OSCE: Confronting antisemitism in public discourse

14 Jul 2011 by CST

The summary report of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe) meeting "Confronting Antisemitism in Public Discourse" can be read at the website of the Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism Foundation. The report, a 42 page pdf, can be seen here.

The meeting, the report and its recommendations should help Diaspora Jewish communities to appreciate the efforts being made by some Governments and international agencies to identify and fight antisemitism.

(Similarly, the report should help those regularly discussed on CST Blog to better understand the antisemitic resonance of their words and actions, and to appreciate that measures such as the EUMC Definition of Antisemitism are fundamental to recording, gauging and combating antisemitism in international arenas. The fact that the OSCE report will be ignored by such characters is merely yet another example of how polarised these debates have become.)        

The meeting occurred in Prague on 23-24 March 2011, organised by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and hosted by the Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic. 36 countries were represented and over 150 people participated.

The meeting was comprised of three sessions:

1. "Traditional Anti-Semitic Themes and Stereotypes": explaining the enduring nature of antisemitic ideas and myths.

2. "International Developments as a New Factor Related to Manifestations": examining the relationship between antisemitic hate crimes and international events.

3. "Effective Practices": advocating best practices to combat the themes, discourse and hate crimes.

CST's Director of Communications, Mark Gardner, addressed the 2nd session, referencing CST's many years experience of antisemitic hate crime analysis. (Briefly summarised on pages 12-14 of the OSCE report.)

The Director of the (UK) All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, Danny Stone, addressed the 3rd session, referencing the ground-breaking All-Party Group inquiry into antisemitism. (Briefly summarised on pages 15-16 of the OSCE report.)

The report's introduction explains the reason for the meeting, refers to some improvements in hate crime data collection, but notes that public discourse (and responses to it) remain especially problematic:  

...The meeting took place in the framework of the OSCE’s ongoing efforts to promote international co-operation to combat anti-Semitism...[previous meetings] established a broad set of commitments aimed at preventing and responding to anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance. Participating States have equipped the Organization with mechanisms and tools to address the problem of anti-Semitism. These efforts have yielded positive results, in particular in response to hate crimes, which are the mostinsidious form of anti-Semitism.

Despite these efforts, expressions of anti-Semitism in public discourse remain a serious issue of concern in the OSCE region. Manifestations of anti-Semitism exacerbate hostile attitudes towards Jews and have the potential to fuel anti-Semitic incidents. Expressions of anti-Semitism in public discourse have not gathered the attention they deserve throughout the OSCE region, and often governments have been slow in responding or have failed to respond properly.

In this context, the main objectives of the High Level Meeting were to raise awareness of the existence of anti-Semitic expressions in public discourse, to increase the understanding of this phenomenon and of its impact on security, to explore the role that media may play in promoting tolerance and preventing hate crimes, and to identify practical measures to mitigate the problem.

The numerous recommendations arising from this meeting may be read on pages 7-10 of the report. They divide into recommendations to "OSCE Member States", "the OSCE...as well as other international organizations", "Members of the Media" and "Civil Society".

The opening recommendations for "Civil Society" all mirror the prioirity areas of CST's work, including our annual antisemitic incident and discourse reports; our work with the Government's Victims Fund to help those suffering antisemitic attack; our direct advice to other faith and minority communities, as well as a Home Office backed guide to monitoring and combating all types of racist crime.    

Civil society organizations should increase their efforts to monitor anti-Semitic hate crimes, as well as anti-Semitic discourse in traditional and online media.

Civil society should implement programs which encourage and assist victims to report hate crimes or incidents. Civil society should strengthen its partnerships with government institutions which investigate, prosecute and provide other support to hate crime victims.

Inter-faith and inter-communal initiatives and coalitions should be strengthened. Faithbased groups should focus their lobbying efforts on common issues which may affect all vulnerable communities.

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Nick Clegg MP
Former Deputy Prime Minister