Photo Credit: Facebook page of Mayor Carlos A. Rendo
Ant-Semitic graffiti in Woodcliff Lake, NJ, Oct. 31, 2020

{Reposted from the BESA website}

While the number of antisemitic incidents worldwide increased in 2020, there were several positive developments in the fight against this hatred.


The decision this year by the European Court of Justice that the Flemish and Wallonian governments can only allow ritual slaughter of animals after stunning was a major antisemitic act. It also affects part of the Muslim population. When Hitler came to power, the Nazi government introduced a similar measure in Germany, as it fit their antisemitic policies.

Though the European court effectively backed up Hitler’s approach, it is possible that the judges were ignorant of the antisemitic character of their ruling. Antisemitism born of ignorance is one of the hatred’s many strains.

The court wrote that its judgment strikes a “fair balance” between animal welfare and religion. This is a lie. Jews who observe the laws of their religion are forbidden to eat animals that have been stunned before slaughter. There is thus no balance at all. The court’s decision should be seen as one more step in the more than 1,000-year antisemitic culture that permeates European societies, whether the judges were aware of the fact or not.

Yet 2020 also saw a number of positive developments in the battle against antisemitism. The most important of these result from policies initiated by the Trump administration. Its decision to stop American financing of the Palestinian Authority was a major step against antisemitism. No more US government money would be made available to an organization that rewards the murderers of Jews.

The cessation of US funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) falls into the same category. This UN agency finances hate literature against Israel and makes it available in Palestinian schools, among many other antisemitic acts. Any renewal of funding by the Biden administration to UNRWA, which it might falsely call “humanitarian aid,” would boil down to an act of antisemitism.

Within the broad framework of Trump administration policies, several other measures favorable to Israel had a positive effect in the battle against antisemitism. While visiting Israel in November 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US considers the anti-Israel boycott BDS movement to be antisemitic. There is indeed ample documentation of the profound antisemitic motivation of the initiators and main promoters of BDS.

Another important issue that came up only marginally (there was no follow-up) occurred in the final days before the US presidential election in November 2020. Sources inside the Trump government made it known that the State Department may declare three major human rights organizations—Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Oxfam—antisemitic. That this is factually correct was not news to antisemitism experts, but to hear it expressed in US government circles was a radical step forward.

These organizations can be described as practicing “do-gooder antisemitism.” The concept is simple: If an organization or person mainly undertakes actions perceived as meritorious, it is granted leeway to misbehave at the margins, even to an extreme degree. These three major NGOs and many others have used this latitude to disseminate antisemitic ideas about Israel.

“Do-gooder” NGOs frequently incite, malign, and defame Israel while remaining largely silent about the criminality and death culture that permeate Palestinian society and leadership.

Another major development in the battle against antisemitism was the publication of the report of the British Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on antisemitism within the Labour Party. This highly critical document was released at the end of October. The EHRC found that the office of Jeremy Corbyn, the previous chairman of the party, unlawfully “politically interfered” in almost two dozen cases of antisemitism.

Three leading British Jewish organizations—the Board of Deputies of British Jewry, the Jewish Leadership Council, and the Community Security Trust—thereafter released a statement: “Jeremy Corbyn will rightly be blamed for what he has done to Jews and Labour, but the truth is more disturbing, as he was little more than a figurehead for old and new anti-Jewish attitudes. All of this was enabled by those who deliberately turned a blind eye.”

Corbyn reacted to the report by saying the allegations of antisemitism were “dramatically overstated for political reasons,” at which point Labour’s general secretary, David Evans, suspended him from the party. Corbyn also lost the position of Labour whip, which means he now sits as an independent parliamentarian in the House of Commons. (Less than three weeks later, the National Executive Committee reinstated Corbyn as a member of Labour, but the party’s current chairman, Keir Starmer, has said Corbyn will not be returned to the Labour whip position.)

In the framework of what are commonly called the Abraham Accords, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco agreed on normalization with Israel. Bahrain and Israel also decided that they would jointly fight antisemitism. Bahrain became the first Arab country to accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

The number of countries, cities, and organizations that have accepted the IHRA definition of antisemitism increased in 2020. They include London and Berlin, a variety of universities, the great majority of English Premier League football teams, and diverse civil society organizations.

The year 2020 also saw countries and entities hire coordinators to guide their efforts to fight antisemitism. One important appointment was that of former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler as that country’s special envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism. Cotler is a highly respected international human rights lawyer with a lengthy background in the study of trends in antisemitism.

In Germany, where there were already a few such coordinators, new ones were appointed. A particularly important choice was that of political scientist Samuel Salzborn as antisemitism commissioner of Berlin. The Netherlands announced it will appoint such a commissioner in 2021.

One might add to the above that the European Council, which groups together the heads of EU member states, issued a declaration against antisemitism. It has some merit, though it failed to address many relevant issues.

While the overall situation regarding antisemitism in the world continues to deteriorate, the bright spots of 2020 indicate that important achievements are being made in the battle against this widespread hatred.


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Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism and the International Leadership Award by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.