ADL Lists Top Issues Affecting Jews in 2003
New York, N.Y., December 30, 2003 … The "Road Map", a head of state's anti-Semitic speech to Islamic nations, Mel Gibson's upcoming film "The Passion of Christ", terrorism, and threats to church / state separation, were among the issues most affecting the Jewish community in 2003, according to the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) annual list.
"This year we were faced with the hateful words of the then-Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, the Sabbath morning bombings of two major synagogues in Istanbul, the firebombing of a Jewish school in Paris, and the arson of a Holocaust museum in Indiana," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and author of Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism. "With anti-Semitism radiating out of the Middle Eastern media and with the possibility that Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of Christ' could reignite the two-thousand year old charge of deicide, the threat of the new anti-Semitism continues to grow."
Malaysian Prime Minister Says Jews Control the World
In his speech to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, then-Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad charged that Jews have taken over control of the world. He said, "today the Jews rule this world by proxy; they get others to fight and die for them," and called for a holy war against the Jews. Not since Adolf Hitler has a head of state delivered a speech so full of anti-Semitic rhetoric. World leaders were slow to condemn Mahathir's statements.
During Sabbath morning services on November 15, a pair of car bomb explosions blew apart two of Istanbul's largest synagogues, killing 26 and injuring more than 300 Jews and non-Jews. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attacks. In the face of such anti-Semitism and terrorism the Turkish Jewish community remained steadfast and received support from the Turkish government and Jewish communities around the world.
Official government newspapers and TV stations in many Arab and Muslim nations continued their daily vitriolic attacks against Jews, depicting Israelis as Nazis and spreading conspiracy theories that Jews control the world. During the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan, the Lebanon based satellite television network Al Manar, the official station of the terrorist group Hezbollah, broadcast a Syrian-produced series based on the anti-Semitic forgery the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. "Ash-Shatat" ("The Diaspora"), purporting to chronicle the history of the early days of Zionism while relying on vicious anti-Semitic stereotypical depictions of Jews, including the blood libel and the ritual murder of non-Jews, was viewed by millions of Muslims around the world.
After a spate of anti-Semitic incidents in France, including the arson of a Jewish school outside Paris, President Jacques Chirac promised a crackdown on anti-Semitism, while the Chief Rabbi of France sadly advised Jews not to wear kippot (skullcaps) in public. An E.U. commissioned poll on European anti-Semitism was withheld for several months after its completion for fear that it would anger Muslim communities. Another E.U. public opinion poll found that 59% Europeans, when provided with a list of 15 countries and asked which were threats to world peace, believed Israel is the greatest threat to world peace.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) announced it was planning to hold a conference on anti-Semitism in Berlin in April 2004 as a follow up to its conference in Vienna last June.
Extremist Leaders Arrested
The arrests of Matt Hale and Eric Robert Rudolph were major milestones in the fight against hate groups and domestic terrorism. Hale, the leader and self-proclaimed "Pontifex Maximus" of the racist and anti-Semitic Creativity Movement (formerly the World Church of the Creator), was charged with soliciting the murder of a federal judge and obstruction of justice. Rudolph was arrested after five years as a fugitive, in connection with a series of deadly bombing attacks, including the 1996 Olympic Park bombing during the Olympic Games in Atlanta.
The United States was not immune to acts of anti-Semitism as evidenced by the fire bombing of the CANDLES Holocaust Museum (Terre Haute, IN), where investigators discovered "Remember Timmy McVeigh" spray painted in the rubble, and the defacing of a synagogues and incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism in several of New York's Jewish communities and around the country.
Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ"
Mel Gibson's upcoming movie sparked controversy when he said he was going to tell "the truth" about the last 12 hours of Jesus' life. An early script reviewed by a panel of Jewish and Catholic scholars and the viewing of a rough cut of the film raised alarms that it could fuel anti-Semitism by charging Jews with deicide. Historically Passion Plays have been followed with acts of anti-Jewish violence.
On March 20, US led coalition forces launched a war on Iraq to bring down Saddam Hussein's regime as part of the war on terrorism. The regime fell quickly and Saddam Hussein was captured in December. Some of those opposed to the war attempted to put the onus for it on Jews, singling out the neo-conservatives in the administration with Jewish names. From members of Congress to the mainstream media, allegations of a Jewish influence were blamed for the invasion of Iraq.
Israeli Peace Process / "Road Map"
Hundreds of innocent Israeli civilians were killed or injured as Palestinian terrorists and suicide bomber attacks continued. In March, the Quartet (United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations) presented a Road Map for Israeli-Palestinian peace after the appointment of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. The Road Map stalled after the frequency of Palestinian suicide attacks escalated and Abbas' resignation.
To protect civilians from suicide attacks and to prevent the unending onslaught of terrorists, Israel began construction of a fence to serve as a security barrier with the Palestinian territories.
U.N. Anti-Israel Bias
The United Nations continued to hold Israel to a double standard by rejecting motions and resolutions in support of Israel. A resolution guaranteeing Israeli children the right to live without the threat of terrorism was rejected by the Third Committee of the General Assembly, when an almost identically worded document was overwhelmingly supported when it guaranteed the same rights to Palestinian children. The U.N. has universally condemned Israel's construction of the security fence, and Israel's treatment of the Palestinians with hardly a whisper of condemnation of Palestinian terror. In another example of UN bias, a resolution on religious intolerance omitted any mention of anti-Semitism and a motion to add anti-Semitism to the resolution failed due to lack of support.
Church / State Separation
The federal prohibition on state endorsement of religion faced several challenges over the year. Alabama's Chief Justice, Roy Moore, was removed from the bench after he violated a federal order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the State Judicial Building. A judge suspended Colorado's school voucher program; vouchers have been a contentious issue in the church / state debate by allowing taxpayer money to be spent on schools that teach religion as part of their curriculum. With its faith-based initiative stalled in Congress, the Bush Administration resurrected its faith-based platform through executive order, allowing federal monies to go to religious groups. Giving federal funding to faith-based organizations will allow for taxpayer money to fund organizations that are able to hire and fire based on religion.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.