Once upon a time not so long ago public manifestations of hatred against Jews lurked mainly in the shadows…writes Michael Kuttner.
Today with memories of the Shoah fading and survivors disappearing the longest running hatred is back with virulence unseen since the days when Europe delivered its Jewish Communities to demonization and death. No longer hiding in the shadows this latest updated version of Judeophobia encompasses a wide spectrum of virulence ranging from well-worn old-fashioned hate through more sophisticated conspiracy theories to outright abhorrence of the Jewish State.
This mutation is, not coincidentally, on full display during the week Jews worldwide commemorate and mourn the victims of the Shoah. The recent International Forum on combating anti-Semitism highlighted how thanks to social media the virus can be spread with lightning speed to all corners of the globe. Once again, as in the past, university campuses have become fertile ground for these poisonous seeds to be nurtured and flourish. Watered by academics and revisionist peddlers and given a boost by many politicians the campaigns of boycotts, delegitimization and demonization are making life for Jewish students very hazardous at certain academic institutions.
When the death camps were liberated at the end of the war General Eisenhower insisted that a documentary record be made of the horrendous sights encountered. In answer to critics who questioned the necessity for undertaking this task, Eisenhower replied that “in a few years time there will be those who claim that these atrocities never occurred.”
How true and prophetic his prediction turned out to be.
However even the most optimistic person could never have foreseen that in a relatively short span of time there would once more arise in Europe those who remembered nothing or more likely preferred to erase the memory of what had occurred in their midst. Shifting the blame from perpetrator to victim and trying to blur historical events would have been unimaginable and yet today we have countries and political parties which are doing exactly that. In some Baltic countries there are parades honoring those who participated in the roundup and murder of Jews. Victims of communism are equated with the Shoah and those who defend Jews are targeted for special attention. In parts of Europe political parties tottering dangerously close to the xenophobic conspiracy theories of the past have attained power or increased their representation in national parliaments. There is even a move to rewrite history and prosecute anyone who claims that local officials and citizens were complicit in helping the Germans to carry out their genocidal plans.
Parallel to the usual reasons for hating Jews we see the rise of venom directed against the Jewish State. The age old phenomenon of self loathing individuals trying to distance themselves from their heritage is alive and well and serves as a useful tool for the media. However, of far more serious concern is the rise of hatred from those who call themselves “liberal” and who embrace every form of ethnic identity except when it comes to Jews and their historical homeland.
Those who embrace socialism and who belong to parties or movements once in the vanguard of defending Jewish rights, now find that membership entails embracing a visceral hatred of Israel. In many cases the atmosphere has become so toxic that the only alternative is to resign. The UK Labour Party has been taken over by militant groups for whom the Jewish State is anathema. Its leader by his actions and words exemplifies everything that is rotten today in circles inhabited by knee jerk anti Israel ideologues. In fact the situation has become so poisonous that this week the leader of the Israel Labour Party has broken off all relations with the UK Leader of the Opposition.
There is every possibility that after the next UK elections this individual may become Prime Minister. Will British Jews then finally wake up to reality and move to Israel or will they continue to pretend that everything in the garden is rosy? With physical attacks against Jews on the rise in Europe what will it take for the message to get through? In South America and South Africa, many young Jews have already left but once again, as in the recent past, too many will leave it too late in too many countries. Often, one hears the excuse that in Israel Jews also face terror and hate. True, but at least here we are able to confront it and nobody need fear walking down the street wearing a kippah. Interviewed recently a resident of a Scandinavian city stated “I don’t wear a kippah or anything that would make me immediately recognized as Jewish. Despite that, I love living here!”
The other source of virulent Jew hatred is exemplified by what is taught, broadcast, shown and spoken about in the Arab/Moslem world. While there are a few Islamic religious and lay individuals who preach and teach tolerance the unfortunate reality is that the overwhelming majority are being seduced by siren songs of poisonous lies and age old libels. These videos courtesy of MEMRI are just a small example of what pours forth every hour of every day.
As we pay tribute to the victims of the Shoah, it is important to remember that the same techniques used to delegitimize Jews back then are once again being used today. Back in the 1930’s the international community remained silent and refused to act in time. Appeasement of hate and terror reigned supreme and too many preferred to look the other way or hallucinate that it was all overblown.
Do we fight back or once again keep a low profile and hope it will all blow over?
As Syria, with the help of friends, gasses its own citizens and Iran threatens to annihilate every Israeli can we confidently claim that lessons of the past have truly been learnt?
On Yom Hashoah the wailing sirens will remind us that the hate which once lurked undetected in the shadows is again out in the open.
Never again cannot remain just a slogan.
Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.