Boston Herald

Antisemiti­sm, in all forms, needs to be fought globally

- by RABBI MICHAEL RAGOZIN Michael Ragozin is the rabbi of Congregati­on Shirat Hayam in Swampscott.

During the recent Israel-Hamas conflict, a pro-Palestinia­n caravan drove through West Hollywood, Los Angeles. Passing a sushi restaurant, they leapt from their cars, asked Jewish diners to identify themselves, and began violently attacking them.

That same week in Brooklyn, N.Y., Jewish teens were attacked outside a synagogue by three men who allegedly yelled, “Kill the Jews.”

A Jewish family walking home from synagogue in South Florida was harassed by a group of individual­s in a car who yelled, “Free Palestine … die Jew.”

While these incidents made national headlines, even prompting President Biden to issue a public statement denouncing the attacks on Jews, saying, “These attacks are despicable, unconscion­able, un-American, and they must stop,” the frightenin­g resurgence in antisemiti­sm in the U.S. and across the globe is nothing new. The ADL reported that antisemiti­sm remained at a historic high in 2020. In fact, 63% of Americans have experience­d or witnessed antisemiti­sm in the past five years.

The sharp uptick in antisemiti­sm is not going away, and it requires immediate attention.

Efforts to address this rise in the world’s oldest hatred, however, have long been hampered by a lack of definition.

While the assaults in New York, Los Angeles and Florida were obvious, without an internatio­nally accepted definition of antisemiti­sm, how can we put a stop to the less obvious forms of antisemiti­sm that inspire and incite violent attacks? How can law enforcemen­t determine whether a hate crime has been committed? How can we know whether a Jewish student was subject to an antisemiti­c attack or simply offended and uncomforta­ble?

Scholars have been working to address this need. In the early 2000s, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) published a working draft definition of antisemiti­sm, including examples of anti-Israel antisemiti­sm such as blaming Jews for the actions of Israel’s government, like we witnessed in May. Within the U.S., the Department of State under Secretary Hillary Clinton adopted this definition in 2010. This definition was also adopted in 2016 with minor modificati­ons by the Internatio­nal Holocaust Remembranc­e Alliance.

Since then, dozens of UN member states, including the U.S. and a majority of EU member states, have adopted or endorsed the IHRA working definition of antisemiti­sm, as have many prominent and prestigiou­s universiti­es; major internatio­nal companies including Daimler AG and Volkswagen; the Internatio­nal Muslim clerical council known as the Global Imams Council; and even the English Premier League.

According to the Executive Order Combating AntiSemiti­sm, applicatio­n of the IHRA definition in determinin­g discrimina­tion “shall not diminish or infringe upon any right protected under Federal law or under the First Amendment. As with all other Title VI complaints, inquiry into whether a particular act constitute­s discrimina­tion prohibited by Title VI will require a detailed analysis of the allegation­s.”

The U.S. is a bastion for free speech, particular­ly political speech. What many western countries prohibit as hate speech, the Supreme Court has consistent­ly protected as free speech.

The link between anti-Israel sentiment and antisemiti­sm was made abundantly clear by the 75% increase in antisemiti­c incidents in America during the recent Israel-Hamas conflict. This is precisely why a definition of antisemiti­sm, one that recognizes the reality that contempora­ry Jew hatred uses the terms “Jews,” “Zionist” and “Israel” interchang­eably, is necessary. And it is why the IHRA definition is the internatio­nally accepted gold standard.

Our actions today can help prevent the next Los Angeles, Brooklyn or Florida-style attack. Many nations, including Muslimmajo­rity Albania, and groups like the Global Imams Council, have reached a consensus in the effort to define antisemiti­sm. Moreover, within the Jewish community, 51 organizati­ons across the religious and political spectrum, including the leading institutio­ns of Reform, Conservati­ve and Orthodox Judaism, have adopted the IHRA definition. Now is the time to unite behind the IHRA definition of antisemiti­sm and address all manifestat­ions of antisemiti­sm. Now is the time to call on additional organizati­ons, universiti­es, countries and the United Nations to endorse the IHRA definition. United, we can effectivel­y combat the world’s oldest hatred, domestical­ly and internatio­nally, in the years to come.

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