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Holocaust Remembrance Day

2021 saw positive legal, cultural trends in fight against antisemitism — TAU report

Inaugural Tel Aviv University study focusing on encouraging signs presented to President Isaac Herzog on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

People gather in front of the "Westin Hotel" in Leipzig, Germany, on Tuesday, October 5, 2021, to show solidarity with the musician Gil Ofarim. (Dirk Knofe/dpa via AP)
People gather in front of the "Westin Hotel" in Leipzig, Germany, on Tuesday, October 5, 2021, to show solidarity with the musician Gil Ofarim. (Dirk Knofe/dpa via AP)

The past year saw a series of encouraging legal, political and cultural developments in the fight against antisemitism, according to a Tel Aviv University report released Thursday.

The inaugural report, titled “Positive Trends in Fighting Antisemitism and Radicalization around the World,” was presented to President Isaac Herzog at his Jerusalem residence on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The authors identified important legislation passed in 2021 by legislative bodies around the globe against antisemitic hate speech. The European Union launched the Strategy on Combating Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life, the Ukrainian parliament passed a law to combat antisemitism, and a number of national European courts ruled against individuals spreading antisemitism.

Since 2015, the report said, more than 800 institutions around the world have adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism. Moreover, a number of European countries appointed special envoys to combat antisemitism and promote legislation.

The authors applauded recent efforts by the Catholic Church as well. Pope Francis spoke out against antisemitism during his September 2021 trip to Budapest, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican Committee for Relations with the Jewish People, issued a number of firm declarations on the issue.

In the US, several states passed important hate crime legislation in the wake of recent attacks. New York now prohibits selling or displaying swastikas and other hate symbols on public property, and California passed legislation requiring hate crime policies to recognize religious bias.

An artistic rendering of the future Abrahamic Family House complex in Abu Dhabi. (Abu Dhabi Government Media Office)

The study, conducted by TAU’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, also noted the increasing openness toward Jews and their culture in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in the wake of the 2020 Abraham Accords. The authors highlighted the functioning synagogues in the Gulf states, the availability of kosher food in UAE hotels, and Abu Dhabi’s under-construction Abrahamic Family House project, which contains a synagogue, mosque and church of similar heights.

In Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine, young non-Jewish students preserved and restored Jewish cemeteries.

The report also applauded measures taken by European sports leagues and clubs. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2021, England’s Football Association announced it would adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism and the Austrian Football Association followed suit. A number of clubs, including Germany’s Borussia Dortmund and the Netherlands’ Feyenoord Rotterdam, developed educational initiatives to uproot antisemitic chants from fans.

“The global antisemitism crisis is escalating, but the international fight against it is also intensifying,” said Herzog. “We are witnessing many initiatives for combating antisemitism around the world, and we must encourage and foster these positive trends. Strengthening the light is just as important as fighting darkness.”

Restored Jewish cemetery in Ukraine (TAU)

Kantor Center head Uriya Shavit noted that a report focusing on positive trends would show appreciation for those taking action against antisemitism, urge more governments and bodies to follow suit, and promote discussion on improving existing programs.

The report was authored by an interdisciplinary team of seven TAU scholars.

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