Tonight at sundown Holocaust Remembrance Day begins. In Israel, it’s Yom Hashoah V’Gevurah – a day for remembering the Holocaust and the heroism. This particular date was selected by the Knesset in 1951 because it marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, a stunning example of heroism.
On Monday, I attended a class that is part of the Legal Grounds pilot law course named in memory of Salomon Benzimra z”l. We are very pleased at the progress of the classes – which provide important information about our rights in the land. (Write to me if you would like to know more.)
This class was taught by Prof. Eugene Kontorovich.
Eugene has been moving in a direction that is brilliant. He has done a carefully researched survey of how the world approaches situations that are akin to the Israeli situation, with regard to “occupation,” “settlements” and the like, and how these situations are addressed by the international community. International law, after all, applies to various nations in the same situation – or at least it should.
He offered a good deal of valuable information in the course of his lecture. But I want to leave you here with one thought, which rather encapsulates our situation:
When nations, entities and international bodies criticize Israel, they very frequently rely upon the charge that Israel is not acting in accordance with “international law.” This tends to shut down argument. International law? The standard by which other nations are required to function? Well…surely Israel should be required to act the same way.
What he has discovered, however, is just the reverse of what should have been expected. While Israel is charged with failing to adhere to “international law,” it turns out that other nations that are in similar situations are not accused of breaking “international law.” For example, the term “illegal settlements” – a clear pejorative – is applied almost exclusively to building Israel does and not to that of other nations, even when those nations have taken over territory that is not theirs and have actively encouraged their nationals to settle there.
So we can forget international “law” – a highly dubious construct. What we see is international “bias.” That bias has always been with us, but there is an enormous and alarming burgeoning of antisemitism and anti-Zionism in certain parts of the western world now. This connects directly to issues of the Shoah and I want to consider several facets of what is going on.
Antisemitism is the oldest and most persistent of hatreds. While it seemed to diminish significantly in the decades after the Holocaust, it never went away. Rather, it was suppressed: it was not considered good form to express Jew-hatred publicly after six million Jews had been horrendously murdered. But now that hatred has bubbled to the surface again and is considered quite acceptable in certain circles. Accompanying the public rise of this hatred is, of course, an increase in violence against Jews.
This situation is most critical in Europe, which has had a strong proclivity for antisemitism over the centuries. We’ve seen, in various parts of Europe at various times, expulsions, forced conversions, pogroms, blood libels, the inquisition, and the Holocaust.
Where we once associated antisemitism with the far right, which is perceived as fascist, it now also exists openly on the left. Nowhere is this being exhibited more blatantly than in the British Labor party.
The list of antisemitic statements by members of Labor, too extensive to include in its entirety here, has been documented by The Telegraph (UK).
The antisemitic sentiments expressed by some officials and prominent members of Labor have precipitated their suspension from the party. Chief among those suspended is Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London, who said Hitler supported Zionism. While Ilyas Aziz was suspended for Facebook posts that said Israel should be moved to the US, and included an illustration suggesting that Israelis drank the blood of Gazans.
Jeremy Corbyn, from the far left of the party, assumed the mantle of leader both of the Labor Party and of the Opposition as the result of elections last September.
While he publicly decries antisemitism in his party, and has, under pressure, appointed an independent panel to investigate, he is in fact far from clean on the issue himself.
“In a particularly disturbing reflection of attitudes on the Labor left, Mr Corbyn is accused of having given his support to a controversial mural in Tower Hamlets of stereotypical Jewish figures counting money at a Monopoly-style board resting on the backs of the poor…
“It was criticized as anti-Semitic even by the east London borough’s then mayor Luftur Rahman, who has himself been linked to extremists.
“Following complaints, Mr Rahman ordered the artwork to be removed, saying: ‘Whether intentional or otherwise, the images of the bankers perpetuate anti-Semitic propaganda about conspiratorial Jewish domination of financial and political institutions.’
“But Mr Corbyn questioned its removal.”
Corbyn also has close personal ties with questionable persons, such as Livingstone.
Sir Eric Pickles, the British government’s special envoy for post-Holocaust issues, said, when questioned by The Telegraph:
“Jeremy Corbyn has legitimized and unleashed a strain of antisemitism that has been lurking in the shadows of the Left for quite some time.” (Emphasis added)
While British commentator Douglas Murray (pictured) writes, about Corbyn (emphasis added):
“He is a man who has spent his political life cozying up to antisemites and terrorist groups that express genocidal intent against the Jewish people. He has worked closely with Holocaust deniers, praised antisemitic extremists and described Hamas and Hezbollah as his friends.” (Hamas calls its ties to Corbyn “a painful hit for the Zionists.”)
In response to current Labor positions, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) observed:
And, indeed, this is precisely to the point. The greater the influx of radical Islamists into Europe, the more virulently anti-Jewish will the positions of some European politicians be.
See this, from the Atlantic:
“But what makes this new era of anti-Semitic violence in Europe different from previous ones is that traditional Western patterns of anti-Semitic thought have now merged with a potent strain of Muslim Judeophobia. Violence against Jews in Western Europe today, according to those who track it, appears to come mainly from Muslims, who in France, the epicenter of Europe’s Jewish crisis, outnumber Jews 10 to 1.”
It is fairly obvious from what I’ve written above, but I want to make it explicit: Anti-Zionism is the new antisemitism. Antisemitism most certainly still exists, but in many cases anti-Zionism replaces it or is conflated with it. While fair and honest criticism of Israel is remains legitimate, what we are seeing is a virulent hatred of Israel aimed at shutting down the Jewish state. This, in the end, is what the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement is all about.
By way of example – and examples are legion: The former mayor of Blackburn, in Britain, now a Labor councillor for the city, Salim Mulla, has declared that
“Zionist Jews are a disgrace to humanity.”
It is Europe that is on the edge at this point, because of that lethal mix of traditional antisemitism and Muslim Jew-hatred.
But I want to caution that Americans best not be too complacent about what is happening across the sea. America has neither the long-standing tradition of virulent antisemitism that Europe does, nor an influx of Islamists in the percentage that Europe is coping with (although this may be coming).
However, America, in point of fact, is only a few steps behind.
Dennis Prager, writing in “A Dark Time in America,” says:
“…at no other time has there been as much pessimism — valid pessimism, moreover — about America’s future as there is today…
“Every distinctive value on which America was founded is in jeopardy.” (Emphasis added)
“According to the hate crime statistics kept by the FBI, Jews are the primary victims of religious hate crimes. More than 50% of all hate crimes (57% in 2014) are committed against them. For a point of comparison, anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2014 were 16%.
“If you include other groupings by ethnicity, race, or sexuality, Jewish people are still at the top. They are more than three times more likely to be the victim of a hate crime than any other group.”
This, my friends, is in America. In 2014, anti-Semitic attacks increased by 21%.
Most alarming of all is what goes on at many prominent US campuses, where liberal values are shot to hell, and Jews and those who support Israel are intimidated.
In the academic year 2014-15, ADL reported a 38% increase in anti-Israel activities on campuses.
Following a coast-to-coast tour of American campuses, Peretz Lavie, president of the Technion in Haifa, wrote, in “’Eviction notice’ for Israel on US campuses” (emphasis added):
“What began several years ago as a local initiative in a few universities has turned into a poisonous, organized and well-funded campaign with clear goals – isolating and boycotting Israel in general and the Israeli academia in particular…
“…incidents include protests, mock ‘checkpoints’ and ‘apartheid walls,’ and even ‘eviction notices’ slid under the doors of Jewish and Israeli students.
You might want to see this well-known video from 2010 of David Horowitz, of the Horowitz Freedom Center, at the University of California, San Diego, confronting a student supporter of Hamas, during the question session after he spoke:
And remember, this was six years ago.
Liberal pro-Israel Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz made quite a stir in January in a TV interview, when he spoke about the rampant demands for political correctness on college campuses.
University students, he lamented, have become “afraid of ideas” and have taken on a low tolerance for viewpoints that stand in opposition to their own.
Students, he observed, tend to display selective attitudes for which ideas are tolerated enough to have “safe spaces.”
“I know when I speak on college campuses in favor of Israel, I need armed guards protecting me from radical leftist students who would use physical intimidation. They won’t give me a safe space. They won’t give pro-Israel students a safe space…”
There is little more to say. The notion that Dershowitz should require police protection in order to defend Israel on American college campuses should send chills up and down your spine.
This, then, is my Yom Hashoah posting. What I have written here is intrinsically tied to what went on over 70 years ago, and the message today is that we must genuinely learn from what happened then. “Never again!” is a facile cry unless there is commitment behind it.
Wake up! Wake up! Open your eyes and act with determination, before it is too late.
In Europe, it likely is too late already. America still has time.
If there is one overwhelmingly significant difference between the Shoah and the current situation, it is the existence of a vibrant and strong sovereign Jewish state. Israel provides refuge to Jews at risk and reaches out into the world to lend support as it is possible.
Conversely, Israel hopes for the support of every fair-thinking and honorable individual. Support in the public sphere, when Israel is maligned and attacked and there are attempts made to isolate her. And support on college and university campuses, so that pro-Israel voices might be heard again without fear.
Israel, with her struggles, is a beacon of light in a world growing dark. The future of the Jewish people.
Think about this: If US university students have their minds poisoned by anti-Israel vitriol today, then US leadership twenty years from now will be very, very problematic with regard to positions on Israel.
A video of an Israeli Air Force fly-over at Auschwitz in 2003:
And Hatikvah – The Hope. Our national anthem, which, I’ve been told, was sung in Auschwitz:
As long as deep within the heart
A Jewish soul stirs,
And forward, to the ends of the East
An eye looks out, towards Zion.
Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free people in our land
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.
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