(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
I wish to begin by looking at the Diaspora, where a phenomenon as old as the Jewish people itself has unfortunately returned and raised its ugly head – namely, antisemitism.
Antisemitism is prejudice at its most hostile, and it has always existed. Antisemitism, persecution of Jews simply because they are Jews, has taken different shapes and spread throughout the course of history. It culminated in the most atrocious crime in human history – the Holocaust – in which one third of our people was obliterated.
In those sinisterly dark days of the Nazi regime in Germany, the courts were complicit in both antisemitism and the annihilation.
Indeed, the path to eradication was paved when the Jews’ civil and human rights were denied, and the Jews – all Jews, young and old, infants and women – were classified as non-human, sub-human.
More than seventy years have passed since the defeat of Nazi Germany, and yet, the demon of antisemitism is rearing its ugly head once more in Europe, and even in the United States.
When swastikas are drawn at the entrance to a kindergarten, tombstones are overturned in Jewish cemeteries – these are important events that signify an outbreak, an upturn in antisemitism that had seemingly lain dormant and hidden.
It must be said clearly: The United States is not antisemitic, God-forbid. We are the best of friends, but even there, antisemitic incidents have occurred. The situation in Europe is no less severe.
As a Jew, as an Israeli, and as a descendant to a family that was mostly wiped out in the Holocaust, I cannot stand by and not express my concern at the current situation. Indeed, there have been many expressions of solidarity and support from countries, international organizations and civil society organizations, which have promoted international legislation and documents against the effects of antisemitism. We have heard declarations from world leaders condemning it.
We must be thankful for acts like these, but it is not enough.
There is a need for public education worldwide, in Europe and even the United States, about the ideas of human dignity and liberty, to realize the principles of “liberty, equality and fraternity” as the legacy of the French Revolution: Liberty, not tyranny; Equality, not discrimination; Fraternity, not hatred. There is a need to actively protect and promote human dignity and human rights. We must be constantly vigilant in our defense of democratic values consecrated with the blood of the victims of tyranny and hatred. This task is the responsibility of all branches of government everywhere, including Israel.
The importance of protecting human rights is one of the most important lessons that it is incumbent upon us to learn from our history as a nation. Lest we forget that if we fail to protect democracy, it will not be able protect us.Miriam Naor is president of the Israel Supreme Court.