Former Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky warned Thursday at the annual meeting of the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM)’s advisory board that antisemitism has become “mainstream.”
“For the last 20 years, we could say antisemitism is on the rise, so what makes this year different?,” Sharansky asked.
“In the past, we’ve talked about antisemitism on the left, and antisemitism on the right. This year it became mainstream,” he noted. He emphasized that the United Nations has attempted to “delegitimize” Israel and holds double standards toward Israel. Board members joined from all over the world, including North America, Europe, and the Middle East.
All of this is happening within a context of extreme polarization everywhere, Sharansky added, making it “difficult to have one weapon” with which to help suppress antisemitism.
“We need to unite people on the left and the right against the new forms of antisemitism; and look for new allies,” Sharansky said to the board. “Against a huge rise in antisemitism today, we need a very broad front.”
Sharansky was joined at the meeting by fellow CAM Advisory Board members who included former Senator Joe Lieberman, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Irwin Cotler, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Ahmed Shaheed, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala Mario Adolfo Búcaro Flores.
At the meeting, Shaheed advocated for not just presenting the Jewish people as victims of the Holocaust, but also for promoting “the full richness of Jewish life.” He emphasized their contributions to western civilization and that such facts should be incorporated into CAM’s educational initiatives.
Shaheed also lamented the intense pushback against the IHRA definition of antisemitism. “Our enemies have zeroed in on taking the IHRA definition out of the equation,” he said.
“The thing I found most disturbing is the interactive globalization of antisemitism,” added board member Irwin Cotler. His example for this was a convoy of antisemites shouting expletives and advocating violence in the streets of London, only to hear the very same exact antisemitic chants from a convoy in Toronto days later.
Many board members agreed on the need to deal with the more subtle forms of antisemitism, not just the obvious elements such as swastika graffiti.
Cotler lamented the marginalization of antisemitism in the larger global push to combat racism, arguing that antisemitism is often left out. Like Sharansky, he too fears the increasing mainstreaming and “normalization and legitimization” of antisemitism in the world of politics, universities, entertainment, and sports, among others. He also believes there is an “ongoing laundering of antisemitism in the international framework…under the protective cover of the UN.”
Nevertheless, Elan Carr offered a word of home to his fellow board members, saying, “There have been many periods in history where antisemitism has been far worse than it is today, and we’ve been able to roll it back. So, there are absolutely answers, there are absolutely solutions.”