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While anti-Semitism is gaining ground both in Europe and the United States, Jews must fight back "without being intimidated," Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman told The Jerusalem Post Sunday.
The new form of American anti-Semitism, he said, is not unlike the old claims that Jews run the banks, the newspapers, Hollywood. The difference is that now, that perception is gaining ground in the mainstream.
Foxman said that over the last two years, questions of Jews' loyalty to the United States and to what extent Jews dictate American foreign policy, have been given new legitimacy.
"We have lived this for years, but never quite like today," he said.
Foxman cited former US president Jimmy Carter's recent controversial book, Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid, as a disturbing example of this trend. At the time of the book's publication, Foxman accused Carter of engaging in anti-Semitic rhetoric and was widely pilloried for doing so.
"The issue with Jimmy Carter is not that he doesn't like 'the wall' [Israel's security barrier,]" he said. "It's not that he loves the Palestinians. It's that a former president of the United States says that he was motivated to write this book because the Jews, the Israel lobby, AIPAC, so control the means of communication in America that you cannot debate [policy on Israel]."
Other examples abound. In "The Israel Lobby," an essay published last year in the London Review of Books, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, professors at the University of Chicago and Harvard, respectively, accused AIPAC and other organizations of using their power to "to prevent critical comments [about Israel] from getting a fair hearing in the political arena."
The ADL and other groups slammed the essay as anti-Semitic, sparking a fierce debate over the power of the Jewish interest groups. More than a few American intellectuals saw the ADL's response as proof that Mearsheimer and Walt were right.
This, Foxman said, is what made the new anti-Semitism so insidious. By claiming that the debate over American foreign policy is controlled by Jews, anti-Semitic rhetoric can be presented as the other, untold side of the story. Then, when Jewish leaders cry foul, they can be accused of trying to "stifle the debate."
"If someone would say that there was racism against blacks, Hispanics, Asians," he said, "no one would say that they were 'stifling debate.' Why is that acceptable for anti-Semitism?" Foxman asked.
He also addressed the problem of anti-Semitism in Europe, where he sees the recent University and College Union call for an academic boycott of Israeli universities as the latest incident in a rising trend of what he called "measured anti-Semitism."
"Anti-Semitism has never fully been eradicated in Europe," he said. "This is very troubling for the future."
A recent ADL poll in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland found that 51 percent of respondents believed that Jews were more loyal to Israel than to the countries in which they lived, he said. An average of 44% of those surveyed said Jews "probably" had too much influence in international financial markets. Close to half believed that "American Jews control US policy in the Middle East."
"On the one hand," Foxman said, "Europe has turned around on the issue of anti-Semitism in that it has stopped denying it and started doing things to fight it. Unfortunately, we don't see those things impacting."
While Foxman called for the world Jewish community to do all it could to fight anti-Semitism, he rejected the idea that the Israeli government should become involved. This move, he said, could damage Israel's relationship with other countries while doing little to help those countries' Jews.
"If we have a conference on anti-Semitism," he said, "sure, it could be here. But it would be better for it to be in Brussels. I think Israel is the ultimate answer to anti-Semitism, but as a place of refuge. The Law of Return is the most powerful weapon for fighting anti-Semitism that the Jewish people could have ever created."