Anti-Semitism as a Global Crisis

Anti-Semitism as a Global Crisis

Voice  |  May 2, 2019  |  By Richard D. Heideman President, American Zionist Movement
As the last Holocaust survivors are passing away and collective memory is fading, anti-Semitic attitudes in Europe continue to rise.

Anti-Semitism is a scourge that must be cured. It is immoral, indecent, and violates the basic human rights of Jews everywhere, including those who have settled in or support their ancient homeland.

2019 is the 80th anniversary of what Professor Rebecca Kobrin of Columbia University calls “the year of the Jewish refugee.” In the late 1930’s, Jews from Germany and elsewhere in Europe saw their synagogues go up in flames on Kristallnacht and were forced out of their homes and into Jewish ghettos, marking the start of the hateful, bigoted rise of Nazism and the commencement of the Holocaust seeking the genocidal annihilation of the Jewish communities of Europe and elsewhere.

History may not repeat itself, but as Mark Twain is thought to have said, it often rhymes. Once again, anti-Semitism rears its ugly head through dramatic acts of hatred, causing terror and making headlines around the world.

As the last Holocaust survivors are passing away and collective memory is fading, anti-Semitic attitudes in Europe continue to rise. According to a 2018 survey by CNN, more than a quarter of Europeans believe Jews have “too much influence” in business and finance. A recent survey of 12 EU countries found that Jews are increasingly worried about the risk of harassment or worse — with good reason.

France in particular has suffered many anti-Semitic attacks, including the killing of four Jewish hostages at The Porte de Vincennes Supermarket in Paris, assaults on people in the streets, killing of Holocaust survivors in their homes, and other despicable criminal acts of bigotry, hatred, and intolerance. The EU Fundamental Rights Agency’s research has discovered that a startling 95% of French Jews see anti-Semitism as either a fairly or very big problem.

Sweden’s 18,000 Jews remember the 2017 firebombing of a synagogue in Gothenburg during a Hanukkah party. Two days later, two more firebombs were discovered near the Jewish burial chapel. Unfortunately, Jews in Sweden have learned to expect this kind of violence.

Examples are everywhere: in Belgium at a carnival celebration featuring a float with caricatured Orthodox Jews; at an event in Poland, a Jewish figure was beaten in effigy by young children and dragged through the streets. Throughout Europe, Jewish citizens and tourists question whether it is safe to wear kippot (skullcaps) or other recognizably Jewish garments. Synagogue security has become extra tight, due to recent violent incidents in Jewish places of worship.

A particularly pernicious aspect of and prime contributor to recent global anti-Semitism is historical and Holocaust revisionism. Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, notes that in Europe — especially in Hungary and Poland — governments are attempting to rewrite the historical record in order to minimize the role that some of their citizens played in collaborating with the Nazis in the Holocaust.

This revisionism is also rampant in Indonesia, home to only a tiny number of Jews. The disturbing popularity of Nazi imagery in the country came to international attention with stories of a Third Reich-themed restaurant and a museum where visitors take selfies with Hitler.

In another hemisphere, the Argentine political consultancy firm Poliarquia Consultores conducted a poll of Jewish leaders in Latin America. Results showed that anti-Semitism in Latin America was the fourth biggest concern, after internal divisions, community leadership, and assimilation, challenges faced in many communities.

In the United States, we are experiencing an alarming increase in anti-Semitic speech and heinous, murderous attacks. The criminal terrorist assaults at Tree of Life Synagogue and Chabad in Poway, CA, must serve as a wake-up call to our entire community, not only for security and vigilance, but also for education, enlightenment and energetic action against hatred.

In Fighting Anti-Semitism, Fight Anti-Zionism

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement seeks to throttle Israel’s economic and social growth in the name of its call for the creation of the independent State of Palestine. The sponsors of the BDS movement have been identified as the same foreign organizations who have used terror as a means of expressing their political resistance. Their goals and objectives must be unmasked; the use of terror, in any form, in support of achieving political goals is a violation of basic human rights and international law. Most of the actions in the Boycott movement, like pressure on West Bank industrial businesses, have actually harmed the thousands of Palestinians employed there. The Boycott movement is guilty of deceptive hate-peddling and criminal terror attacks which must be punished and for which they must be held accountable and unwelcomed on college campuses dedicated to free learning and the exploration of truth.

Israel is among the most open, diverse, and innovative countries in the world — and certainly in the Middle East. Non-Jews such as Christians, Muslims, Bedouin, and Druze comprise 25% of the Israeli population. The large Arab minority has equal voting rights for both men and women and access to outstanding medical care. Israel protects freedom of religion and access to places of worship for all religions. Many key members of the non-Jewish population in Israel hold senior posts in the Israeli police force, the Knesset, and the judiciary. Arabic is an official language and employment discrimination is against the law.

Vigilance, Understanding, and a Stronger Israel

Since its inception thousands of years ago, anti-Semitism has never disappeared. However, we can — and must — work against it. Our success hinges in part on spreading understanding of Judaism, its long history, and its diverse culture. Another key to stopping the rise of anti-Semitism is ensuring the strength of the nation of Israel — the world’s only Jewish State. Israel is critical to the preservation of Jewish sovereignty, and to fighting the ignorance and malignant distortions that breed anti-Semitism. When Israel is threatened, all Jews are at risk. Securing Israel and its future depends on us and the generations to come. Moreover, we must state clearly that anti-Zionism has become another form of anti-Semitism.

Fighting anti-Semitism requires more than just tough talk; there must be a concrete plan of action to address this wicked hatred. It is not enough that people everywhere talk about anti-Semitism. We need a real strategy that protects and informs our community and educates those who have insufficient knowledge of who we are, what we stand for, and our commitment to social justice and non-discrimination for all. We need a solid Plan of Action that will take a Zero Tolerance approach toward anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

Elan S. Carr, the new U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, recently

spoke at the American Zionist Movement’s biennial assembly. He called for everyone to fight with the same ferocity and intensity in the battle against anti-Semitism that he had as a military officer combatting terrorism. Carr and many global leaders know that anti-Semitism is larger than a problem for Jews; anti-Semitism is about the future of all people, and this crisis of hatred must be confronted in every region regardless of ideology or religion.

Some continue to use anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial as a cover for a religious war that targets not only Jews, but religious observances of people from all walks of life. The fight against terror, hate, and ignorance must go beyond condemning attacks against Jews. We must stand against attacks on mosques, churches, synagogues and all houses of free worship.