September 02, 2021

New study identifies surging global antisemitism as an urgent human rights crisis

A new report by AJC's Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI) finds that antisemitic violence has increased in the two years since a landmark UN report on global antisemitism warned governments of its dangers. The JBI report tracks attacks against Jews and Jewish sites, and trends in antisemitic rhetoric, in 50 countries around the world since October 2020, including the sharp increase in antisemitic violence that occurred in May 2021.

The report, A Call to Action Against Antisemitism: Confronting Rising Global Antisemitism in the Context of COVID, Conspiracies, and Conflict, is the third in a series produced by JBI since the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, published a historic report to the UN General Assembly on global antisemitism as a human rights concern in September 2019.

The new JBI report confirms that the frequency of antisemitic incidents increased or remained disturbingly high in 2020, with record-high numbers reported in several countries despite restrictions on gatherings and movement to address the COVID-19 pandemic. It also finds that in late 2020 and 2021, conspiracy theories suggesting that Jews or Israel are responsible for causing or profiting from the COVID-19 pandemic, expression distorting and trivializing the Holocaust and the treatment of Jews by the Nazis, and rhetoric blaming Jews for societal problems are persistent or increasing in many countries.

JBI's report also documents incidents in more than 30 countries in which Jewish people and sites with no direct connection to Israel were attacked in a dramatic surge of antisemitic violence during and after the 11-day period of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in May 2021. These violent assaults and threats against identifiably Jewish people occurred alongside a troubling increase in antisemitic rhetoric criticizing and threatening Jews as proxies for the State of Israel as well as rhetoric disparaging Zionism, the self-determination movement of the Jewish people, as a racist ideology, and in some cases explicitly characterizing it as a form of white supremacy. This rhetoric satisfies examples set out in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, such as "denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor," and goes beyond sharp criticism of Israel's practices and policies, which the IHRA Working Definition permits.

"This report demonstrates why Dr. Shaheed's 2019 recommendation to all governments to adopt the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism as a non-legally binding educational and training tool is so important and must be reiterated," said Felice Gaer, director of AJC's Jacob Blaustein Institute. "Unless public figures reject antisemitism in all its forms and do more to raise awareness of its contemporary manifestations, as set out in the IHRA Working Definition, the negative impact on Jews' ability to exercise their human rights that this report tracks will only increase, as will the danger posed by antisemitism to the foundations of democratic societies everywhere."

The JBI report calls for urgent action by governments and public figures, including leaders at the United Nations, to comprehensively condemn antisemitism and for social media companies to curb the proliferation of antisemitic rhetoric on their platforms, including by adopting and effectively enforcing robust community standards. These and other recommendations align with those in Dr. Shaheed's 2019 report, which sets out guidance for combating antisemitism while respecting the right to freedom of expression, and his call in the June 2021 AJC Global Forum for renewed action to combat antisemitism.