ADL Lists Top Issues Affecting Jews In 2004
New York, N.Y., December 21, 2004 … Gaza disengagement, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of The Christ", the death of Yasir Arafat and Protestant divestment from Israel were among the issues most affecting the Jewish community in 2004, according to the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) annual list.
"With Prime Minister Sharon's bold Gaza disengagement plan and the death of Yasir Arafat we have, after a long wait, a real opportunity to develop a legitimate partner for peace and a framework for a peaceful Palestinian state," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "Europe has begun to realize the scope and danger of anti-Semitism, and is working to curb its spread. The threat of global anti-Semitism still exists, with Middle Eastern media plying it as its stock and trade and new technology making it available to a worldwide market, the threat is just as real as it has been."
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon put forth an historic plan to unilaterally disengage from the Gaza Strip and areas of the West Bank. Four years of unabated Palestinian terrorism, lack of action to impede terrorism by the Palestinian Authority, lack of a responsible partner for peace and the need for Israel to protect its citizens, led Sharon to propose a four-phase withdrawal of settlements and Israeli troops from Gaza and portions of the West Bank. In October 2004, the Knesset voted 67-45 in favor of the plan, with seven abstentions.
President George W. Bush was reelected in November garnering 51% of the popular vote. The President pledged to continue his fight against terrorism, his steadfast support for Israel's right to defend itself and his support of the Jewish State as a democratic ally of the United States. The Republican Party also increased its majorities in both the House and Senate, putting both the Legislative and Executive branches under Republican control.
- The Fight Against Global Anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitic incidents, vandalizations and attacks continued in Europe, the Americas and elsewhere around the globe. This year saw landmark progress in efforts to have Europeans recognize that anti-Semitism is a problem and advance the fight against it. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) held three conferences on anti-Semitism leading to the historic Berlin Declaration, which spelled out a series of binding commitments for the 55 member states to take action through the collection of data on anti-Semitic incidents and the promotion of educational initiatives to counteract anti-Jewish sentiment, prejudice and bigotry. The United Nations held the first U.N. Seminar on Anti-Semitism where Secretary General Kofi Annan publicly condemned the "alarming resurgence of this phenomenon." In the U.S., Congress ordered the State Department create an office to monitor incidents of anti-Semitism around the world.
- Anti-Semitism in the Arab Media
During the run-up to the 2004 presidential elections in the United States, expressions of ugly anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories appeared in the Arab media with startling regularity. Claims that America's elections were being controlled behind the scenes by a manipulative Jewish lobby or the Israeli government and that both candidates are the handmaidens of Jews were common in editorial cartoons from around the region.
In an effort to combat vitriolic hatred and anti-Semitism being broadcast out of the Middle East, France's highest administrative court ordered a French-based company to immediately end satellite broadcasts of Al-Manar, the Lebanon-based television network owned by the terrorist organization Hezbollah following incendiary broadcasts that violated France's hate speech laws. The United States is grappling with how to handle Al-Manar broadcasts that reach the U.S. via satellite.
The death of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat closed a chapter in the history of Israel and the Palestinian people. His legacy is that of a terrorist, who turned his back on the opportunity for a Palestinian state. In the four years of Palestinian violence, Chairman Arafat did nothing to stem the tide of suicide attacks, proving himself an unwilling partner for a real and lasting peace. His death presents an opportunity for the Palestinian people to put forward a real leader committed to the formation of a Palestinian state who will be a willing partner in peace talks.
The movement to divest from companies that do business with Israel is still active on college campuses, but has found a new audience. In protest of the treatment of the Palestinians, two Protestant denominations have put forth plans to divest from Israel. The Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Episcopal Church called for divestiture from companies doing business with Israel. The churches said divestment would target companies that operate on occupied land; sell products, services or technology to support Israeli settlements or the construction of the separation barrier; or do business with organizations that support violence against civilians.
The expansion of direct government funding to houses of worship through the faith-based initiative, the injecting of religion into politics and political campaigns, the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in public schools, as well as campaigns to display the Ten Commandments in government buildings were key issues concerning the erosion of the constitutional barrier between church and state. Two cases regarding governmental displays of the Ten Commandments have reached the U.S. Supreme Court and will be decided in 2005.
The white supremacist movement is trying to reach out to school-age children to find new members. The hate music label Panzerfaust Records, a record company that brags to create racists, launched "Project Schoolyard," an outreach campaign to distribute sampler CDs of songs by various white power bands whose music is filled with racist and anti-Semitic themes to middle and high school students, ages 13 – 19.
- The Passion of the Christ
The February theatrical release of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was virtually indistinguishable from the earlier version shown to select audiences and was minimally changed from the "early draft" of the script that was reviewed and raised concerns about the film by a panel of scholars. The film repeated many of the stereotypes and images surrounding the death of Jesus that have generated anti-Semitism for 2,000 years. "The Passion", which received huge audiences in the United States and Europe, cleared the censors in many Middle Eastern nations including Iran, Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
After enduring over four years of suicide attacks, Israel continued construction of a security barrier to separate itself from the West Bank, to prevent attackers from slipping across the border and attacking Israelis. Built as a temporary measure which has proven to be effective in preventing terrorist attacks, the security fence faced international condemnation by bodies such as International Court of Justice and the United Nations. The route of the barrier was changed, by order of the Israeli Supreme Court, to address humanitarian concerns.
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.