This week 800 delegates from over 50 countries will travel to Jerusalem not to enjoy the sunny Israeli weather, but to discuss the prolonged eclipse that has clouded the streets of Europe with growing intensity.
The fifth Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism will convene May 12 to 14 to discuss the renewed threat to Jewish communities and individuals worldwide — a threat we had hoped belonged to the past.
In the same week that Europe celebrates the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the delegates will address how the post-Holocaust vow of “never again” has been forgotten by so many.
In recent years anti-Semitic violence directed toward Jewish individuals, communities, schools, synagogues and other institutions has measurably risen.
While anti-Semitic acts have been concentrated in Europe, with the killings at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in 2014 and the attacks on a Copenhagen synagogue and Paris kosher supermarket this year, they are not isolated to the region.
In many communities in the world, Jews can no longer publicly identify themselves without fearing for their safety. In some parts of Europe, Jewish religious practices are under legislative attack.
Surveys the past two years by respected international nongovernmental organizations and intergovernmental bodies, including the EU Fundamental Rights Agency and the Anti-Defamation League, confirm that Jews in many parts of Europe are being menaced, including threats to their basic rights.
In many European countries, examinations conducted by official security bodies show a more than 100 percent rise in the rate of anti-Semitic incidents in comparison with previous years. In many nations, the percentage of hate crimes committed against Jews (out of the total number of hate crimes against all minorities) is far higher than the proportion of Jews in the general population of those countries.
On the positive side, 2014 saw many world leaders step up to denounce these developments, including strong condemnations of anti-Semitism issued by heads of state and the foreign ministers of Italy, France and Germany. In August, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he deplores the recent upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks, particularly in Europe.
These positive developments continued in 2015. On January 22, the General Assembly of the United Nations held a special session on the subject, calling on all its members to take action to stop the spread of anti-Semitism.
However, this progress is not enough. Now, more than ever, the growing manifestations of anti-Semitism necessitate the meeting of a forum dedicated to finding ways of contending with this threat to individuals, communities, and human rights in general.
The Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism is the premier biennial gathering for assessing the global extent of anti-Semitic and formulating effective societal and governmental responses.
The GFCA is an active coalition of public figures, political leaders, leading members of civil society, clergy, journalists, diplomats, educators and concerned citizens dedicated to advancing tolerance and defeating anti-Semitism and other forms of racial and ethnic hatred. The forum serves as an important meeting place for the exchange of knowledge and for formulating a global work plan.
This year’s Global Forum will focus on two main themes. The first is the spread of the “oldest hatred” through the newest media as anti-Semitic material is freely disseminated on the Internet and via social media. These new forms of global interconnectedness have given us unprecedented tools to acquire knowledge and advance free expression; however, they can also present unprecedented challenges to human dignity.
Unfiltered cyber hate — including anti-Semitic hate speech, strategies, plans and campaigns — can now be delivered directly and discreetly to portable devices. The question then arises of how we can increase the moral integrity of the Internet without limiting its essential freedom.
The second focus will be on the recent revival of anti-Semitism in Europe and the search for effective responses. Many issues are to be examined, among them the question of why this is happening in Europe now. What steps can be taken by the leaders of Europe to defeat the new wave of anti-Semitism in their cities? Is there a structural threat to Jewish life?
These questions and more will be discussed in an open atmosphere and in a practical manner. The GFCA seeks concrete actions, both those with immediate effects and measures that will bear fruit in the long run.
The GFCA prides itself on a structure that focuses on civil society and enables every concerned citizen or NGO representative to contribute to finding solutions.
Governments alone cannot solve this entrenched problem. Thus, on the concluding day of the Global Forum, 12 working groups will be devoted to preparing an action plan to fight anti-Semitism.
One of the primary messages that the GFCA hopes to convey is that this form of hatred is not only a problem for the Jewish people. Wherever anti-Semitism is allowed to raise its ugly head, the infringement of the basic rights of other minorities is sure to follow, whether they be the rights of cartoonists to free expression or the rights of women, ethnic minorities or the LGBT community. In the end, even the right of majority populations to live without fear of intolerance toward dissent, appearance, or belief will be in doubt.