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Group seeks to enlist Internet companies in its battle against anti-Semitism Add to ...

A coalition of politicians from around the world will gather in the United States next year in the hopes of convincing major Internet companies to play a bigger role in the fight against anti-Semitism and remove offensive material from their websites.

The Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (ICCA) has ratified the Ottawa Protocol this week, which aims to implement a series of measures to put an end to hateful propaganda in places like universities. In particular, the group aims to stop the growth in the criticism of Israel and its policies that, it says, is increasingly a vehicle for anti-Semitism.

The next step, according to British Labour MP John Mann, is to convince top executives at computer companies to move more quickly to stop the spread of hateful material on the Internet.

"We are going to try and engage YouTube and the Googles and the social-media sites in relation to the jihadist propaganda on the Internet," Mr. Mann said.

The goal, he said, is for companies like Google to "reach an understanding of what they are going to do if complaints are raised about specific race-hate crimes in which they have been a facilitator." In particular, the goal would be for companies to quickly look into complaints and remove links to specific websites.

The ICCA first met in London last year, when the Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism was adopted. The Ottawa Protocol, approved on Tuesday by a group representing officials from more than 50 countries, calls for the implementation of concrete measures.

"Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is wrong. But singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium - let alone denying its right to exist or seeking its destruction - is discriminatory and hateful," the Protocol said.

The ICCA calls on universities to "combat anti-Semitism with the same seriousness with which they confront other forms of hate." The goal is to get universities to respect freedom of speech and academic freedom, all the while clearly defining anti-Semitic acts and dealing with all complaints in a serious manner. The same standard would apply to the Internet, according to the ICCA.

"We are alarmed by the explosion of anti-Semitism and hate on the Internet, a medium crucial for the promotion and protection of freedom of expression, freedom of information, and the participation of civil society," the Ottawa Protocol said.

In an interview, Israel's Minister for Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, Yuli Edelstein, agreed with the need to expand the definition of anti-Semitism beyond the usual stereotypes, such as "having horns, killing Christ, laundering money." He said there have been successes in combating overt anti-Semitism, such as Internet stories suggesting that Israeli military doctors in Haiti were harvesting organs. He added that criticisms of Israel that include double-standards, or de-legitimize or demonize its existence, amount to anti-Semitism.

"I think we have to be very inclusive in this definition to really fight the tendency, and not just a certain part of it," he said.

The Ottawa meeting of the ICCA is deemed a success because it managed to attract more participants from Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, Mr. Mann said.

Still, there is no unanimity in the House of Commons surrounding the matter. Canadian MPs formed an unofficial parliamentary committee called the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism, which held hearings into the new definition of anti-Semitism this spring. But the Bloc Québécois withdrew after the Conservatives blocked invitations to some potential witnesses, which the Bloc deemed to be "moderates."

"We found that the approach was not sufficiently balanced," said Bloc MP Michel Guimond.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the ICCA on Monday to denounce the increased sophistication of anti-Semitic activities.

"Harnessing disparate anti-American, anti-Semitic and anti-Western ideologies, it targets the Jewish people by targeting the Jewish homeland, Israel, as the source of injustice and conflict in the world and uses, perversely, the language of human rights to do so," Mr. Harper said. "We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is."

With a report from Campbell Clark

 

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