22 April 2024 Time to read: 3 min

Intersectional Insights: Combating Antisemitism in 2024 with KIgA

Established over 20 years ago, the Kreuzberger Initiative gegen Antisemitismus (KIgA) was one of the first organizations focused on combating antisemitism in Germany and this year won funding under the IHRA Grant Program. We spoke to its Chairman of the Board, Dervis Hizarci to find out what an intersectional approach to combating antisemitism looks like today.

From experience to advocacy 

“We are now in 2024, a lot of things have changed,” Dervis explains as he outlines his motivation for focusing on combating antisemitism. As the child of Turkish so-called “guest workers” to Germany and Muslim, he is no stranger to discrimination. He was confronted both with his own experiences of Islamophobia as well as exposure to antisemitic conspiracies in his community and during his work as a high school teacher.  

“These kinds of hatreds are not just a product of stupidity; they are part of very dangerous mindsets. Antisemitism has political functions and its history as a phenomenon that has perpetrated society for thousands of years means it cannot be ignored. I felt, as a Muslim it was my responsibility to stand against it – in Islam it is considered noble to fight for others.” 

This perspective merges well with KIgA’s intersectional approach to combating antisemitism. With this approach, the organization aims to tackle the big questions: What is antisemitism? What is tolerance? And why do we need it?  

Communication and how we talk to one another is everything.

Breaking barriers through understanding 

As part of this crucial and often complicated work, KIgA has developed educational material and led workshops and training for teachers and multipliers. They are also the proud founders of the European Network ENCATE, which connects 11 countries with a common goal to counter antisemitism and other forms of discrimination.  

“Holocaust remembrance and education are key components of understanding the history of antisemitism,” Dervis explains. As a former high school teacher, he observed that reading Anne Frank and visiting sites of the Holocaust had an impact, but he also acknowledges that this is not enough to combat contemporary antisemitism especially in the classroom.  

“There are fewer survivors to share stories and young people today feel the Holocaust happened in the distant past – what that means is that we need to bring people together based on human and civil rights and values and from there explain that learning from the Holocaust is the foundation on which our societies were built – this approach allows people to learn and share. Communication and how we talk to one another is everything.”  

This is something Dervis observed during a project KIgA ran 9 years ago called “Discover Diversity” where Syrians who escaped Assad’s prisons were invited to take a tour of the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial. The participants couldn’t help but draw parallels between their experiences in Assad’s prisons with those of Sachsenhausen’s prisoners, many of whom were also political prisoners. “The comparisons presented a challenge – why should I interrupt this man who is having a moment of real connection to the former prisoners of Sachsenhausen?” He explained the delicate balance between responsible Holocaust education and allowing people to build bridges and receive all the information to understand that no, these are not the same things, but the two terrible systems of oppression underline the importance of the universality of human rights and democratic values.  

Using the working definition of antisemitism: Building common ground

One of the focus points of KIgA is to recognize and name antisemitism, something that has been made easier by using the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism as a guide. “It’s helpful to have a working definition that provides a framework.”  

The definition has not only been adopted into KIgA’s work but also has provided common ground for the work of ENCATE. “What is antisemitism?” is the most crucial question – with this definition KIgA is able to provide expert informed answers to wider society. Dervis  acknowledges that the definition has been the source of much debate, but he says this shouldn’t be a reason to disengage from it – addressing criticism and finding an understanding with each other is an important part of the work KIgA does and something that is increasingly necessary in a polarized society.  

Rising together: confronting the surge in hate 

“The biggest challenge we are facing is the current rise in antisemitism,” he says. Dervis describes the IHRA as a strong ally when facing this challenge, he says the work of the IHRA is valuable to KIgA and other organizations like it.  

For KIgA, the focus is education and open dialogue, “as long as we have the resources, communication, and belief in our work’s efficiency, we can continue to effectively combat antisemitism and other forms of discrimination in our society.” 


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