OPINION: Rising antisemitism weakens our societies

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OPINION: Rising antisemitism weakens our societies

EXCLUSIVE: Against a backdrop of increasing antisemitism in their countries, senior ministers and politicians from the UK, Germany and France reflect on the world's oldest hatred poses to Jews and non-Jews

An antisemitism protest march in November. Credit: Guy Bell/Alamy Live News
An antisemitism protest march in November. Credit: Guy Bell/Alamy Live News

Today, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Declaration. In the two decades that have passed since OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) member states adopted this formative document on understanding and combatting antisemitism, we have seen an almost constant rise in antisemitic crime and incidents all over the world, both in terms of quantity and intensity.

As if the authors of the Berlin Declaration had predicted this terrible development, they had included in the document all relevant aspects of what we consider the basis of combatting antisemitism today: to promote understanding of antisemitism as a form of hatred connecting many different kinds of political and religious extremism and which changes according to current public debates, to create legal structures that permit an effective fight against Jew hatred, to enable reliable data collection on antisemitic incidents, and to ensure education on antisemitism and how to fight it.

Dr. Felix Klein. Pic: antisemitismusbeauftragter.de

So, despite its comparably old age, we should continue to act in the spirit and on the basis of the Berlin Declaration, especially today, when we see levels of discrimination, hatred, and violence against Jews we have not experienced since the end of the Shoah.

The current rise of antisemitic acts in our countries is wide-ranging. Since the Hamas terrorist attacks of 7 October, antisemitic comments and hate are spread across all social media platforms. In France, 75 percent of these reported contents were identified on X (formerly Twitter). On YouTube, there were reports about a fifty-fold increase in antisemitic contents, including direct threats against Jewish institutions and individuals.

But what is said online rarely stays online: antisemitism is also on the rise in our streets. It includes physical abuse, criminal damage to property.  Even on our university campuses, intimidation and violence against students are reported. This concerns us all, in all countries, in all regions. In the United Kingdom, for the first time ever, antisemitic incidents were recorded in every single police region in the UK. In Germany, antisemitic incidents have risen by 320%.

Lord Pickles

Between the Hamas attack and the end of January 2024, in Germany 2249 antisemitic crimes have been committed, most of them related to the conflict in the Middle East. It calls us to raise awareness at school. In France, 40 percent of the antisemitic acts committed at school make the apology of Nazism.

Antisemitism is pernicious and sends the message that some people deserve to be targeted solely because of who they are or who they are believed to be. Antisemitism has a deep impact on victims. Those who commit antisemitic acts also attack the fundamental values that underpin our diverse society, values of acceptance and respect for others.

Antisemitism reflects on us as a society. It can cause lasting physical and emotional damage. It provokes despair, anger, and anxiety in victims, and spreads fear and mistrust in communities, thus weakening the glue that binds our societies together. It strikes at the heart of our democracies by undermining the fundamental rights of equality and non-discrimination. Those who target Jews target our societies and peaceful co-existence within them as a whole.

That is why we reaffirm our commitment to fight against all discriminations and our commitment to this universal objective which is the fight against all forms of hatred. That is why we need to reinforce our different structures targeting antisemitism, such as National Action Plans, National Coordinators, the promotion of the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism entailing all forms of antisemitism, and legal frameworks, and, which are so important and why we encourage all countries to establish them in consultation with their civil societies.

Aurore Bergé. Pic: Facebook

We encourage relevant authorities, universities, councils, or companies to work together, to support their Jewish colleagues, employees, or students. In France, this will be at the heart of the national Convention against antisemitism which will be organized (« les Assises de l’Antisémitisme ») on May 6th.

National Action Plans addressing antisemitism should be at the heart of what we do.

We all value our Jewish communities and without them we would all be diminished. If we lose the battle against antisemitism, we lose our democracies.

  • Aurore Bergé Minister in charge of Equality and the Fight against Discrimination- France; Felix Klein is Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Antisemitism; Lord Eric Pickles United Kingdom’s Post Holocaust Issues Envoy
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