Can Israel's No. 1 priority to fight modern anti-Semitism - hatred of the Jewish state - influence a change in behavior of the international community? The Foreign Ministry, which opens its third annual Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism (GFCA) on Wednesday in Jerusalem, is slated to tackle the growing dangers of Islamic anti-Semitism and international campaigns to strip Israel of its legitimacy as a country.
According to the GFCA registration list, over 500 participants plan to attend the two-day conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Delegations comprising diplomats, academics, and policy makers from the United States, Germany, France, Hungary, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Venezuela and Argentina are listed on the GFCA roster. The Swedish Embassy confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that its ambassador and MPs planned to attend.
Anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli sentiments are mushrooming in Europe.
In early December, the University of Bielefeld in Germany issued its new study - "German Situation" - examining anti-Semitism in the Federal Republic in particular, and Europe in general. The study showed a spike in hatred towards Jews in Germany.
According to the Bielefeld report, 41.2 percent of Europeans agreed with the anti-Semitic statement that Jews are exploiting the Holocaust to advance their own interests. When asked if "Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians," 45.7% of the European respondents supported the contention.
While the European Union (EU) has a working definition of anti-Semitism that captures Israel-bashing and resentments against the Jewish state because of Europe's complicity in the Holocaust, the definition is largely ignored by the media and politicians.
Dr. Beate KÃ¼pper, a professor at the University of Bielefeld and one of the authors of the Bielefeld study, told the Post on Tuesday that there has been a "modernization of the stereotype" against Jews. Classic anti-Semitism, for example, that attributes avarice as a defining motivation for Jews is no longer front and center in European public discourse. KÃ¼pper said that Europeans were using "indirect ways" to express anti-Semitism, such as by targeting Israel and by claiming a misuse of the Holocaust.
A telling example of Europe's failure to grasp the contemporary manifestation of anti-Semitism took place in Hamburg. After anti-Israeli German Leftists in late October prevented the showing of director Claude Lanzmann's debut film, Why Israel, he termed last week the German media's indifference to the ban of his film as the "larger scandal."
Germany is a peculiar case. The government pledged to combat global anti-Semitism at a 2004 conference in Berlin. However, BBC polls in 2007 and 2008 show Germans (tied with Spain in '08) as harboring the most anti-Israeli attitudes within the EU.
Critics charge that many policy-makers and politicians are consumed with preventing harm to dead Jews rather than focusing on threats to living Jews. Petra Pau, a Left Party MP in the Bundestag, frequently issues the results of her parliamentary queries documenting vandalized Jewish cemeteries in Germany. Yet Pau avoids criticizing members of her party who equate Israel with Nazi Germany, and who attended pro-Hamas and pro-Hizbullah rallies during Operation Cast Lead and the Second Lebanon War, where calls for the destruction of Israel were advocated.
On the other side of the Atlantic, there has been disappointment with the Obama administration's new anti-Semitism czar. The growing tendency to blame Israel for problems affecting Diaspora Jews has plagued Hannah Rosenthal, the newly appointed US special envoy to monitor and combat global anti-Semitism, who is slated to speak at the GFCA on "Dealing with Old and New Forms of Antisemitism."
"It's a scary time, with people losing the ability to differentiate between a Jew, any Jew, and what's going on in Israel," Rosenthal has said.
Michael Goldfarb, writing in his Weekly Standard blog, sharply criticized Rosenthal for suggesting that "the Israelis have it coming" and "the rest of the world needs to distinguish between the good progressive Jews who are not living on Palestinian land and the Israeli Jews who are committing daily atrocities in the name of colonialism and occupation."
The weekly Brooklyn-based Jewish Press editorialized against Rosenthal's appointment, and asked if "President Obama subscribes to Ms. Rosenthal's implication that Israeli Jews are fair game for anti-Semitic attacks, as opposed to non-Israeli Jews who are not?"
The alarm bells rang loudly last year when Anti-Defamation League director Abraham H. Foxman wrote an open letter to Rosenthal in the New York Jewish Week, in which he slammed her for describing an Israel solidarity rally as representing "narrow, ultra-conservative views of what it means to be pro-Israel." The ADL, however, did issue in late November a statement saying "this appointment signals the continued seriousness of America's resolve to fight anti-Semitism."
Rosenthal is a member of the J Street Council, a liberal Jewish advocacy organization, that rejects sanctions against the Iranian regime. The timid J Street approach to the world's No. 1 exporter of anti-Semitism, the Islamic Republic of Iran, will surely prompt observers at the Global Forum to closely monitor Rosenthal's posture toward Iran's revolutionary anti-Semitism.
But Rosenthal has a mixed track record. While serving as the head of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), she urged the Europeans to walk away from future UN anti-racism conferences modeled on the Durban event in 2001, which was widely considered to be a bottomless pit of anti-Israeli hatred. The JCPA, under Rosenthal at the time, wrote in a statement that "continuing to use international forums in an attempt to isolate Israel diplomatically will only make it more difficult to resolve the issues in dispute through direct, bilateral negotiations."
For the international community to shift its energies to combat modern anti-Semitism - the intense loathing and disparate treatment of Israel - will require wholesale revisions in their anti-anti-Semitism strategies on the ground.