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Combatting Antisemitism – From Charlevoix to Biarritz

August 23, 2019

B’nai Brith Canada

OTTAWA – B’nai Brith Canada is this country’s oldest national Jewish organization, founded in 1875, with a long history of defending the human rights of Canadian Jews, and all Canadians regardless of religious affiliation. We advocate for the interests of the grassroots Jewish community in Canada and for their rights such as freedom of conscience and religion.

B’nai Brith addresses the twin challenges of antisemitism and hate speech, and hate crimes, linking them to the broader threat of discrimination and human rights, a universal issue that affects all Canadians and individuals everywhere.

In March, 2018, prior to the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, we offered a set of proposals on the need for leaders to take action in combating antisemitism. Since then, several key developments have underscored the growing scourge of antisemitism and the importance of action. For the Biarritz Summit, we return to our original ideas.

We interpret broadly the concept ‘fighting inequality’ – one of France’s major G7 priorities. We believe that antisemitism, hate speech and hate crimes, and religious discrimination, threaten the capacity of all religious groups to feel welcome and equal in our societies.

Governments bear the primary responsibility for ensuring the safety, security and equal rights of all their citizens. Jewish communities deserve no less than their neighbours. Together with NGOs and civic leaders, G7 governments can mobilize the public to reject antisemitic hatred, whether it comes from hate groups or political parties, and to encourage the use of instruments and best practices to combat discrimination and promote pluralism.

Action to combat antisemitism would fit naturally with another of France’s priority themes, security and counter-terrorism. Modern forms of antisemitism can be regarded as the canary in the coal mine – signalling attacks on pluralism and democracy. Warnings are already present, in Europe, North America, and elsewhere.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) published its major “Experiences and Perceptions of Antisemitism – Second Survey on Discrimination and Hate Crimes Against Jews in the EU” in late 2018. Worryingly, the FRA survey concluded that:

• Antisemitism pervades everyday life.

• Pervasive antisemitism undermines Jews’ feelings of safety and security.

• Antisemitic harassment is so common that it becomes normalized.

• Antisemitic discrimination in key areas of life remains invisible.

These conclusions compel the G7 to act, drawing on the 2018 statement of the European Commission that:

“It is essential that we combat this scourge forcefully and collectively. The Jewish community must feel safe and at home in Europe. If we cannot achieve this, Europe ceases to be Europe.”

The challenge is no less urgent at home Canada is not immune to the global rise of antisemitism. According to B’nai Brith Canada’s most recent Audit of Antisemitic Incidents in Canada, 2018 marked the first year since the Audit began recording incidents in 1982 that the rate of incidents not only increased for a third straight year in a row, but exceeded over 2,000 incidents culminating in 2,041 total recorded incidents across Canada.

2020 will see important international milestones that mark a point of departure to address antisemitism – the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the 20th anniversary of the Stockholm Declaration, the 10th anniversary of the Ottawa Protocol, and a major summit to be hosted by Sweden. The stage must be set for concerted action by the G7, including adoption by all of the working definition of antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – currently embraced by the governments of Canada, France, Germany and the united Kingdom.

The G7 is well-placed to lead on these issues, particularly given the commitment of its members to freedom of religion or belief, including the ability to worship in peace and security, as a fundamental human right. To this end, Bnai Brith Canada remains committed the following proposals offered to Canada in 2018, which we commend to France as G7 host.

We call on G7 leaders for:

1. A reaffirmation of the commitments enshrined in the November 10, 2010, ‘Ottawa Protocol on Combatting Antisemitism’, specifically:

  • Encouraging leaders of all religious faiths to use all means possible to combat antisemitism and all forms of religious hatred and discrimination.
  • Working with universities to encourage them to combat antisemitism with the same seriousness with which they confront other forms of hate.
  • Establishing an international task force of internet specialists, including parliamentarians and experts, to create common indicators to identify and monitor antisemitism and other manifestations of hate online, and to develop policy recommendations for governments, social media platforms, service providers and international frameworks to address these problems.

2. A reaffirmation of the commitments made in the 2004 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) ‘Berlin Declaration on Combatting Antisemitism’, specifically:

  • Condemning without reservation all manifestations of antisemitism.
  • Declaring unambiguously that international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify antisemitism.
  • Condemning all attacks motivated by antisemitism or by any other forms of religious or racial hatred or intolerance, including attacks against synagogues and other religious places, sites and shrines.

3. A commitment by G7 governments that they will formally adopt and promote greater awareness of the IHRA definition of antisemitism within their countries and internationally, to help educate officials, legislators, journalists and teachers regarding the contemporary manifestations of antisemitism, including Holocaust denial and diminishment.

4. A commitment by G7 governments to develop and implement national action plans to combat antisemitism along the lines, as an example, of that adopted in France and Norway, including commitments to:

  • Appoint national coordinators on combatting antisemitism;
  • Hold regular consultations with representative Jewish community organizations; and
  • Prepare regular reports on the progress of implementation.

5. A commitment that G7 governments will expand their efforts to counter hate speech on the Internet, to address antisemitic content among many others forms of hate speech, insofar as these represent threats to national security and public safety.