IJL’S RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE EU AGAINST THE SPREAD OF ANTISEMITISM
The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (IJL) strives to advance human rights everywhere, including the prevention of war crimes, the punishment of war criminals, the prohibition of weapons of mass destruction, and international co-operation based on the rule of law and the fair implementation of international covenants and conventions.
The Association is especially committed to issues that are on the agenda of the Jewish people and works to combat racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, Holocaust denial and negation of the State of Israel.
IJL was founded in 1969. Among its founders were Supreme Court Justices Haim Cohn of Israel, Arthur Goldberg of the United States and Nobel Prize laureate René Cassin of France. Our membership comprises lawyers, judges, judicial officers and academic jurists in more than 30 countries who are active locally and internationally as the need arises. Membership is open to lawyers and jurists of all creeds who share our aims.
The IJL has an ECOSOC Special Consultative status as a non-governmental organization (NGO) at the United Nations, enabling it to participate in the deliberations of various UN bodies. In this capacity, the representatives of the IJL have been especially involved in the work of the Human Rights Committee in Geneva and of related bodies.
The Association also publishes Justice Magazine which examines a variety of relevant issues and current topics and is mailed to thousands of lawyers and jurists throughout the world.
The IJL’s Legal Center for Combating Antisemitism was established in 2019, in response to the rise of antisemitism worldwide and the need to take drastic measures against this development. The Center’s main goal is to be the legal arm of the Jewish people. To bring to justice anyone who spreads hatred in any form against the Jews. Another part of its purpose is to foster the growth of a vibrant community from all over the world by joining forces in reporting and fighting hostility against Jews with the tools of law.
Strategy on combating antisemitism: responding to the significant rise of anti-Semitism in EU member states
IJL observes with great concern the recent rise of anti-Semitic behaviors and attitudes in many EU member states. These include acts of physical violence, drastic verbal insults and discrimination. Noting the significant effort already undertaken by the EU, including EU Commission to address the growth of anti-Semitism, ILJ strongly insists on taking further steps to eliminate the whole spectrum of fundamental rights violations caused by anti-Semitic acts.
In particular, IJL points out to the unresolved and rapidly growing problem of non-blocking of anti-Semitic contents appearing, among other Internet social networks, on Youtube, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. It can be claimed that these platforms serve nowadays as the most important channels of global spread of anti-Semitism, including Holocaust denial and Holocaust distortion. Acknowledging all complex challenges concerning regulation of online disseminated contents, as well as the fundamental need to safeguard freedom of expression, including online expression, IJL is strongly convinced that new, far-reaching legal solutions are highly necessary. In recent years IJL has undertaken several legal steps in selected EU member states in order to counteract drastic manifestations of anti-Semitism spread via social media platforms, however, it turned out to be extremely difficult to act effectively due to the specific conditions relying to such platforms.
Another point of serious concern, closely linked to the abovementioned remarks, is the lack of implementation of effective legal measures vis a vis acts of direct incitement to anti-Semitic violence, including to genocide against Jewish people, by the extremist groups, also very often disseminated via social media. There exists an urgent need for consideration of the legal measures traditionally used against terrorist organisations and groups that could be introduced to counteract genocidal hate speech and direct incitement to anti-Semitic crimes.
Proposed actions by the EU:
- Active promotion of the implementation of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism by all EU member states
- Implementing the strategy for communication with the biggest Internet social networks for introducing coherent policies and legal solutions effectively protecting against hate speech and hate crimes
- Reviewing the existing EU legal framework on hate speech and hate crime prevention
Fostering Jewish life in Europe: the Shechita case and its legal implications in EU member states
Cultivating Jewish life in Europe today, except of the unprecedented spread of anti-Semitism, faces additional obstacles, closely related to the drive to limit religious freedom of the Jewish minority. The most telling and troubling example is the issue of religious kosher animal slaughter. Most importantly, in the case of kosher slaughter bans, the matter has reached the level of binding interpretation by the highest EU tribunal (Court of Justice of the European Union – hereafter: CJEU) who in the judgment of the Grand Chamber of the CJEU issued in December 2020 in case C-336/19 (hereafter: the Shechita case) confirmed the conformity of particular bans with the EU law, causing the threat to the very functioning of the Jewish minority in the EU.
The IJL is concerned with violations of the rights of individuals and groups affected by bans similar to these imposed in Belgium and approved by the CJEU in several fundamental dimensions: violation of religious freedom, violation of the right to privacy, violation of the prohibition of discrimination, violation of the proportionality requirement and the necessity to limit rights and freedoms in democratic societies. It also indicates the context of the protection of the rights of religious minorities, covered by the relevant provisions of the EU law and the national laws of individual EU Member States.
Simultaneously, the IJL acknowledges that freedom of religion and belief is not absolute and unlimited. The possibility of limiting it is specified both in international and national law, as well as in the relevant jurisprudence. Against this background, the question of how should a society balance competing values when minority religious rights often conflict with animal protection, remains most relevant. In the opinion of the IJL, the CJEU judgment does not answer it in a proper manner.
The consequences of the CJEU judgment, as well as of other bans and restrictions similar to these binding in Belgium, will be momentous, multi-faceted and long term. They will result in a number of human rights violations. There exist a clear risk that observant Jews in the EU may be deprived of the possibility of obeying the basic principles and demands of their religion. Thus, the reconstruction of Jewish life and the Jewish presence in post-war Europe may therefore be very seriously undermined.
Proposed actions by the EU:
- Commission a report on the scope of protection for religious minorities under the EU law in the context of Shechita case
- Organisation of a high level seminar on the legal aspects and consequences arising from the CJEU judgment
- Conducting wide EU consultations on the Regulation 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing
Fostering Jewish life in Europe: counteracting Holocaust distortion
The rise of anti-Semitism in EU member states goes hand in hand with the rise of the phenomenon of Holocaust distortion which goes beyond the direct negation of the Holocaust, which is penalized by the majority of EU member states and in the European legal sphere stays clearly outside the limits of free speech.
Holocaust distortion, understood broadly, manifests itself with legal, political and social attempts to influence and change the narratives about the history (and its current implications) of the atrocities committed against the Jews during WWII. As noted by the Chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), Ambassador Küchler: “Distortion of the Holocaust is found in all kinds of places. From facts twisted on the internet, to opportunistic statements by politicians, misleading exhibitions at museums, and claims, like that of the founder of Extinction Rebellion, Roger Hallam, who in 2019 referred to the Holocaust as ‘just another f***ery in human history.’ Each of these forms must be challenged, and strategies for countering them must be developed, for societies and individuals to fulfill their responsibility to commemorate the victims”. Examples of Holocaust distortion include the attempts to excuse, minimize, or misrepresent the known historical record.
One of the most troubling elements of such distortion is the legal governance of history with the aim of limiting free historical research about the Holocaust and other atrocities against the European Jews committed during WWII. The most well known example of such trend was the Polish so-called Holocaust bill of 2018. Also the number of court cases and lawsuits initiated in relation to academic or journalistic reports about the Holocaust and WWII atrocities is growing.
IJL has consequently challenged such legal attempts amounting to or resulting in Holocaust distortion, submitting, among other legal measures, amicus curiae briefs in court proceedings. Such activities are the expression of the concern about abusing law in order to achieve politically or ideologically motivated goals that not only falsify historical facts but can also give rise to further manifestations of anti-Semitism and legitimization of Holocaust denial.
Proposed actions by the EU:
- Commission a report on the relevance of the existing legal framework in the context of the new forms of Holocaust denial and distortion, measuring the effectiveness of the existing legal solutions
- Commission a report on the so-called memory laws implemented in many EU member states that limit freedom of speech and academic freedom in the context of historical research
- Strengthening diplomatic dialogue with representatives of the EU member states on counteracting Holocaust distortion