Anti-Semitism has always been, and remains, a major, recurring aspect of life. Curiously, while the phenomenon has been universally researched, the international community has never been asked to criminalize anti-Semitism as an international crime in a similar manner to the criminalization of genocide, racism, piracy, hostage-taking, crimes against humanity, war crimes and terror.
With the plethora of material dealing with anti-Semitism, and in light of the dreadful tragedies that it has wrought on humanity for thousands of years and its recent re-awakening, one might have expected that some effort would have been made by the international community, as well as the world’s Jewish organizations, to declare anti-Semitism an international crime.
This would have been appropriate as well as propitious in an international community that is increasingly becoming open to the concept of extending criminal jurisdiction in order to counter impunity, including through the establishment of ad-hoc international criminal tribunals to deal with atrocities committed in various regional conflicts (Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and others) as well as the International Criminal Court, which, pursuant to its 1998 Statute, was established to address “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.”
By its very nature, its long, bitter and never-ending history, and its propensity to constantly re-appear in modern forms and contexts, anti-Semitism cannot, and should not, by any pretext of so-called “political correctness,” be equated with, linked to or treated like any other form of racial discrimination. It cannot and should not be relegated to any type of listing of forms of racial discrimination and xenophobia. Anti-Semitism stands alone.
In this context, attempts over the years within the international community, principally at the behest of Muslim countries, to attach to it Islamophobia and other phenomena in various international resolutions and declarations (including the infamous 2001 UN anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa), are clearly artificial and transparent, and fail to do justice to what clearly is a unique phenomenon that must be dealt with independently.
With a view to correcting what is clearly a vast international injustice, and to universally criminalize anti-Semitism within the world community, a draft “International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of anti-Semitism” has been prepared by a team, headed by this writer, within the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. It was presented to the Global Forum to Counter Antisemitism, held in Jerusalem earlier this month.
This convention has been drafted following the accepted format of other UN international conventions condemning such crimes as genocide, racial discrimination, terror and other serious international criminal phenomena. It will be presented to the international community in a series of conferences to be held at the United Nations and other international organizations and in select capitals, and it will seek the support and sponsorship of states and Jewish organizations.
The aim is to encourage select states to sponsor the draft convention and either to present it to the appropriate UN bodies for processing as an international convention or to convene an international conference or forum dedicated solely to anti-Semitism, independent of and separate from the UN, with a view to its formal adoption as a draft treaty and its submission to states for signature and ratification.
In light of the complex and legal nature of the subject matter, and the novel idea of criminalizing anti-Semitism internationally, it’s anticipated that this text will be the subject of considerable discussion and debate both within the relevant bodies dealing with the issue of anti-Semitism as well as in the wider international arena where political and other issues would be injected into the discussion.
It will not be an easy task, but it is necessary.
Alan Baker served as Israel’s ambassador to Canada as well as the legal counsel to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Today he directs the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.