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September 13, 2016

Overarching Theme at U.N. Forum on Anti-Semitism: It’s Everyone’s Problem

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This article originally appeared on The Times of Israel blog with the headline “Even the UN is Fighting Anti-Semitism”

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“The fight against anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem but one for governments and civil society.”

That was the central message of a day-long, historic conference on anti-Semitism held at the United Nations on September 7 and sponsored by the U.S., Canada, Israel and the E.U.

Making it clear that the conference had the imprimateur of the U.N. were the introductory presentations by Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and the current president of the General Assembly.

In the context of the body’s founding, after World War II and the Holocaust, and its foundational resolutions on human rights and genocide, the U.N. should have been the natural home to counter anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, too often, it has been not a force to diminish hatred of Jews but a catalyst for a resurgence of anti-Semitism. This was most notably, but hardly solely, evidenced in the infamous 1975 U.N. resolution equation Zionism with Racism which the first major rationale for anti-Semitism in the post-Holocaust Era.

So, when the U.N. hosts a conference solely devoted to anti-Semitism, as it has now done for a second time, it is an important occasion. And when strong presentations are made by representatives of four governments on why the fight against anti-Semitism needs to be everyone’s business, that too is significant.

The program itself reflected the major theme: it’s everyone’s problem. Official government representatives, including American Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Powers and Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon, stressed that the struggle against anti-Semitism is a struggle for Democratic values and that all minorities are at risk if we don’t stand together against Jew hatred.

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Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.

Similarly, government involvement with civil society on this issue was deemed vital because the battle could not be won without the partnership of the public and the private.

Some of the issues addressed dealt with the most blatant forms of anti-Semitism as, for example, when Deborah Lipstadt, professor at Emory University,spoke eloquently on the subject of Holocaust denial and its meaning in the 21st century.

Others, such as Samantha Power,spoke to the conundrum that bedevils serious students of anti-Semitism: when is criticism of Israel legitimate and when does it cross the line into anti-Semitism? While that line is not always agreed on, what was consistent throughout the day was the understanding that attacks on Israel’s good name are an integral part of modern-day anti-Semitism and one cannot be serious about addressing anti-Semitism if one does not take into account anti-Israel activity as either personifying or legitimizing anti-Semitism.

Still others, like Roger Cuikerman, head of the French Jewish community and Chris Wolf, chair of ADL’s Task Force on Cyberhate,spoke to the challenge of confronting one of the great modern manifestations of anti-Semitism: Cyberhate and, particularly, cyber anti-Semitism.

There was agreement that cyberhate is more and more of a problem and is linked to terrorist acts and violence against Jews. How to address this serious problem, however, was not agreed upon, partly reflecting different traditions – European and American – on the nature of free speech and how hate speech must be addressed.

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Chris Wolf, a nationally renowned cyberhate expert and longtime ADL leader discusses hate speech on the Internet and social media at a high level forum on global anti-Semitism at the United Nations headquarters.

For Americans and American Jews, free speech interpreted broadly is not only constitutionally protected but is seen as a vital element in the vibrancy of American democracy and the flourishing of Jewish life. The focus then becomes how to work with Internet companies and social media platforms to see that company standards on hate are lived up to rather than turning to the law for remedies.

In Europe, because of a different history, because of the current wave of anti-Semitism and terrorism, and because there is no equivalent of our First Amendment, there is much more of a tendency to look to banning certain speech. All agreed, however, that hate online will be this generation’s main new challenge in the battle against anti-Semitism.

The involvement of society at large in the struggle against anti-Semitism manifested itself in another panel in which non-governmental organization representatives spoke on how Jewish groups encourage and receive support from groups outside the Jewish community. Three themes predominated here: the recognition that working together on such issues benefits all minorities; the added value in the struggle against anti-Semitism when non-Jewish groups speak out; and the need for Jews to be involved in struggles for civil and human rights for African-Americans, Muslim, gays and other minorities.

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Stacy Burdett, ADL VP of Government Relations, Advocacy and Community Engagement, and Kenneth Jacobson, ADL Deputy National Director, participated on a panel highlighted the significance of civil society participation as an essential component in the fight against anti-Semitism.

What was also heartening from this conference was the recognition, alongside the many anxieties surrounding anti-Semitism, that there was much to be thankful for: the state of Israel is a hallmark of Jewish life and security; the Catholic Church has a completely different relationship with the Jewish people than existed for centuries; the international community has accepted a working definition of anti-Semitism, one that includes hatred of Jews connected to hatred of Israel; And that maybe the U.N. itself will start paying more attention to critical issues of anti-Semitism.

Once again, the most important fact about this all-day conference is that it took place under the auspices of the U.N. The ambivalence that haunts American Jews about the world body is its original prospect of helping to ensure a more peaceful and humane world, and its vital role in the founding of Israel juxtaposed with the reality of assaults on the good name of the Jewish state has not disappeared.

None of this should take away from the fact that this was a good day, for democracy, for Israel, for Jews and, for the U.N. itself.

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September 6, 2016

ADL at the UN: Providing Expertise on Stemming Global Anti-Semitism

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and her counterparts from Canada, Israel and the European Union will host a day-long High Level Forum on Global Anti-Semitism on September 7th at the U.N.  The gathering builds on last year’s first-ever U.N General Assembly session on anti-Semitism in January, 2015, and brings together officials, community leaders and business leaders to make concrete recommendations to U.N. Member countries on how to more effectively counter anti-Semitism.

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Part 1, including 12 noon session


Part 2



ADL experts will address the forum and make recommendations in areas like combatting online anti-Semitic harassment and the need for broad, diverse coalitions to advocate for countermeasures.

It is important for political leaders to consistently condemn and marginalize anti-Semitism in the U.N.  But the true success of these efforts can best be measured by the number of countries that act on and implement the recommendations made.

The U.N. has been a source of mixed feelings for the Jewish community.  Although the struggle against the persecution of Jews was a touchstone for the creation of the U.N. and some of its foundational human rights instruments and treaties, it became a forum where efforts to address anti-Semitism or even Holocaust remembrance met with resistance. The over 15 years when the infamous “Zionism is Racism” resolution was on the books was further alienating. Even as anti-Semitism flared, persistent efforts to sideline and dismiss the danger or evident existence of anti-Semitism by blocs of countries like the Soviet Union and later the Organization of the Islamic Conference kept the issue off the U.N. agenda.

It was only in 2004 that U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan addressed an event on anti-Semitism and educational efforts to combat it.  Incrementally and with robust U.S. leadership, the U.N. has begun to address anti-Semitism as part of its human rights agenda.

There is no one forum or approach to magically eradicate anti-Semitism and bigotry. Even in countries where the arsenal of tools is very robust, anti-Semitic attitudes and incidents can still be prevalent.  Governments and civil society have to collaborate to demand action now and for the long haul.

While it’s important and notable that this high-level forum on anti-Semitism is being held at the U.N., challenges remain with the U.N.’s attitude towards this and related issues, including the body’s treatment of Israel. Hopefully this event will resonate with U.N. member states and lead to positive change.

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April 23, 2015

“Israel Lobby” Conference Features Anti-Israel Rhetoric

A one-day conference titled, “The Israel Lobby: Is it Good for the US? Is It Good for Israel?” took place on April 10, 2015 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The conference featured several anti-Israel speakers who chose to focus on the alleged role that the “Israel lobby” plays in the U.S.-Israel relationship and to evaluate whether it is positive or negative for both countries.

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Miko Peled speaking at the conference

At the conference, there were six panel discussions on topics such as “What Is the Israel Lobby and How Does It Work?,” “Are Critical Voices Silenced?,” “Is Freedom of Speech Encouraged on American Campuses?,” and “Is the Lobby Good for Israel?” Speakers on the panels included Grant Smith, the founder and director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRMEP); Israeli anti-Zionist author and activist Miko Peled; Gideon Levy, an Israeli journalist from Ha’aretz; Richard Falk, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights; and Huwaida Arraf, a co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

During the discussions, participants spoke about various aspects of the “Israel lobby” and groups that are involved with Israel advocacy work in the U.S. Below are some of the most inflammatory comments from participants at the conference:

  • Richard Falk, in his presentation titled “Weakening and discrediting the UN: The work of pro-Israel NGOs,” claimed that the United Nations is biased towards Israel and that pro-Israel groups are engaged in work to delegitimize the UN. He spoke about the recent AIPAC Policy Conference where Senator Lindsey Graham reportedly spoke negatively about the UN and stated that Graham’s remarks didn’t rest on facts, but instead claimed, “It rests on the repetition of the defamation and if you repeat, as Joseph Goebbels understood very well…If you repeat a lie often enough it becomes a kind of publicly accepted truth. And that’s where the very destructive effect of these kinds of tactics occurred.”
  • Miko Peled spoke about “How the Lobby enables Israeli Policy: Views of an Israeli in America.” In his remarks, he claimed that Israel was founded on ethnic cleansing and that Israel is an illegitimate state because “Israel was created as a result of a brutal ethnic cleansing and established itself as an apartheid regime immediately when it was formed. There was no better Israel. There was no uncorrupt Israel. There cannot be an uncorrupt Israel because it was built on a crime and has no legitimacy.”
  • Gideon Levy’s presentation, which was titled “Does unconditional support for Israel endanger Israeli voices?,” addressed whether or not the U.S.-Israel relationship is corrupt and whether it has had a negative impact on both countries. Levy stated, “We are dealing with a corrupting friendship. I think that if it wouldn’t be the Israel lobby, Israel would have been today a better place to live in. Israel would have been a more just place. And I think that if there wasn’t an Israel lobby, the United States would have been a better place and a more democratic place, but it’s not for me to judge the American politics.”
  • Grant Smith delivered a presentation titled “How big is the Lobby and what does it do? An overview of the 501(c) universe,” and in his remarks, he claimed that U.S. taxpayers are “victims” who are owed money from Israel for U.S. aid that he believes was delivered to Israel on false pretext. He also labeled pro-Israel groups in the U.S. as “Israel-affinity groups” and claimed that, “The education and training indoctrination segment of Israel-affinity groups and organizations is really involved with training within the community, Zionist education.

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