The number of antisemitic incidents around the world has increased sharply, particularly in the form of delegitimizing Israel, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told the “New Tools in Combating Contemporary Antisemitism” conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Tuesday. Despite the conference’s intention to focus on combating antisemitism, much of the time was devoted to detailing how antisemitism has become even more prominent in recent years, with the Jewish state becoming the number-one target.
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt joined Greenblatt at the conference among some of the world’s foremost experts on combating antisemitism.
The conference, hosted by Hebrew University vice president Yossi Gal, featured lectures and panel discussions from a variety of prominent personalities. Nides delivered the opening remarks, emphasizing the difference between debate and antisemitic rhetoric.
“I have no problem when members of Congress or public officials want to debate the topic of Israel,” Nides said. “If you want to talk about foreign assistance, the Iron Dome [or] Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians, I’m fine with that. When you cross the line between debate and antisemitism, that’s when we need to put our foot down.”
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai followed Nides and said the institutions that combat antisemitism should be consolidated. He also discussed the new form of antisemitism “characterized by delegitimization of the State of Israel and double standards for Jews.”
A changing attitude in the Gulf
Lipstadt delivered the keynote address as part of her first trip in her current role. She started her speech by joking in Hebrew about not being able to find her car at the university. Lipstadt, who is famous for her trial victory against Holocaust-denier David Irving, opted to begin her trip in Saudi Arabia, as the country has not yet normalized relations with Israel.
Nevertheless, the ambassador noted that Saudi Arabia has changed dramatically in recent years.
“There has been a tremendous change in attitudes and behavior regarding the position of women, certain religious rules and more,” she said.
Attitudes toward Jews are also shifting in Saudi Arabia, according to Lipstadt.
“I met with the heads and staffs of entities focused on combating extremism and hatred, met with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [and] met with the minister of Islamic affairs. The deputy foreign minister proudly told me, ‘I come from Medina, a city with Jewish history.’”
Lipstadt said young Saudis made her feel hopeful for the future.
“I talked with young people who seemed willing to come to terms with the geopolitical conflict [in Israel] and the fact that antisemitism is something separate,” she said. “This was an important first step. There is willingness to continue these conversations. This was only my first trip to Saudi Arabia, because I think there is room to move things forward. There is a change of foot in this region.”
Antisemitism is a unique form of prejudice
WITH REGARD to antisemitism specifically, Lipstadt described what makes it unique compared to forms of prejudice.
“It is a prejudice like other prejudices,” she told the audience. “However, it is also a conspiracy theory, and that’s what makes it unique; the idea that Jews use their wealth, power, smarts – but their malicious and evil smarts – to wreak havoc on the world.”
Lipstadt used the “Great Replacement Theory” as an example to illustrate her point.
“The Great Replacement Theory is not new,” she said. “The idea being that there is an effort to destroy white Christian culture by flooding Europe, for example, with black people, brown people and Muslims.” According to Lipstadt, proponents of the theory say, “These people are not smart enough to be doing this on their own. There has to be someone behind the scenes, someone who knows how to do their evil work without getting caught.” The people behind the scenes, needless to say, are in their minds, Jews.
The other distinguishing feature of antisemitism that Lipstadt mentioned is its ubiquity. Unlike other forms of prejudice, antisemitism “comes from every place on the political spectrum. It is not Right, Left, center. It comes from Muslims, Christians, atheists and Jews.”
Antisemitism has developed into the delegitimization of Israel
A panel discussion on the Abraham Accords that included Jonathan Greenblatt followed Lipstadt’s address. Greenblatt highlighted the alarming increase in antisemitic incidents around the world, sharing that there were more than 2,700 antisemitic hate crimes in the US last year – nearly triple the number from 2015. He said the Abraham Accords were an important step in combating global antisemitism.
“The Abraham Accords are so important because they were people-to-people driven diplomacy,” Greenblatt said. “Delegitimization of Israel is one of the main forms of antisemitism in the 21st century. At ADL, we’re working with the UAE to look at their textbooks for antisemitism. Slowing the poison by working with these countries can be very helpful to combating antisemitism worldwide.”
“Delegitimization of Israel is one of the main forms of antisemitism in the 21st century. At ADL we’re working with the UAE to look at their textbooks for antisemitism. Slowing the poison by working with these countries can be very helpful to combatting antisemitism worldwide.”Jonathan Greenblatt
Noa Tishby, the actress who serves as the Israeli special envoy for combating antisemitism and delegitimization, then spoke about what can be done to curb online antisemitism.
“Online delegitimization of Israel is a new, hip social-justice cause,” Tishby remarked. “It is now, in certain circles, the norm.”
To fight antisemitism on the Internet, Tishby advocated for the formation of a task force involving Meta, Google, Amazon and Apple and modeled on the Global Counterterrorism Forum.
Although many statistics indicating a rise of antisemitic incidents – particularly those calling for Israel’s delegitimization – were cited throughout the conference, Lipstadt urged Jews to be careful when labeling something as antisemitic.
“If you call everything antisemitism, when there is a real act of antisemitism nobody pays attention, or worse, they dismiss you,” she stated. “I rarely call someone an antisemite. I call what they are doing antisemitic. But we have to be judicious so that when we criticize something, it speaks in that way.”