After considerable effort on the part of Moshe Kantor and other European Jewish leaders, the European Parliament voted in favour last week of a resolution that establishes an agreed upon definition of anti-Semitism. The resolution adopts the definition established in May 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) which says that 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 or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
A Monumental Day in the Effort to Protect Jews
Upon adoption of the resolution, Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress, said, “This is a monumental day for the fight against hate and the protection of the rights of European Jews.” The Resolution calls upon the 28 member states of the European Union to take all measures to protect their Jewish citizenry, as well as Jewish institutions, from incidences of anti-Semitism, including hate speech and overt acts of violence.
Previously, the only EU members to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism were the UK, Romania and Austria, even though 28 European Union states are members of the Alliance. Now a precedent is set for all EU members to be proactively engaged in the fight against anti-Semitism, especially through education and public information campaigns, such as Holocaust education in the classrooms and through age-appropriate textbooks. Further, in an effort to build understanding, the Resolution calls for the implementation of cultural education about Jewish history, customs and modern Jewish life, as well as fact-checking existing classroom texts for errors and or material that could lead to hatred and extremist ideologies. Moshe Kantor went on to say, “For too long, Jews were deemed unique, with hate defined by the perpetrators and not by the victims.”
Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress also praised the actions of the European Parliament, encouraging member states to take action toward speedy implementation through their individual institutions and municipalities. Lauder stressed the importance of a uniform working definition of anti-Semitism in order to effectively deal with hatred against Jews.
The Resolution also requires member states to pursue law enforcement strategies to identify and prosecute perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks, to speak out immediately and without hesitation against all incidences of anti-Semitism and to appoint a national team of coordinators charged with developing strategies for fighting against anti-Semitism.
The Lack of a Working Definition Impaired EU Efforts to Combat Anti-Semitism
The Resolution is especially timely in light of the increase in anti-Semitic attacks and wave of hate speech directed toward European Jewry. Jewish groups urged the EU Parliament to pass the Resolution, stating that the absence of a unified definition of anti-Semitism hinders the development and implementation of meaningful and effective strategies to provide security for Europe’s Jewish citizens. A single definition will lead to a unified vision and the strategic use of resources to deal with the rising tide of hatred toward Jews living across Europe they said. In fact, it was these very issues that led to the adoption of a definition of anti-Semitism by the IHRA. The Alliance felt that an accepted definition of anti-Semitism was needed in order to catch behaviours that were otherwise going unchecked and even becoming institutionalized, due to a disagreement over what constitutes anti-Semitism.
Now there is a definition of anti-Semitism. Next step is implementation of policies and enforcement strategies.
European Nations Agree on a Definition of Anti-Semitism
President of the European Jewish Congress Moshe Kantor praises the EU adoption of a working definition of anti-Semitism, key to ensuring the safety of Jews.
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