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Tel Aviv University Presents Global ‘Positive Trends’ Countering Antisemitism to Israel’s President

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israeli President Isaac Herzog speaks as he meets with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (not seen) in London, Britain, November 23, 2021. Justin Tallis/Pool via REUTERS

Senior researchers at the Tel Aviv University have highlighted positive trends and initiatives countering antisemitism during 2021, as leading Jewish groups said last year marked the worst year of anti-Jewish attacks worldwide in a decade.

While acknowledging a rise in “alarming” incidents, the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University concluded in a report released Thursday that there are “many encouraging developments in the fight against antisemitism and other forms of racially and religiously charged radicalization.”

“Discourse on antisemitism and radicalization usually focuses on troubling negative trends,” stated Prof. Uriya Shavit, Head of the Kantor Center at TAU. “We decided that a positive report, describing encouraging developments and activities, should also be published — for three reasons:  expressing appreciation for those already active; impelling more governments and organizations worldwide to initiate similar activities; and promoting a discussion on concrete proposals for improving existing programs.”

The report was presented Thursday to Israel’s President Isaac Herzog at a special ceremony in Jerusalem marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

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“The global antisemitism crisis is escalating, but the international fight against it is also intensifying,” said Herzog. “We are witnessing many initiatives for combating antisemitism around the world, and we must encourage and foster these positive trends. Strengthening the light is just as important as fighting darkness.”

Produced by a team of seven academics, the TAU report includes policy recommendations for organizations and governments to keep these positive trends going in their efforts to counter antisemitism. It focuses on four areas: legal trends, political and legislative initiatives, cultural actions and activities in the Middle East.

On the legal front, the report highlighted two actions introduced by the European Commission in 2021 to curb the almost unrestricted spread of hate propaganda. The first is to expand the “EU Crimes” list to include hate speech and hate crimes. Secondly, the Commission unveiled a nine-year strategy  to counter antisemitism and foster Jewish life among its 27 member states as well as promote Holocaust research and remembrance.

“Countering hate speech online is a major priority. Internet companies often remove online hate speech after receiving a specific complaint,” the report said. “Therefore, robust reporting mechanisms must be put in place. On the national level, justice ministries working in coordination with law enforcement can develop technology for quick and effective online reporting and effective follow-up on individual reports.”

The report commended that some Western governments and NGOs, alongside local and international organizations, last year reacted to the rising wave of antisemitism.

“Some allocated budgets to secure Jewish communities and established educational and training programs for law enforcement; some advanced legislation to curb expressions of antisemitism online and others adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism,” the report said.

Since 2015, more than 800 governments, associations and civic organizations worldwide have adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism, with the majority adopting the definition over the past two years, according to the report.

As sports stadiums around the world reopened last year following COVID-19 lockdowns, some incidents of racist crowd chants and other expressions of racist and antisemitic behavior were recorded. In response, sports associations and teams in Western Europe and North America took action to combat the “vile phenomenon.”

The English Football Association (FA) pledged to adopt the IHRA definition for antisemitism, and football teams in England followed suit. IHRA was also adopted by the Austrian Football Association. Another example were two European football clubs in Germany and the Netherlands which partnered with the Anne Frank House to develop guidelines for tackling antisemitism in football.

“The fight against antisemitism in sports is conducted at all levels — from the EU and national associations through the teams, all the way to the fans themselves,” the report found.

The authors of the report called for the Israeli government to allocate budgets for tackling antisemitism in sports with a focus on Eastern Europe. The government should seek partnerships with sporting associations worldwide to confront expressions of antisemitism from players and fans, it was recommended. Another proposal made in the report is for Israel’s Ministry of Culture and Sport to launch a program for weeklong training camps that will bring youth teams to Israel and would include an educational program on Jewish history and antisemitism.

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