Anti-Semitism Becomes Global Plague
Though counter-intiutive, at times we are too close to events to fully appreciate their dimension and meaning. Such is the case today as we face a dramatic resurgence of global anti-Semitism
From the vocal to the violent, Jew-hatred of the past confronts us today with new energy, new advocates and, unfortunately, new accepting audiences. It is variously packaged for the masses, minorities and the misfits.
Take the antiglobalism movement. One finds anti-Semitic threads woven into its tapestry of ideas, with global currencies and markets portrayed as oppressive expressions of ''international Jewish control.''
In a lead article on antiglobalism, the current issue of the Carnegie Endowment's prestigious Foreign Policymagazine reports a 12-year high in the number of attacks on European Jews, noting that ''Not since Kristallnacht, the Nazi-led pogrom against German Jews in 1938, have so many European synagogues and Jewish schools been desecrated.''
The problem has finally caught the attention of the countries which make up the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In December, OSCE ministers from 55 member states agreed to hold a conference on anti-Semitism in Berlin in April 2004.
Nor is this ''new anti-Semitism'' exclusively a European phenomenon.
* Mahathir Mohammad, Prime Minister of Malaysia, at the 10th Islamic Summit Conference said: ''The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy -- 1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews.'' He got an enthusiastic ovation from the leaders of more than 50 nations, in response to his call for a holy war against Jews.
* Two synagogues in Istanbul were recently attacked with powerful and lethal terrorist bombs.
* In Florida on December 21, a new Muslim learning center south of Orlando held its inaugural event, with invited speakers including Shaikh Abdur-Rahman Al-Sudais, the imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, who was quoted in newspapers in April 2002 as calling Jews ''the scum of humanity, the rats of the world, the killers of prophets and the grandsons of monkeys and pigs.'' After a public outcry, his invitation was withdrawn.
* In Terre Haute, Indiana, a Holocaust Museum dedicated to the children who were experimented on by in the infamous Dr. Mengele was burned to the ground.
* In New York City there has been a serious increase in anti-Semitic incidents involving vandalizing of Jewish property -- 32 cases last month alone.
The history of mankind is replete with examples where words and perverse ideas have moved people to action. Anti-Semitism is a prototypical example. From discriminatory exclusion of Jews through the centuries, to the culminating horror of the Holocaust's industrialization of murder, the Jewish community has learned the lessons of history the hard way.
Anti-Semitism's themes are old, but its delivery technologies are as modern as the Internet and satellite communication. It finds receptive audiences among both the ignorant and the educated. Its purveyors are extremist bigots of both the political right and the political left. Today's engines of anti-Jewish bigotry include both organizations and nation-states, with all of the latter's financial and political muscle.
They say that those who don't know history are destined to repeat it. Perhaps. But there are also those, perversely, who do know history and want to repeat it.
Some 60 years ago, Jews and other minorities were dispatched to camps in Europe and killed by the millions in an environment saturated with anti-Semitism. With the history of the 20th century as a guide, who could have predicted that early in the 21st century the 1 million Jews in who live in Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and Denmark would again feel under siege, with attacks on Jewish students, rabbis, Jewish institutions and Jewish owned-property?
Some European leaders blame anti-Israel sentiment among radicalized elements in their rapidly growing Muslim populations. They are partially correct. Also true is that the violence has occurred in an environment where governments and leaders have failed condemn anti-Semitic violence, or have at best been slow or tepid in their response. The message to Europe's burgeoning immigrant population is that there is a certain level of acceptance of such intolerance.
Historians note one way of determining the health of a nation's democracy is by examining the condition of its Jewish community. Doing so today we can see that democracy and the ideal of tolerance, one of its core expressions, are under assault in much of the world. To ignore this situation compounds a dangerous problem.
What does history teach? No matter the perpetrator or the victim, good people must not turn away nor shrink from the fight against bigotry. This is no time for bystanders. Not now, not ever.
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