Fighting anti-Semitism

As Netanyahu noted, while the desire to annihilate the Jews has not changed since the time of the Holocaust, “what has changed is the ability of the Jews to defend themselves.”

Train to Auschwitz 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Train to Auschwitz 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the single largest extermination camp built on European soil by the Nazi killing machine, devoted solely to the destruction of human beings – primarily Jews. In so doing, they revealed man’s despicable capacity for wreaking unfathomable cruelty on his fellow human beings.
In 2005, the United Nations designated the date International Holocaust Remembrance Day and it is recognized as such in most of the world. Though it is the destruction of European Jewry that is remembered, the day also has been imbued with a decidedly universal message as well.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s speech Friday, which alluded to bloodshed and extremist acts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali and elsewhere, emphasized this aspect of the day.
“In a world where extremist acts of violence and hatred capture the headlines on an almost daily basis, we must remain ever vigilant,” Ban said.
“Let us all have the courage to care, so we can build a safer, better world today.”
The ongoing violence among various sects of Islam – Sunni, Shi’ite, Alawite – and by extremist Islamists against the West is, and should be, a real concern. But it has little to do with the Holocaust’s legacy.
In contrast, the strain of lethal obsession known as anti- Semitism that led to the Holocaust remains viable and remarkably adaptable to this day. This rabid, illogical hatred of Jews continues to be built into the very DNA of extremist parties in Europe such as Greece’s Golden Dawn party and Hungary’s Jobbik party.
But it has metastasized. Today the most widespread – and most deadly – expressions of fanatical Jew-hatred emanate from the Muslim world. The terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists in Toulouse and Burgas come to mind.
As noted by Ayaan Hirsi Ali in a recent op-ed in The New York Times titled “Raised on Hatred,” Muslims who think of Jews as friends and fellow human beings with a right to their own state “are a minority, and are under intense pressure to change their minds.” While there is a majority who say they have a positive attitude toward Jews in the US (82 percent), Russia (63%) and Western Europe – including Spain (59%) – according to a 2011 Pew survey, in the Muslim world the picture is radically different.
Just 9% of Muslims in Indonesia, 4% in Turkey, 4% in the Palestinian territories, 3% in Lebanon, 2% in Jordan, 2% in Egypt and 2% in Pakistan expressed favorable opinions of Jews. Israeli Muslims, in contrast, were more divided – as 48% expressed favorable views while 49% expressed negative opinions.
On this backdrop of pervasive hatred, comments made several years ago by Mohamed Morsi, the current president of Egypt, urging followers to “nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred for Jewish and Zionists” or that describe Zionists as “bloodsuckers” and “descendants of apes and pigs” should come as no surprise.
Nor should it come as a surprise that a new government study set to be released annually every International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was presented by Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein to the cabinet Sunday, showed a rise in anti-Semitic attacks, especially violent attacks by radical Islamic groups.
However, combating the sort of Jew-hatred promulgated in the Muslim world is difficult, particularly in academic circles, even if the dangers are obvious.
The mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Yale Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism in 2011 is a case in point. Accused of “Islamophobia” and “anti-Arab prejudice” because it dared to research and publicize Islamist anti-Semitism, Yale shut down the YIISA (which had been established in 2006), saying it “had not met its academic expectations.”
Too often, the politically correct culture dominating Western academia creates an atmosphere on campuses in which a critique of Muslim anti-Semitism is interpreted as nothing more than apologetics for Israel. In contrast, terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah are deemed to be “progressive” because they are anti-Zionist.
Unfortunately, there is a tendency to overly universalize the Holocaust or to delegitimize well-founded critiques of Muslim anti-Semitism as Zionist apologetics.
Thankfully, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted on Sunday, while the desire to annihilate the Jews has not changed since the time of the Holocaust, “what has changed is the ability of the Jews to defend themselves.”