The 2023 European Mayors Summit against Antisemitism took place in Dortmund between November 29 and December 1st. Chaired by the Lord Mayor of Dortmund, Thomas Westphal, it was attended by mayors and representatives from 60 cities and 20 countries. The summit was to brainstorm and discuss “practical solutions” and “best practices” to combat antisemitism and Jew hatred at local levels. Among those who attended or addressed the gathering were Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany, Deputy Mayor of Paris, Christine Lemandeley, and Sacha Roytman, CEO of CAM (Combat Antisemitism Movement).
Those present had a vision of international unity in fighting antisemitism. “Fighting antisemitism” was interpreted through various life experiences in everyday society. The presence of Carsten Cramer, Sales and Marketing Manager of Borussia Dortmund, the city’s football club, shed a strong light on antisemitism, hatred, and racial extremism in sport. This sport club made an unwavering commitment to fight antisemitism and other forms of intolerance within the world of football. Borussia Dortmund raised the bar on taking on antisemitism by involving the base fan, supporters, and players in the process. The club has given “ownership” of that responsibility to all involved, thus, literally working outwards from the stands to the field, and eventually the outside community.
The challenge within local governmental departments or enclaves is the lack of education or awareness of antisemitism. How to recognize it. According to Dr. Felix Klein, the Commissioner for Jewish Life and the Fight against Antisemitism in Germany, “every German prosecuting office” now has an antisemitism commissioner. This is to instill in German law enforcement the ability to “discern” antisemitism when it happens.
What the summit brought to the table was a new playbook where awareness on antisemitism is taken to the grass roots. Leaders and community organizers are drawn in cooperation toward a more viable understanding of Jews and Israel. One man has been on this path to Has’barah for quite some time.
Ms. Judith Kiriaty-Matalon, envisioned the upcoming surge in European antisemitism. As a board member at the AEPJ she encouraged the organization to play an active role fighting antisemitism in Europe. Mr. Uri Bar-Ner from Kiriaty Foundation participated together with the leadership of the AEPJ in the conference. The unique role the AEPJ may play on the informal educational front fighting antisemitism was presented successfully in a dedicated workshop during the conference.
A while ago I had the pleasure and privilege of speaking with Itzik Moshe, an Israeli businessman and founder of Israeli House in Georgia and 18 countries in the world. Even prior to the October 7th massacres, Itzik Moshe had started the daunting task of “has’barah”, the promotion of Israel on the international stage, a process that involves local and organizational leaders in dialogue in the fight against antisemitism and inadvertently, Israel. His unique concept rests on a counter narrative to that of antisemites and anti-Israel organizations like BDS and others who have become the primary source of jew hatred and rabid antisemitism.
Itzik Moshe’s message can ruffle dangerous feathers in certain world circles. As Itzik so eloquently put it: “some people don’t like what I do”. Some of us know exactly how he feels, except that for Itzik it could have meant a fatal ending. In 2022, Georgian authorities discovered a plot to assassinate Itzik. Iran’s Qud’s forces targeted Itzik through Pakistani/Al Qaeda/Palestinian operatives who smuggled arms through Turkey to Tbilisi. Itzik Moshe was unaware of the plot and found out incidentally through the media. Instead of stopping him, the attempt on his life urged him even harder to continue his mission “haz’barah”. It should be noted that the American state Department declared Georgia as a country protected from terrorism and it was noted that Georgia saved Itzik Moshe from terrorism.
Itzik explained how antisemitism is founded on several old concepts that have morphed into the progressive agenda of today. Hiding behind activism, antisemitism evolved from the generational tropes of the Middle Ages to an acceptable narrative under the pretense of democracy and diversity. To use analogies from mid-20th century genre and political nuances, the current anti-Israel activism resorts to platitudes and politically correct tropes that get a rise out of antisemites but excuses them through the disingenuous pretense of social justice and human rights.
Arguing for Israel is difficult because the distortion of historical facts has not only been taken at face value, but taught universities and accepted in politics. The flavor of the month is calling Zionism fascism which is meant to minimize and reduce Jews and Israel to Mussolini Italy and Hitler Germany. An obnoxious insult to those who suffered under fascism and died in the Holocaust. But sensationalism sells. This is systematic antisemitism meant to isolate Israel and Jews in the diaspora. 2,500 years ago, the first Zionists were in Persia, a fact completely ignored by antisemites and Israel haters.
Antisemitism has been inherent to many religions and cultures throughout the millennia. But post October 7th, Israel is waking up to the enormity of the problem. According to Itzik Moshe, 50% of Muslims and 20% of Christians are antisemites. Israel is butting heads with a biased media and international organizations like the UN. Large chunks of the population currently running amok in major cities are clueless of the Israel/Arab region and equally ignorant of its geopolitical history that spans thousands of years. Educating outwards into communities starts with one person at a time.
Itzik Moshe who devotes most of his time to the public activities and Israel’s main ties with friendly countries, he reaches out through his organization to businesspeople, organizations, and community leaders willing to start a dialogue and take that dialogue into their local communities. Without any government funding, the effectiveness of this approach is based on mutual respect and willingness to stop antisemitism at local levels and eventually on a national level. The Dortmund football club is a good example that fundamental communication will make significant difference in society.
Itzik Moshe believes that although hundreds of millions of people in the world are antisemitic, there are ways to gradually avoid this disease. He intends to make a proposal to the Israeli government and the third sector that it is necessary to include this topic in Israel’s foreign policy. Israel should urge friendly countries to adopt laws against antisemitism and speedy implementation. Make learning about antisemitism mandatory. Otherwise, based on the experience of the last war, he sees difficulties about a future for Jews in the Diaspora.
Itzik Moshe is adamant in his hypothesis that reducing or even eliminating antisemitism depends on not only recognizing the essence of antisemitism, but uniting local leaders in demanding relevant antisemitism legislation that crosses all borders of justice and accountability. Despite its gory and dark past, Germany has taken the lead in legislating antisemitism laws that include speech and criminal intent. For example, BDS the vilest antisemite organization in the world has been banned in Germany. The organization has been formally labeled antisemitic by the German government. Yet, BDS operates freely on all major universities in the world especially the US and has morphed into satellite organizations like the South Africa BDS Coalition in South Africa.
Prior to October 7, Israel remained on the peripheral of public relations. Some have even pointed out that Israel always loses its public relations battle because it does not project empathy. Basically, it does not play to the mainstream media. Post October 7, we have seen a slight change in Israel’s handling of the media. Often in the past, Israeli spokes persons were the military, bringing an austere hard image to the media. Since October 7, Israeli spokes people are in suits and unafraid to dispute misinformation and bias on major international networks. A recent BBC interview with an Israeli representative exposed the visceral BBC bias against Israel when the BBC “reporter” accused Israel of not valuing “Palestinian” lives because Israel freed more Palestinian prisoners than Hamas freed hostages. The dumbfounded Israeli spokesman allowed that stupidity to sink in before with clarity and articulation called the statement obnoxious. Finally, the rest of the world could see the insidious reporting on Israel for what it is.
Itzik Moshe and the summit in Dortmund envision “has’barah through grace roots movements. Individuals, organizations, and local governments, start the dialogue and partner with Jewish counterparts in their respective communities. This not only promotes understanding of Judaism but explains Israel’s vital role in Middle East politics. Connecting grace roots communities with national geopolitical agendas will define the advantages to fighting antisemitism not only in relation to tolerance, but to the overall security of the region. Antisemitism is not only a Jewish “problem”, but also a social and human problem.
The Dortmund Summit did not only expose the myths and tropes of antisemitism and Jew hatred, but it also gave European communities currently embroiled in violence and security anxiety, some hope that the situation can be turned around. The participants attending the summit did not only share their experiences, but also took on the responsibility to deter and fight antisemitism in their respective communities. Grass roots activism eventually spreads outwards towards into other neighborhoods and local governments. The summit gave a unique opportunity for mayors and Jewish leaders to lend support to each other and develop a network that fosters dialogue and conviction that antisemitism has no pace in their local communities and national governments.
“The message from this summit is clear – we are united by responsibility. We are responsible for protecting our Jewish community and building bridges between different cultures and regions. We have a voice against antisemitism.” Lord Mayor of Dortmund – Thomas Westphal (November 29, 2023)
Images courtesy of Uri Bar-Ner Kiriaty Foundation