The Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism marked its first year advancing legislation against antisemitism – and calling out acts of antisemitic hate in the U.S. and abroad. Launched by Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK), the 38-member group includes an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. “More than a third of the Senate has joined us…to condemn acts of hate, promote a uniform definition of anti-Semitism…and ensure our schools…provide education on the Holocaust,” said Sen. Lankford. “We have an ongoing responsibility…to confront anti-Semitism wherever it rears its ugly head,” Sen. Rosen stated.

Sens. Rosen and Lankford co-sponsored the Securing American Nonprofit Organizations Against Terrorism Act of 2019, which authorized federal grants to better protect nonprofits against terror attacks. The Task Force also vehemently condemned violent antisemitic attacks and called on Americans to reject antisemitism, racism and xenophobia in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. A new study from the American Jewish Committee found that 82% of Jewish Americans believe antisemitism has increased over the past five years. 27% reported their Jewish institutions had “been the targets of anti-Semitism” since the October 2018 massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue, and 37% had “taken steps to conceal their Jewishness in public.” A companion Task Force fights antisemitism from the floor of the House of Representatives.

One of the U.K.’s two main political parties also took swift action against antisemitism last week – suspending its former leader after he downplayed a government report that found evidence of “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” against Jews under his leadership. The Labour Party, now threatening to split apart, has until next month to implement the watchdog’s recommendations or face legal action. Jeremy Corbyn, Simon Wiesenthal Center’s ‘Top Antisemite of 2019’ has vowed to fight the suspension. Labour’s current leader apologized to the Jewish people: “Never again will we fail to tackle antisemitism.” A leading U.K. antisemitism group stated: “Corbyn is gone, but the problem of Labour antisemitism hasn’t,” and a major U.K. Jewish organization declared: “All of this was enabled by those who deliberately turned a blind eye.”172
Talking Points:

  1. Elected officials, exemplified by co-founders of the Task Force(s) Combating Anti-Semitism in Congress – Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) and Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Randy Weber (R-TX), Marc Veasey (D-TX) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) – deserve praise for taking a bipartisan stand against antisemitism. Congressional leaders, CEOs, teachers, neighbors and other everyday Americans have a responsibility to condemn all forms of extremism they observe – from racism and misogyny to homo- and transphobia to antisemitism and Islamophobia.
  2. Antisemitism moved from the fringes of U.K. politics to the top of a major political party in a remarkably short time. In American politics, antisemitic incidents are capturing headlines with increasing frequency – from Pittsburgh to ‘Benjamins’. One of the major dangers in downplaying them is how quickly messages and acts of hate become normalized. From the ballot box to the op-ed pages to social media, now is the time for Americans to take a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism.
  3. Jews in the U.S. remain a minority vulnerable to both verbal and physical attacks *from the extremes of the political spectrum. While many people tend to describe Jews as a religion, they are in fact an ethnic group – a people. Congress must update civil rights protections so Jews are covered based on ethnicity under Title VI o*f the Civil Rights Act – as all U.S. executive departments and agencies have already done.
  4. American Jews feel less safe in our country – and that should be a concern for all Americans. Hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. Historically, the level of antisemitism a society tolerates indicates the amount of discrimination and hate it is likely to cast upon other minorities. Xenophobic and racist threats and violence have surged against immigrants and Asians in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as Jews.172

Actions to consider:

  1. Express support to congressional leaders, who prioritize the fight against antisemitism. These senators and representatives are a good starting place.
  2. Urge your reps in Congress to support the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act. These links can help you identify and contact your senators and representatives.172

Election Security Alert: 

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations urges caution among U.S. Jews on and after Election Day. Their bulletin states that currently “there are no known credible threats directed at Jewish institutions” – but depending on the results, there could be “an elevated threat environment at least through early 2021.”
In other news:

  1. The IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism continues to gain diverse, international acceptance. Already adopted by 28 countries and used by all U.S. executive departments and agencies, the definition was adopted last week by the largest NGO of Muslim religious leaders worldwide. The definition, which explains what constitutes an antisemitic offense and why – including examples that cross the line into delegitimization, demonization or double standards of Israel, was also adopted last week by a coexistence institute in Bahrain, the province of Ontario, Canada, and Pace University.172
  2. The U.S. will now list “Israel” as the country of birth for Americans citizens born in Jerusalem.

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The Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism marked its first year advancing legislation against antisemitism – and calling out acts of antisemitic hate in the U.S. and abroad. Launched by Senators Lankford and Rosen, the group boasts a third of the senate and includes an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. Urge your Representatives to join the task force here:

The world’s largest group of Muslim religious leaders, The Global Imam Council, has adopted the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism. The definition explains what constitutes as antisemitism and why – including examples that cross the line into delegitimization, demonization or double standards of Israel. Kudos to the GIC!