The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI) is working with colleagues from the American Jewish Committee and their network of partners to identify progress and challenges in States’ responses to rising anti-Semitism. One aspect of this work has involved bringing together representatives of governments and civil society groups responsible for monitoring anti-Semitism and UN human rights experts, especially the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. Through these meetings, a number of good practice examples of effective responses to anti-Semitism have been identified.
For example, one of the points in the 16/18-action plan calls on States to ‘create an appropriate mechanism within governments to, inter alia, identify and address potential areas of tension between members of different religious communities,’ and to ‘combat denigration and negative religious stereotyping of persons, as well as incitement to religious hatred, by strategising and harmonising actions at the local, national, regional and international levels through, inter alia, education and awareness building.’ Over recent years a number of governments have taken important steps to implement these provisions, including by designating specific, high-level individuals to coordinate efforts to address anti-Semitism.
One good practice example comes from Germany. In 2018, in response to a worrying increase in anti-Semitic incidents, Germany appointed its first Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish life and the fight against anti-Semitism. This followed a similar move by the EU in 2015. Such steps bring a number of benefits, including the promotion of ‘introspection’ – i.e. encouraging a focus on combatting intolerance at home rather than commenting on problems in other countries; the promotion of cooperation between national authorities and affected communities; and improved coordination and information sharing between relevant ministries/agencies.
One key to the effective implementation of resolution 16/18 is the building and maintenance of trust between national or local authorities and affected communities. One 16/18 provision calls on States to train ‘government officials in effective outreach strategies’ to groups affected by intolerance. In line with this provision, three European police forces have worked with European Jewish community bodies to elaborate training programmes to help police officers to recognise, record and deal with anti-Semitic hate crimes.
Another way of building and maintaining trust is for governments and law enforcement agencies to work with and through trusted NGOs (i.e. NGOs trusted by affected communities). This can encourage the victims of intolerance to come forward more readily than they might to a State agency. For example, in the US, in the wake of the anti-Semitic attack on the ‘Tree of Life’ synagogue in Pittsburgh, relevant national and local authorities, working with civil society groups, held open community meetings on how to better protect places of worship. In another example from Germany, the Berlin police have been cooperating closely with a respected civil society organisation, the Research and Information Center on Anti-Semitism (RIAS), to create an environment in which the victims of hate crimes feel able to come forward and provide information.