In approximately 10 days, the Jewish people will mark the anniversary of their truly miraculous salvation from the decree of annihilation issued in the wake of incitement and hate disseminated by a man named Haman in ancient Persia. Eons have passed since the Purim story was written down, but it represents the first documented antisemitic event in history, one that was incorporated into the Book of Books, narrating the history of the Jewish people. A purposeful decree, that was intended to wipe out the Jewish people originated with xenophobia expressed toward a people that was “different” and “dispersed among the peoples.” Within it, lay Haman’s solution, one he claimed would “spread peace throughout the Persian Empire” – and it consisted of an order to commit the mass genocide of all Jews, without exception.
Centuries have passed since the Jewish people were saved from that decree of destruction, but the memories of its hardships, discrimination and pogroms Jews have undergone – the Spanish Inquisition, the Blood Libels, and other attempts of annihilation – remain ever-present in the collective consciousness. In recent years, the lesson we so dearly hoped had been imbibed – after the hate and discrimination led to the genocide of one third of Jews during the Holocaust – has evidently dissipated into thin air. In its stead, we are witnessing a complete reversal: the repellent form of escalating extremism rears its head anew worldwide and has become increasingly focused in substance. Eminent politicians and members of parliaments in enlightened countries, no longer attempt to conceal their aversion from what they term “increasing Jewish control over the global economy and media.” Today, it is an incontrovertible fact that there are international organizations around the world that are working openly against the Jews and the State of Israel.
At the UN – an organization established for the purpose of preventing wars, preserving human rights and achieving world peace – certain member states exploit the international platform to issue calls for our destruction. Others hold a record that bears no more than a coincidental resemblance to a respect for human rights. Within this organization, the antisemitic rhetoric of many member states is being completely ignored, and anti-Israel resolutions are promoted with impunity, in blatant expression of a dual morality.
The classic forms of antisemitism ingrained in some of the world’s nations – the historical hatred for Jews per se – have become intertwined with modern antisemitism, the hatred for migrants and extremist attitudes that threaten the Jewish state’s right of existence in the Land of Israel.
What is really happening? Antisemitic positions have become embedded in various parliaments while antisemitic rhetoric is being vented by politicians and journalists; at the same time, international organizations and institutions are being utilized to promote and channel antisemitic and anti-Israel agendas. All of this is filtering down onto the streets and into online media without impediment - being translated de facto into beating up Jews on the streets, rampant incitement across social media, the dissemination of hatred, the desecration of cemeteries and synagogues, incidents of threatening behavior, harassment, vandalism and calls to boycott Israel. Last, but not least, it has escalated to the murder of Jews during a Shabbat prayer service in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In Europe, mezuzot on the front doors of Jewish homes are being relocated to the inner section of the doorpost in a timely manner, at best. At worst, they are being gouged from doorposts by brainwashed, antisemitic vandals. European Jews are attempting to downplay any outward showing or symbols of their Jewishness and there is a genuine, growing fear of being openly identified as Jewish, whether in public or online. This represents the lot that has now befallen a large proportion of our brethren.
In the absence of regulatory provisions and as a result of the many who prefer to “turn a blind eye” to what they term are “marginal incidents” perpetrated by “extremists” (at best), or the “psychologically unstable” (at worst), antisemitism has managed to expand its grasp. It has now successfully established itself in many locations, unleashing a reign of terror among Jews everywhere.
Our partnership as leaders, in working together with sovereign governments, parliaments and authorities worldwide, is crucial to the empowerment of the campaign to counter this phenomenon. Our initial objective should be to refine the concept. Every Jew in the world holds the right to reside wherever he or she prefers, similar to any citizen in any country of residence. It is the duty and responsibility of sovereign governments and the forces of law to guarantee the protection and security for every Jew, just like it is granted for any citizen of that country. This right needs to be guaranteed, in tandem with education toward tolerance, the acceptance of others and the provision of freedom of religion and worship.
An increasing number of governments worldwide have now taken note of the gravity of the situation and have agreed to mobilize to counter antisemitism. On February 21, after a week of rampant antisemitism in France, President Emmanuel Macron announced that France would adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s official definition of antisemitism, whereby the negation of the State of Israel’s right of existence constitutes antisemitism. He placed France alongside Britain, Austria, Scotland, Romania, Germany, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Moldavia, the Czech Republic and Greece.
Much work remains to be done. World leaders need to recognize that the issue of countering antisemitism needs to appear on their agendas. Antisemitism is antisemitism and it is hate. It represents hatred for the unfamiliar, the foreigner among us – any foreigner. Once hatred for a Jew exists, it spreads like a forest fire, diversifying into other forms of hatred, discrimination against those who are different, their exploitation, their exclusion, and even their murder.
Our potential strength in this struggle lies in the integration and mobilization of governments and organizations. First, however, it must begin with a cognitive change – namely, that antisemitism constitutes a hatred of the other. While directed today against Jews, tomorrow it may move to target other outside groups.
However, the call to join the fight to counter antisemitism is directed not only at governments but at law enforcement as well. It is intended for each and every one of us, in Israel and around the world. This includes those reading this article and those surfing the Internet, the members of youth movements and campus activists. It begins with letters to the editor, through complaints to websites and social networks demanding the removal of antisemitic content, to reporting to law enforcement about antisemitic attacks, incitement on the street, swastika graffiti and calls to violence.
Raising the threshold of public awareness to the intolerable level and placing the issue of antisemitism on the public agenda are vital steps that will enable the recruitment of international organizations to join in countering this reprehensible phenomenon.
Throughout the 2,000 years of our exile, deprived of an independent homeland for the members of our people and without a sizeable concentration of Jews in any free country, the Jewish people were compelled to live in ghettos and in dispersed communities, with an accusatory finger pointed at them that noted: they are different, they are the “other.”
The State of Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, established by the survivors from those annihilated in the Holocaust, stands fast. It is, and will continue to be, the national homeland of any Jew who desires to come. Nonetheless, all sovereign states are obligated to ascertain the provision of freedom of religion and worship, education for tolerance and acceptance of the other, and to ensure the safety of Jews living there, just as they would to any citizen. For 71 years, the innovative, strong, democratic, Jewish state has stood behind Jewish communities worldwide. It will continue to stand beside the members of our people at all times, just as our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora have stood, are standing and will stand alongside the Jewish state.
Against the backdrop of escalating antisemitism, the growth of expressions of hatred and the increasing severity of the attacks, protests are being organized around the world for this coming Sunday, March 10 in many locations. These assemblies will issue a call to stem the rise of antisemitism, but first and foremost will aim to stop hate. Both hatred toward Jews, and also hatred for those who are different, the “other,” the foreigner, are an inevitable extension of antisemitism.
I am inviting all those reading this article to attend one of these assemblies, to call for a relentless struggle against this horrific malaise and to make this call heard: antisemitism stops here – hate stops here and now!
The writer is the vice-chairman and deputy chairman of the World Zionist Organization.