Panel members encouraged lawmakers to codify a common definition of antisemitism that would provide Americans and their diplomats with a clear understanding of what to look out for.

Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters aboard Air Force One. (photo credit:REUTERS)


WASHINGTON – The borderless threat of antisemitism, fueled in recent years by nativist political forces and the masking power of the Internet, requires a borderless response, several American experts said in testimony before a House committee hearing on the matter on Wednesday.

A measurable spike in reported antisemitic activity recorded in Britain, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Hungary, Poland and the United States offers clear evidence of a rolling and interconnected phenomenon, the panel members said. Several called on Congress to preserve funding for the State Department’s human rights division and its foreign aid budget, as well as funding for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, in order to combat the rising threat.

“Our ability to fight global antisemitism and extremism hinges on having the resources to successfully engage in the world and to help prevent unstable areas from becoming breeding grounds for violent extremism,” said Stacy Burdett, ADL’s vice president of government relations, advocacy and community engagement, who encouraged lawmakers to use their votes to ensure the continuation of foreign aid.

Their call comes just days after US President Donald Trump proposed dramatic cuts to the State Department for fiscal year 2018, and specifically to its foreign assistance and human rights programs.

Burdett called on Washington to “lead by example” by maintaining the department’s funding, appointing a special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism and fighting the scourge of antisemitism here at home where thousands of state and local law enforcement offices decline to collect reports on hate crimes.

“We haven’t heard an affirmation of the Justice Department commitment to train law enforcement,” Burdett added. “That’s very high on our wish list.”

The chairman of the subcommittee, Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey), noted that the antisemitism envoy position is “statutorily required,” codified in law he wrote himself in 2004. A State Department official told The Jerusalem Post this month that the government recognizes its responsibility under law to appoint such an envoy.

Recent attacks in Brussels, Paris and Copenhagen targeting Jews have awoken European governments to the threat, said Rabbi Andrew Baker, personal representative of the OSCE chairperson-in-office on combating antisemitism and the AJC’s director of international Jewish affairs.

“They have responded, and that is good news,” Baker said. “But problems still remain. Governments have taken different approaches, and some only in stop-gap measures.”

Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Secure Community Network, said right-wing extremist individuals and groups are increasingly modeling their counterparts in Europe, where antisemitism has been historically entrenched and attacks have been on the rise for years.

“Ever-more connected, extremist groups in the United States are borrowing, adapting and enhancing the tactics and strategies adopted in Europe,” Goldenberg told the panel. “Although not every antisemitic individual, group, manifestation, threat, or incident in Europe and the USA is connected, they are increasingly the context for each other. It is vital that the Congress and US government identify, analyze and respond to the cross-Atlantic links between antisemitism and antisemitic attacks.”

“Tripwires around the world can trigger an attack,” Goldenberg added. “Global conflict serves to put the entire Jewish community on alert.”

Panel members encouraged lawmakers to codify a common definition of antisemitism that would provide Americans and their diplomats with a clear understanding of what to look out for. Such a measure was suggested in the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2016, which has stalled in Congress.

“This definition would serve as an essential tool in interpreting whether harassment, intimidation or other seemingly discriminatory behavior directed at Jewish students is motivated by antisemitism and should be investigated,” said Mark Weitzman, director of government affairs Simon Wiesenthal Center. “The definition is a global standard, which is adopted by the State Department and the 31 governments that are members of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.”

As with the other panelists, Weitzman argued that a loose coalition of right-wing political groups worldwide have in recent years felt emboldened to increase their efforts targeting Jews. But antisemitic events – including aspects of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement targeting Israel – are also strengthening on the political Left.

Both movements find refuge online, he said.

“Internet service providers need to recognize that they share in the common responsibility for the state of our societies,” Weitzman added. “As with other industries, the drive for profits carries responsibilities, as well.”

As reported by The Jerusalem Post