.
T

he Austrian government recently proposed a strengthened national strategy to combat anti-Semitism amid an increase of hate crimes against Jewish people. This updated national strategy includes enhanced protection for synagogues, improved education about the Holocaust and Judaism, and measures to fight the spread of hate speech on the internet and social media. Federal Minister of the EU Karoline Edtstadler said Austria’s strategy is a “milestone in the fight against anti-Semitism” because it makes Jewish life more visible and known.

Violence against Jews and attacks on Jewish institutions remain high worldwide, including in the US. In 2019 the US recorded the largest number of anti-Semitic incidents since the Anti-Defamation League began collecting numbers 40 years ago. The US experiences a growing anti-Semitism problem, and Austria’s national strategy should serve as a template for combatting that worsening problem.  Austria leads in the European Union at confronting anti-Semitism. For example, in 2018 when Austria held the presidency of the EU, the EU adopted a resolution calling on all member states to implement national strategies combatting prejudice and hate against Jews. Austria continues to lead the way with their national strategy. Austria’s leadership role in Europe illustrates why the US should look to them as a model for addressing anti-Semitism at home.

Austria’s national strategy against anti-Semitism emphasizes the protection of synagogues and Jewish institutions. There are many measures to protect Jewish institutions and those who visit, such as alarm systems, screenings for attendees, and organized safety rooms. To achieve better security measures, the Austrian government increased security funding to 4 million euros for its Jewish community. The US should implement similar protections and potentially increase funding to counter the rise of anti-Semitic incidents in America. Following the deadly 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, Jewish leaders of the Tree of Life synagogue called for enhanced security for all Jewish institutions in the US. The US needs to answer their call and create a national strategy that implements Austria's objective of prioritizing protection. 

Improving education about Judaism and the Holocaust remains a primary purpose of Austria’s national strategy against anti-Semitism. The Austrian government has yet to release specifics on educational changes they will make. However, Austria already requires Holocaust education in school curricula, and changes will likely deepen the focus on individual responsibility, what constitutes hate speech, and the foundations of discrimination and prejudice. America falls short when compared to Austria's preexisting education on these topics. Only 17 US states require Holocaust education despite its critical role in addressing anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry. Making Holocaust education compulsory would work to fill the fundamental gaps in Americans’ knowledge of the Holocaust. For example, half of Americans did not know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Therefore, the US needs to make Holocaust education compulsory in all schools, and a national strategy needs to include this first and foremost before building upon it. 

Austria’s national strategy plans to address anti-Semitic hate speech on the internet and social media. Karoline Edtstadler stated, "violence starts with words,” and the Austrian government wants to focus on deleting illegal content that expresses anti-Semitism. Hate speech and disinformation often go unregulated from the sheer volume of content posted each day, and social media corporations hold significant responsibility in monitoring such content. However, Austria plans to reform language assessments and ban anti-Semitic symbols online, which can work alongside social media companies' actions. Austria commits to combatting anti-Semitism online, providing an additional pillar that the US should adopt in their much-needed strategy.  

Austria implemented a plan to fight growing anti-Semitism in their country—the US needs to do the same. The Austrian government commits to bettering the Jewish community's security, improving education about the Holocaust, and reforming tactics to combat hate speech online. The US should look to these examples to start crafting a national strategy to confront the worsening anti-Semitism in America. 

About
Whitney DeVries
:
Whitney DeVries is a Diplomatic Courier correspondent currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Affairs and Global Enterprise at the University of Utah.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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America Should Look to Austria to Combat Anti-Semitism

Photo by Markus Spiske via Unsplash.

April 2, 2021

Austria has become a leader in finding innovative ways to combat anti-Semitism. As hate crimes against Jewish people increase in the U.S., Austria's national strategy could provide a blueprint for addressing this growing problem.

T

he Austrian government recently proposed a strengthened national strategy to combat anti-Semitism amid an increase of hate crimes against Jewish people. This updated national strategy includes enhanced protection for synagogues, improved education about the Holocaust and Judaism, and measures to fight the spread of hate speech on the internet and social media. Federal Minister of the EU Karoline Edtstadler said Austria’s strategy is a “milestone in the fight against anti-Semitism” because it makes Jewish life more visible and known.

Violence against Jews and attacks on Jewish institutions remain high worldwide, including in the US. In 2019 the US recorded the largest number of anti-Semitic incidents since the Anti-Defamation League began collecting numbers 40 years ago. The US experiences a growing anti-Semitism problem, and Austria’s national strategy should serve as a template for combatting that worsening problem.  Austria leads in the European Union at confronting anti-Semitism. For example, in 2018 when Austria held the presidency of the EU, the EU adopted a resolution calling on all member states to implement national strategies combatting prejudice and hate against Jews. Austria continues to lead the way with their national strategy. Austria’s leadership role in Europe illustrates why the US should look to them as a model for addressing anti-Semitism at home.

Austria’s national strategy against anti-Semitism emphasizes the protection of synagogues and Jewish institutions. There are many measures to protect Jewish institutions and those who visit, such as alarm systems, screenings for attendees, and organized safety rooms. To achieve better security measures, the Austrian government increased security funding to 4 million euros for its Jewish community. The US should implement similar protections and potentially increase funding to counter the rise of anti-Semitic incidents in America. Following the deadly 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, Jewish leaders of the Tree of Life synagogue called for enhanced security for all Jewish institutions in the US. The US needs to answer their call and create a national strategy that implements Austria's objective of prioritizing protection. 

Improving education about Judaism and the Holocaust remains a primary purpose of Austria’s national strategy against anti-Semitism. The Austrian government has yet to release specifics on educational changes they will make. However, Austria already requires Holocaust education in school curricula, and changes will likely deepen the focus on individual responsibility, what constitutes hate speech, and the foundations of discrimination and prejudice. America falls short when compared to Austria's preexisting education on these topics. Only 17 US states require Holocaust education despite its critical role in addressing anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry. Making Holocaust education compulsory would work to fill the fundamental gaps in Americans’ knowledge of the Holocaust. For example, half of Americans did not know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Therefore, the US needs to make Holocaust education compulsory in all schools, and a national strategy needs to include this first and foremost before building upon it. 

Austria’s national strategy plans to address anti-Semitic hate speech on the internet and social media. Karoline Edtstadler stated, "violence starts with words,” and the Austrian government wants to focus on deleting illegal content that expresses anti-Semitism. Hate speech and disinformation often go unregulated from the sheer volume of content posted each day, and social media corporations hold significant responsibility in monitoring such content. However, Austria plans to reform language assessments and ban anti-Semitic symbols online, which can work alongside social media companies' actions. Austria commits to combatting anti-Semitism online, providing an additional pillar that the US should adopt in their much-needed strategy.  

Austria implemented a plan to fight growing anti-Semitism in their country—the US needs to do the same. The Austrian government commits to bettering the Jewish community's security, improving education about the Holocaust, and reforming tactics to combat hate speech online. The US should look to these examples to start crafting a national strategy to confront the worsening anti-Semitism in America. 

About
Whitney DeVries
:
Whitney DeVries is a Diplomatic Courier correspondent currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Affairs and Global Enterprise at the University of Utah.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.