"…To share with you the feeling of urgency, if not, emergency, that we believe antisemitism represents and calls for. I must confess to you, I have not felt the way I feel now since 1945. I feel there are reasons for us to be concerned, even afraid…Now is the time to mobilize the efforts of all of humanity."
The 21st Century began with many high hopes for a continuation of democratization and progress towards societies that sanctify the value of human rights. At the same time, mankind has not yet succeeded in uprooting the most ancient and most stubborn form of discrimination – which, in the 20th Century led to the greatest crime that humanity has ever known – antisemitism.
Since mid-2000, we are witnessing a sharp increase in the number of antisemitic incidents throughout the world. In some countries, this increase is drastic. This upswing in the number and severity of antisemitic incidents is what motivates, and indeed necessitates, the establishment of an international body which, it is hoped, will lead a global movement to confront this hatred, while creating the coalitions necessary to maximize its effectiveness.
As a basis for a discussion of the proposed international body to confront antisemitism, we must, first and foremost, define and describe the object of the struggle – antisemitism itself. Today, we are faced with the phenomenon of "new/old antisemitism" – antisemitic episodes which are not sporadic in nature, but rather the result of an organized hate campaign. Traditional antisemitism is directed against Jews as individuals, in the form of discrimination and a negation of their right to live as equals in society. The new antisemitism adds another element, calling for discrimination against the Jewish people as a whole, and a negation of their right to live as a nation among nations. This neo-antisemitism finds expression in two ways:
- Arab and Muslim states, together with a number of NGO’s, are pursuing a policy aimed at the delegitimization of the State of Israel. These parties are employing the latest technology to disseminate the venom of antisemitism. We are facing a "singling-out" policy in which Israel is blamed for every ill imaginable, no matter how incredible. An outstanding example of this was the recent UN Conference in Durban, which was intended to focus on the struggle against racism and slavery. However, the Conference was "hijacked" for use as a platform from which to attack Israel, conferring on these attacks respectability in order to win the international community’s stamp of approval.
An extreme expression of this aspect of neo-antisemitism is the call for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. Mr. Per Ahlmark (former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden and active in the last four decades in the struggle against racism and antisemitism) explains this as follows: While traditional antisemitism sought to make the world Judenrein (free of Jews), the new antisemitism seeks to make the world Judenstaatrein (free of a Jewish state). Prof. Irwin Cotler describes this phenomenon as "genocidal antisemitism", which expresses itself in the activities of terrorist groups (the Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc.); in the calls by fundamentalist clerics to destroy Israel (including the transformation of the Arab-Israeli conflict into a Muslim-Jewish conflict, i.e., theological antisemitism); and the calls of certain states (such as Iran, Libya and Iraq) for Israel’s destruction.
- The campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel leads to the attempt to de-humanize Jews, encouraging and legitimizing physical attacks against Jews, their institutions, symbols, and property. World Jewry has not been faced with such a situation since the Holocaust, in which Jews in the Diaspora fear for their lives, Jewish children are exposed to danger in schools and public parks, synagogues are defaced and many other acts of anti-Jewish violence are widespread. For the most part, these antisemitic acts are carried out by fundamentalist members of Arab immigrant communities in Western states, who tend to relate to all Jews in terms of Jewish national identity. And, with the escalation of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the State of Israel has become a focal point of hatred.
The Raison d’être of the ICCA
As neo-antisemitism gains momentum throughout the world, more aggressive means are needed to defeat it.
- Antisemitism always starts with the Jews, but it never ends with them. The hatred initially directed against Jews eventually spreads to other minority groups. The phenomenon of anti-Judaism and anti-Israel not only presents an existential threat to Israel and the Jewish people, but also threatens the foundations of democracy, decency, and of civilization itself.
- Antisemitism is a non-Jewish disease; therefore, it is the non-Jews who must fight it. However, since the Jews are the first victims, they can contribute their knowledge, experience, and motivation to the fight.
- We are facing a problem that affects all of humanity and, therefore, we must gather together our best resources to combat it. In the words of Edmund Burke (Irish philosopher and statesman of the 18th Century), "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
The Ultimate Goal of ICCA : To Defeat Antisemitism
- To increase awareness in the national and international arenas concerning the seriousness of neo-antisemitism and the importance of condemning, containing and combating it.
- To work towards the initiation of legislation on the subject of antisemitism, and punishment of the perpetrators, as well as those who support and encourage perpetration, of antisemitic acts.
- To educate the younger generation throughout the world about antisemitism and its history, and how to significantly reduce its impact.
In order to stimulate universal awareness of the problem of antisemitism, it is necessary to recruit personalities well known for their integrity and their devotion to the cause of democracy and human rights in general and opposition to racism and prejudice in particular. These individuals will head the international organization and the national branches that will lead the struggle, supervise the national and international operations, and work towards the realization of the objectives presented above. Most of the activities will be on a voluntary basis.
Minimum bureaucracy – maximum results.
The international body will operate on two complementary tracks – the international, and the national. Thus, there will be an international organization as well as national branches (structural details follow). In the pilot stage, three national branches of the ICCA will be established and an Executive Director will be appointed to the international organization. Current reality demands that Europe be at the center of activity. A European "nerve center" of ICCA will be established in Geneva, as well as offices in New York and Jerusalem. Most of the activities, on the national and international levels alike, will be based on studies carried out by academic institutions.
- Honorary Presidency: Nine members, headed by Elie Wiesel – world leaders and champions of human dignity.
- Executive Committee: Fifteen members.
- Advisory Committees:
- Committee of experts
- Academic committee- to carry out the necessary research.
- General Council: Eighty members. The Council, a Parliamentary-style body, will be composed of representatives of the national branches and leading figures of outstanding moral stature.
- National Branches: National Commissions will be established in various countries. They will have sub-committees to deal with various subjects: media, education, political lobbies, interfaith dialogue, international organizations, college and university campuses, youth groups, and legal aspects.
The national branches will operate together with the international organization to combat antisemitism in the following ways:
- To increase awareness of antisemitic threats in the national and international arenas: The first step is to analyze and research the various target audiences – government officials, the media, intellectuals, academics, religious figures, students, youth groups, and general public opinion. The next step is to prepare an individualized program for each group. For example, lobbying government officials, briefing media people and arranging media events, convening interfaith conferences on the subject, preparing and implementing a pro-active program for youth through youth movement directors, home meetings of intellectuals, etc.
- Legislation and punishment: Lobbying for legislation, such as punishment for defamation of Jews and Holocaust denial. In addition, working to bring to trial people involved in antisemitic incidents and to hold public hearings.
- Educational activities on the subject of antisemitism: Working with the formal and extracurricular educational frameworks (schools, universities, community centers, and so forth) to integrate the subject of antisemitism into their curricula. This, of course, has to be done in collaboration with the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education Remembrance and Research. Additionally, producing relevant materials (workbooks, articles in youth magazines, etc.), involving school children in projects on the subject (e.g., a Youth Parliament that will hold a discussion on the subject of antisemitism, concerts against racism and antisemitism, etc.).
Financing for the organization’s activities will come from various sources, such as government funding and contributions from organizations, foundations and private individuals. The international organization’s management will be in charge of fund-raising, making a budget, supervising and answering to the public. In the future, each national branch will handle the fund-raising for its own activities. The money is intended mainly to finance the organization’s activities, and will be provided not only by Israel but also by other governments and by NGO’s.
Parameters for Judging the Success of the Organization
Determining how to judge success is an integral part of the establishment of any new organization. In the case at hand, this task is especially difficult because the ICCA’s activities are not quantifiable. Although the goal is to eradicate antisemitism, or at least contain and reduce it, success cannot be measured by the number of antisemitic incidents that occur. This is because the increase or decrease in the number of antisemitic events is dependent not only on the efforts aimed at preventing them, but also on the political situation (such as improvement or deterioration of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict). Furthermore, it is almost impossible to quantify the severity of an antisemitic incident. Accordingly, one of the first tasks of the academic committee will be to establish criteria for judging the success of the ICCA.
Until these parameters are fully established, the following devices will be used as indications as to whether the organization’s activities are achieving their stated objectives: periodic public opinion polls; monitoring of media coverage – amount and nature (number of opinion pieces on the subject, from what angle the media covers an antisemitic incident, to what extent antisemitic incidents are turned into media events); examination of laws passed and punishments meted out to antisemitic perpetrators; monitoring and analyzing whether and how much the subject of antisemitism appears in various educational curricula.
Initial Stage of ICCA: July – October 2002
- July 2002, the pilot stage: Establishment of the first three national branches of ICCA, in Denmark, Belgium and Austria. The goal is to begin activity at the branches within 100 days.
- August 2002: Academic seminars on the subject of antisemitism, to take place in Latin America over a period of six months. The project, which is in the final planning stages, is in conjunction with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the major Latin America universities.
- During the first three months of ICCA’s operation, the executive director of the international body will be appointed and the office in Geneva will begin operating. One of its first tasks will be fund-raising.
- The honorary presidency will also be established during the first three months.
- Internet: A task force of students will establish a website for monitoring and responding to antisemitic material disseminated through the Internet.