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Recapping "A Conversation on Modern Anti-Semitism"

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George Washington University

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Recapping "A Conversation on Modern Anti-Semitism"

Four student organizations prove District's basement room capacity maximums underestimate their potential

Tali Edid

12.6.17

On Monday, December, 5, Hillel, College Democrats, College Republicans, and the Student Association brought together students of diverse backgrounds and political beliefs to engage in “A Conversation on Modern Anti-Semitism.” Hannah Goldstein, an active member of both Hillel and College Democrats, moderated the conversation among the well-respected panelists who included: Doron Ezickson, the Director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington, D.C. Regional Office, Kenneth S. Stern, a key drafter of a “working definition” of antisemitism which has been adopted by various international bodies tasked with monitoring antisemitism as well as by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and Ira N. Forman, who was sworn in as the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat antisemitism (SEAS) in 2013 and served until 2017.

Stern shared the working definition of antisemitism drafted by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, and stated, "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 institutes and religious facilities." The U.S. State Department, though, is also famed for crafting the "3 D's of antisemitism," which are: the Demonization of Israel, the the Double Standard of Israel, and the Delegitimization of Israel."

With the hope of educating the GW community on the legal definition of antisemitism and its growing presence in major countries, Goldstein quickly jumped to address the elephant in the room, prompting an important yet controversial conversation on the role and existence of antisemitism on the left.

“People talk about how neo-nazis commit hate crimes and clearly represent more conservative, alt-right political ideas. But the discussion around what antisemitism looks like on the left is not being talked about. If it is not being talked about, we will have a much more difficult time combating it,” explained Goldstein.

Forman shared that in 2017, an E.U. report which polled Jewish communities in Europe showed that 48% of Jews in Hungary and 46% in France said they have considered leaving their home country due to threats presented by antisemitism. Throughout his four year term, "we reported antisemitism in 70 countries every year. It is certainly the case today that countries with no Jewish population are still threatened with antisemitism, and we at the State Department are tasked with "getting it right," he said. Estimates show that there are about 15 million Jews in the world, with roughly half living in Israel, the only Jewish state. 5 million Jews reside in the United States alone.

"We have exercised a muscle where people stand up. We can't rely on the president or a senator, it is important for you and I to call out Islamophobia and antisemitism. That’s how you beat it back. You make those who people who say it outcasts in society, you don’t tell them they can’t speak," said Ezickson.

The mention of Israel in the State Department's definition of antisemitism has left the relationship between antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric relatively ambiguous. Stern addressed some of that uncertainty by stating, "Saying that Jews alone have no right to self determination is a form of racism." This right to self-determination lead to the establishment of Israel in 1948. So, this brought us to the question of is anti-Zionism a form of antisemitism. "From my point of view, it is a difficult question that depends on the circumstance," he concluded.

After proving able to convene over 90 students into a tight room in District House, Goldstein said, “I am proud that I was able to contribute to a bi-partisan event because it proves that dialogue is the premises to overcoming antisemitism. I hope that the impact on the GW community will include the realization that the dialogue currently taking place on campus is not necessarily healthy or even apparent. People disagree on what exactly modern antisemitism is and I hope that this event brought that to life and proved that without productive dialogue, antisemitism will remain a part of reality.”