Defining And Avoiding Bias
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Defining And Avoiding Bias

You can’t really solve a problem until you define it.

In Bucharest this past week, 31 countries meeting under the auspices of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance became the first international body to officially adopt a Working Definition of Anti-Semitism. The representatives, mostly from Europe, stated that “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.

” It noted that “manifestations might include the targeting of the State of Israel, conceived as Jewish collectivity.” And it offered a number of examples, including “accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group of Jews”; “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel … than to the interests of their own nations”; and “applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

Mark Weitzman, director and chief U.N. representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in New York, helped steer the process. He said that persuading so many countries to agree on the definition, which is not legally binding, was “an extremely significant step in trying to deal with anti-Semitism.”

Contrast the alliance’s efforts with those of the Department of State and USAID, whose new, 12-page report, “Joint Strategy on Countering Violent Extremism,” makes no reference to Islamism, radical Islam or any similar phrases describing those who have become the world’s leading exporters of terrorism.

Critics have noted that the apparently deliberate decision to avoid any mention of Islamic extremism is an approach that also evades coming up with strategies to confront the specific challenge of zealots intent on fostering violence in the name of God.

The Henry Jackson Society, an NGO based in London, pointed out that when governments turn a blind eye to reality, people make their own assessments. “The general public in America would not be wrong in feeling that obvious truths are kept from them,” the society’s analysis concluded. “Although one can blame them, one should not be surprised when they resist such trends by forming harder views of their own.”

Exhibit A: the ascendancy of Donald Trump.

Most assuredly — and we emphasize — the vast majority of Muslims should not be blamed for the radical actions of a small percentage of their co-religionists. But not to recognize, identify and address the nature of the militants and their motives is to ensure the continuation of the bloodshed.

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