Ira Forman Addresses Rising Tide of Antisemitism at Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combatting Antisemitism
By Annie Glasser
Ira Forman, the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism at the State Department, recently addressed the third conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combatting Antisemitism (ICCA). Against a backdrop of increased anxiety around the surge of antisemitism in Europe, he offered a hopeful perspective: “We may not be able to turn it totally off, but we can turn down the faucet of anti-Semitism.”
Forman recognized that antisemitism “is evolving into new, contemporary forms of hatred, racism, and political, social, and cultural discrimination against Jews.” He specifically noted incidents in Scandinavia where criticism of Israel was used as a pretext for antisemitic attacks. He argued that a carefully crafted working definition of antisemitism will aid democratic governments and civil society in Europe to more effectively combat antisemitism.
Human Rights First’s recent report, Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Countering Antisemitism and Extremism in France, explores how antisemitic violence, left unchecked, leads to the persecution of other minorities, and to an overall increase in repression and intolerance. Antisemitism is an issue that harms not only its direct victims, but also entire Jewish communities. It poses a threat to European values of pluralism and democracy by hindering the ability of citizens to fully enjoy their basic human rights.
“Everyone needs to understand that anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem. Religious intolerance leads to the loss of rights for other minority groups, threatening social cohesion and fundamental freedoms,” Forman said. “Civil society, governments, and religious leaders all have a responsibility to act against all forms of intolerance, including against religious or ethnic minorities.”
In order to “turn the faucet down,” European states need to be steadfast in their commitment to combat hatred toward Jews and other vulnerable groups. European states should appoint a special envoy or other senior official to coordinate efforts on antisemitism, as the State Department has recommended. Civil society must also be better equipped to speak out against antisemitism and promote pluralistic values and tolerance.
A robust civil society supported by governments in the E.U. and the U.S. government is critical. Human Rights First looks forward to working with Ira Forman’s office to foster those partnerships and combat antisemitism together.