To Combat Anti-Semitism, Start by Combating Anti-Semites

July 31, 2023 | Yigal Carmon
About the author:

Examining recent initiatives to counter anti-Jewish prejudice from the United Nations, Germany, and the U.S. government, Yigal Carmon finds many ideas that could very well prove helpful. But, Carmon argues, all these proposals—despite their good intentions—suffer from the common flaw of paying insufficient attention to the most urgent, and probably most achievable, goal: deterring or silencing the anti-Semites themselves. Take, for instance, recent programs introduced by German authorities:

In . . . 2021, Germany’s government-funded Central Council of Jews launched a program called “Meet a Jew,” which was under the patronage of the German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier. A few years prior, in 2017, a Munich-based NGO launched a [similar] program called “Rent-A-Jew” in an attempt to counter anti-Semitism. One of the Jewish participants in the program said, “We want to give people the chance to talk to the Jewish community. We want them to see what we’re completely normal people.”

It is interesting to note that a similar approach was adopted in 1933 by the Zentralverein (Central Organization of Jews in Germany), which in an attempt to counter the threat posed by Nazism published a 1,060-page encyclopedia about the contributions made by Jews in various fields. [Such] methods are misguided and cause the opposite of the desired effect. Moreover, they evade the crucial task of confronting anti-Semites themselves, and focus on the less-demanding task of doing PR for the Jews.

Among the more effective approaches Carmon suggests is holding social-media platforms responsible for inciting violence, which, he argues, can be done within the framework of America’s First Amendment:

Section 230(c)(1) of the U.S. Communications Decency Act must be repealed. Section 230 gives immunity to social-media companies that is not enjoyed by any other media outlet, and this enables illegal activities, including incitement to violence, to reach millions of people and take place on social media with no government regulation.

It seems that those who make the free-speech argument [against such a move] do not know what kind of dangerous content is actually being propagated on social media, and they believe that the ideas exchanged on social-media platforms are only a matter of aggressive political debate. They do not know that the content in question is criminal and illegal, such as recruitment, fundraising, and the sharing of manuals on how to carry out attacks by Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and neo-Nazi organizations. . . . In the U.S., a district court ruled in 2006 that the First Amendment does not protect the right to disseminate information meant to result in violence.

Read more on MEMRI: