The woman telling Google and Facebook how to delete the racists
ICCA director Jardena Lande
In the fight against online antisemitism, Jardena Lande is an unsung heroine.
While David Cameron and other world leaders try to convince sites such as Facebook to do more to block users spreading hatred, Ms Lande and her colleagues at the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA) have already enjoyed notable success.
As director of the group, Swiss-born Ms Lande co-ordinates the efforts of around 600 parliamentarians in 60 countries. She has also kick-started the process of helping Silicon Valley executives force racist abuse off the internet.
“The internet is the biggest challenge,” she said.
“It’s explosive and a never-ending piece of work. You put out one fire and another 10 start up somewhere else.
The UK has been at the forefront of the fight against antisemitism along with Canada and Germany.
“But the companies have started to realise that fighting hatred is good for business.”
The ICCA created an Internet Hate Task Force three years ago, the first of its kind to unite parliamentarians, governments, NGOs, lawyers, academics and — most importantly — the global super-sites themselves.
Ms Lande, 31, travelled to Facebook’s headquarters in California to begin negotiations.
She said: “For the first time, the industry figures sat in a room and talked to each other about it.
“There is now a permanent working group meeting three or four times a year with our MPs and representatives from Facebook, Google, YouTube, PayPal, Amazon and others.
“The volume of complaints the companies get make it very hard to handle. Governments have threatened to legislate against them, people have threatened to take them to court; we don’t do that. We work with them and improve the way hate on the internet is confronted in a more productive way.”
The challenge of negotiating each country’s legal system is substantial, Ms Lande said.
“In the United States, you could write a lot more online before you cross into illegality than you could in Germany, where they have Holocaust denial laws that you don’t even have here in Britain.
“It’s important that the companies have noticed that now they have headquarters in Europe as well, that they are bound by European law. It’s new to them and they needed guidance.”
The ICCA grew out of the work done by Britain’s All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, led by MP John Mann. Together with Canadian politician Irwin Cotler, Mr Mann laid the groundwork for a major international conference on tackling antisemitism in London in 2009.
A subsequent declaration signed by hundreds of parliamentarians followed similar sessions in Ottawa the following year.
Based in London, Ms Lande works closely with the ICCA’s eight-member steering committee, spread across three continents.
“Often, something is happening in a country and I will get in touch with one of our MPs and say ‘we need to do something about this’,” she said.
“I get information sent in from countries by members of human-rights groups, Jewish communities and the MPs themselves. There’s a very big network of people.
“The beauty of the ICCA is that it is mainly non-Jewish MPs, taking on the fight against antisemitism from within their parliament. It is them doing the fighting and not an NGO or a Jewish organisation.
“The majority of them strongly believe in learning lessons from the past. They realise antisemitism is an illness of society that does not just affect the Jews.”
Ms Lande is the charity’s only full-time paid staff member and clocks up tens of thousands of air miles every year criss-crossing the world to assist ICCA members.
It is a task she relishes. “I’m in a different country every other week. Australia is awake when I’m supposed to be asleep.
“My phone is always on and I’m available around the clock — it’s very demanding.
“But if you believe in it and see the results of what we have done in different countries, then you know why you are doing it. It’s tiring, but it’s amazing and I love it.”
Despite the ICCA’s achievements in the past four years, the battle against antisemitism is never-ending, and former Leeds JSoc campaigns officer Ms Lande is constantly uncovering new challenges.
For example, Venezuela is proving to be a particular hotbed of anti-Jewish activity, she said.
“There’s antisemitism within government media there. You just don’t have that in other countries — government-sponsored antisemitism. We have it in Iran but hardly anywhere else. It’s very dangerous.
“In Hungary, the Jobbik party is a challenge for us. Likewise Golden Dawn in Greece. The European elections next May will require a lot of hard work. They could very possibly be a big setback.
“Extreme parties are trying very hard to win. This is all in Europe — where you would think people remember the worst time in history.”
Despite the frustration that comes with focusing on such a negative area of expertise, Ms Lande is proud of her group’s successes. She said British Jews should be reassured by their government’s efforts.
“The UK has been at the forefront along with Canada and Germany. They are the best countries to deal with in the fight against antisemitism.
“There are countries where antisemitism is considerably worse. Britain is very good at dealing with the problem, but it is about perceptions. There are perceptions here of rising antisemitism. It’s not a competition, but you compare that to Hungary and it is much worse there.”
Ms Lande has also helped to broaden the coalition of parliamentarians to include more women and non-Western politicians, including Rwandan MP and steering committee member Evariste Kalisa.
“When you go to conferences and meet governments, it is mainly older men. For a long time we only had one female MP on the steering committee, but we have changed that now and have three women. It’s a long process,” Ms Lande said.
“I’m proud of the work that my MPs have done. That keeps me going because I know that I have great people to work with. It’s a privilege.”