Celebrating those who fight antisemitism

Jewish and non-Jewish Americans alike seem to take it for granted that the antisemitism gaining more attention in Europe (where it never really left) couldn’t take root in the United States.

March 31, 2019 05:09
4 minute read.
BLUE AND WHITE leader Benny Gantz addresses the AIPAC Policy Conference on Monday.

BLUE AND WHITE leader Benny Gantz addresses the AIPAC Policy Conference on Monday. . (photo credit: REUTERS)


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As a child growing up in Germany in the 1990s and 2000s, I never could have contemplated something like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, where 18,000 people this week were in the American capital to express unabashed support for the Jewish state.

It’s quite a change from my youth, where despite hiding my Jewish identity, I experienced antisemitism in a country that Americans seem to think has profoundly changed from the society in which the Holocaust was born.

Jewish and non-Jewish Americans alike seem to take it for granted that the antisemitism gaining more attention in Europe (where it never really left) couldn’t take root in the United States.

Sadly, what I’ve seen and endured from two decades in Europe suggests quite otherwise.

Despite the excitement of seeing many thousands of Jews – with plenty of Christians, Muslims and others, too – in Washington, DC, proudly and vocally supporting Israel, some of us are painfully aware that it was just a few weeks ago that Democrats in Congress failed to harshly condemn hateful antisemitism.

It’s not lost on me nor on others at conference that Rep. Ilhan Omar tried to portray as dirty the very political activism that is at the heart of this event as by claiming that US support for the only free society in the Middle East results from Jews exerting control through money, a classic antisemitic trope.

While it might have seemed nice that Congress at least condemned all forms of hatred, including antisemitism, the resolution was more akin to responding to this month’s horrific murders of innocent Muslims in New Zealand by simply denouncing all forms of gun violence.

Yet, the very same factions of the “progressive” community that defended Rep. Omar had no problem decrying hatred of Muslims (correctly) but also blaming those attacks on opposition to illegal immigration or even just on President Trump.

The European establishment points to laws banning Holocaust-denial as proof of fighting antisemitism, but when leading politicians baselessly accuse Israel of war crimes for retaliating to rocket attacks by targeting terrorists, not only is there no outrage, many happily agree with criticisms that are nothing more than modern-day blood libels against Jews and the Jewish state.

THE ONLY time European elites seem to care about antisemitism is when someone from the Right is poised to win an election. In 2017, for example, media stories swept across Europe and the world, sounding the alarm about Sebastian Kurz, the dangerous right-wing politician who supposedly would allow or enable antisemitism. Reading those breathless warnings would have led almost anyone to believe that Austria was boiling over with hatred of Jews.

What happened once Kurz became Austria’s chancellor? The then-31-year-old who purportedly was ushering in a new dark era has become nothing short of the best leader in Europe for protecting Jews and fighting antisemitism.

Kurz swatted down a proposal to effectively ban kosher meat, and in November, he organized a conference aimed at fighting not just antisemitism but also anti-Zionism. In his opening remarks, he pierced the myth that holding Israel to different standards than any other nation is anything but veiled bigotry, stating: “Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are getting blurred, but they are two sides of the same coin.”

These were not merely words meant to please the audience in attendance. Months earlier, following an antisemitic hate crime in Vienna, the young Austrian leader tweeted his condemnation of the attack and assured Jews that his government would be doing “everything so that Jews can live safely in Austria.”

In Austria, Jews make up a tiny fraction of 1% of the population. Kurz’s actions aren’t a ploy for votes, and it’s both sad and ugly that it’s even necessary to dismiss leftist insinuations that politicians only support Israel because money motivates them to do so.

Despite reading the news daily in both German and English, giving me a good feel for events across Europe and my chosen home of America, I didn’t learn about Kurz’s actions from the same major outlets that so gravely warned about him before his election. I learned about his incredible record by searching for news stories NOT reported in those outlets.

Meanwhile, from the same corners where warnings arose about Kurz, there was curious silence about Rep. Omar. Even though the majority of Democrats and many others on the Left condemned the ugliness of her comments, the party as a whole couldn’t even pass a simple resolution denouncing antisemitism as starkly and specifically as their own party member had promoted it.

As we celebrate the freedoms of being in a country where we can attend something like an AIPAC Policy Conference without fear of violence or marginalization, we can’t take it for granted that America will always be this special, beautiful place it is for me and my fellow Jews.

We must strive every day to maintain it.

The writer is a fashion consultant, public speaker and was the first Jewish Miss Germany.

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