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Fundamentally Freund: Anti-Semitism in Israel
Michael Freund
11/04/2008
Where is the outcry over assaults on Jews and Jewish tradition?
 
There is a new menace facing the Jews of Israel. And though you will never hear it said openly, let alone discussed at length, the fact is that anti-Semitism is alive and well in the Jewish state. Indeed, in just the past week alone, there were two incidents involving the wanton desecration of Jewish religious sites, both of which were more reminiscent of medieval Europe than of a proud and sovereign Jewish realm. Last Wednesday, two Arab youths tossed a flaming Molotov cocktail into the Adat Moshe Ve'Yisrael synagogue in Lod, which caught fire and suffered interior damage. Fortunately, nobody was inside at the time. Just a few days previously, three Arabs had firebombed the Ruah Tzfonit yeshiva in Acre in an attempt to burn it down. No one was injured, but the school's office went up in flames. It is easy enough to dismiss these events merely as passing blips on the radar, or as the type of senseless vandalism that strikes societies everywhere. Others will content themselves with the thought that political tensions lie at the root of the attacks. After all, even the police have termed the episodes "nationalistically motivated." But don't be fooled by such pseudo-sophistry. When villains attack a house of prayer in Lod or a talmudic academy in Acre, they are attacking Jews and Judaism itself. Their choice of target is indicative of whom they are aiming to hurt. Had the perpetrators been seeking to make a political statement, they could easily have chosen a political target. It is only when you really hate someone in a profound and nefarious manner that you go for the jugular, as the assailants did in these cases. SURE, POLITICS may have fanned the flames, and last month's riots in Acre further exacerbated the situation. But the fire underneath was already there, and at its root lies a blazing and ancient hatred called anti-Semitism. So where is the outrage? Where is the outcry over this willful assault on Jews and Jewish tradition? When these kinds of incidents take place in any other country in the world, they are rightly and roundly denounced as anti-Semitism, and Jewish organizations clamor for the microphones to make statements and demand justice. Yet for some reason, when they happen here, everyone seems to fall silent. But Jew-hatred is Jew-hatred wherever it takes place. And however uncomfortable it might make us feel, we need to acknowledge that there is anti-Semitism in the Jewish state, and that steps need to be taken to counter it. These range from fostering more tolerance and greater education among Arab citizens to stricter enforcement of the law. In both Acre and Lod, the police caught the perpetrators of the attacks, and nothing less than the maximum sentence should be imposed on them. It needs to be made clear to other would-be arsonists of all stripes that when they attack public institutions or religious sites, they will be made to pay for their crimes. Public pressure to denounce such acts should also be brought to bear on various Arab religious and political leaders, and those who fail to do so should be called to account. There is simply no excuse for their silence in the face of such hatred. Apologists will suggest that such attacks are motivated by fear, but I believe precisely the opposite to be true. It is because of a lack of fear, a sense of impunity, that the assailants felt uninhibited about carrying out their plans. That, combined with a base hatred of Jews, makes for a combustible mix. Many of us are still uneasy with such a notion, if only because such things are not supposed to happen here. Israel was established to serve as a homeland and a refuge, a place where the ills of the Diaspora would be left behind, chief among them anti-Semitism. But like it or not, that hatred has followed us home, and it is alive and well here in our midst. And sweeping the issue under the rug, or chalking it up to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, will not make it go away.
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