This week, the Foreign Ministry and the Diaspora Affairs Ministry are jointly sponsoring the 5th Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism. It will be opened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a host of prominent global leaders will participate and passionately condemn anti-Semitism. It will also be a gathering of activists from all over the world who will hear depressing reports of the growth of anti-Semitism in all countries and pleas for intensified action to curb the venomous hatred.
Unfortunately, aside from some limited media coverage and making participants “feel good,” this conference will be a mere talk fest with negligible impact.
The world’s oldest hatred has reached surrealistic levels. Whereas most Western governments are inclined to condemn anti-Semitism, on a popular level the situation is terrifying and even worse than in the 1930s when at least liberals and the political Left spoke up for the Jews. Today they are frequently at the vanguard of the Jew-baiters.
The fusion of traditional anti-Semitism and its more current expression — demonization of the Jewish state — is rampant in most countries other than the U.S., Canada and Australia, although even there, it has emerged as a poisonous force on campuses.
In most of Europe, the continent drenched with Jewish blood during the Holocaust, opinion polls indicate that almost half the population regard Israel as a greater threat to world peace than Iran and North Korea, equate Jews with Nazis, and believe that Israelis are seeking to commit genocide against the Palestinians.
In this context, the upsurge of increasingly violent anti-Semitic incidents is hardly surprising. Jewish schools, synagogues and even kosher supermarkets require security protection, even the employment of military forces. Many Jews fear wearing kippot or Jewish symbols in public.
After returning from their murderous sprees in the killing fields of the Middle East, jihadists — who include second-generation homegrown Muslims and converts from comfortable middle class origins — view Jews as principal targets for assassination.
Governments are loath to confront the issue of Islamic extremism or even identify the enemy because of the growing power of the Muslim vote. They seem more concerned to condemn “Islamophobia” rather than anti-Semitism, despite the fact that it is synagogues and Jewish schools rather than mosques and Islamic schools that are threatened by terrorists.
Despite the babble about an obligation for Jews to remain in Europe and fight anti-Semitism, the situation will only deteriorate. While understanding the discomfort of European leaders should there be a mass exodus of Jews from their countries, one must still ask why we should be encouraged to live in societies in which we are detested and considered pariahs? Especially so, recognizing the demographic increase of Muslims around them and knowing that public opinion is more hostile against the Jews than are governments.
We should challenge the absurdity of those who consider it inappropriate for Jews to make aliyah because of anti-Semitism. Of course, we would prefer to live in a world where Jews are accepted and respected and only come to Israel out of idealistic motivations. But surely it is common sense and incumbent on us to encourage Jews confronted with anti-Semitism to make aliyah.
Jews will remain in Europe. But they will become a diminishing minority as many realize that they do not wish to raise their children in a society that makes them ashamed of being Jews. We should encourage those who can to make aliyah and must seek to provide them with livelihoods. Some may be unwilling to make the move but at least they should be encouraged to send their children.
Ironically, increased aliyah will strengthen the Jewish identity of those remaining and help them to retain their Jewish dignity and self-respect.
None of this should detract from our obligation to combat anti-Semitism both because, as mankind’s oldest hatred, it is intrinsically evil and also because it impinges on the global foreign policies towards Israel.
While the most extreme manifestations of Jew-hatred now originate from Islamic sources, their efforts have coalesced with longstanding conventional anti-Semitic forces, which were dormant but have now been resurrected. We are thus confronted with a witch’s brew of the contemporary genocidal Islamic extremist anti-Semitism, the political Left and many liberals who project Israel as the new Satan, and traditional radical right-wing elements, all engaged in frenzied attacks on the Jewish state which is employed as a surrogate to demonic hatred of individual Jews.
When the United Nations, spearheaded by Islamic extremist and rogue states, spends more time condemning “violations of human rights” in Israel than in all the rest of the world combined, we witness a return to the Dark Age when Jews were accused of blood libels, poisoning the wells, bringing about plagues and being responsible for all natural disasters facing mankind. The situation today is of course hugely exacerbated by the Internet, which dramatically disseminates the poison globally.
What makes the situation even more depressing is that the European countries, the bastions of Western civilization, pay lip service to condemning anti-Semitism but when it comes to matching their words with actions against the pogrom-style resolutions against Israel at the United Nations, they mostly remain on the sidelines. At best, they abstain, but they frequently endorse the double standards and discrimination against Israel and we hear a deafening silence when the Iranians combine Holocaust denial with their Nazi-like calls for the annihilation of “the cancer” — Israel.
While the U.S. has hitherto employed its veto to shield Israel from punitive U.N. resolutions, there is concern that a vindictive Obama is now poised to stand aside or even join the pack in condemning Israel, paving the way for possible sanctions.
This issue is covered brilliantly in Manfred Gerstenfeld’s magnum opus, “The War of a Million Cuts: The Struggle against the Delegitimization of Israel and the Jews, and the Growth of a New Anti-Semitism.” His 400 page book should be considered as the principal text on the subject.
The forthcoming conference in Jerusalem will not impact on these explosive issues but will merely reflect the shallow approach and absence of strategic thinking by the government. Participants will return to their countries of origin after hearing many speeches, passing resolutions and simply await invitations for the next conference in another two years.
The conference was to have been co-hosted by outgoing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, both of whom have been only marginally involved in the issue.
The reality is that despite the efforts of the Jewish Agency, the World Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and others, no central Jewish body exists to deal exclusively with anti-Semitism on a global level. By and large, Diaspora Jewish communities are not receiving guidance from Israel and are frequently confused and divided as to their response.
What is needed is a permanent professional secretariat to collate global information, serve as a vehicle to exchange views, provide direction and coordinate global strategies against anti-Semitism and anti Israelism and convince the often egotistical leaders of communities and competing Jewish organizations and agencies to set aside their parochial interests and merge their efforts to face the increasing threats.
Only the prime minister has the standing to launch such a body, which must be independent and totally unconnected to domestic politics. It should be headed by a person with a thorough understanding of the field and the ability to work and coordinate with Jewish agencies and the Diaspora leaders and activists.
Besides academics, there are talented former ambassadors currently engaged in bureaucratic desk jobs who have the expertise to assume major roles in such a body as well as a huge pool of talented Jews here and in the Diaspora who would be willing to engage in such a vital venture.
It is time to stop relying on conferences and ad hoc speeches. The creation of a central organization to monitor and coordinate efforts against global anti-Semitism is crucial and highly overdue. The current global conference in Jerusalem should communicate this message to Netanyahu, dissolve itself and be substituted by a permanent professional secretariat which will direct an ongoing global campaign against anti-Semitism and provide guidance for embattled Jews throughout the world.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom