ADL Lists Top Issues Affecting Jews in 2007
New York, NY, December 24, 2007 … The restart of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the continuing threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, rising anti-Semitic attitudes in Europe, and the dawn of a new presidential campaign season with immigration and religion taking center stage were among the top issues affecting Jews in 2007, according to the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) annual list.
"The unexpected violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas created new challenges for peace, and some unforeseen opportunities," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "There was reason for guarded optimism that progress could be made through negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Yet there were still the old threats from Palestinian extremists such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad and from Hezbollah and Syria, and new ones on the horizon, as Israelis grappled with the prospect of living in an even more dangerous neighborhood with a nuclear-armed Iran."
"At home, we saw the dawn of a presidential primary campaign that promised to bring to the forefront of American discussion and debate many contentious issues, with immigration and religion taking center stage," added Glen S. Lewy, ADL National Chair. "This year, immigrant groups, particularly Hispanics, bore the brunt of ugly, vindictive and hateful rhetoric at the hands of those seeking to derail much-needed immigration reform. Going into the 2008 campaign, religion became another focus, with candidates making appeals to the electorate on the basis of their religion, not just their stands on the issues."
ADL'S TOP ISSUES
• Restarting the Peace Process
• The Iranian Nuclear Threat
• The Myth of Jewish Control
• Ahmadinejad Continues to Incite
• Boycotts Continue to Target Israel
• Religion & Politics
• Immigration Debate in the Spotlight
• UN Report Card
• Anti-Semitic Attitudes at Home and Abroad
• Vatican Prayer for Conversion of Jews
Restarting the Peace Process
At the U.S.-hosted Annapolis meeting, President George W. Bush met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in an attempt to get the peace process back on track. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas expressed their desire to achieve a peace settlement by the end of 2008. Top officials from 44 nations attended the conference, including Saudi Arabia and Syria.
Yet many questions remained unanswered, among them what to do about Hamas, whose unrelenting rocket attacks from Gaza threatened southern Israeli towns. After routing Abbas' more moderate Fatah faction in a violent takeover of Gaza, Hamas refused to recognize the legitimacy of the caretaker Palestinian government run by Abbas, and encouraged the daily barrage of rocket fire. As a result, Gaza and its people remained internationally isolated and cut off from the West Bank.
The Iranian Nuclear Threat
The U.S. Departments of State and Treasury moved forward with vital new initiatives to increase pressure on Iran to discourage it from going nuclear. Charging that Tehran supports terrorism in the Middle East, exports missiles and is engaging in a nuclear buildup, the U.S. administration announced sanctions that would cut off more than 20 Iranian entities, including individuals and companies owned or controlled by the Revolutionary Guard, from the American financial system.
The National Intelligence Estimate, released in November, documented Iran's accelerated uranium enrichment program, a critical component in the development of a nuclear weapon, while indicating that Iran shut down its secret nuclear weapons program in 2003. The threat of a nuclear-armed Iran remained a real concern for the international community.
The Myth of Jewish Control: Alive and Well
Professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, the two academics who reintroduced the age-old anti-Semitic canard of Jewish control to mainstream discourse, expanded their original essay into a book. In The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, they perpetuated classic anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and accused American Jewish groups of controlling U.S. foreign policy toward Israel and pushing the U.S. into war in Iraq.
The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control, a response by Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, demolished their claims of an all powerful pro-Israel lobby and a global Jewish conspiracy, revealing their historic roots in the most virulent forms of bigotry.
Ahmadinejad Continues to Incite
During his controversial visit to New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University. He was asked about Israel, Holocaust denial, Iran's nuclear program and human rights violations, but in all cases sidestepped or ignored the questions, or offered half-truths and obfuscations. He also tried to visit Ground Zero, but was rebuffed by city officials. Back in Iran and on his travels, Ahmadinejad continued his incendiary comments about Israel, calling it "impossible that the Zionist regime will survive."
Boycotts Continued to Target Israel
In Britain, a number of unions voted in favor of economic and academic boycotts of Israel. An effort by the University and College Union (UCU) to boycott Israeli universities and academic institutions prompted a large chorus of university professors, chancellors, deans, and presidents in the United States and abroad to voice outrage. In September, the UCU announced that it would abandon any efforts to support the boycott of Israeli academics, acting on the advice of legal council that the boycott would violate British law.
Religion & Politics – Leaving the Comfort Zone
Religion was thrust front and center in the race for the presidency, with some of the candidates openly professing their faith on the campaign trail, and others feeling it necessary to explain their religious beliefs to voters. By the end of the year some candidates were making references to Christian beliefs and values in holiday campaign commercials. These appeals to religious Americans were a major concern of Jewish organizations and others who saw a troubling precedent in such an open discussion of faith and the potential implications for church-state separation in the United States, and for the sensibilities of those not of the majority faith, and those of no faith. Coupled with court decisions like the Supreme Court's ruling in Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation making it more difficult for taxpayers to challenge violations of the First Amendment, this was an ominous trend for religious liberty in the U.S.
Immigration Debate in the Spotlight
The national debate over immigration remained as divisive as ever and was a central issue in the presidential campaign. A number of mainstream anti-immigrant groups resorted to the tactics and rhetoric of racist and anti-Semitic groups, using hateful stereotypes and outright bigotry to demonize immigrants, particularly Hispanics. A number of media personalities in television and radio, as well as political leaders, adopted the same language when discussing immigration issues in this country.
U.N. Report Card
The United Nations perpetuated its historical record of singling out Israel, but also demonstrated some improvement with several small, yet positive steps. It adopted a resolution which "rejects efforts to deny the Holocaust"; Secretary General Ban Ki-moon ordered an investigation into the launching of rockets at Israel by Palestinian terrorists from a U.N.-run school in the Gaza Strip; and, in an historic diplomatic achievement, a U.N. committee adopted an Israeli-sponsored resolution on agricultural technology.
On the other hand, the U.N. Human Rights Council unanimously adopted a proposal for Israel to become a permanent agenda item due to its alleged human rights violations; and the Secretary General prepared welcoming remarks to a conference organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which has a history of singling out Israel for undeserved criticism, attacks and boycott threats.
Anti-Semitic Attitudes At Home and Abroad
A nationwide U.S. survey showed the number of Americans who hold anti-Semitic attitudes remained constant from its 2005 findings, demonstrating once again that anti-Semitic beliefs endure in America. The poll found that 15% of Americans hold views about Jews that are "unquestionably anti-Semitic," compared to 14% in 2005.
A large number of Europeans continued to be infected with anti-Jewish attitudes, holding on to the classical anti-Semitic canards and conspiracy theories that have pursued Jews through the centuries, according to an ADL poll. Surveys of 11 European countries revealed that a plurality of Europeans believe Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their country and that they have too much power in business and finance.
Vatican Prayer for Conversion of Jews
In a return to the Latin Mass, the Vatican included a prayer that calls for the conversion of Jews. Following strong objections from the Jewish community, a senior Vatican official said the prayer could be removed from the re-introduced Latin liturgy. The inclusion of the prayer for the conversion of Jews in the Latin Mass presented a theological setback to the reforms of Vatican II and a challenge to Catholic-Jewish relations.
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.