April 19, 2024
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Antisemitism Must Be Criminalized Before It’s Too Late

Since the October 7 brutal and reprehensible massacre of Israeli and foreign civilians and the taking of hostages, the world is witnessing an unprecedented resurgence of pure antisemitism.

Tragically, from time immemorial, genocidal antisemitism has figured as a major recurring phenomenon. It has caused the brutal mass murder of millions of Jews, and has generated death and suffering through massacres, pogroms, inquisitions, lynching, torture, enslavement and property confiscation, to mention but a few of its evils.

Since the October 7 brutal Hamas terrorist incursion into Israel and the reprehensible massacre of Israeli and foreign civilians and the taking of hostages, the world is witnessing an unprecedented and utterly dangerous resurgence of pure antisemitism.

This should neither be taken lightly nor minimalized. It needs to be treated as a major and legitimate cause of concern, not only by Jews wherever they are, but also, no less, by the international community inasmuch as it violates sacred and universal norms of humanity.

This latest outburst of genocidal antisemitism is being accompanied by an extensive, well-financed and highly organized international campaign, both on North American and European campuses as well as on the streets of Washington, DC, New York, Ottawa, Paris and other European cities.

The genocidal calls “from the river to the sea Palestine will be free” are accompanied by massively produced, financed and marketed Palestinian paraphernalia, scarves, flags and posters. Wherever such demonstrations occur, the incited demonstrators have absolutely no compunction; and proudly and conceitedly vandalize people and property, and abuse national, historic symbols, including in the vicinities of the White House and the UK Houses of Parliament. They also openly attack and insult anyone who dares to object to such behavior.

The long-existing “traditional” right-wing extremist antisemites in Europe and North America now feel they can rear their heads once again and unabashedly sport their odious prejudices.

But now, in addition, the present outbreak of antisemitism encompasses large groups of incited Muslim and other citizens residing in North American and European towns and cities, as well as regular citizens influenced and incited by an extensive, hateful social media campaign.

 

Antisemitism Fueled by Liberal Propaganda

All this is skillfully accompanied by a liberal influx of false and manipulative propaganda which relies heavily on biased and unreliable Palestinian and UN sources, and is fortified by slanted and distinctively anti-Israel international media reporting.

Many of those participating in mass demonstrations and sporting Palestinian paraphernalia are, more often than not, ignorant of the factual or legal situation. But out of a false sense of social concern for what they perceive to be the Palestinian underdog, they are swayed by the massive propaganda campaign.

The phenomenon of antisemitism has, over the years, been researched by international, regional and nongovernmental organizations, and has even been addressed marginally in some international resolutions and declarations. Certain states, in their domestic legislation, have even legislated and criminalized antisemitism.

However, the international community as a whole has never considered criminalizing antisemitism in a manner similar to the criminalization of other odious phenomena such as genocide, racial discrimination, piracy, hostage-taking, crimes against humanity, war crimes and terrorism.

Considering the plethora of material dealing with antisemitism, and the horrific tragedies that it has wrought for thousands of years, the present reawakening of antisemitism on such a large and dangerous scale requires international action. Indeed, one might have expected that, over the years, some effort would have been made by the international community to criminalize and declare antisemitism to be an international crime with a view to ensuring that perpetrators, inciters, and all those involved in it would be dealt with as international criminals, and would not enjoy impunity.

The international community has recently become open to the concept of extending universal criminal jurisdiction in order to counter impunity, through the establishment of temporary international criminal tribunals to deal with atrocities committed in specific regional conflicts, or through the 1998 establishment of the International Criminal Court, whose sole purpose is to address “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.”

By its very nature, with antisemitism’s long, bitter and never-ending history, and its propensity to constantly reappear in modern forms and contexts, it cannot and should not be equated with, linked to, or relegated to, other forms of racial discrimination, xenophobia or Islamophobia.

Antisemitism stands alone. It is not a phobia but the basest form of hatred.

Attempts by Muslim elements over the years to utilize international resolutions and declarations (including the infamous 2001 UN Durban Conference against Racism) to equate antisemitism with Islamophobia have been considered artificial and transparent.

With a view to correcting this international historic injustice, the present author, through the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, attempted in 2015 to circulate within the international community and in Jewish communities a draft “International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Anti-Semitism” for adoption by the United Nations.

This draft convention summarizes the history of antisemitism and the various attempts to deal with it in international instruments, resolutions and statements.

It presents an all-embracing definition of an international crime of antisemitism and its component elements, based on the various definitions that have been adopted over the years by Jewish as well as international groups and institutions.

The premise of this convention is that any manifestation of antisemitism that involves, results in, or is intended to result in violence should be universally criminalized, and its perpetrators tried and punished.

States would be required to criminalize antisemitism in their own domestic legislation and to cooperate and exchange information on perpetrators and on actions taken to prosecute or extradite them.

The draft calls for the formation of national and international educational programs to combat antisemitism, as well as for the establishment of an International Antisemitism Monitoring Forum for coordinating actions by states and international organizations.

Acceptance of this convention would require mustering the support and sponsorship of states and international organizations that would accompany its processing as an international convention.

Given the large-scale resurgence of international antisemitism today, it is now essential to universally criminalize antisemitism. This must be done despite anticipated negative reactions by Muslim groups and despite the apathetic and misplaced sense of political correctness that is most prevalent in Europe and North America.

Now is the time to advance this before it is too late. History will not give us another chance.


The writer, a leading international lawyer, served as the legal adviser to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, and as ambassador to Canada. He presently heads the international law program at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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