Many people assumed that antisemitism died with Hitler in his bunker in 1945. Alas, that was wishful thinking.
In 2010, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of the frustration of combatting antisemitism: “Forms of antisemitism continue to evolve. You think you have one form in a box, another unfortunately appears," she told an audience at the State Department.
No truer words were uttered than those by Clinton.
Like today’s COVID-variants, history’s oldest hate refuses to die, it just continues to metastasize.In 1972, I visited the epicenter of state-sponsored antisemitism. Together with fellow activist David Koenigsberg, we spent a month with embattled Jews in six cities across the Soviet Union during the Cold War. We watched in awe as they fought a seemingly hopeless battle against a heartless atheistic regime bent on silencing three million Jews with its antisemitic cultural genocide.
We returned to the US transformed by these heroes but unsure how or if world Jewry could stop their brethren from being crushed by the mighty Soviet Union and fearful that its mighty propaganda behemoth would step up its vicious antizionist and antisemitic vendetta throughout the Iron Curtain, at the UN, and beyond.
Fast forward. The Soviet Union is no more, and more than a million Russian Jews were able to make aliyah.
The Chanukah menorah is kindled annually in Red Square. And one-time Gulag bound Refusenik, Natan Sharansky, was freed to leave a mighty imprint on his beloved state and people - in the Israeli Cabinet and as head of the Jewish Agency.
Most importantly, the official state-mandated, top-down drumbeat of antisemitic poison is no more. No more vile cartoons in Pravda, no more Moscow-led anti-Israel diplomatic crusades the UN, across Eastern Europe, in Third world capitals, or in the Arab world.
And yet today, we would be hard-put to find young Jews born in this century who have even a superficial inkling about those desperate days.
Why? Because there are no victory parades in the war against antisemitism. It has roared back, perhaps even more unpredictable, and dangerous than the horrible Cold War era.
How did we get from there to here? How do we inoculate ourselves from today’s insidious variants?
Two 21st century developments helped set the stage: First, the infamous UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban South Africa in 2001.
I was the spokesman for the Jewish NGOs, each of whom traveled to Africa to work with 3,500 other gatekeepers of civil society. Instead, we were targets of the most nefarious antisemitic hatefest since the Shoah.
Durban turned out to be an ambush of Israel, Zionists, Jews and Judaism by self-anointed guardians of human rights. What better place to libel Israel as an apartheid state than post-apartheid South Africa and under the umbrella of the UN? Canada’s human rights icon, Irwin Cotler said that the NGOs’ message was that the struggle against apartheid in the 20th century was to dismantle South Africa, and in the 21st it was to dismantle Israel.Today, 20 years later, we are still struggling against Durban.
Two years ago, I met with NYPD’s top law enforcement. “How do you account for the spike in violent hate crimes against Jews in New York in 2019?"
“Social media," was their immediate response.
It’s leveraged 24/7 to demonize and delegitimize Jews and Israel.
Social media is the other 21st century multiplier of virulent Jew hatred.
It provides the wind for the sails for BDS campaigns and other antisemitic incidents in universities and colleges across North America.
It has served as a platform for bestselling Irish author, Sally Rooney, who refuses to have her book translated into Hebrew.
It enabled an antisemitic Board Chair of Ben and Jerry’s to weaponize ice cream against the Jewish state.
The social media giants have done a despicable job in degrading online antisemitic hate. From Telegram to Twitter, to Tiktok, conspiracy theories blaming Jews for every evil, from 9/11 to COVID.
Thanks to social media, Jew-haters like Iran’s genocide-seeking Ayatollah Khamenei have access to multiple, multi-lingual platforms to spread pernicious false news demonizing our people.
There are two key items in our virtual tool chest to help us and our allies to fight back online and in the virtual world. The IHRA definition of antisemitism is one.
You cannot get effective laws passed or police action or judicial action undertaken without a functional definition. It has been adopted by nations, states, cities, and entities on both sides of the Atlantic. It is worth trying to get your local community, city council, and school board to adopt it.
Equally important are Sharansky’s 3 "D"s. Developed in wake of Durban, it is key to combatting today’s variants wherein antisemitism is cloaked in anti-Zionism. It zeroes in on three types of attacks against the Jewish state: Delegitimization, Double Standard, Demonization.
If criticism of Israel crosses one or more of these lines, you are dealing with antisemitism.
Finally, Trayvon White has declared that he wants to be the next mayor of Washington DC. White blames the Jews for manipulating the climate:"And DC keep talking about, ‘We’re a resilient city.’ And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man," he said in the now-deleted video. "Be careful."
Don’t worry Trayvon, we will.
Forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with 100% chance of antisemitism.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean and director of Global Social Action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights organization. Cooper has been a long time activist for Jewish and human rights causes on five continents and is an acknowledged expert on online hate and terrorism.
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous piece by Gideon Falter.