In response to the need to build a joint working definition of anti-Semitism with the goal of coming up with collective strategies to promote its defeat, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), a body of the European Union developed the following:
"Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities. In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm, and it is often used to blame Jews for 'why things go wrong'." Incidences of anti-Semitism that breathe life into this definition, unfortunately still abound the world over.
Perhaps the best-known example of anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, appearing in several dailies worldwide, is the blame put on Jews for the September 11 attacks. Purportedly having had advance warning of the attack, 4000 Jews allegedly and deliberately missed work at the World Trade Center. In reality, 10 to 15% of the 2,071 occupants of the World Trade Center who died were Jewish---there were no missing groups of any sort at the time or place. On a day-to-day basis, individuals are still being maligned, attacked or abuse on the basis of their Jewish identity, such as in the case of Ilan Halimi, who died in the beginning of 2006, after being kidnapped and tortured by a gang in France. He had been targeted for ransom because, as per the gang leader, “all Jews have money”.
The New Anti-Semitism
Such occurrences, however, only serve to illustrate how anti-Semitic attitudes continue to exist and prevail. Beyond the retention of these past attitudes however, contemporary forms of anti-Semitism have developed past the oppressive prejudices and policies from the Second World War leading up to the Holocaust. Some principal scholars on anti-Semitic history, such as Robert Wistrich, speak of “new anti-Semitism”. Wistrich claims no clear-cut definition of the new anti-Semitisms however, the term is “often used to denote extreme hostility to Israel, a hatred which aims to demonize its actions, defame its character and delegitimize its existence, while often claiming to only provide ”justified criticism of Israel’s policies”. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has also officially stated that they “[recognize] that anti-Semitism, following its most devastating manifestation during the Holocaust, has assumed new forms and expressions, which, along with other forms of intolerance, pose a threat to democracy, the values of civilization and, therefore, to overall security in the OSCE region and beyond".
Anti-Semitism in Germany
The Amadeu Antonio Foundation closely monitors incidents of anti-Semitism in Germany. In the short time from January to March 2010, 14 incidents of publicized shows of anti-Semitism have been recorded, ranging from statements from politicians to the desecration of Jewish spaces. Earlier years have also endured the presence of such events. In February 25, 2007, neo-Nazis threw a smoke bomb into the Gan-Israel Jewish school and defaced the building with Nazi symbols. Fortunately, the kindergarten was at that time unoccupied, and no one was hurt. Expressing her solidarity with the affected, Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote to the school’s Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, saying that she considered ““every attack on a Jewish institution an assault on our democracy”. Such statements represent the official stand of German government, as well as many institutions in Germany on anti-Semitism, and therefore the assurance that problem is not being ignored. In 2001 the Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth (BMFSJ) launched the still-ongoing campaign entitled „Youth for Tolerance and Democracy—Against Right-wing Extremism, Racism, and Anti-Semitism. Endeavours also exist on the local level such as the Berlin-based Kreuzberg Initiative against Anti-Semitism (KIGA).
Germany also aligns itself with other countries in the fight against Anti-Semitism, such as in the context of the activities of the OSCE. The main output of the second OSCE Conference is called the “Berlin Declaration”, seen as a significant milestone in international activities against anti-Semitism. According to the declaration the member states “condemn without reserve allmanifestations of anti-Semitism, and all other acts of intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, wherever they occur”, and that they “[commit themselves] to intensifyefforts to combat anti-Semitism in all its manifestations and to promote and strengthen tolerance and non-discrimination”.Other organizations such as the Council of Europe (CoE), the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) as well as the United Nations through their research, exchange and advocacy have also been valuable champions of the fight against anti-Semitism.
The Amadeu Antonio Foundation
Confronting anti-Semitism has been a priority for the Amadeu Antonio Foundation since 2001. The foundation puts particular emphasis on the work of dealing with the Holocaust. In the context of Foundation-sponsored projects, young people research the biographies of former neighbours who were forced into exile or murdered in the Holocaust. In East Germany, many communities have not been able to come to terms with the Nazi past. For purposes of sensitization, the Foundation created a travelling exhibit about anti-Semitism in East Germany, encouraging viewers to be alert and engage themselves in the struggle.
For more information on the Foundation’s projects against anti-Semitism, look here (available only in German).
Anti-Semitism Report,released by the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, U.S. Department of State, March 2008
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Berlin Declaration. April 2004.
Amadeu Antonio Stiftung
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