Speech by Dr. Moshe Kantor
at the Conference of the Kantor Center at Tel Aviv University
“Who is an antisemite? The polemic and its significance”
16 June 2021
Representatives of governments and international institutions,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for joining us today at this important event, marking five years since the adoption of the working definition of antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
Please allow me first to begin my remarks by expressing my deep gratitude to our colleagues at the Kantor Center who have listed over 450 organisations across the world who had adopted the IHRA definition to date.
This marks an important milestone in the battle against antisemitism, a word which was first created barely 150 years ago by Wilhelm Marr, a self-declared antisemite.
Of course, the roots of antisemitism go far deeper and longer into the history of the Jewish people. Antisemitism did not begin with Wilhelm Marr and we should not be deceived into thinking that the IHRA definition will be the end of it. However, as the wise Jewish text notes, “It is not your role to complete the task, but neither are you exempted from taking part in it.”
This extensive list by the Kantor Center includes 30 governments including those of the us, Canada, Germany and the UK.
It also includes football clubs like Chelsea, Manchester United, and Bayern Munich, international companies like Daimler and deutsche bank, and religious institutions like the Global Imams Council.
It is truly a remarkable achievement, and we can be proud that in just five years we have succeeded in mobilising such a broad and diverse group of institutions.
We are seeing today one of the worst waves of antisemitism in recent times. Antisemitism runs wild on social media and in the streets and hatred of Israel is used to practice hate on all Jews.
Nothing so clearly demonstrates the value of the IHRA definition than the clear examples we are witnessing today linking hatred of Israel with hatred of Jews.
When angry mobs gather in front of a synagogue, when rabbis are targeted, when an antisemitic convoy rides through Jewish neighbourhoods, one thing becomes very clear.
Just as the definition makes no distinction in its manifestations of Jew hate, neither do the antisemites themselves.
The debate around antisemitism and anti-zionism is a bit like the one about the chicken and the egg. The result is the same, so it does not really matter which came first.
For antisemites, Israel is the “collective Jew”. What better way therefore to target hatred towards the maximum number of Jews than to target the State of Israel?
And if there was any doubt of what antisemites think of the IHRA definition, we can see that it has been the target of attacks and attempts to come up with alternatives, which focus on protecting antisemites and not Jews.
Thanks to the IHRA definition, we now have an international, widely accepted standard on what constitutes antisemitism.
But as you all know, defining antisemitism is merely the first stage in removing it.
We need to continue developing concrete proposals to give the definition greater clarity, purpose and effectiveness.
That is why the European Jewish Congress recently led efforts to produce a document that was presented to the European Commission.
The document, published in collaboration with major international Jewish organizations, includes 76 recommendations to combat antisemitism, secure and foster Jewish life and promote the memory of the Shoah.
Many of these recommendations are equally relevant outside Europe and for non-governmental institutions, and I will concentrate on three of the most important.
Firstly, monitoring of antisemitism is key and must bring together all the relevant stakeholders in governments, legislatures, law enforcement and the judiciary and across the education sector.
Secondly, we must invest in security and victim support and facilitate trainings to enable law enforcement and the judiciary to identify, understand and prosecute antisemitic hate crimes. Fighting antisemitism in theory must always lead to protecting Jews in practice.
Thirdly, since antisemitism is a global phenomenon, we must combat it globally.
This means countering governments and organisations that spread antisemitism and disinformation, and making sure that governments use the definition to ensure that taxpayers’ money does not enable antisemitism abroad.
To conclude, combatting antisemitism is not a Jewish problem or a Jewish issue. It is central to destroying false mythologies and conspiracy theories, to fostering dialogue and the transmission of truth. It makes life better for everyone.
Our progress as democratic societies not only needs it, it depends on it.
Thank you all for your dedication and your engagement and I look forward to meaningful discussions at today’s conference.