical considerations, in countries or regions where the WJC has a strong presence and knowledge base and/or where the need for such workshops is most pressing. Through this partnership, the WJC seeks to strengthen the ongoing relationship between UNESCO and the WJC in combating antisemitism and xenophobia.
ADOPTING A DEFINITION OF THE OLDEST HATRED
One of the key initiatives of the WJC in its efforts to fight antisemitism is to support and promote the adoption of an international standard that clearly defines antisemitism. In May 2016, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), consisting of 31 member countries with the mission of strengthening, advancing and promoting Holocaust education, research and remembrance (formerly the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research) adopted the following working non-legally binding definition of antisemitism:
Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
Manifestations of antisemitism set forth by IHRA in adopting the aforesaid definition might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits. IHRA then listed the following specific examples of “antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere”:
- Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
- Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective – such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
- Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
- Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
- Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
- Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
- Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
- Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
In successive diplomatic meetings around the world the leadership of the WJC has vigorously lobbied for the adoption of the IHRA definition. These efforts included a meeting between WJC Commissioner for Combatting Antisemitism Julius Meinl and WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as well as meetings with the Secretary-General of the UN, the Director-General of UNESCO, and representatives of other high ranking international and national governmental officials during the September session of the UN General Assembly. At all of these meetings it was clear that there is understanding for the WJC’s position. WJC efforts urging the adoption of the EU Council Declaration against antisemitism (which contains a call for the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism) has also resonated.
FIGHTING ANTISEMITISM IN SWEDEN
In Sweden, Muslim extremism and the far right are part of a broader set of challenges to Jewish communal life. Although the Stockholm Jewish community may be growing, the growing antisemitism in the country are causing many Jews to fear for their future as a minority there.
On June 25, 2018, three Arab men were convicted of hurling firebombs at the synagogue in Gothenburg in December 2017 after President Donald Trump announced that the US Embassy in Israel would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It was one of several attacks on Jewish houses of worship in recent years – especially in Malmö, in which a third of the city’s population of 350,000 is Muslim and only about 1,000 are Jewish. The boldness of neo-Nazis in Sweden seems unusual for Western Europe, where law enforcement agencies in many countries with bitter memories of Nazism have a relatively low tolerance for far-right violence. In 2015 and 2017, Swedish skinheads twice disrupted school lectures by Holocaust survivors. And last year in Gothenburg hundreds of neo-Nazis from the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) marched on Yom Kippur to celebrate their hateful ideology. The original itinerary called for them to parade past the synagogue, but municipal authorities eventually compelled the organizers of the march to change their route.
In addition to violent harassment, Swedish Jews also need to deal with uncompromising secularism on the part of authorities and this sometimes encroaches on their customs. The traditional Jewish slaughter of animals is illegal in Sweden, and although ritual circumcision of boys under 18 is allowed, there are unrelenting calls for the Jewish practice to be outlawed. In March, two cabinet ministers called for a ban on all faith-based schools.
In a letter dated July 12, 2018 the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven responded to Mr. Singer’s statement on the rise of antisemitism and said that the Swedish government has taken “a raft of measures to safeguard the Swedish Jewish communities” and will “continue to combat antisemitism and all forms of racism, hatred, and discrimination with full force.” The prime minister was responding to Mr. Singer’s own letter of June 18, 2018, in which the WJC CEO expressed great concern over the “escalating pattern of violence and increased signs of antisemitism” in Sweden and urged the government to take firm action to protect the Jewish community.
Mr. Singer’s letter noted the WJC’s concern over the closure of the Jewish community center in Umeå amid repeated neo-Nazi threats and vandalism and outlined a number of necessary measures including the allocation of funds and police resources, effective legislation to bar far-right activities, and an increase in police presence around Jewish buildings to protect the communities and their institutions.
In response, Prime Minister Löfven listed steps being taken by the government including increased resources to the Swedish Security Service to prevent “domestic and international terrorism” and the recent establishment of the Swedish Center for Preventing Violent Extremism with an “extensive mandate to lead the work throughout the country.” The Swedish police have also established democracy and hate crime groups in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö, and have received increased funding to fight online hate crimes. The Swedish government, he insisted, is doubling state support to strengthen security around buildings and premises used by religious organizations. It is also broadening support to secular Jewish associations, making more tools available and facilitating the use of surveillance cameras.
The beginning of October 2018, brought a particularly disturbing arson attack on the home of a Jewish lay politician in Lund, north of Malmö, which is being treated as a hate crime by local police. Mr. Singer condemned the attack, the second such incident against a Jewish community member in Lund in recent months, and conveyed this message in a letter to Southern District Police Chief Carina Persson:
We urge the Malmö Police Department to treat this violent incident with the severity it deserves and hope that the perpetrator will be swiftly located and brought to justice... Sweden has seen a frightening resurgence in antisemitism recently, among both Islamists and neo-Nazi elements who feel empowered and emboldened to target innocent people with violent rhetoric and actions. We have witnessed this scourge rear its head numerous times across the country over the last year. It is inconceivable that the Jews of Sweden should have to live in fear or hide their identity because of threats of physical or verbal attack.
Sweden's southern district police chief Carina Persson and the head of the department’s investigations division, Petra Stenkula, responded immediately to WJC concern over threats facing the Jewish community. The police officials told Mr. Singer that they were aware of the “critical social consequences regarding hate crimes, and in this case, a crime caused by antisemitism,” and underscored that “antisemitism is unacceptable, and we’re doing a lot of good work to ensure that our Jewish community in Sweden won’t be a targeted community.” Persson and Stenkula also assured Singer that the police department is working in cooperation with Jewish security groups in Malmö and nearby Copenhagen and that it looks seriously upon the “experienced fear that the Jewish members of our community are living through.”
ANTISEMITISM IN SPORTS
Since January 2018, the WJC has significantly increased its efforts to combat antisemitism in sports. One of its major new initiatives has focused on combatting antisemitism in football and other sports on multiple levels, following an uptick in incidents across Europe.
In June, the WJC released a video depicting a group of drunken England fans making Nazi salutes and chanting antisemitic songs in a Russian bar after England defeated Tunisia in the World Cup. One man is seen in the Volgograd bar shouting “Sieg Heil” while performing the Nazi salute, and the Englishmen can be heard singing “we’re on our way to Auschwitz” to the melody of a popular Tottenham Hotspur chant.
After the footage surfaced via private contacts, the WJC created a rapid response video which documented the incident and provided text highlighting the incident. The video was picked up by CNN and reposted on other important media outlets across the globe.
The WJC joined Chelsea Football Club in its ‘Say No to Antisemitism’ campaign in January, and in April, partnered for the launch of a three-pronged joint initiative to combat the widespread phenomenon of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, and antisemitism in sports, under the banner Red Card for Hate.
In June, WJC and Chelsea kicked off the first stage of the project called the Pitch for Hope competition, calling upon youth aged 18-30 from the United States, Israel, and the UK to submit creative ideas to combat antisemitism and discrimination in sports. The winners in each country were given a $10,000 grant by Chelsea and WJC to implement their idea.
A JOINT STATEMENT ON ANTISEMITISM AT THE UNHRC
In line with its mandate to combat antisemitism anywhere and everywhere it rears its head, the WJC played a proactive role in initiating and promoting a joint statement on antisemitism that was delivered at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in June 2018. This joint statement, led and delivered by Hungary, was co-sponsored by 21 other countries: Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.
For many years and through many channels, the WJC has been at the forefront of urging the UNHRC to address antisemitism with the vigor it deserves and raised the initiative in meeting with top representatives from a majority of the cosigning countries. The joint statement (which can be read in full below) unequivocally denounces antisemitism as a serious concern extending beyond the Jewish community and calls on states to take concrete measures to combat this scourge through national legislation, dialogue with civil society, education, public condemnation of antisemitic and xenophobic statements, public awareness, and adoption of policies to preserve Jewish culture and religious heritage. It sent a strong message that antisemitism is not only a direct threat against Jews but is an attack on democracy and all the values that its represents.
THE WJC JD CORPS AT THE UNHRC
Every year, members of the WJC JD Corps participate in the three sessions of the UNHRC held in March, June and September in Geneva, Switzerland. The JD Corps statements are among the very few Jewish voices at the Council which is notorious for its anti-Israel bias.
While the JDs address many topics of importance to world Jewry in the statements made before the Council, one of their priorities is to push for antisemitism to be at the forefront of the global human rights agenda.