Combat Anti-Semitism: Trying to combat the haters

To date, Combat Anti-Semitism’s broad-based coalition includes more than 250 Jewish, Christian, and Muslim organizations dedicated to the struggle against antisemitism.

SACHA ROYTMAN DRATWA presents an award to Sheikh Dr. Mohammed al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (photo credit: Courtesy)
SACHA ROYTMAN DRATWA presents an award to Sheikh Dr. Mohammed al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League
(photo credit: Courtesy)
"I met antisemitism from an early age and saw the face of being a Jew in the Diaspora. I felt at home only between the four walls of my home. I understood that as a Jew, I am different.”
At 18, Sacha Roytman Dratwa moved to Israel from his native Belgium, served in the IDF for eight years, and then worked as director of digital advocacy for the World Jewish Congress. It was in that position, says Dratwa, that he realized that antisemitism was not limited to Belgium, but was a global phenomenon.
In 2019, determined to stem the growing tide of antisemitism, Dratwa joined as the director of the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement, a US-based global grassroots movement of individuals and organizations that spans religions and faiths, in a mission to combat antisemitism. Dratwa says the battle against antisemitism cannot be won by the Jews alone. “We see from history that antisemitism always begins with Jews and ends with others. This is why we want this movement to be an interfaith movement of Jews, Muslims, Christians and many others – those that understand that hatred is there. We need to come together.”
To date, Combat Anti-Semitism’s broad-based coalition includes more than 250 Jewish, Christian, and Muslim organizations dedicated to the struggle against antisemitism. The organization has also obtained the support of more than 260,000 individuals around the world who have signed a pledge to help combat antisemitism.
Antisemitism, says Dratwa, is growing quickly, and he intends for Combat Anti-Semitism to be a global movement, comprised of individuals from all levels of society. “If you look historically, the big changes in history were made by movements that decided to come together, not by one person or one organization.”
Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Sima Vaknin Gill, senior adviser at Combat Anti-Semitism Movement, who was an intelligence officer in the Israel Air Force, Israel’s chief censor and director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, explains that the rise in antisemitism is coming from three different sources – the far Left, the far Right, and radical Islam. “On the one hand, you have global trends that enable antisemitism to grow, and then you have another thing closing the horseshoe – the far Right and far Left, which are supposed to be on a different angle, are cooperating. Their themes and discourses are the same. Two angles of Jew-haters combine, one – the far Right, which hates Jews and Judaism, and the other on the far Left, which hates Zionism and Israel.”
Sima Vaknin Gill (Credit: Arik Sultan/Makor Rishon)Sima Vaknin Gill (Credit: Arik Sultan/Makor Rishon)
Vaknin Gill explains that classic antisemitism, which historically blamed the Jews for whatever ills have befallen the world, and modern antisemitism, which manifests itself in a form of anti-Zionism that does not accept the fact that Jews can have their own state, have merged. She cites the online attack against the former French health minister Agnès Buzyn, who was accused – in the language of the medieval blood libel – of poisoning water wells and misleading the French public regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
Vaknin Gill adds that Combat Anti-Semitism is a type of early warning system for the world on antisemitism, saying “we are the canary in the coal mine...We have reached a tipping point in antisemitism in history, and when you reach this point you need to come up with something a little bit different.”
Combat Anti-Semitism, with its loose coalition of more than 250 partner organizations from many faiths, each with different capabilities, is an unusual type of organization. Each organization’s different capabilities, says Dratwa, is one of Combat’s unique strengths. By utilizing and facilitating the different abilities of member organizations, Dratwa says they can counter antisemitism. “Each member organization has different tools,” he says. Some are strong in media – others are strong in the community. We match them on any case to bring them together to utilize the uniqueness of each one to work together.”
Vaknin Gill adds that Combat Anti-Semitism is a type of platform that enables different organizations to join forces, and to create a synergy between different groups. The organization’s list of members includes large organizations, such as the Jewish National Fund, American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Agency, as well as small and medium-sized organizations.
Combat Anti-Semitism is active in engaging students as well as adults in the struggle against antisemitism. One example is a joint initiative, sponsored by B’nai B’rith International and Combat Anti-Semitism, titled “Students Speak Out Against Anti-Semitism” a creative video production competition that awards prizes to high school and post-secondary students for the creation of videos that educate about antisemitism and the prejudice, bigotry, hatred, and violence it engenders.
Dratwa says they are making progress in the Muslim world, and the organization recently honored Sheikh Dr. Mohammed al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League in Saudi Arabia, who has spoken out against Holocaust denial and acts of antisemitism, and who led the Muslim World League on a historic visit of senior Muslim leaders to Auschwitz-Birkenau in January. Combat Anti-Semitism is also working with Evangelical, Catholic and Protestant groups. “The relationship between Jews and Christians is so deep and so important historically,” he notes.
Dratwa and Vaknin Gill point out that Combat Anti-Semitism is an apolitical movement that does not deal with defending Israel from criticism of its policies. “We are talking about the fact,” says Vaknin Gill, “that there are a bunch of groups in the world who don’t accept the fact that the Jewish state has a right to exist as other nations around the world.”
Dratwa’s vision is to see a reduction in antisemitism, which will enable Jewish communities to live in safety and to be proud of their Jewishness. To that end, he says better legislation is needed to protect Jews and Jewish identity around the world. “If we can work as a movement in the Jewish world, and outside the Jewish world, we will have the first big win,” he says.
Like Dratwa, Vaknin Gill acknowledges that antisemitism will never completely go away, but hopes for more accountability on the part of governments as well as academic leaders, which she says, are the hubs of hate, as well as tech companies. She is confident young leaders such as Dratwa are the type of leaders needed, who understand reality, who aren’t afraid of what is happening online and are ready to do battle with the threat of worldwide antisemitism. “These are the type of people that we need to lead the Jewish people.”


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