Anti-Semitism, said President Barack Obama, is "a distillation, an expression of an evil that runs through so much of human history, and if we do not answer that, we do not answer any other form of evil."
In a recent speech, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Ira Forman said the world seems to be witnessing the apparent growth of anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond.
Jewish communities have faced an upsurge in anti-Semitic incidents, including violence in Western Europe over the past few years. Jewish communities are anxious about their safety and future.
Anti-Semitism, said Special Envoy Forman, is evolving into new, contemporary forms of hatred, racism, and political, social, and cultural discrimination against Jews. One virulent aspect is the conflation of Jews and Jewish communities with Israel, using criticism of Israel as a pretext for anti-Semitism. German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently stressed the need to address anti-Semitism among youth from Middle East countries where hatred of Israel and Jews is widespread.
Jewish leaders in Sweden have noted how anti-Semitism is being cloaked by the term anti-Zionism. Recent graffiti with swastikas was not classified as 'anti-Semitism' by police in Stockholm, but as actions against Israel.
This is why it is especially important to define anti-Semitism. Former Special Envoy Hannah Rosenthal explained it this way: If all Jews are held responsible for the decisions of the sovereign State of Israel or if governments call upon and intimidate their Jewish communities to condemn Israeli action, this is not objecting to a policy – this is anti-Semitism.
Pope Francis has been an important voice in speaking out against anti-Semitism. In 2015 he told the media, "anyone who does not recognize the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and their right to exist, is guilty of anti-Semitism."
Anti-Semitism and religious intolerance are fundamental threats to democratic societies; religious intolerance leads to the loss of rights for other minority groups, threatening social cohesion and fundamental freedoms. Civil society, governments, and religious leaders all have a responsibility to act against all forms of intolerance, including against religious or ethnic minorities.
With a robust civil society in Europe that is both encouraged and aided by governments, said Ambassador Forman, "we can turn down the faucet of anti-Semitism."