Antisemitism is on the rise, but why now?

Some of the antisemitic narratives of today originated in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and even 80s.

Muslims attend a rally to show solidarity against extremism in Cologne, Germany, in 2017. (photo credit: THILO SCHMUELGEN/REUTERS)
Muslims attend a rally to show solidarity against extremism in Cologne, Germany, in 2017.
One of the more interesting questions in the context of the current outbreak of antisemitism is the question of timing. Why now? What is it about the end of the second decade of the 21st century that accounts for the sharp jump in antisemitism around the world, including the United States?
An attempt to isolate the decisive factor that has led to this change brings different explanations. Some attribute Muslim immigration to Europe as the cause, which brought with it the perception of Judaism in Islam and Middle Eastern discourse, which it then transmitted to Western audiences. Others will speak about the transfer of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the global sphere, with an emphasis on the West, through civic organizations or through chosen policy of the Palestinian leadership. Some blame the liberal-progressive discourse, which has become more radicalized and divides the world into good and bad, oppressed and oppressors, which does not allow complex reality to interfere with its dichotomous worldview. Perhaps this is the policy based on feelings of guilt adopted in Europe after the Second World War. Perhaps it is due to the process of mutual radicalization of politics in Western countries. Or, it could be the contribution of globalization and technology, which, despite all of its positive aspects, allows the importation, distribution and access to negative ideas at the speed of light – the social networks that allow anyone, no matter how radical, to obtain a platform to market their wares in the marketplace of ideas. Or, perhaps, in reality, it’s the culmination of an ongoing campaign, coming after decades of systematic blackening of Israel’s name, whether by organizations such as the UN, international organizations like Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, or even countries that use antisemitism or anti-Israelism as a political tool.
All of these causes are true, But none of them are new phenomena. Progressive liberal discourse has existed for decades. Some of the antisemitic narratives of today originated in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and even 80s. Other manifestations have been present in our lives long enough so as not to be perceived as new, by the end of the second decade of the 21st century.
Is it possible that we are asking the wrong question? Instead of asking which factor was reintroduced or added to our lives that brought us this old-new scourge, perhaps we should ask ourselves – what has disappeared from the global system that has allowed the plague of darkness to break through?
What has changed in the system of checks and balances, which has removed some of the obstacles, and allowed this eruption?
It may be worthwhile to take a different look at the explanations that have been given thus far. Over the past two decades and even more so, in the past five years, there has been a sharp upsurge in all of these behaviors, each of which alone, can have the effect of provoking antisemitism. The simultaneous increase in all of them, as well as their mutual effects have caused this spiral, which enables and explains the current eruption.
Muslim immigration to Europe has occurred in the past, but not in the same numbers and swiftness, nor from the countries from which the immigrants have come since the Arab Spring, and even more so since 2015. This migration has brought about a change in the public discourse, internal and international politics. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been present in the global arena, but since the 2001 Durban Conference – a UN-sponsored orgy of antisemitism and anti-Israel behavior – it has become the chosen form of struggle and the campaign has been transferred to the Western civic arena, forming coalitions with the next generation and other minorities. The liberal-progressive discourse has evolved into a discourse of extremism, a new, almost a new religion, totalitarian in its conduct, that does not allow those who are not affiliated with all its values, including anti-Israel and anti-Zionism stands, to be inside the tent. The groundbreaking technology that previously allowed for the production, dissemination and accessibility of ideas, has amplified extremist ideas as part of the business model of its existence and has enabled a legitimate existence for those who had previously been denounced by society. Furthermore, those who possess this great power have not assumed a corresponding responsibility to match their potential influence. So much has been written about the UN and international organizations, that it is surprising that the countries that need these bodies the most have not yet lifted the banner of rebellion against them in light of the obsession of these organizations with the Palestinian issue.
But beyond the rise in antisemitism, a more fundamental and pressing problem is the potential negative impact on the existing global order.
The author is the former director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry.