Government anti-Semitism conference endorses net censorship

Recommendations coming out of the three day meeting included the scrubbing of Holocaust denial websites from the internet and the omission of “hate websites and content” from web searches.

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May 14, 2015 19:18
4 minute read.
WJC CEO Robert Singer addresses the final plenum of the CFCA

WJC CEO Robert Singer addresses the final plenum of the CFCA. (photo credit: SAM SOKOL)

 
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A government-convened international conference on anti-Semitism in Jerusalem on Thursday issued an action plan calling for Internet censorship as a remedy for anti-Jewish sentiment.

Recommendations coming out of the three-day meeting included the scrubbing of Holocaust denial websites from the Internet and the omission of “hate websites and content” from web searches.

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Convened by the Foreign Ministry and the Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Ministry, the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism (GFCA) is a biennial gathering bringing together Jewish community leaders, civil society representatives and diplomats to discuss ways to grapple rising levels of anti-Jewish prejudice.

Citing the “pervasive, expansive and transnational” nature of the Internet and the viral nature of hate materials, the conference’s final document called upon Internet service providers, web hosting companies and social media platforms to adopt a “clear industry standard for defining hate speech and anti-Semitism” as well as terms of service that prohibit their posting.

Such moves, the document asserted, must be implemented while preserving the Internet’s “essential freedom.”

A representative of Facebook in attendance declined to speak to the press on the record.

Among the recommendations of the gathering was the creation of more effective mechanisms for industry self-regulation, detection and reporting of hate material and the processing of user complaints.

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Internet companies, the document stated, must “develop strong tools for the detection and prevention of websites and other Internet materials that promote terrorism and recruit to terrorist groups and actions.”

The GFCA document called upon national governments to establish legal units focused on combating cyberhate and to utilize existing legislation to prosecute those engaging in such prejudices online.

Governments should likewise require the adoption of a “global terms of service prohibiting the posting of hate speech and anti-Semitic materials,” it was recommended.

In a second document focused on European anti-Semitism, the GFCA called upon the EU and national governments to adopt a formal definition of anti-Semitism that would include “unambiguous reference to attacks on the legitimacy of the State of Israel and its right to exist and Holocaust denial as forms of anti-Semitism.”

Moreover, the EU and its member states should agree on standard mechanisms for the monitoring of anti-Semitism and review their laws to “ensure an adequate legal framework and law enforcement instruments for combating anti-Semitism” as well as applying existing legislation more proactively.

Speaking at the final plenary session of the gathering, Prof. Dina Porat of the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, summed up the sentiment of many attendees, calling for “coalitions with moderate Muslims and dialogues with Evangelical Christians.”

Europeans must “engage civil society and the general public in efforts to combat anti-Semitism through a concerted public affairs effort,” the GFCA final document recommended.

“The global forum is by its nature a collaboration of government, civil society and academia,” Akiva Tor, the director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department for Jewish Communities, told The Jerusalem Post. “Our job as the Foreign Ministry will be to look at this document and say what Israel can do to move this forward and get other stakeholders to move forward on it together.”

“We are going to continue in the coming year to be focused on issues of cyberhate online and the problem of anti-Semitism in Europe,” he said.

One of the leitmotifs of the conference was increased calls for collaboration between groups in the fight against anti-Semitism.

According to Porat, several of the heads of conference working groups called for the formation of an “international public body” for this purpose.

Speaking to attendees on Wednesday, Malcolm Hoenlein – executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations – said that said that there was an immediate need to establish an international Jewish security network that would deal with the physical security of Jewish communities and institutions. He called for a permanent international coordinating center on anti-Semitism, which would operate on a 24/7 basis and in which every country and relevant organization would participate.

Speaking exclusively with the Post on Thursday, Joel Rubinfeld, head of the Ligue Belge contre l’Antisémitisme, said that he intended to expand his organization into a European League Against Anti-Semitism in order to kick-start continental efforts to roll back the rise of anti-Jewish hatred and violence.

“The rise of Islamism is also feeding the rise of the far Right – they are the two faces of the same coin,” he said.

“Whatever will is emerge as the victor its bad. You can’t choose between plague and cholera, because you die of both.”

“We need to understand the fact that attacks against Jews today are just the first step. What’s at stake is future of Europe as democratic entity [as the] fate of European Jewry is a litmus test of European democracy. Anti-Semites begin with the Jews, but they never end with the Jews. We have to see the Jews as the canary in the European coal mine.”

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