Anti-Semitism - U.S. State Department Human Rights Report
On 30 March the US Department of State released the annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices. The 2020 report on Georgia, among other issues, addresses the practices of anti-Semitism in Georgia.
The report highlights the murder case of young human rights defender Vitali Safarov, who had Jewish and Yezidi roots. Human rights NGOs alleged the two men responsible for the killing were members of a neo-Nazi group, and a key witness at the trial testified that Safarov was killed because he was Jewish. In June 2019 the Tbilisi City Court convicted the two men of killing Safarov but dismissed qualifying the killing as a hate crime. In November 2019 the prosecutor appealed the court’s decision not to classify the killing as a hate crime.
The report also addressed the case of religious anti-Semitism in Georgia. “On December 20, Metropolitan Ioane Gamrekeli of the Georgian Orthodox Church delivered a sermon that included a number of traditional anti-Semitic tropes, including references to Jews as “the crucifiers of the Christ” and “the persecutors of Christians.” Metropolitan Gamrekeli went on to say, “This is not defined by ethnicity–this is a battle of the lineage of infidels against the Church.” The sermon was criticized as anti-Semitic by prominent religious freedom NGOs and civil activists. In response to this criticism, the Georgian ambassador to Israel defended the metropolitan’s statement, saying his words were misinterpreted, as the story was simply the retelling of a historical parable. Church officials subsequently issued a statement condemning anti-Semitism”.
TDI’s remark: The anti-Semitic statements of the Metropolitan Gamrekeli and other Georgian Orthodox Church clergy, also the statement of the Georgian Ambassador to Israel Lasha Zhvania, who publicly supported the Metropolitan Gamrekeli’s anti-Semitic speech, had been immediately criticized by the Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI), the head of the Tolerance Center at the Public Defender of Georgia, Beka Mindiashvili, and Archpriest Basil Kobakhidze. TDI made numerous statements and called on the GOC Patriarchate and the government of Georgia to critically assess and condemn antisemitism. Regrettably, the Georgian Orthodox Church has not acknowledged or condemned antisemitism of the high-ranking clergyman. On the contrary - the Patriarchate supported Metropolitan Gamrekeli and instead criticized TDI, Basil Kobakhidze, and Beka Mindiashvili. The State officials have not assessed critically these anti-Semitic statements too.
Further on this topic:
Updated summary of chronology of events, anti-Semitic statements, and related developments;
TDI’s statement on Metropolitan Ioane Gamrekeli’s anti-Semitic sermon, 28 December 2020;
TDI’s second statement on anti-Semitism of the Orthodox clergy, 5 January 2021;
TDI’s third statement, 8 January 2021;
TDI’s fourth statement, 9 February 2021.
Photo: U.S State Department