ADL Recommendations to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Addressing Growing Threat of Anti-Semitism

September 27, 2016

Delivered by Stacy Burdett, ADL VP of Government Relations,
Advocacy & Community Engagement

Human Dimension Implementation Meeting
Working Session 11: September 26, 2016
Warsaw, Poland

The focus of this statement is to propose recommendations for the 57 OSCE participating States to address the growing threat of anti-Semitism.  Since the fight for human rights of Jews and the rights of all targets of bigotry and discrimination is interconnected, implementing these recommendations will enhance governments’ capacity to address anti-Semitism as well as all forms of intolerance and hate crime.

Background on the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)

Anti-Semitism is a major concern for ADL– not only as a Jewish civil rights organization, but because anti-Semitism threatens security and poisons the health of a society as a whole.  ADL is a leader in the fight against anti-Semitism with a keen understanding of how it strengthens the fight against all forms of hatred and hate crime.  Human rights are universal, and ADL was founded in a belief that safeguarding Jewish rights advances the cause of protecting the rights of all targets of hate and discrimination.  As such, partnership with other communities and human rights advocates is a core principle of ADL’s work.

This has been the case since ADL was established in 1913 to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people and secure justice and fair treatment for all.”  ADL does not view defending the Jewish people and securing rights of other groups as an “either/or” choice.  Rather it always has been a matter of “both/and.”  We strengthen Jewish safety and dignity when we fight for others, and fighting for others strengthens our cause.  This mission has driven ADL to become a leading resource on effective responses to violent bigotry, defending democratic ideals and protecting civil rights for all.  Today, ADL carries out its mission through a network of 27 Regional and Satellite Offices in the United States and abroad.

Anti-Semitism is Rising and Continuously Evolving

Anti-Semitism is sometimes called the oldest hatred but it is also evolving continuously. Classical anti-Semitism is a form of hatred, mistrust, and contempt for Jews based on a variety of stereotypes and myths, and often invokes the belief that Jews have extraordinary influence with which they conspire to harm or control society. It can target Jews as individuals, as a group or as a people.  The OSCE has been an important forum for dealing with anti-Semitism over the decades and in recent years when demonization and hatred of Israel as a Jewish entity became a contemporary platform for anti-Jewish stereotypes, symbols and an excuse for violent attacks that target Jews anywhere as collectively responsible for Israeli policy.

Today, anti-Jewish discrimination is not state-sponsored as it once was in many countries and it does not bar Jews from participation in their society. Instead, the barrier to a Jew’s right to security and to express his/her identity with dignity is threatened by an atmosphere of intimidation, harassment and violence against Jews and Jewish sites like schools, synagogues, shops and cemeteries.  This everyday fear makes Jews in many places conceal who they are, ceasing to freely wear yarmulkes, Stars of David, or even T-shirts bearing Hebrew lettering or slogans.

Harassment on social media reached a new level of visibility this year.  ADL added a new symbol, the triple parentheses, to the ADL “Hate on Display” online hate symbols database.  This Symbol, a stylized (((echo))) is the latest gimmick used by white supremacists and anti-Semites to single out Jews on Twitter and other social media.  ADL’s “Hate on Display” database was launched in October 2000 as part of its effort to track hate groups and help law enforcement, educators and other members of the public to identify those symbols that serve as potential calling cards of extremists and anti-Semites.

The echo symbol is the online equivalent of tagging a building with anti-Semitic graffiti or taunting someone verbally. Extremists and haters were using the echo symbol, which originated in an anti-Semitic podcast in 2014, to highlight the names of those perceived to be Jewish, singling them out for harassment both online and off.  But today both Jewish and non-Jewish users on Twitter have co-opted the parentheses and used them around their names in a show of solidarity with those targeted by neo-Nazis and other extremists.

During this U.S. presidential election campaign season, we have also see white supremacists and anti-Semites bombarding Jewish journalists with anti-Semitic tweets.  In response to this harassment, ADL formed a Task Force on Online Harassment of Journalists that convened experts and from fields including journalism, law enforcement, academia, technology, and nongovernmental organizations.  ADL will issue a report on the Task Force findings next month.

On the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, DC, anti-Semites continue to spread conspiracy theories blaming Jews and Israel for the events of that day. Fringe anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­rists rarely miss an oppor­tu­nity to exploit tragedies to pro­mote their hatred of Jews, as they did blam­ing Jews for events rang­ing from coor­di­nated ter­ror attacks across Paris in Novem­ber 2015 to the Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School mas­sacre in Connecticut in Decem­ber 2012.

And, in the U.S., despite efforts to educate, raise awareness, and advocate, anti-Jewish attitudes and incidents remain a disturbing part of the American Jewish experience.  The FBI’s annual data show that one hate crime occurs in America almost every 90 minutes of every day. Attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions consistently make up 60 percent or more of the reported religion-based crimes.  In a country where Jews comprise just two percent of the U.S., they continue to be targeted for hate crimes at a disturbingly high rate.

The latest ADL Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents found that in 2015, there were 941 anti-Semitic incidents, a three-percent increase over the 912 incidents reported in 2014.  The Audit included 56 cases of anti-Semitic assaults, a dramatic increase from the 36 reported in 2014; 508 anti-Semitic incidents of harassment, threats and events, a slight decrease from the 513 in 2014; and 377 cases of anti-Semitic vandalism, an increase from 363 in 2014. 

Anti-Semitism Doesn’t Exist, or Grow, in a Vacuum

Anti-Semitism is flourishing in the context of both incitement from neo-fascist groups and the growth of violent Islamist extremist groups.  Anti-Semitism is a virulent thread that runs through the ideologies of both far right and far left extremist groups, even though their worldviews converge on little else. Anti-Semitism also often emerges in conjunction with persecution of other groups on the basis of religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, and/or ethnicity.

For example, in some countries, far-right groups use the refugee crisis or economic distress to foment fear, scapegoating and bigotry.  Far-right political parties, some with openly invoke anti-Semitism, racism, anti-Muslim hatred and homophobia, have gained strength in local and national elections in some countries, particularly in Greece, Hungary, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Poland, and France.  Disturbingly, their public bigotry and involvement in racist violence has not hindered their popularity.  The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in Greece has made xenophobia and anti-Semitism core tenets of its campaigns and came in third place -- despite being on trial for polled third in national elections in September 2015 even though its leadership is on trial for criminal activity. 

Vio­lent expres­sions of anti-Semitism, includ­ing encour­age­ment of attacks against Jews and Jew­ish or Israeli insti­tu­tions, have flared during conflicts between Israel and Hamas and are also at the core of pro­pa­ganda dis­trib­uted by Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Islamic extrem­ist ter­ror­ist groups for decades.  ADL’s report, "Anti-Semitism: A Pillar of  Islamic Extremist Ideology,” describes the way in which ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions rely on depic­tions of a Jew­ish enemy to recruit fol­low­ers, moti­vate adher­ents and draw atten­tion to their cause.  These groups also traffic in bigotry and hatred of other groups. We have seen the members of the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) carry out targeted mass killing of Yezidis, Christians, and other minorities.

In 2014, ADL released a groundbreaking survey to establish for the first time comprehensive, data-based research of the level and intensity of anti-Jewish sentiment around the world. The ADL Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism surveyed 53,100 adults in 102 countries and territories and found that more than one-in-four adults, 26 percent of those surveyed, hold anti-Semitic attitudes. A follow-up to this survey was done in 2015 and found that although anti-Semitic attitudes dropped slightly in European countries such as France, Belgium, and Germany, concern about violence directed against Jews in those countries increased dramatically.

How are participating States Doing?

Each year, ADL analyzes data submitted by countries to the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) for its annual hate crimes report.  The findings are clear and consistent.  States fall short on their commitments to monitor and address anti-Semitic and other bias motivated hate crime.  We list in detail where each participating State falls on the spectrum of compliance.  I urge each delegation to review this scorecard and see where your government has improved or still needs to improve.  It is available at http://www.adl.org

ODIHR’s annual report is a vital tool for understanding the nature and frequency of hate crime across the region, and to craft responsive policies. But it only provides a partial picture because many countries either do not collect such data or fail to transmit their findings to the ODIHR on a timely basis. In the current environment—with the refugee crisis, the rise of far-right parties and movements espousing hatred, and an increase in hate crimes—there is an urgent need for the OSCE’s participating States to make reporting a higher priority.  Only 36 of the 57 participating States submitted information to the ODIHR for 2014. Half of participating States either did not report at all or reported zero crimes for their country. This is simply not acceptable or credible. 

Recommendations for Action

Governments bear the primary responsibility to ensure that Jews are afforded the right to live in security and with dignity in their communities. Whether it is espoused by hate groups on the margins or political parties garnering support in elections, governments and civic leaders can mobilize political will to reject anti-Semitism and to use human rights and anti-discrimination instruments to institutionalize a systemic, comprehensive strategy against anti-Semitism and other forms of violent bigotry. 

What Participating States Can Do:

  1. Start by using your own government’s bully pulpit to speak out.  Political leaders have the most immediate and significant opportunity to signal that the government takes seriously that anti-Semitism is a threat to stability, security broader societal values.  It goes a long way to helps reassure Jews that they aren’t alone in fighting it.
  2. Define the problem.  It’s impossible to effectively address a problem without understanding its elements.  Though not legally binding, - the clear definition adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in June is vital as a common reference point and a guidepost for understanding, recognizing and addressing today’s anti-Semitism.  It elucidates the types of anti-Jewish themes that are often the backdrop of anti-Semitic incidents, including references to Israel that cross the line into anti-Semitism.  It is a helpful training and awareness raising tool for officials ranging from diplomats to law enforcement to school administrators.  Its use by the US as a guide for monitoring has dramatically improved the focus and precision of State Department reporting on the issue.  It should be utilized by OSCE and ODIHR as a tool for educating and capacitating officials to address anti-Semitic incidents effectively.
  3. Protect Jewish communities and sites. Increase cooperation with Jewish communities to assess security risks needs and to ensure that a comprehensive plan is in place to ensure that law enforcement agencies protect vulnerable sites.  In addition, threats by ISIS and other terror groups should place Jewish communities and institutions in focus for law enforcement as potential targets of terrorist attacks.
  4. Monitor and spotlight the problem, sunlight is the best disinfectant.  Governments simply must do better in monitoring anti-Semitism and improving data collection and reporting. Half of participating States either did not report at all or reported zero crimes for their country. We urge governments, especially in the states where there is no government reporting to take a hard look at hate reported by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the OSCE participating states where there was no government monitoring.  No government can craft policy to protect people, if they don’t have eyes on the problem.
  5. Designate dedicated focal point or envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. Combatting anti-Semitism and hate crime requires the attention of someone with relevant experience to focus on crafting a strategy to address it.
  6. Governments should reach out to and have visible contact with Jewish and other communities that feel under siege. While some participating States have deep and longstanding relationships with Jewish and other community activists, these relationships need constant attention.  We urge governments to create space for groups to work with you and to collaborate with each other in mutually supportive safe spaces like this one here today.
  7. Law enforcement and prosecutor training programs should include a focus on improving the policing and prosecution of anti-Semitism and hate crimes.  States should engage and use ODIHR’s toolkit on hate crime.  It is the most serious and comprehensive such resource produced by any IGO.
  8. What you say matters.  Officials, delegation heads and diplomats to the OSCE can lead by example and use every opportunity to decry divisive appeals whether based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or religion.  Never lose sight of the power that words have to shape, not just our political debate, but the environment in which targeted communities live.