JPost Editorial: Israel needs an 'antisemitism czar'

Can the wave of antisemitism in the US and across the world be halted before it escalates further? And what's Israel role in the process?

By
March 5, 2017 10:59
3 minute read.
Jewish Community Center

Police at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas (File). (photo credit: REUTERS)

Amid daily news of bomb threats to Jewish institutions and desecrations of Jewish cemeteries throughout the United States, these outer manifestations of a resurgence of latent antisemitism have naturally prompted calls for intervention by the governments of both Israel and the US. Unfortunately, both governments already have departments that deal with antisemitism, but do so ineffectively due to a lack of coordination.

Israel has half a dozen agencies charged with fighting antisemitism wherever it manifests itself and does so in numerous arenas, but these scattered efforts are unnecessarily duplicative and, in the Israeli nature of things, involve unproductive bureaucratic struggles for power.

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Wave of bomb threats called to Jewish commmunity centers across the US , possible antisemitism(credit: REUTERS)

Ironically, while the Israeli front in this world war against resurgent antisemitism needs a single, unifying command to direct these essential efforts, US President Donald Trump is reportedly planning to retreat from the battlefield by eliminating the State Department’s special envoy for combating antisemitism, as part of his plan to raise funds for a massive hike in defense spending.

It seems the war against antisemitism holds as much promise of success as the so-called war against terrorism – both of them irrational phenomena that involve contempt for human life. There is no way to completely eliminate them, but there must be a better way of fighting them.

Israel’s response to antisemitism would be made more productive by combining its agencies under a single “antisemitism czar” who would direct their efforts, instead of the current situation where responsibilities are split. For example, that czar would have authority over the Diaspora Affairs Ministry’s division for combating antisemitism.

The ministry headed by Naftali Bennett received a mandate last year to lead the government campaign against antisemitism by monitoring antisemitism on social media; developing a curriculum to teach the Holocaust to refugees from Muslim countries in Europe; and collecting into one accessible address all the laws against antisemitism. The catch is that, according to Yogev Karasenty, who heads the ministry’s division, the American security agencies are on the case and he is sure they will arrest those responsible for the current wave of antisemitic incidents.

What about the Foreign Ministry’s Bureau for World Jewish Affairs and World Religions, which has its own antisemitism unit? The 2016 State Comptroller’s Report decried a lack of coordination between the Foreign Ministry and the Strategic Affairs Ministry in dealing with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. It also noted that the Foreign Ministry and Diaspora Affairs Ministry do not sufficiently cooperate on combating antisemitism.

And don’t forget the Strategic Affairs Ministry, charged with fighting antisemitism under the guise of combating the antisemitism of the BDS movement. Not to be left out, the Mossad has a unit called Bitzur that helps provide security for Jewish communities throughout the world.

In addition, The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon has reported that no fewer than two bodies meet regularly to discuss antisemitism: the Interministerial Coordinating Forum on Antisemitism led by the Diaspora Ministry’s director-general, as well as the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism, which also includes representatives of the Jewish Agency.

This is not enough for the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors, a number of whose US federation heads said last week that they want to hear clear statements of condemnation from Israel. Such a response is clearly incumbent on the world’s Jewish state.

Meanwhile, Israel’s democratic big brother is considering downplaying the threat of increasing antisemitic incidents in the US – despite the position of special envoy dedicated to fighting antisemitism being mandated by Congress, which passed the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act in 2004. This law directs the State Department to establish the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, headed by the special envoy.

Ira Forman, the former executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, was the envoy under president Barack Obama. Trump has not yet named a replacement.

“This is as bipartisan as an issue as you can get,” Forman told the Jewish Insider, “and I just hope folks at the White House come to their senses.”

We hope the folks at the Prime Minister’s Office do so as well. The main role that Israel can play in fighting antisemitism abroad is to concentrate its efforts to raise the alarm in time to act.


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