Fighting antisemitism

“It is impossible to say we admire the State of Israel and we want ties with the State of Israel, but we are neo-fascists,” President Reuven Rivlin said.

CNN logo (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
CNN logo
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
CNN should be commended for the swift action it took to terminate its contract with Marc Lamont Hill after his call on Wednesday for the establishment of a Palestinian state from “the river to the sea.”
A Temple University professor, Hill accused Israel of denying “citizenship rights and due process to Palestinians just because they are not Jewish,” and expressed his support for the BDS movement. Hill stressed that, although peace is an ideal, “We must not romanticize or fetishize it. We must promote nonviolence at every opportunity, but cannot endorse narrow politics that shames Palestinians for resisting, for refusing to do nothing in ethnic cleansing.”
“From the river to the sea” is a slogan used by those who support the elimination of the State of Israel, and, as a result, Israel was quick to react. Israel’s Consul General to New York Dani Dayan tweeted: “Marc Lamont Hill is a racist, a bigot, an antisemite. The fact that he is all this while in the payroll of CNN and Temple University is appalling.”
CNN was quick to act. By Thursday evening, CNN announced that Hill was no longer working with the news network. It was a swift and appropriate decision, one which Dayan said he welcomed.
“Antisemitism should not be allowed to become mainstream or prime time TV,” Dayan wrote.
The incident came just a day after the news network published a new poll showing that more than a quarter of Europeans think Jews have too much influence in the business and finance sector. Nearly one-in-four said that Jews have too much influence in matters of conflict and war.
Hill’s comment is a case example of the antisemitism CNN was reporting on a day before. He tried to hide his antisemitism as just criticism of Israel, a favorite tactic of many antisemites today.
Like Hill, they claim not to have a problem with Jewish people, but just issues with Israeli policies. The problem is that this is a masquerade. The obsession of Israel bashing and particularly the call for Israel’s disappearance is no different than the classic European antisemitism that culminated in the Holocaust.
Meanwhile Thursday, President Reuven Rivlin gave an interview to CNN and spoke about the rise of neo-fascism in Europe. “Someone who is neo-fascist is truly a person who is totally against the spirit, principles and values of the State of Israel,” he said.
“It is impossible to say we admire the State of Israel and we want ties with the State of Israel, but we are neo-fascists,” Rivlin continued.
Rivlin is right. Israel needs to be careful which European leaders it embraces and what message it sends when warming up to far-right politicians in Europe.
It needs to walk a delicate line like it is in Austria where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains relations with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, but the foreign ministry does not work directly with Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, appointed to her post by the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), the senior partner in the governing coalition.
Sadly, fascism and antisemitism seem to be on the rise, not just in Europe but also in the United States where a month ago 11 Sabbath worshipers were massacred at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Congregation. While the statistic is being questioned, the Anti-Defamation League recently reported a 60% increase in reporting of antisemitic incidents in 2017.
The ADL said that the sharp rise was due in part to a significant increase in incidents in schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row.
That is why CNN’s termination of its contract with Hill was so important. It sends a message that even academics like him are not immune to the consequences of spewing antisemitic rhetoric even under the claim that it is out of political or civil rights motivations.
While this is important, it will not be enough. Israel needs to use recent events and reports like the one on CNN to help countries across Europe adopt educational programs that promote religious tolerance and understanding. Antisemitism is not going to disappear. If not confronted with a frontal assault, it will sadly grow and fester.