FIGHTING THE RISE OF ANTI-SEMITISM

Here are some thoughts from David Brooks of the New York Times and the Simon Wiesenthal Center on this problem and their view on the antidote.

First, David Brooks:

“Anti-Semitism is rising around the world.  So the question becomes:  What can we do to fight it?  Do education campaigns, marches or conferences work?

“There are three major strains of anti-Semitism circulating, different in kind and virulence, and requiring different responses.

“In the Middle East, anti-Semitism has the feel of a deranged system for distorting a world gone astray.  Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, doesn’t just oppose Israel, he has called it the ‘sinister, unclean, rabid dog of the region.’  He has said its leaders ‘look like beasts and cannot be called human.’

“President Hassan Rouhani of Iran reinstated a conference of Holocaust deniers and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.  In Egypt, the top military staff attended a lecture on the deranged Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  The region is still rife with the usual conspiracy theories—that the Jews were behind 9/11, drink the blood of non-Jews, spray pesticides across Egyptian lands.

“This form of anti-Semitism cannot be reasoned away because it doesn’t exist on the level of reason.  It can only be confronted with deterrence and force, at the level of fear.  The challenge for Israel is to respond to extremism without being extreme.  The enemy’s rabidity can be used to justify cruelty, even in cases where restraint would be wiser.  Israeli leaders try to walk this line, trying to use hard power, without becoming a mirror of the foe, sometimes well, sometimes not.

“In Europe, anti-Semitism looks like a response to alienation.  It’s particularly high where unemployment is rampant.  Roughly half of all Spaniards and Greeks express unfavorable opinions about Jews.  The plague of violence is fueled by young Islamic men with no respect and no place to go.

“Thousands of Jews a year are just fleeing Europe.  European governments can demonstrate solidarity with their Jewish citizens by providing security, cracking down—broken-windows style—on even the smallest assaults.  Meanwhile, brave and decent people can take a page from Gandhi and stage campaigns of confrontational nonviolence; marches, sit-ins and protests in the very neighborhoods where anti-Semitism breeds.  Expose the evil of the perpetrators.  Disturb the consciences of the good people in these communities who tolerate them.  Confrontational nonviolence is the historically proven method to isolate and delegitimize social evil.

“The United States is also seeing a rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents.  But this country remains an astonishingly non-anti-Semitic place.  America’s problem is the number of people who can’t fathom what anti-Semitism is or who think Jews are being paranoid or excessively playing the victim.

“On college campuses, many young people have been raised in a climate of moral relativism and have no experience with those with virulent evil beliefs.   They sometimes assume that if Israel is hated, then it must be because of its cruel and colonial policies in the West Bank.

“In the Obama administration, there are people who know that the Iranians are anti-Semitic, but they don’t know what to do with that fact and put this mental derangement on a distant shelf.  They negotiate with the Iranian leaders, as if anti-Semitism was some off quirk, instead of what it is, a core element of their mental architecture.

“Groups fighting anti-Semitism sponsor educational campaigns and do a lot of consciousness-raising.  I doubt these things do much to reduce active anti-Semitism.  But they can help non-anti-Semites understand the different forms of this cancer in our midst.”

Probably the most aggressive and effective organization fighting anti-Semitism in many parts of the world is the Simon Wiesenthal Center directed by Rabbi Marvin Hier here in Los Angeles.

From a recent recap, here are some of their activities:

“From Washington, D.C., Ottawa and Buenos Aires, to deeply troubled areas in Europe, including Belgium, France and Scandinavia, and across Asia, the Center has been there, working to thwart the haters, preserve the memory and lessons of the Holocaust, and proudly share the values and history of our people.

“In Lithuania…The Center has been one of the only voices in opposition to the annual celebration of Lithuanian independence.  The celebration has been hijacked by the Union of Lithuanian Nationalist Youth, who espouse enmity toward minorities and seek to rewrite their country’s Holocaust history by glorifying Nazi collaborators and actively participated in the mass murder of their fellow Jewish citizens.

“In France…The CEO of French cellular company Orange declared the company would divest from Israel so it could be ‘one of the trustful partners of all Arab countries,’ evoking 1930s western companies seeking to be ‘partners of the Nazis.’  The CEO backtracked after widespread protests from the Center and others.

“In Israel…Center leaders presented at the Global Forum, addressing such high-level issues as anti-Semitism and terrorism, anti-Semitism on campus, and the role of international organizations in combating anti-Semitism.

“In Azerbaijan, a leading moderate Muslim nation, Center Associate Dean spoke to a major international conference about the dangers of digital terrorism and hate and the pervasive online threats against Jews, Christians and Muslims.

“When the Palestinians demanded that the international soccer organization FIFA ban Israel, the Simon Wiesenthal Center was the only group to stage a counter-protest.  Dr. Shimon Samuels exposed anti-Israel and anti-Semitic literature at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair.  And finally, we continue to be on the frontlines in combating the insidious BDS anti-peace campaigns targeting Christian churches and so many of our nation’s campuses.

“The Center is uniquely positioned to raise an alarm against anti-Semitism and to effectively counter campaigns to de-legitimize the Jewish State.  As an official Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations, UNESCO and the European Union, we have access to governments and international diplomacy.”

Anti-Semitism never seems to go away.  It appears to ebb and flow with the need by insecure people to find a scapegoat.

ArtSchwartzSig

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