This week over 100 Jewish leaders, academics and activists from Israel and the Diaspora will gather in Jerusalem to attend the Global Forum on Anti-Semitism convened by the Foreign Ministry. The conference could become the launching pad for a concerted new worldwide effort to take the offensive in the war of ideas.
What a bitter irony that the Zionist founding fathers predicted that statehood would lead to Jewish normalization, bringing an end to anti-Semitism.
Today, one only has to open a newspaper to be confronted with depressing articles predicting gloom and doom for the Jewish future, notably in Europe. They include a chilling common theme: For the first time in 60 years the world is once again being inundated with shrill accusations that Zionists/Jews (they are interchangeable) represent evil incarnate and, like a cancer, must be excised.
In addition to these Nazi-like genocidal threats, Israel is facing a renewed existential danger.
It is noteworthy that virtually every catastrophe in Jewish history was preceded by periods of intensive demonization. It happened before the Crusades, the exile from Spain, pogroms in Eastern Europe and also preceded the Nazi Final Solution. It is happening again today. As in the Middle Ages, Jews are being accused of poisoning wells, spreading plague and being culpable for all the woes facing humanity.
The difference now is that Israel has become the “Jew among the nations” – a new target of anti-Semites. The Jewish state is no longer merely demonized. There are increasing calls even from some Western liberals for Israel to be dissolved as a failed venture. It is bizarre that, aside from the United States, much of the world – in particular, enlightened Europe – against all logic views Israel as a prime source of evil, posing a greater threat to peace than even rogue states like Iran or North Korea.
EUROPEAN Jews courageous enough to face the truth feel they have been catapulted back in time to the 1930s. But today even many of their former liberal allies have forsaken them. In such a hostile, anti-Jewish environment they doubt whether Europe can provide a future for their children as Jews.
The frenzied hatred and delegitimization of Israel even unites traditionally opposing groups. Substantial numbers of Christians and Muslims, leftists and liberals, right-wingers and skinheads, Shi’ites and Sunnis – and, alas, even an ever-increasing number of misguided Jews – march together with the mad mullahs, demonizing Israel under the banner of “We are all Hizbullah.”
There are even targets of Islamist terror who complain that if only Israel had not been created they would not now be confronted by “desperate Muslims.”
On top of all this, there is now also the looming threat from the crazed Iranian fanatics bent on obtaining nuclear weapons. They exploit the poisonous atmosphere in order to create the rationale for our destruction. Our newspapers publish essays warning of a second Holocaust. And there are predictions that many Israelis will flee the country to avoid a nuclear catastrophe.
HENCE ONE of the primary objectives of this conference must be to stiffen the backs of the Jewish communities and highlight the contrasts between the Jewish condition of today and that which prevailed in the 1930s.
There is a need to emphasize that we are no longer helpless, homeless or powerless. Despite the bungling of the Lebanon war, the State of Israel still possesses one of the most powerful armies in the world and is capable of defeating all its neighbors individually or collectively. We have the resources, we have the people, and we have the military deterrent.
In addition, no Diaspora Jewish community has ever been more powerful and affluent than that of America today.
Our weakness emanates from our failure, since the Oslo Accords, to marshal resources aggressively to combat the negative image presented of Israel. In a calculated
policy, Israeli leaders adopted a low profile of Zionism in order to promote Osloism. Now, after years of neglect, our principal effort must be to reinstate the genuine narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict and reverse the prevailing image of Israel as a rogue state.
In recent months there has been an ominous deterioration in our international position. Mounting numbers of misguided Jews on the fringe are supporting the dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state. In turn, the liberal media has increasingly been providing an aura of respectability for such views.
For example, two lengthy New York Times articles recently appeared implicitly criticizing Abe Foxman (ADL) and David Harris (AJC) for having condemned two noted Jewish writers, Tony Judt and Tony Kushner, who implicitly endorse the dissolution of the Jewish state.
In the past, it was generally accepted that such extreme views crossed every red line and were beyond the pale. Today The New York Times describes those promoting such views as “liberal Jews.”
Needless to say, if the dismantlement of Israel becomes accepted as a respectable viewpoint by the liberal chattering classes, the warning bells should be ringing.
IN THE UK matters are even worse. There, the Anglo-Jewish establishment, represented by the Board of Deputies, stands silently by while the country’s sole Jewish think tank and research body, the Jewish Policy Research Institute, continues to be directed by Antony Lerman, who “in his personal capacity” publicly endorsed the dissolution of the Jewish state and the right of return for Arab refugees.
Not surprisingly, British Jews are having difficulty trying to convince the public that calls by our enemies for the dismantlement of the Jewish state cross the line. What can one expect when the head of Anglo Jewry’s think tank endorses the same obscene formula?
THIS WEEK’S anti-Semitism conference must consider many other issues – chief among them a review of the increasingly negative impact of the electronic media, especially in light of the recent launch of Al Jazeera’s English-language satellite. Further consideration of creating a global Jewish satellite TV station should also be deliberated. Clearly there is a necessity to invest additional financial resources and create a permanent central body to formulate global strategies and initiatives.
The other challenge will be to intensify the campaign to isolate Iran. Our primary objective must be to convince the world that the threat from a nuclear Iran is not exclusively directed against Israel, and that, unchecked, the mad mullahs could inflict a global catastrophe.
Iran is no superpower. Instead of wailing and promoting despair, we must make it clear that Israelis will not be intimidated. While Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a few crazy imams may genuinely be willing to enter paradise prematurely in order to annihilate Israel, the vast majority of Iranians do not wish to join them.
The time has come to restate the Begin Doctrine, loudly and clearly: Any country directly or indirectly threatening to employ nuclear weapons against us will discover that our response will be utterly devastating.
History will surely condemn our generation if we fail to act now. It is certainly not too late to neutralize the intensive global hatred that threatens to engulf us.
The writer chairs the Diaspora-Israel Relations Committee of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs and is a veteran international Jewish leader. [email protected]