Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism

No. 41     1 February 2006 / 1 Shevat 5766

Progress in the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism in Europe:
The Berlin Declaration and the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia's Working Definition of Anti-Semitism

Michael Whine

  • Jewish NGOs and international organizations were responsible for two initiatives in 2004 that are intended to define, monitor, and combat anti-Semitism within the European region.

  • The OSCE Berlin Declaration and the EUMC Working Definition of Anti-Semitism differ from past initiatives: they allow for monitoring implementation, and they recognize that anti-Semitism comes both from traditional sources and from new and different directions, and is frequently a consequence of Middle East tension.

  • Jewish NGOs must continue to press for recognition that anti-Semitism remains deeply embedded in the region and that a serious long-term effort to eradicate it not only benefits Jews but also stabilizes democracy.

Of the initiatives undertaken by European organizations in recent years to combat anti-Semitism, two appear likely to be more effective than others. They are the April 2004 Berlin Declaration of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism of the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC).

The former commits the fifty-five OSCE member states to monitor and combat anti-Semitism within the region; the latter provides the twenty-five EU member states with a common definition of anti-Semitism for use by justice ministries, law enforcement agencies, and the RAXEN network of national focal points monitoring racist violence.

Both initiatives depart from previous ones in two important respects. First, they provide for regular implementation monitoring, in the case of the OSCE by an annual debate at the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the OSCE human rights affiliate, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which takes place in Warsaw.

Second, they both recognize the new directions from which anti-Semitism comes - particularly the demonization of Israel and Zionism, which all too frequently serves as a cover for Jew-hatred, and which overspills from the Arab world, is promoted by Islamists, and has been adopted by some leftist and left-liberal circles.

The OSCE Declaration was announced by the then Chairman-in-Office, Bulgarian foreign minister Solomon Passy:

Berlin Declaration

Based on consultations I conclude that OSCE participating States,

Reaffirming the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which proclaims that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without distinction of any kind, such as race, religion or other status.

Recalling that Article 18 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights state that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Recalling also the decisions of the OSCE Ministerial Councils at Porto and Maastricht, as well as previous decisions and documents, and committing ourselves to intensify efforts to combat anti-Semitism in all its manifestations and to promote and strengthen tolerance and non-discrimination.

Recognizing that anti-Semitism, following its most devastating manifestation during the Holocaust, has assumed new forms and expressions, which, along with other forms of intolerance, pose a threat to democracy, the values of civilization and, therefore, to overall security in the OSCE region and beyond.

Concerned in particular that this hostility toward Jews - as individuals or collectively - on racial, social, and/or religious grounds, has manifested itself in verbal and physical attacks and in the desecration of synagogues and cemeteries.

  1. Condemn without reserve all manifestations of anti-Semitism, and all other acts of intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, wherever they occur;

  2. Also condemn all attacks motivated by anti-Semitism or by any other forms of religious or racial hatred or intolerance, including attacks against synagogues and other religious places, sites and shrines;

  3. Declare unambiguously that international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism.

In addition, I note that the Maastricht Ministerial Council in its Decision on Tolerance and Non-Discrimination, tasked the Permanent Council "to further discuss ways and means of increasing the efforts of the OSCE and the participating States for the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination in all fields." In light of this Ministerial Decision, I welcome the April 22 Permanent Council Decision on Combating Anti-Semitism and, in accordance with that Decision, incorporate it into this Declaration.

1. The OSCE participating States commit to:

  • Strive to ensure that their legal systems foster a safe environment free from anti-Semitic harassment, violence or discrimination in all fields of life;

  • Promote, as appropriate, educational programmes for combating anti-Semitism;

  • Promote remembrance of and, as appropriate, education about the tragedy of the Holocaust, and the importance of respect for all ethnic and religious groups;

  • Combat hate crimes, which can be fuelled by racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic propaganda in the media and on the Internet;

  • Encourage and support international organization and NGO efforts in these areas;

  • Collect and maintain reliable information and statistics about anti-Semitic crimes, and other hate crimes, committed within their territory, report such information periodically to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), and make this information available to the public;

  • Endeavour to provide the ODIHR with the appropriate resources to accomplish the tasks agreed upon in the Maastricht Ministerial Decision on Tolerance and Non-Discrimination;

  • Work with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to determine appropriate ways to review periodically the problem of anti-Semitism;

  • Encourage development of informal exchanges among experts in appropriate fora on best practices and experiences in law enforcement and education;
2. To task the ODIHR to:

  • Follow closely, in full co-operation with other OSCE institutions as well as the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD), the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) and other relevant international institutions and NGOs, anti-Semitic incidents in the OSCE area making use of all reliable information available;

  • Report its findings to the Permanent Council and to the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting and make these findings public. These reports should also be taken into account in deciding on priorities for the work of the OSCE in the area of intolerance; and

  • Systematically collect and disseminate information throughout the OSCE area on best practices for preventing and responding to anti-Semitism and, if requested, offer advice to participating States in their efforts to fight anti-Semitism;

This Decision will be forwarded to the Ministerial Council for endorsement at its Twelfth Meeting.1

The Need for a Common Definition

In its 2004 report on anti-Semitism, the EUMC noted the lack of a common definition and requested one from a small group of Jewish NGOs.2 This is intended as a template for police forces and antiracist campaigners, for use on the streets. The definition was disseminated in March 2004, and although not directed at governments for incorporation into national legislation, it is nevertheless expected that it will seep into universal usage via adoption by the relevant parties.

This in fact happened when delegates to the OSCE Cordoba Conference in May 2005 constantly referred to it. The text of the definition follows.

Working Definition of Anti-Semitism

The purpose of this document is to provide a practical guide for identifying incidents, collecting data, and supporting the implementation and enforcement of legislation dealing with anti-Semitism.

Working definition: "Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities."

In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for "why things go wrong." It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Contemporary examples of anti-Semitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.

  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective - such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

Examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:

  • 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.

  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.

Anti-Semitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of anti-Semitic materials in some countries).

Criminal acts are anti-Semitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property - such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries - are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.

Anti-Semitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.3

The Cordoba Conference

The Cordoba Conference Declaration reaffirmed the Berlin statement, and tasked the September 2005 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) to recommend to the Permanent Council of the OSCE that it ensure that member states implement their decisions to take measures against anti-Semitism. The Cordoba Conference Declaration also reaffirmed the mandate of the Special Representatives of the Chairman-in-Office, whose task is to meet government and NGO representatives in the member states and to focus their efforts on implementation.4

Within the Permanent Council the decision has been taken to hold high- level conferences now only on a biannual basis, for two reasons: to ensure that conference fatigue does not set in, and to allow ODIHR staff the time and space to implement the decisions of Berlin. The next such conference, probably in 2007, is likely to be in Romania following an offer by that country's foreign minister.

For 2005 and 2006, meetings were already set for the OSCE taskforce on anti-Semitism. It was also arranged for the police training mission to begin work among selected OSCE member states in training police forces to monitor and combat racist and anti-Semitic crimes.

The initiatives, however, will necessarily take many years to have an impact. A recent EUMC report noted that only five out of fifteen countries surveyed actually monitor racist incidents let alone anti-Semitic ones. There will be resistance by some states, as evidenced by the lack of response to an ODIHR inquiry.5

ODIHR has now established an online system to manage the information received from participating states, civil society and intergovernmental organizations, which it plans to make available through its website during 2006. This will give one-point access to information submitted by participating states, NGOs, and other organizations, and country pages providing information on country initiatives, legislation, national specialized bodies, statistics, and so on. It will also provide thematic pages with information on key issues such as Holocaust education and anti-Semitism, freedom of religion or belief, hate crimes and violence; international standards and instruments; and country reports, annual reports, and other information from intergovernmental organizations.

ODIHR also plans to make available model legislation online. Its free-of-charge online legislative database was created to help OSCE participating states bring their legislation into accordance with relevant international human rights standards. These initiatives are managed by the ODIHR Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Program, which works with HURIDOCS (Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems International) to provide the best access to NGO reports and documents. HURIDOCS has created a search engine, HURISEARCH, that indexes the websites of more than two thousand human rights NGOs.

What Is the Likely Impact?

Is this diplomatic and pedagogic activity likely to have any real effect on the levels of anti-Semitic discourse and violence that have characterized Europe for the past five years or so? Have governments been persuaded to take concrete action, and to what extent are they serious about stopping the anti-Semitic propaganda promoted by Arab states' media, which incites some Muslims and others?

Although it may be too early to draw definite conclusions, the two initiatives, and others, clearly have alerted governments and forced them to address the problem. Diplomatic pressure by the U.S. government, concerns voiced by Israel's diplomatic representatives, and the U.S. State Department's report on anti-Semitism have helped, as has a reduction in Palestinian violence and Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, where its presence sometimes provided a spark for violence in Europe.6

Some European governments have now realized that rising levels of anti-Semitism threaten democracy, and that action is necessary to protect their societies. Some of these governments have begun to seriously address, for example, their information deficit.

At Cordoba, ODIHR reported that 42 participating states out of 55 had responded to its call to provide statistics and to enact legislation and national initiatives relating to hate crimes. At the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, held on 29 September 2005 in Warsaw, states' representatives and NGOs addressed this issue and concluded that governments need to know more to ensure compliance with the relevant agreements, and specifically the Berlin and Cordoba declarations.

Germany, United Kingdom, and France

Progress is discernable in those countries where anti-Semitic incidents were the most frequent. Following the recent German elections, the partners included in their coalition agreement an explicit commitment to fight anti-Semitism. In the United Kingdom, as a direct consequence of Cordoba, the Parliamentary Committee against Anti-Semitism has established a parliamentary inquiry into anti-Semitism that will report early in 2006 and may also review Britain's compliance with its international undertakings. Those conducting the inquiry include senior members of Parliament from the three main parties, and it will be chaired by Dr. Denis MacShane, the former Foreign Office minister responsible for European affairs.

Although not part of the Berlin follow-up, a research project on anti-Semitic violence and its perpetrators in London was conducted by the Metropolitan Police Service together with the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. It provided essential intelligence for law enforcement agencies to formulate preemptive policy, when used in conjunction with the research provided by the Community Security Trust.

Continuing government engagement in France led to a marked reduction in incidents in 2005. The government's channels were the interministerial committee established to monitor police and judicial action against anti-Jewish violence, and the training and directives provided for law enforcement agencies and the judiciary.

Problems in Eastern Europe

Russia remains problematic despite solemn declarations by President Putin and Russia's OSCE diplomatic representatives. Few improvements at street level can be discerned, and the Duma has now voiced its concerns over the activities of foreign-funded NGOs on its soil.

The attitudes of the governments of Belarus and Ukraine are also likely to remain problematic, given their continuing internal difficulties. Like Russia, they appear to regard the concern of Western governments and NGOs as part of an attack on their systems of governance, and an unwarranted interference in their affairs. The OSCE, however, promotes the message that human rights are an essential element in the political health of the region, with improvements leading to reductions in tension.

Prof. Gert Weisskirchen, personal representative of the Chairman-in- Office of the OSCE on combating anti-Semitism, emphasized this in his address to the HDIM on 29 September 2004. He also, in asking for an extension of the mandate for the three personal representatives (the others dealing with Islamophobia and Other Forms of Intolerance), said he needed to be able to follow a holistic approach, independently but with as much coordination as appropriate to avoid duplication and to learn from each other's activities.

He asked to be able to operate in this fashion and not as a member of a "team" as this would enable him to address the distinct phenomenon that constitutes anti-Semitism. He stated that he understood his work to be about emphasizing the importance of anti-Semitism, and that this entailed engaging political leaders directly when problems arose, investigating incidents when needed, advising member states on ways to monitor and enforce the laws, promoting and overseeing coordination, and ensuring that states implement the undertakings they have given.7

Continued Jewish Pressure Required

Jewish NGOs must continue to press for recognition that anti-Semitism remains deeply embedded in the region, that it now comes from new and different directions, and that a serious long-term effort to eradicate it not only benefits Jews but also stabilizes democracy.

There are, of course, other human rights issues confronting the OSCE states. Some Jewish NGOs are using their experience to train other NGOs in Central and Eastern Europe, but they will also continue to argue that anti-Semitism must be addressed as an issue on its own and not conflated with other human rights abuses, as some EU states have argued.

It is reasonable to assume that the ODIHR task force on Holocaust and post-Holocaust education will eventually begin channeling its knowledge and experience into educational systems. Additionally, the police task force can slowly change law enforcement attitudes and practices in countries where policing has traditionally been used to bolster oppressive regimes, which now wish to learn to protect the human rights of the communities they serve.

All this will take time. At present, some European countries are entering a period of internal tension arising from economic stagnation and a failure to integrate immigrant communities, particularly from North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Although recognizing the deteriorating backdrop in some countries and the deep-seated anti-Semitism that exists in many, the Jewish NGOs are aware that they provide much of the force behind the initiatives and must keep pushing for progress.

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| We have consistently spelt anti-Semitism in this document, but have left the original spelling antisemitism in the text of the 'working definition'

1. Berlin Declaration, Bulgarian Chairmanship, the Chairman-in-Office,

2. "Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU 2002-2003," European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, Vienna. For background on the process, see Michael Whine, "International Organizations: Combating Anti-Semitism in Europe," Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 16, Nos. 3-4 (Fall 2004).

3. "Working Definition of Antisemitism," EUMC Discussion Papers - Racism, Xenophobia, Anti-Semitism,

4. Cordoba Declaration, Slovenian Chairmanship, Chairman-in-Office,

5. "Racist Violence in 15 EU Member States: A Comparative Overview of Findings from the RAXEN National Focal Points Reports 2001-2004," summary report, April 2005, EUMC, Vienna; "Combating Hate Crimes in the OSCE Region: An Overview of Statistics, Legislation and National Initiatives," OSCE ODIHR, Warsaw.

6. "Report on Global Antisemitism, July 1 2003 - December 15 2004," submitted by the Department of State to the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on International Relations, Washington, DC, 30 December 2004.

7. Statement by Professor Weisskirchen - HDIM.CIO/453/05, 29 September 2005.

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Michael Whine is the Government and International Affairs Director at the Community Security Trust, the defense agency of the UK Jewish community, and Defence and Group Relations Director of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the representative body of the community. He is a consultant on anti-Semitism to the European Jewish Congress, which he represents at the OSCE. He has been professionally engaged in researching anti-Semitism and terrorism for twenty years.

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