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January 8, 2021 1:06 pm

Jewish Groups Warmly Endorse New EU Handbook on Combating Antisemitism

avatar by Ben Cohen

A young protester holds a placard at a demonstration organized by the British Board of Jewish Deputies to oppose antisemitism in the Labour Party, at Parliament Square in London, March 26, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Henry Nicholls.

Jewish groups around the world on Friday warmly endorsed the publication of  a new handbook on combating antisemitism by the European Commission (EC), the executive branch of the European Union.

The handbook provides practical illustrations of the implementation of the working definition of antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

Dozens of civic institutions and governments around the world, including the US, have adopted the definition as the first step in countering the threat of antisemitic agitation and violence. The definition includes both traditional expressions of antisemitism and the more recent mutations that are centered on enmity toward Zionism.

Katharina von Schnurbein — European Commission coordinator on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life — said that the publication of the handbook would “in a very practical way…help state authorities and civil society to prevent and address antisemitic incidents, support victims, improve data collection of incidents, and increase awareness.”

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Von Schnurbein emphasized that the IHRA definition — which is not legally binding — “serves as a basis for recognizing and addressing all forms of contemporary antisemitism.”

“Antisemitism constitutes a threat to the Jewish community and to democratic values,” she said.

The handbook explains that “a statement or action is antisemitic if it targets Jews, Jewish institutions, persons and institutions perceived as Jewish, or entities seen as allied with Jews. It is antisemitic to hold Jews responsible for social problems, conflicts and crises that do not result from the behavior of Jews but are only perceived as being associated with them. Antisemitism can also manifest itself as hatred against Israel as the ‘collective Jew’ in the context of real or alleged behavior.”

The handbook provides several examples of contemporary antisemitic incidents that highlighted various antisemitic accusations, for example that Jews form a “Zionist lobby,” exercise control over the international financial system, and behave like their Nazi persecutors during WWII.

Among the incidents cited in the handbook: “In May 2016, addressing the Catalonian parliament, a politician called the president of Barcelona’s Jewish community a ‘foreign agent’ from an alleged ‘Zionist lobby’ that defines the Parliament’s agenda. In December 2017, after the US government’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, individuals threw firebombs at the synagogue in Gothenburg, Sweden. In November 2020, a Hungarian official and museum director called Jewish Shoah survivor George Soros a ‘liberal leader,’ accused Soros of turning Europe into a ‘gas chamber’ and claimed that he controls people as if they were pawns on a ‘worldwide chessboard.'”

Friday’s publication of the handbook caused a flurry of activity on social media, as commenters — including several politicians and academics with a high profile in countering antisemitism — endorsed its contents.

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