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The Global Surge of Anti-Semitism

The Global Surge of Anti-Semitism

Why the tendency to downplay Jew-hatred?


For more than a year, French Jews have been targets of hundreds of violent attacks, initiated mostly by Muslim immigrants. Synagogues have been burned, cemeteries desecrated and Jews beaten on the streets. Yet the French government continues to deny that France has an anti-Semitism problem.

A few days ago, the denial syndrome spread to Toronto, where skinheads stabbed to death a Jew outside a kosher pizza shop. Despite the fact that the fervently-Orthodox victim was easily identifiable as a Jew, Toronto police quickly announced that the attack didn't appear to be a hate crime.

It's time to take off the blinders.

The chances of a murderous skinhead wandering around a fervently-Orthodox neighborhood without premeditated intent to kill are about as likely as an armed Muslim fanatic who just happens to open fire at a counter of Israel's national airline. The inability of law enforcement agencies to discern a motive in the July 4 shooting into a crowd of Jews at Los Angeles International Airport by a Muslim extremist who hated Jews and accused Israel of deliberately infecting Arabs with AIDS is hardly an isolated example of stupidity and self-deception. It's part of a worldwide pattern of denial in response to increasingly lethal Jew-hatred.

The sentencing in Karachi of the killers of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is a reminder of how the pattern of self-deception works. Just before he was decapitated, his kidnappers forced him to tell the video camera, "I am a Jew, my mother is a Jew." Yet the media's coverage of Pearl's execution focused on Pearl the American journalist, as if his Jewishness were incidental to his murder.

For the last two years, the Arab world has become increasingly dominated by government-incited Jew-hatred. Holocaust denial is now mainstream, even among Arab intellectuals.

The official press from Egypt to Saudi Arabia -- to say nothing of Syria and Iraq -- publishes the most vile and discredited anti-Semitic slanders, like the medieval libel accusing Jews of using blood for ritual observance.

Yet little notice has been paid by the world to the astonishing phenomenon of a great civilization debasing itself with hatred and lies. Why the tendency to downplay Jew-hatred?

We want to believe that that anti-Semitism has exhausted itself in shame.

Partly, perhaps, because decent people find the prospect of the return of anti-Semitism, a mere half-century after Auschwitz, an unbearable thought.

Many Jews share that reluctance to face the new reality. We want to believe that the Holocaust was an aberration, that anti-Semitism, at least as a mainstream phenomenon, has exhausted itself in shame.

Many of us have justifiably criticized the Jewish community's obsessive focus on the Holocaust, insisting that we teach our children the beauty and power of Jewish tradition rather than frighten them into a victim identity. But while Jews need to be careful about lapsing into hysteria and self-pity, something familiar and sinister is stirring again, and we'd be fools to ignore it.

Not coincidentally, the renewal of seemingly random anti-Jewish violence is being accompanied by an ideological assault against Zionism and Israel. The assault is being led by Muslim extremists and anti-globalizers and neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers, a bizarre coalition uniting far left and far right. And the hatred against Israel is beginning to penetrate respectable institutions, including universities.

Criticizing specific Israeli policies is, of course, legitimate; self-criticism is an Israeli national pastime. But when the United Nations obsessively searches for a nonexistent massacre of Palestinians in Jenin while systematically ignoring massacres of Israelis, when the only country in the corrupt and violent Middle East to be singled out for judgment is Israel, when the context of Israel's war for survival is ignored and only Israel's self-defense is condemned, when the very existence of a Jewish state becomes immoral and the only form of nationalism considered racist is Zionism -- then the line is crossed from legitimate criticism to demonization. And the ground is prepared for murder.

Without identifying the illness, we won't be able to treat it. Its name is Jew-hatred, even if some insist on calling it everything but what it is.

July 27, 2002

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Visitor Comments: 9

(8) Sandy, August 12, 2002 12:00 AM

fight back

With an extensive French branch of our family living in Paris and the outskirts for several generations, I was disgusted to hear yet another rabbi tells Jews to duck and hide. That's why we get hit. Don't look at Israel as big bad fighters. They aren't most Jews. Following the killing of a young Jewish, and I think pregnant woman and her boyfriend in France, a French rabbi told Jews not to wear their yarmulkas so they won't be attacked.

I say wear them proudly and physically fight back. When anti semites know that Jews are willingly to go down fighting and will "take one with them" they will think twice.

We Jews suffer from a need to be loved and liked. We don't need love, we have that from our families. We need respect. Remember how the world looked at Israel in awe following the six day war? Well, it's time.

I don't care if anti semites understand Jews or our religion. I don't care if they grow to like us. It's us versus them and it's time we stood up and fought back, not hide.

(7) Eric, August 7, 2002 12:00 AM

Lion or Lamb?

Soon Israel will show itself either the lion of Judah, or the lamb of sacrifice. There can be no peace in Israel as long as there are those within who want to kill you. Only by strong, direct, efficient action can you regain your peace, your land, and your respect. This requires one of two options:
1). Ousting the cancer within your body or,
2). Killing it outright.
Shocking to read it, isn't it.
Yet, mark my words, one of these two will be what happens if you are to survive. There is nothing more your enemy loves than to kill you in your own G-d given land. It mocks your race and your G-d.
If you assume G-d helped you gain your nation, then you should assume he will help you preserve it. What is required is the desire on your own part to do so. If you do not have it, you will lose it.
Fight. Fight to win. And do not believe the lie that states you can have peace for land. You have no peace as long as the non-peaceful live among you. Fight. Roar like a lion, or die like a lamb.

(6) Beverly Kurtin, August 3, 2002 12:00 AM

The BIG Lie

There is nothing like a BIG lie, or series of lies, repeated over and over again to lull people into a false sense of security. We hear the lies of the Arabs loud and clear. Why don't we hear any Jewish responses...equally loud and clear?

The team of Bush and Ashcroft are trimming our civil rights and liberties. We need to stop lying to ourselves. It is time for Jews to pay close attention to what is happening in this country.

Never forget what the Germans did, never!

(5) Cindi Montero, July 30, 2002 12:00 AM

Thank you.

Yossi, thank you for this article. I read these articles to remind myself of what Jews throughout the world are going through, so that I do not become complacent. I pray that the people of the United States, as well as European countries, wake up before it is too late. The spirit of the Nazi has never really died, only lain dormant these past many years. Unless we are diligent, it will raise its ugly head and begin to "bite us the in buns." So far, we've only heard a few growls and rumblings, but without prayer and faithfulness, it will become the devouring monster it once was. Hashem help us all then!

(4) Drew Lifset, July 30, 2002 12:00 AM

todah, adon halevi

This is a point which is being made too infrequently and often with insufficient clarity and force; it is here argued concisely and effectively. It is my sincere hope that at least some of the people and entities that so cruelly and gratuitously deride Israel for every action it takes in self-defense will read this excellent column and take it to heart.

Teh Jewish people ARE in danger.

The Hasbara problem is - at least in part - related, I believe, to Israel's apparent reluctance to speak to the world clearly and with great force. . . and to generate a consistent message of confidence and self-assurance.

This is an issue right now not only for Eretz Yisrael, but for the Jewish community all over the world. Certainly we don't believe the Shoah could never come upon us again? While I do not base my Jewish identity on our misfortunes, choosing rather to focus on our strength, productivity, and rich history and tradition, I do believe that all that is necessary for us to be rounded up again is for enough of us to pretend nothing is going on. Nu, not an original concept - but I think it applies well (and shouldn't we know?) these days.

Is there some magic boundary, some number of killings or acts of vandalism or rudeness, after which we will finally rise to our defense without apologizing? Is there a number of Jewish funerals that will convince the "peacemakers" (meaning peace by death/suicide for Jews everywhere, like it or not) like, say, Shimon Peres (with all due respect) that it is time for us to circle the wagons for real? Or will we cede our land, our holy sites, our democratic nation, and our own proud heritage; will we, little by little, in an ongoing paroxysm of needless self-doubt and habitual charity and concern for the downtrodden allow ourselves to slowly be dissolved and forgotten?

Anyway, my point is that if more terse, clear, and strong messages like this were purveyed as the voice of Israel, that would work very much to Israel's benefit. As an American (though not for long - making aliyah this year!), I can assure you that American leaders and people both are greatly affected by short, clear, strong messages.

Israeli spokespeople who have mediocre English, who use no American idioms, and whose message is ultimately contained in a wrapper which will render it unpalatable to Americans; worse, those who disseminate ideas about "moral equivalency" and support the essentially heartless and faithless movement to remove settlers from their homes, cause Americans to become confused and bored. Watch American media! Americans need satrong positions expressed STRONGLY, SIMPLY, and in idiomatic, unaccented English wherever possible.

You have noted, I am sure, the success that the aravim have had with their media campaign; vivid images, especially of carnage, and quick "soundbites" featuring phrases like "freedom fighter" and "martyr" and then, even better, "Massacre in Jenin" worked to quickly paint a picture in many Americans' minds of Israelis as "oppressors" and "fascists".

When it had been clearly determined that there was no "massacre' whatsoever, why was this not trumpeted out loudly and repeatedly? A great opportunity to recast this situation in real terms of who is doing what was lost, and many Americans still think that there WAS a massacre (though they often can't remember the name "Jenin").

I acknowledge that I have gone on at unnecessary length. My only excuse is that I was so engaged by Adon Halevi's column, and its effectiveness as a "message from Israel" that my enthusiasm bubbled over.

Am Yisrael Chai!
Kol Tov

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