Does the EU refuse to admit that ‘anti-Jewish’ acts are ‘anti-Semitism’?

The European Union has ‘not used the words anti-Semitism, but they do use anti-Jewish and anti-Israel in the same sentence,’ says head of NGO Monitor.

By: Steve Leibowitz

Speaking on the sidelines of the 6th Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem, Dr. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor and professor of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University, told World Israel News (WIN), “Certainly the numbers and the incidents that we see, including terrorism and violence triggered by anti-Semitism, is something we did not see 10 or 20 years ago. There are more incidents in the US and Europe, and it’s connected to a lot of anti-Israel propaganda.”

According to Steinberg, “Online is a big part of the problem but not the entire problem. The news travels much faster on both the far left and the far right, and they influence people that may not otherwise have been affected by incitement in the past. The question we are all asking ourselves here is what can we do about it. Can we get governments to be more proactive on this issue? In other words, they must not simply react to an incident,  because the hatred out there needs to be dealt with systematically.”

“One of the things I am doing is pointing out that for the first time, the European Union is saying that it will not fund groups actively engaged in anti-Jewish activities,” Steinberg added. “They have not used the words anti-Semitism, but they do use anti-Jewish and anti-Israel in the same sentence. That is a big change because up until now, EU countries have provided millions of dollars a year to anti-Israel groups while claiming that they don’t fund NGOs, but rather they fund projects. Therefore, if the NGO was doing [what the EU considered to be] a good project, with some anti-Semitism slipped in, they did not pay attention. Those days are now over, and that is a very important step in the right direction. That change needs to be adopted the world over.”

‘Our job is to make sure there are consequences’

Former ADL director Abe Foxman warns against using dramatic adjectives when describing the rise in anti-Semitism. Foxman told WIN, “No I do not think there is a frightening crisis. I think anti-Semitism was, is and will be. If after Auschwitz, when the world saw what anti-Semitism can lead to, we did not put together all the scientists and all the engineers and philosophers to find the antidote, it will never happen. It’s always going to be with us. Our job is to make sure that there are consequences for the anti-Semites.”

“In the US there is now this political lack of respect, civility or respectful discourse. This has given license to, and emboldened, the bigots. The anti-Semites we saw in Charlottesville were not created by (US President Donald) Trump, nor by the election, but by the atmosphere where all of the taboos have been taken down. The Anti-Semites in Charlottesville did not have the chutzpah to march in (Nazi) uniform and did not have the courage to appear before a camera. Why? They did not want to endanger their jobs, their family or their social standing. What has changed is that the covers of the sewers have been removed and it’s now ok to be a bigot. We destroyed privacy and now we are destroying civility. Civility is an important protection for Jews and all minorities,” Foxman said.

In a direct message to Trump, Foxman said, “I call on the president to put the covers back on the sewers. He can do it. He has the pulpit. I am still hoping that he is going to get up one morning, get on to Twitter and write, ‘You know, I had a dream. We lost tens of thousands of boys fighting Nazism. There are no good Nazis.’ He needs to still say it because he needs to put the cover back on the sewer. I say it respectfully. Trump is not a bigot, he has lived with the Jewish people, he has family that includes Jews, but he needs to understand that there is a certain permissiveness which he can stop.”

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The ‘new anti-Semitism’ and the ‘classic anti-Semitism’

Weighing in on the question of a dramatic rise in anti-Semitism, Dr. Tehilla Schwartz Altshuler of the Israel Democracy Institute told WIN, “I think we need to better monitor social media to understand that because usually what we have are anecdotes, and anecdotes don’t teach us that much. We need hard and massive data in order to answer the question. It’s a bit more complicated because when we talk about anti-Semitism, the question is whether BDS is being included in anti-Semitism – the new anti-Semitism and the classic anti-Semitism. The definitions here are very important. We do agree that there is a rise in anti-Semitic comments and tweets – for example, after high-profile events – but until we have really good monitoring systems, we won’t be able to really know.”