IHRA Geneva plenary: hate speech a global threat

July 10, 2017 by Suzanne Rutland
Read on for article

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) has successfully concluded its first bi-annual Plenary Meeting under the Swiss Chairmanship in Geneva.

Sue Hampel, Sir Eric Pickles UK, Benno Battig, Switzerland, Donna Frieze, Suzanne Rutland, Avril Alba, Steven Cooke and Andre Oboler

Among the 200 experts who gathered to discuss the various issues relevant to IHRA’s work in terms of education, remembrance, academic research and communication, was the Australian delegation, consisting of six Holocaust experts, together with Angus Acton-Cavanough, the second secretary from the Australian Embassy in Berlin.

After the plenary, the Swiss IHRA Chair, Ambassador Benno Baettig, welcomed the decision made by the Geneva Plenary to adopt a strategy framework for the organization. Speaking after the conclusion of the Plenary Session, he, said: “The last four days were a period of intense discussion and demonstrated the high level of commitment among all IHRA delegates. I’m proud that with the Spirit of Geneva we could adopt the first strategy framework for the IHRA. This will make the work of the IHRA more efficient and effective and will enhance the relevance of the organization’s work.”

F: Sue Hampel, Avril Alba
B: Angus Acton, Andre Oboler, Donna Frieze and Steven Cooke

At this plenary, the honorary chair, Emeritus Professor Yehuda Bauer, again highlighted what he sees as the most urgent issues facing the organization in its efforts to combat antisemitism. He spoke about the world-wide trend of anti-liberalism that was sweeping the globe, endangering democratic values, supporting exclusivist nationalism and opposing freedom of expression.  This trend is the opposite of the ideals of the French Revolution. IHRA stands on the other side of this, even though the organization did not intend to be. Bauer felt that this should make IHRA a little more decisive in its work.

He then stressed that one of the greatest problem is hate speech on the internet. It has been there before but with the new technologies hate speech can be spread and is being spread. He said: “What we are facing is a vast flood of hatred including antisemitism and Holocaust denial, which is where we come in. The major part is jihadist hate speech attacking the Muslim world, first and foremost. It is a tremendous threat but not the only one, there is misogyny and homophobia. IHRA has a task in there – we cannot keep quiet, we cannot educate, remember, research when there is hatred all over the place.”

Bauer noted that the hate speech is led by grey figures concentrated in Dublin probably because of tax reasons. This is an international problem which must be dealt with the UN, but it is also a focus for IHRA’s work.

As in the past, the Australian delegation actively participated in all the different working groups and other forums. They also discussed with Sir Eric Pickles, head of the UK delegation, ways of moving Australia’s membership status forward – at present Australia joined IHRA two-years ago as an observer nation, one of nine, with 31 nations having full membership.

The next stage for Australia is to apply to become a Liaison Country. Given that Holocaust education has been made mandatory in the new national curriculum and the Gandel Holocaust Educator’s program, with sending teachers to Yad Vashem, as well as local follow-up, this is very doable for Australia. The Australian delegation is determined to push this agenda.

Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published

    Rules on posting comments