Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism

To combat anti-Semitism, it is in the interest of the Jewish lobby to cooperate with others who fight hate and bigotry: Muslims who fight Islamophobia, gay people who fight gay bashing, other minorities who fight discrimination.

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I was happy to take part in the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, convened by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Professor Yehuda Bauer argued that Jews cannot fight anti-Semitism on their own. Jews must have allies. Jews need Muslims, Christians, non-believers and others who oppose racism of all kind.

Indeed, there is little doubt in my mind that it is in the interest of the Jewish lobby to cooperate with others who fight hate and bigotry: Muslims who fight Islamophobia, gay people who fight gay bashing, other minorities who fight discrimination.

Mufti Dr Abduljalil Sajid of Brighton Islamic Mission, the UK, said that the state of Israel should be protected. Those who oppose its existence are anti-Semitic. Muslims and Jews should fight together any form of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

We need to expose ignorance which opposes both religions. With dialogue we will promote love and understanding. Let there be respect for the other, love in our lives.

In his recorded address to conference participants, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conflated between anti-Semitism and critique of Israel. I beg to differ: criticism of specific Israeli policies should not been seen as anti-Semitism.

One who criticizes the occupation, or the settlements, is not necessarily anti-Semitic. There are many Israelis and Jews who disagree with the present government policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians which pays mere lip-service to two-state solution with zero commitment to pay the necessary price for peace.

In the English mainstream media, so it was argued, there is an increase in anti-Semitic tropes. Professor Bauer criticized the politicians, saying that they are in the ivory towers while academics are on the ground doing the fighting. Academics, I may add, need help especially from teachers and media professionals. Combating anti-Semitism should be conducted in multiple spheres:

  • Education in primary and high schools;
  • Increase awareness of the problem via the mainstream media. The international effort may include establishing commercial TV stations in the most relevant languages including Urdu, Farsi, Pashto and Arabic to fight against incitement of hatred, bigotry and terrorism.
  • As for the Internet, time and again participants emphasized the necessity to work with the gatekeepers. ISPs need to balance freedom of expression and social responsibility. Merely writing an ethical code of conduct is not enough. They need to abide by their own code of conduct. This requires them to be proactive in order to prevent abuse.

More than anything, what is needed is a coordinated effort, speaking in one voice, negotiating with the major ISPs under one umbrella organization, evoking their awareness to the challenges and problems, and requesting the same substantive changes.

At present multiple actors are involved, each comes with its own agenda, each put forward its own proposals. Sometimes the proposals are conflicting. Thus the ISPs remain non-responsive.

It is easier and cheaper for them simply to do nothing, saying that they could not feasibly satisfy all demands. One voice, one mission, a unified effort, will make a powerful plea that major ISPs could no longer ignore.

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Frankly, this was my hope from this global forum. I was hoping that there will be “someone” who will make order, and put things together. This hope should materialize one way or another.

At the end of the day, social responsibility is good for the community and also for business.

The gatekeepers should take responsibility for what they are hosting and promoting. Without access, the face of modern terrorism and modern crime will be forced to change, yet again. Hopefully it will change to something less dangerous.

By the same token, balancing one against the other these two great values – freedom of expression and social responsibility – a further idea is to establish a new browser for liberal democracies called CleaNet ©.

Through mechanisms of deliberate democracy, Net users would agree what is illegitimate expression to be excluded from the browser. CleaNet © will be different from any of the multiple commercial products that offer filtering of Internet and web-based content in several aspects.

It will be the result of democratic and open deliberation involving citizens. The decision-making process will involve concerned citizens who will decide together what the future Internet should look like. They will be involved in an ongoing process, offering reasoning and counter-reasoning where everything will be put on the table for discussion.

Furthermore, CleaNet © will be more comprehensive than any existing filter. Whereas some filters are designed to help parents ensure that their children will not encounter pornography on the Net (e.g., NetNanny) and others are designed to filter hate (e.g., HateFilter), CleaNet © will be a transparent browser that will provide Netusers with the ability to surf the Internet in a social, friendly environment, free of the anti-social, evil material that is now so prevalent and accessible via the existing browsers.

In addition, CleaNet © will be a pragmatic, fluid tool, sensitive to cultural norms and open to contestation. It is designed by the people, for the people, answering people’s needs and concerns. CleaNet ©  is suggested precisely because no existing filter can achieve the desired outcome of clean Internet, with full transparency in regards to the relevant considerations and the citizens’ ability to deliberate, exchange ideas and influence cyber surfing.

Finally, on CleaNet ©, search engines will not keep their ranking algorithms secret. Quite the opposite. They will proudly announce that the ordering of search results is influenced by standards of moral and social responsibility, commitment to preserving and promoting security online and offline, and adherence to liberal principles we hold dear: Liberty, tolerance, human dignity, respect for others, and not harming others.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor (D. Phil., Oxon) is an educator, researcher, human rights activist, Chair in Politics and Director of the Middle East Study Group, University of Hull, UK. He regularly writes on Israel and Middle East Affairs. Blog: http://almagor.blogspot.com. Read other articles by Raphael.