Sacks: We need international response to anti-Semitism

"People are looking at anti-Semitism as if this were the 1930s."

uk rabbi sacks 88 (photo credit: )
uk rabbi sacks 88
(photo credit: )
The chief rabbi of Great Britain, Jonathan Sacks, believes that "people are looking in the wrong direction and reaching the wrong conclusions," about anti-Semitism. "People are looking at anti-Semitism as if this were the 1930s. This is not, this is the 21st century," Rabbi Sacks said in a telephone interview during his visit to Israel this week. "In the 1930s, you could talk about anti-Semitism as a phenomenon of a national culture," he said. "Today it's completely different. Firstly it has been globalized; secondly, it's very narrowly targeted. Much of the anti-Semitic material is being broadcast or written in Arabic. Most British people don't know about this at all. It's not being broadcast, it's being narrowcast. It's going to a very specific set of targets and when you combine that with the possibilities of modern terror, you don't need mass movements to create a very terrible phenomenon. Maybe you only need one or two extremists, and often people find it difficult to relate to this," he said. However, people are not dealing with the modern nature of anti-Semitism properly, Sacks said. "This new anti-Semitism is coming in new forms communicated by new media and we are still looking for it as if it was the old-style anti-Semitism, and it isn't like that at all. People are looking in the wrong direction and reaching the wrong conclusions," he said. He also spoke of his unease at the way modern technology has helped the spread of anti-Semitism. "What makes me uncomfortable is the real torrent of anti-Semitic material coming out of the Middle East that is being communicated by new technologies, such as satellite television and the Internet," he said. "Because of the global nature of satellite television and the Internet, because the broadcasting of hate is international, the response against it has to be international as well," he said. In January, Sacks spoke of a "tsunami" of anti-Semitism in places "a long way" from Britain, having said in October he said that for the first time in his memory there have been times when it has "been uncomfortable to be a Jew in Britain." However, he told The Jerusalem Post that "Britain is not an anti-Semitic society," although its leaders should not be complacent. "It's tremendously important for people in public life to have zero tolerance for it. And when they find people preaching hate, such as some of the radical imams, they have to stop it. They have to bring the process of law to bear. Incitement of hatred is illegal in B r i t a i n and the law has to be enforced," he said, noting that extremist clerics have been prosecuted for this crime. "British politicians are beginning to take the phenomenon [of anti-Semitism] seriously and they are beginning to stand firmly against it and they have reacted as I believe they should have done," he added. Sacks also called on the European Union to "take a stand" against the anti-Semitism being broadcast by the Palestinian Authority. "It has been complacent for too long. The Palestinian Authority television, especially on Fridays, has been broadcasting hate speech for years, and no-one has publicly protested. I read out to [UK] parliamentarians the text of some of those sermons and they were deeply shocked," he said. However, Sacks said he didn't have an answer for how the EU should deal with the new Hamas government in the PA. "How it should relate to Hamas has put Europe in a huge dilemma. But it's also putting Israel in a dilemma. I don't claim to have an answer to a problem that even the politicians don't claim to have an answer for," he said. Despite his clarion calls to British leaders and the EU, Sacks declined to comment on remarks made by London Mayor Ken Livingstone about the Reuben brothers, Jewish members of the syndicate building the 4 billion Olympic City in east London for the 2012 Olympic Games. "If they're not happy here, they can go back to Iran and try their luck with the ayatollahs, if they don't like the planning regime or my approach," Livingstone said.