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Conference: Antisemitism and Hate Crime

Viennese Dialogue for the Protection of the Rule of Law (Vienna, 21 June 2017)

Conference: Antisemitism and Hate Crime

The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (IAJLJ) and Lansky, Ganzger & Partner Rechtsanwälte (LGP) organized the opening event of the Viennese Dialogue for the Protection of the Rule of Law at the Österreichische Kontrollbank (OeKB) on 20 June 2017.

The Viennese Dialogue “Countering Antisemitism and Hate Crime in the Digital Age” takes up the conference organized by the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (IAJLJ) and the University of Tel Aviv, supported by the Ministries of Internal Affairs and of Justice, in the year 2015. It has become a forum for the exchange of suitable instruments for the combating of antisemitism and hate crime. The aim of the event was to expand on the thought process which had successfully been initiated in the year 2015. About 70 guests had accepted the invitation for the dialogue, among them state secretary Muna Duzdar and representatives of the Ministries of Interior and of Justice. 

Warning words in the run-up to Al-Quds Day

„Hatred in words quickly turns to hatred in deeds. The internet has become a catalyst for hate speech. This is why we have to set a culture of togetherness against the culture of hatred” said state secretary Muna Duzdar as her welcoming words. With her initiative against hate on the internet, she advocates for the education of so-called “digital ambassadors” to strengthen “digital moral courage” and would like to establish a central reporting point against hate on the internet. She would like to take over a pioneering role in the EU. Michael SchwandaHead of Sektion III, Federal Ministry of Justice (he attended the conference on behalf of the Minister of Justice, Wolfgang Brandstetter) presented the training programme “Justice and History” for candidate judges. The compulsory curriculum provides for courses in the area of “knowledge about the NS era”, visiting memorials, in-depth symposia about contemporary history and discussions with contemporary witnesses. Peter Gridling, Director of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counter Terrorism (BVT), Ministry of Interior, pointed out the numbers in the report on protection of the constitution, according to which the number of extremist actions has been continually on the rise for years. “The flow of refugees has unsettled a lot of people in Austria, the number of xenophobic offences has grown triple.” In view of this development, Gridling was less confident than the state secretary and demanded that politics should strongly advocate for prevention and raising awareness within the civil population.

Irith Kohn, attorney and president IAJLJ
Co-organizer Julia Andras, attorney (LGP)

Offenders are often not aware of the implications of their crimes on the internet

According to the host Gerald Ganzger, who as a lawyer is regularly involved in proceedings regarding antisemitism and hate crime, the prevention of antisemitism and hate crime called for general as well as specific deterrence. Offenders had to be deterred from future criminal acts, hate crime on the internet had to be outlawed beyond mere criminal prosecution. “Hate crimes on the internet are no mere trivial offences. This message has to be communicated to society via the media.”

Combat zone internet and appeal for paradigm shift in Europe

“Due to the progressive development of digitalization, a new scene for antisemitism and hate crime has been set” is the central finding of the President of the Jewish Community (IKG), Oskar Deutsch. The latest events in the academic sector (anti-Semitic chat-groups by students) had shown: “Antisemitism is neither tied to a specific age-group nor to a social class. Therefore, the key to breaking the respective stereotypes lies in working with young people. Digital media play an important role here. We ought to be ready to enter into a dialogue with our fellow human beings, but we should also be consequent in case of offences” said Oskar Deutsch at the Viennese Dialogue for the Protection of the Rule of Law. Ariel Muzicant, honorary president of the Jewish Community (IKG) and vice-president of the European-Jewish Congress (EJC) urged politicians to show more courage. “You cannot convince people with philanthropic initiatives. We have to pull out all the stops in order to preserve and protect European values. This requires a paradigm shift, because there can be no space for extremism in Europe.”

Doron Rabinovici: One cannot forgive the Jew for what has been done to him

Secondary antisemitism, i.e. the denial of crimes, reversal of the roles of victims and perpetrators – the term “new antisemitism” refers to consistencies and discontinuities at the same time. The author Doron Rabinovici: “the judicial system provides the framework to advance substantive clarification according to certain rules in each individual case. (…) The civic public is noticeably being replaced by socially separated forums. The media of editorial responsibility are under general suspicion. No common visions, but particular conspiracy theories are becoming the common denominator. It is the social digital private companies who set their own rules, while being mainly subject to the logic of profit. Digital communication works particularistic and at the same time it is globally linked. It is not secure knowledge but the sensational confirmation of personal prejudices which is virally distributed. Therefore, this is about the defense of democratic institutions and a pluralistic society. The judicial system is needed as a place of regulated negotiations. As a place of republican democratic authority. Perhaps the mere defense of minimum standards of civilization is no longer enough. We have to regain the territory of the public sphere, otherwise we will be overrun by the advance of authoritarian populists.”

Doron Rabinovici, Schriftsteller und Historiker
Gerald Ganzger, Rechtsanwalt und Managing Partner LGP

Understanding the mechanisms of online communication

The finding of journalist Ingrid Brodnig: “anonymity and invisibility make facebook the new gateway for antisemitism.” The social media expert has analyzed the communication behavior of several (relevant) facebook groups on the occasion of the conference and, using the terminology of the American psychologist John Suler, speaks of “online disinhibition”. “You do not have to look the victim in the eye and communication can take place non-simultaneously”. The alarming numbers presented by Yogev Karsenty, Director of the Forum against Antisemitism at the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, caused a stir among the audience: on average, a hate posting on the web currently reaches approximately 3,000 people via likes and retweets, which indicates a tremendous multiplier effect. A qualitative glance at the postings in the German-speaking world showed that these postings were often written in poor linguistic quality. “Facebook, Twitter and Co. claim to have adopted the condemnation of hate speech as their company policy. However, this is not reflected in their behavior regarding the deletions of postings”, the expert of the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs criticizes. As a strategy, Yogev Karsenty suggested global regulation (“geo blocking policy”) and corresponding wording in the laws on the national level. IT companies should also be held accountable more than is now the case. In this context, Irit Kohn, IAJLJ President, pointed out the Israeli expertise regarding the combating of antisemitism and hate crimes on the internet. “In Israel, there is intensive research on antisemitism and hate crimes on the internet, this experience is virtually predestined for a transfer of knowledge. This is why we try to invite delegations to Israel. IAJLJ considers itself, in particular regarding the issue of antisemitism and hate crime, as an intermediary in the service of humanity and the rapprochement of cultures.”

Ingrid Brodnig, journalist and author ("Hate Speech in the WWW")

Enforcing one’s rights as a victim

Julia Andras and Kevin Barrett, both legal experts at the law firm Lansky, Ganzger & Partner specialize in hate crime on the internet, locate immense adjustment requirements regarding the rights of victims. The legislator may have reacted to the current developments, e.g. that relevant suspect notifications have doubled within only three years, and has installed a publicity threshold of 30 persons. Still, the victims of hate crimes often lack the possibility to fight of these crimes effectively. For example, the Jewish Community is not treated as a party in current proceedings regarding hate crimes on the internet. The lawyer Julia Andras sketched the current problems lawyers have to face when combating hate crimes. The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Vienna (Staatsanwaltschaft Wien) would often decide not to pursue actions that were unambiguously criminal offences and to stop the proceedings, with the argument that “the perpetrator could not be found”. “Photos and videos of Nazi salutes are recorded at FPÖ election rallies and then published. However, due to not being admissible as a party, one has no influence on the further proceedings”, the lawyer complains about the status quo. Contrary to what is the case in criminal proceedings, victims can assert their own rights very quickly in civil proceedings and “turn off” hate postings, the media lawyer Gerald Ganzger added. “This is enforced by a coercive penalty, which can amount to up to EUR 100,000 per day. This is a hard blow even for large companies. Of course, the right to free speech has to be protected when fighting hate speech. Therefore, the two basic rights have to be weighed carefully in each individual case” says Gerald Ganzger.

High-profile contributors to the Opening Event

Contributors to the conference „Antisemitism and Hate Crime in the Digital Age” at the Österreichische Kontrollbank were: Mag. Muna Duzdar, State Secretary for Diversity, Public Service and Digitalization, Mag. Michael Schwanda, Head of Sektion III, Ministry of Justice; Mag. Peter Gridling, director of the Director Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counter Terrorism (BVT), Ministry of Interior; Dr. Gerald Ganzger, lawyer and Managing Partner LANSKY, GANZGER + partner; Dr. Ariel Muzicant, Honorary President of the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG), Vice President of the European Jewish Congress (EJC); Oskar Deutsch, President of the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG); Irit Kohn, lawyer and President of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (IAJLJ); Ronit Gidron-Zemach, lawyer and CEO of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (IAJLJ); Dr. Doron Rabinovici, author and historian; Mag. (FH) Ingrid Brodnig, journalist and author of „Hass im Netz“ („Hatred on the Web“); Mag. Kevin Barrett, associate at LANSKY, GANZGER + partner; Dr. Julia Andras, lawyer and Head of the Jewish Desk at LANSKY, GANZGER + partner; Yogev Karsenty, Director of the Forum against Antisemitism at the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs.

High-profile contributors to the opening event

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