By Rabbi Abraham Cooper
It’s been called history’s longest hatred. The last aging survivors of Auschwitz see everywhere evidence that virulent Jew-hatred did not die in the Berlin bunker with Hitler. Indeed, in 2010, victims of the Shoah see their suffering denied, their legacy perverted and inverted.
The president of the European Jewish Congress recently put it bluntly to European Parliamentarians: “Jews are afraid to walk the streets in Europe with Jewish signs. Synagogues, Jewish schools and kindergartens require barbed-wire fences and security and Jewish men, women and children are beaten up in broad daylight . . . Jews are being forced out of many European cities, like Malmo, [Sweden] . . . because of the atmosphere of hostility and violence.”
This week along with other Jewish leaders, we with Secretary Hillary Clinton and Hannah Rosenthal, Special Envoy on Anti-Semitism at the State Department to discuss the crisis. Enroute to the nation’s capitol I listed some of the key sources of the moral pollution:
Holocaust Denial: Even without its looming nuclearization, Iran brings to bare the full weight of state-sanctioned Holocaust Denial. This is the springboard energizing Tehran’s campaign to justify to Muslims worldwide demonizing Jews and deploying genocidal rhetoric and action against the Jewish state-through Iran’s sponsorship of Jew-hating proxies–Hezbollah and Hamas–and, according to Interpol, the Mullahcracy’s direct involvement in a murderous attack on the Jewish communal headquarters in Argentina.
Holocaust Relativization In Eastern Europe, there’s a campaign to scrap January 27th–International Holocaust Memorial Day–and merge it with a commemoration for victims of communism. The state-funded Museum of Genocide Victims in Lithuania–mandated to “collect, keep and present historic documents about forms of physical and spiritual genocide against the Lithuanian people”–omits over 200,000 Lithuanian Jews murdered by the Nazis with the help of local collaborators–apparently because Jews, then or now, aren’t real Lithuanians.
Blood Libel: During the Middle Ages, Jews were executed for the calumny that they murdered Christian children to make Passover Matzohs. The updated Internet era version of this libel has Sweden’s leading newspaper accusing Israeli soldiers of murdering Palestinians to sell their organs. When an Israeli medical team raced half way around the world to save over 1,000 earthquake victims, a YouTube video warned Haitians the real purpose of the Field Hospital was to steal their body parts. Meanwhile, Islamist Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan burnishes his Islamist credentials by embracing as fact the Turkish blockbuster film, Valley of Wolves, depicting the Iraq War as a conspiracy by Israelis and Americans to harvest organs of Iraqi women and children.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion: Invoked by every Jew-hater of the 20th century, the long-debunked screed–translated into Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, and even Japanese–has found a permanent home online and is regularly invoked as a legitimate history book across the Middle East and Asia.
Israel/Palestine Conflict: Though Israel is fair game for criticism, we share human rights icon, Natan Sharansky’s view of the “three D’s” that expose so much so-called “anti-Zionism” as Jew- hatred: “It is anti-Semitic when Israel is held to a double standard, demonized, and delegitimized.” Serial, one-sided anti-Israel UN Reports and resolutions, trade union calls for boycotts of Israel, and mainline Protestant Churches flirting with supersessionism–the pre-Holocaust theology that denied the Jewish people’s past and right to a future–haven’t helped a single Palestinian, but have set up Israel, in Alan Dershowitz’s words, as ‘the Jew among the nations” maligned as latter-day Nazi criminals.
All this puts a big bulls-eye on Jews everywhere. Imagine the implications of a UK’s jury recent decision–with the encouragement of the judge and a local MP–to acquit five defendants who proudly admitted sabotaging a factory, legally filling a military equipment order from Israel. Or in Montreal, where a local Muslim group sought volunteers to compile lists of Jewish University faculty members with any links to Israel.
Secretary Clinton and Ms. Rosenthal covered most of these crisis points and acknowledged one critical point: The war against anti-Semitism will never be won by Jews alone.
We welcome the continuing bipartisan support for a Special U.S. envoy on anti-Semitism and the U.S.’s leadership in the field of Holocaust education. Statistics on European hate crimes and statements of concern by the European Union and the OSCE are also important. But words and somber ceremonies honoring 6 million dead Jews have not protected live ones.
Unfortunately, European governments have shown a deplorable tendency when it comes to anti-Semitism in their societies. Rather than making it clear anti-Jewish outbursts won’t be tolerated–and may ultimately boomerang against Europe’s Muslim minorities–they too often explain away anti-Semitism as “a natural reaction” to events in the Mideast. Sharansky is again right: “This line of reasoning is illegitimate as well as dishonest. There are tens of conflicts raging in the world, where hundreds of thousands of people are losing their lives. Has anyone heard of a single other act of violence in Europe that is justified because of a foreign conflict?”
Ahmadinejad, Erdogan and their ilk will never drop their crowd-pleasing Jew-hatred unless there are real-time consequences. How did the United Nations respond to the genocidal rants of the Iranian President? By inviting him to keynote the UN Human Rights Summit in Geneva!
Much has been made of the Obama Administration’s Muslim outreach. It’s time to make it clear that America’s outreach to Muslim governments and opinion makers also means active engagement about touchy issues–from women’s rights, to individual religious freedom–and, yes, anti-Semitism. Our embassies should be tasked–not only with monitoring hateful outbursts–but confronting them.
Ground zero on the diplomatic front is the United Nations. It’s not enough for American and European diplomats at the UN Human Rights Council, to silently squirm in their seats while delegates spew anti-Semitic vitriol not seen since the Holocaust. Bigotry masquerading as diplomacy has to be publicly confronted head-on. We will need President Obama and Secretary Clinton to use American leverage if there’s to be any change in the current global climate of tolerance for anti-Semitism.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center