Battling antisemitism

We can’t let people who hate Jews and Israel set the agenda.

The site of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz II-Birkenau (photo credit: REUTERS/KACPER PEMPEL)
The site of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz II-Birkenau
A day after the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, it is incumbent on all of us to make sure that the worst genocide in history is not forgotten, and to act vigilantly against the scourge of antisemitism in all its forms, including Israel-hatred, around the globe.
Last week’s visit to Israel by some 50 world leaders under the auspices of the World Holocaust Forum Foundation, Yad Vashem and the President’s Office conveyed the unequivocal message that they would stand together to fight antisemitism wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.
In the words of World Holocaust Forum president Dr. Moshe Kantor in his address to Thursday’s “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism” event: “We are together today, united in our words and in our belief for a future free from antisemitism, racism and xenophobia.”
But as Kantor himself said, words are not enough. Strong action must be taken to both prevent and combat outbreaks of antisemitism across the world.
President Reuven Rivlin called for a “full partnership in the fight against racism and the old-new antisemitism that is breaking out today in worrying ways. It takes the guise of superiority, national purity and xenophobia that worms its way into the heart of leadership and takes a terrible price in human life.”
Who is committing antisemitic atrocities? According to Natan Sharansky, who now chairs the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, antisemitism emanates from both the extreme Left and Right, and has also morphed from targeting Jews to targeting Israel.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Sharansky recommended the formation of an international alliance against antisemitism similar to the Soviet Jewry movement that preceded the collapse of Communism.
In his speech to the Yad Vashem forum, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that there are signs of hope, “and this extraordinary gathering is one of them.” But, as Netanyahu correctly noted, “We have yet to see a unified and resolute stance against the most antisemitic regime on the planet – a regime that openly seeks to develop nuclear weapons and annihilate the one and only Jewish state.”
He was, of course, referring to Iran, and called on governments around the world to join the vital effort to confront “the tyrants of Tehran.”
Several Jewish leaders have initiated their own programs against antisemitism. World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder, for example, has set aside $25 million to establish an organization called the Anti-Semitism Accountability Project (ASAP), with the mission of targeting politicians at all levels who engage in antisemitic discourse.
The 2019 Genesis Prize laureate, Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, pledged $20 million to establish a foundation dedicated to combating both antisemitism and BDS, the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
Philanthropists such as Lauder, Kraft and Kantor should be lauded for their efforts and encouraged to join forces, as Sharansky suggests. But perhaps the best advice on beating antisemitism comes from Bari Weiss, the New York Times journalist from Pittsburgh, where 11 Jews were gunned down while praying at the Tree of Life Synagogue in October 2018.
In examining that attack at her hometown synagogue in her book, How to Fight Anti-Semitism, Weiss argues that the world’s oldest hatred is now migrating toward the mainstream, amplified by social media and a culture of conspiracy that threatens everyone.
Weiss’s advice, put succinctly in an interview with the Post, is this: “As ever, our best strategy is to build, without shame, a Judaism and a Jewish people and a Jewish state that are not only safe and resilient, but self-aware, meaningful, generative, humane, joyful, and life-affirming – a Judaism capable of lighting a fire in every Jewish soul – and in the souls of everyone who throws in their lot with ours.”
We can’t let people who hate Jews and Israel set the agenda. It is the mission of the Jewish people today, more than ever before, to be a light unto the nations and lead the way in shining this light in the darkness of hatred and prejudice against Jews – and other peoples too.