Addressing Antisemitism in a Liberal World

7. Should Jewish communities be seriously concerned about Antisemitism today?

The problem of contemporary Antisemitism, together with its implications, should be stated unequivocably:

  • Reputable, specialized Jewish organizations and research institutes continue to present highly disturbing documentation and analysis of growing Antisemitism and its broad-based constituency, within the heart of society and its political forums: there are, therefore, indubitably grounds for serious concern and concerted action. Reports are collected using reliable data by the CRIF in France and the CST in the UK, for example. Both indicate massive rises in violent Antisemitism. 
  • The devastating truth and data about escalating Antisemitism are further borne out in reports published (however altered they may have been) by statutory and designated international monitoring bodies – this, on behalf of the OSCE, EU and EC. Their attention is evidence that the Jewish community and the world are confronting a grave, chronic, problem; moreover, this is a complex issue, requiring a multi-faceted approach and deliberate, directed action to combat it - in Europe, other countries and in international forums.
  • Both at national and regional levels, communities are aware of the involvement of 'disaffected Muslims' in the vast majority of incidents, and of the sociological processes underlying these forms of Antisemitism. When taken together with the demographic weight of this and other constituencies of Antisemitism, and set against the constantly decreasing numbers of actively identifying Jews (in all but the largest communities), the logical conclusion is that Antisemitism enjoys overwhelming odds and poses serious dangers to Jews, and the democracies in which we live.

Before going any further, it is appropriate to address briefly the two major criticisms of Jewish response to Antisemitism: namely, that it is either complacent, or that it is hysterical. Both are misguided - in part, or as a whole.

  • The former is the opinion of specialists and observers who feel that the response or action is insufficient – but do not concern themselves with the capabilities of the community, or implicate themselves in changing these behaviour patterns;
  • The latter is heard from the Jewish establishment in relation to solo activists, whom they view with suspicion, as well as in various professional assessments of counter-productive hype on Antisemitism, produced by rank amateurs and sensationalists.

Jewish communities have a major responsibility today in the fight against Antisemitism, and it has to run concurrently with their other priorities:

  • Jewish communities should be vigilant in relation to their physical and legal protection and effective in their strategies; however, they also need to be more pro-active in spreading the relevant body of knowledge and skills, so that they can empower and involve their identifying membership at a wider level.
  • At the same time, and in light of the criticisms expressed above, Jewish communities should professionalize their work to combat Antisemitism - both within the community and in their external relations. This means using the different specializations of existing organizations like the ADL, the JPR, etc., and making alliances with other organizations. They should do so across the board - not just for their professional reports, or as occasional guests. They need to take on board the mapping and pro-active strategies/ processes that these organizations and individuals can offer on a non-profit or an at-cost basis.
  • Furthermore, at present, Jewish communities rely largely on the goodwill of volunteers to: present information; represent them externally; conduct PR; and develop long-term strategy - alongside guest specialists and occasional consultation. Instead, they should consider paying staff with the appropriate knowledge and qualifications to do the job and work in alongside the experienced voluntary body.
  • Jewish communities should be equally pro-active and professional in their external relations. They need to ensure that their elected representatives in western democracies; the race relations and inter-faith organizations; the education system; the forces of law and order; and the ubiquitous media are informed, primed, empowered, and co-opted through shared agendas.
  • This should be part of a broader process, although it may be born of necessity through grass-roots action across the board - such as the vast public protest at the Halimi kidnap-murder in France, committed by a young, North-African, Muslim immigrant for antisemitic motives.
  • The connection to Holocaust Denial and its platforms should also be addressed as part of the picture, but we shall go into this later [See Q#9-Q#10


CST Report on the UK 2006
EJC Report on Europe
Jewish Quarterly on Antisemitism in France 2006



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12 Feb 2007 / 24 Shevat 5767 0