(photo credit: ODD ANDERSEN / AFP)
Ron Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress and the president of The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York is sounding the alarm about growing anti-Semitism in Europe and hatred of Israel. Jews cannot remain silent again.
What do you think is fueling the current rise in global anti-Semitic acts?
We are watching a significant and highly disturbing rise in anti-Semitism across Europe. The attacks in Paris, Copenhagen and Brussels are the most visible, but it goes on daily.
Jewish boys wearing yarmulkes cannot walk down the streets of major European cities without fearing for their safety. We haven’t seen things this bad since the end of World War II. Most of this is a more long-term problem and due to mainly three factors: the anti-Semitism from radicalized Muslims immigrants, the blatant anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism from the far Left, and to a lesser extent from the far Right.
There are a number of factors at play here. What I do observe, though, is that while the number of anti-Semites may be fairly constant, many anti-Semites have become more bold. Some couch their rejection of Jews in unfair and disproportionate criticism of Israel. I absolutely refute the line that criticism of Israel does not make someone anti-Semitic because the criticism of Israel is so counterfactual. The naked aggression and violence toward Jews that we saw last year on the streets of Paris or London, even Berlin, during the anti-Israel demonstrations, would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.
Certainly, Muslim extremism is the growing threat in our world, but those views have been picked up and extended mostly by the far Left in many countries. It is the far Left that has become the most viciously anti-Israel political front throughout the world. The major support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement comes from the Left. But we also need to remain on guard against the anti-Semites on the far Right as well.Do you think there’s a difference between anti-Semitism in the US and anti-Semitism in Europe?
If you ask me about the main difference between Europe and America, for me it is this: Anti-Semitism in America is simply not a problem.
Jews are not afraid of walking down any streets in America wearing a yarmulke; Jews can be Jewish openly; and Jews are part of society like any other minority in America. Furthermore, Christian American support for Israel is at its highest level today than at any other time over the past 40 years. The American people, the government, both political parties and the main Christian churches all stand solidly behind Israel. They support the Jewish state, and they are not ashamed of doing so very openly.
That is very different from Europe.The EU has put forth several measures to combat anti-Semitism. What more do you think can be done? Do you think these measures show promise?
So far, I haven’t seen any EU-wide plans to combat this phenomenon. There have been some measures in the wake of the January terrorist attacks and there have been some surveys to map the problem. Individual countries, especially those affected by terrorism, have taken action, but that can’t be enough. Seventy years after the end of World War II and the liberation of the camps, any foot-dragging by politicians is unacceptable.
Yes, the problem is a complex one, and it won’t go away overnight through political efforts, but European Jews rightly expect their elected leaders to take charge of this issue and to come up with practical solutions.
For our part, the World Jewish Congress takes this new wave of hate very seriously, which is why we won’t let any incident go unchallenged. I think that has to be the way all governments deal with this as well.
World silence and indifference were Hitler’s very significant partners.
This cannot happen again.What can Israel do to help fight anti-Semitism?
In many ways, the irrational hatred of Israel that we have seen is part of this same old hatred of Jews. Why else would Israel’s detractors find irrational faults with the Jewish state? One recent example of this had to do with the marvelous IDF rescue operation in Nepal. Sure enough, instead of praising the great work of this rescue group, there were suggestions that suddenly surfaced that Israel was doing something like trafficking in babies. This is not just an outright lie... It is insane. And it’s no different than accusing Jews of poisoning wells or using the blood of children to make matzot 300 years ago.
Sadly, Israel has more than enough experience in dealing with these outrageous falsehoods. When you are the only Jewish state on Earth, there will always be people who will hate it for that very reason. Israel continues to fight anti-Semitism by showing the world how to behave nobly and in spite of the hatred. I wish all countries in the world, and especially in the Middle East, had the moral character and strength of Israel. If that were the case, we would live in a better world.What about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East? What more can be done to help protect them?
First, it’s important to speak out. Silence is what allowed the Nazis to implement their “Final Solution,” silence is what made mass murder elsewhere possible. We need to look at all options to stop this slaughter of men, women and children in the Middle East and in Africa. The United Nations must do more. Muslim countries need to do more to oppose the fanatics in their ranks. Islamic State and like-minded groups cannot be appeased; they must be defeated.
A great and concerted effort by the international community is needed to accomplish this. What has been done so far is not good enough.You are hosting a panel at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York. What will your focus be? What message do you hope to get across?
My message is this: Silence and indifference to dictators and hate mongers led Europe in a war that killed 60 million human beings and left the continent in rubble. We cannot be silent again. We cannot be silent to the growing trend of anti-Semitism on the far Left, the far Right and radical Islam. We cannot be silent when the European media singles out Israel unfairly.
The world must never again try to appease tyrants. It doesn’t work.
We’ve seen that it doesn’t work. The world must stand up to the slaughter of Christians. When any group is threatened, we are all threatened.
That will be my message at the conference.
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