Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speeks at the fifth Global Forum for Combating anti-Semitism.
(photo credit: KOBY GIDEON/GPO)
Israel has become the focus of latter-day anti-Semites, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday evening at the opening of the fifth Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism.
Speaking to a crowd of more than 1,000 Jewish community representatives, diplomats and members of civil society gathered for the biennial conference, the premier said he believes “contemporary anti-Semitism doesn’t just slander, vilify and target Jewish people, it first and foremost targets the Jewish state.”
While there were those who believed that, following the Holocaust, “humanity would discard one of history’s oldest hatreds” – and, indeed, blatant anti-Semitism became far less common in the “liberal West” – “there is no doubt we are living in an age of resurgent anti-Semitism,” he added.
“Today’s anti-Semitism is not limited to the various sects of militant Islam or the xenophobic elements of the fringes of European society.
Today, it wears the mask of so-called progressive thinking in the West. The champions of tolerance are remarkably intolerant of Jews and the Jewish state,” he said. “Classic anti-Semitism portrayed Jews as the embodiment of all evil in world,” while contemporary anti-Semites “do the same with the Jewish state.”
Asking why Israel’s response to Hamas rocket fire elicits protests throughout Europe, while the massacres of civilians in Yemen and Syria do not bring out demonstrators in the streets of Paris and London, Netanyahu said: “There is something fundamentally wrong that this slander is reserved for the one country in the region where the death penalty is not even used against the most gruesome terrorist murderers.”
“All the boycotts and [UN] resolutions are reserved for the only true and most beleaguered democracy on earth, Israel,” he said. “The Jewish state is treated among [the] nations like the Jewish people were treated for generations.”
While he praised European leaders for taking steps to combat rising anti-Semitism, he also called out the continent’s elite for what he sees as their role in fomenting hate.
“Anti-Semitism, contrary to what people think, doesn’t just bubble up from below. It percolates also from the top, and that’s why it’s so important that there are leaders here... who are gearing up to fight this old obsession,” he said.
While there are some who pin the blame for the acceptance of anti-Semitic tropes on a lack of education and knowledge, that does not serve as a catch-all explanation, Netanyahu asserted.
“Some of most educated people in history believed” such things. “It starts with the elite, and that’s where it has to be challenged,” he said.
Following Netanyahu, German Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection Heiko Maas spoke, declaring that Germans guilty of war crimes against the Jews “shouldn’t be allowed to go to the grave without guilt being determined.”
His ministry has established a commission to investigate its conduct during the decades following the Holocaust “to find out why German systems allowed so many Nazi criminals to go free.”
“The results won’t be flattering for the German justice system, but we want the historical truth to come to light.
If we want to tackle anti-Semitism in the present, it is vital to take a self-critical look at the failings of our past,” Maas explained.
“One of these failings is that present-day Germany still has laws in force drafted by Nazi jurists. I find this absolutely unacceptable, which is why I set up a commission to set up new proposals for our criminal law, and I’m hopeful we will soon be able to root out the last remnants of Nazi law from our books once and for all,” he said.
In response, Efraim Zuroff, a Nazi hunter with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, praised Maas, telling The Jerusalem Post he fully endorses and supports efforts to finally de-Nazify the German justice system.
Among the laws that should be changed, he said, is one that grants German citizenship to ethnic Germans from abroad who served in the SS. On several occasions, the German citizenship that war criminals obtained allowed them to escape extradition and punishment for their crimes.