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Anti-Semitism  
New Excuses, Old Hatred: Worldwide Anti-Semitism In Wake Of 9/11 RULE
by Abraham H. Foxman
National Director of the Anti-Defamation League

The following speech was given before the Anti-Defamation League's National Executive Committee in Palm Beach, Florida, February 8, 2002.

This is an assessment of the world scene as it relates to the Jewish people, which I believed would never have to be pronounced after the Holocaust. We gathered two months after 9-11, as a national organization in the shadow of the trauma, trying to assess for ourselves what it means. We were very, very careful. We were very cautious. We were very hesitant. We felt it in our gut, we felt it in our soul, our antennae were quivering, and yet we hesitated. We talked about our fears, our anxieties, but we were not willing then to say what I am about to say now.

Personally, because of the baggage that I carry, I had always hoped and believed that the world had learned something from the horror of a million and a half children being put to death solely for the crime of being Jewish. We had reason to believe that the world was changing, that there was a level of understanding. People were beginning to seriously grasp and grapple with the responsibility not only about the past, but about the future. We as an agency, and I, when I had the opportunity, would frequently say so. While it is criminal for us to be silent, it is responsible for us to speak out.

Now that it is almost six months after 9/11, I feel it is responsible, it is mandated, it is necessary, and it is appropriate that we raise our voices. For what we are witnessing today is something, which I profess to you, I never thought I would witness again in my lifetime.

The Old/New Anti-Semitism

I have said that my greatest nightmare is that one day I would wake up and something terrible would happen in America and we, the Jewish people, Jews and Israel, will be blamed. It happened.

Times are different we are told. The world is a different world. We communicate globally. We know each other better. Maybe. But history has taught us that in times of great stress, of great instability, and of anxiety and unpredictability, there is one thing that is predictable - anti-Semitism. When Europe was being decimated by the Plague, Jews were blamed and Jews were killed.

Let me fast-forward a couple of hundred years, because it is illustrative of what we're talking about. Several years ago Malaysia had an economic crisis. Their currency fell and you know whose fault it was? World Jewry's. Millions of people were told by Malaysia's leader that they were suffering, because the Jews, who control the world, control finance, decided to punish them because they support Palestine. To this day millions of Malaysians believe it.

Also, not too long ago there was an earthquake in Mexico, and buildings crumbled. Guess who was held responsible for the hundreds of deaths; the Jews. Because, they said, Jews controlled the building trade and were more interested in money than lives of the poor Mexicans that died.

September 11 and The Big Lie

When we first heard of the charge that Jews, Israel and the Mossad was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, most of us chuckled. But it didn't take long for us to realize that it was not a joking matter that it wasn't anything to laugh about. Today you can travel the Arab world, Asia, and Europe, and read in newspapers and hear on radio and TV the big hideous lie that has become a truth --that Jews bring about a situation in their interest in order to put the blame on somebody else. How classically anti-Semitic! Now ministers of Arab government and even newspapers in Western Europe have bought into the big lie. It has become a fact, it is being taught in the schools, that perversion of recent and current history.

I will say to you without hesitation that I am convinced we are facing a threat as great, if not greater, to the safety and security of the Jewish people than we faced in the thirties. Greater, because forty percent of the Jewish people are centered in one geographic tiny location, and the danger is greater today than it was in the 1930's. Then the venom and the hatred of Nazism, the venom and hatred of anti-Semitism, was in limited to Germany and Austria. True, the agents of Nazism wanted to fuel anti-Semitism throughout the world, but they were limited.

Anti-Semitism in a Wired Universe

Today we live in a different age. We live in what some call the global village. We live in the midst of a great technological revolution. On one hand it provides knowledge, information, education and enlightenment. On the other it provides a cheap vehicle, a superhighway for hate. Today, a sermon in Cairo travels across the globe within minutes, through the networks, the Internet, e-mail, and Al Jazeera. This globalization facilitates the incitement and hate that makes the message of anti-Semitism more potent and very real. It is now out there everywhere. You can download it; it comes into your home uninvited. It is protected of course, by our tradition of freedom of speech. But this technology has given anti-Semitism, hate and incitement a strength and a power of seduction that it has never had in history before.

Anti-Zionism: Code Word for Anti-Semitism

There is another element that we have been very careful about and have dealt with somewhat gingerly. And that is walking the delicate line between anti-Israel and anti-Zionism, and anti-Semitism. We are always careful to say that not every criticism against the State of Israel is anti-Semitic. Yes, Israel is a state, a member of the community of nations, and it is subject to criticism as any other state. Therefore, if you criticize Israel, that doesn't make you an anti-Semite. That is still true today. But that is not what we're talking about.

The Arab-Israel conflict, Palestinian-Israeli conflict, has been highjacked into this global network of anti-Semitism. It has provided a camouflage of semi-respectability. The attacks are not about a nation state, they are about Jews. A hideous and grotesque double standard exists.

We have had to define for ourselves when anti-Israel and anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. First, let me say anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, period. There is no debate about that. Remember what anti-Zionism is. Remember when it came out in the UN's Zionism is racism resolution. It is pure, simple, unadulterated anti-Semitism. What it says is what is okay, what is permissible, what is laudatory, what is universally accepted for all peoples in the world -- self-expression, self-determination, independence, sovereignty -- is not permitted to Jews. That is what it says. It doesn't say Irish nationalism is racist, or Rwandan nationalism or French or Palestinian nationalism. It says Jewish nationalism is racist. That is pure and simple anti-Semitism.

Belgium today is trying to indict the Prime Minister of the State of Israel for crimes against humanity. That is anti-Semitism. It would not be if Belgium, the great cradle of international justice, set out to indict other leaders of the world; if it set a standard of justice for the rest of the world, but it is not. No one else is being charged, only the Prime Minister of the State of Israel.

Denmark challenges the credentials of a new Israeli Ambassador because he once served in Israel's security. That is anti-Semitism.

We also have the instance of the French ambassador to Great Britain who talks about "this s----y little country, Israel." He is basically saying if only this "s----y little country" didn't exist how wonderful it would be. In his view it is the occupation by the Jews of Palestinians that make "this s----y little country" such a problem for world peace and stability. You know what? If that ambassador would say that "s----y big country" China and its occupation of Tibet for fifty years is screwing up the world, or the Indian Hindus and their occupation of Muslim Kashmir are endangering world peace, I'd say okay. But no, It is only "that s----y little Israel." It is only the Jewish people.

And if you ever had a doubt, listen to Osama bin Laden, who said it is the Jews, it is Israel. Just in case you missed it, it was on tape one, it was on tape four -- the Jews and Israel and the Americans who are controlled by the Jews.

A Test For Israel's Critics

There is always the question: is the newspaper anti-Semitic or anti-Israel; is the columnist anti-Semitic or anti-Israel, so I have developed a guideline to apply. For example, does a Pat Buchanan raise questions of moral behavior, of standards of decorum of nations? Does he raise those issues across the board? If he does, then it is OK to question Israel. Then you ask; in all of Pat Buchanan's writings has he found anything about the Jewish State that was worthy of praise? Those who only find fault with the Jewish people, the Jewish State and the actions of the Jewish sovereignty and never find anything that is positive are anti-Semites under the guise of anti-Zionism and anti-Israel.

Branding Israel "Racist"

What makes this so threatening, so dangerous, is the moral equivalency, the political expediency, and the silence of good people. I have said, that if not for 9-11, what would be on our agenda time and time again is Durban. Because the lesson of Durban is what makes what is happening throughout the world today so much more dangerous, so much more sinister. Durban was to be a magnificent expression of the world community's conscience and care of the future. At the turn of this millennium and this century, the nations of the world decided that, since the world has paid such a heavy price for racism, let the community of nations come together to set standards for dealing with racism. What a beautiful concept! It was symbolic that Durban, South Africa was chosen as the site, because that is where racism was so ugly, until so long ago. There was a necessary need for the world to set standards of behavior. Yet, they never got to talk about racism. They never got to set the standards or deal with the issues that so many of those who came from all over the world came to plead. One subject united them all-- the Jewish people and their Jewish "racism."

We should not have been surprised. The moment a planning meeting was held in Teheran, we should have known the direction Durban would take. What was frightening was that aside from the U.S., and some belated statements from a very few countries, the world permitted the highjacking of that conference to delegitimize the Jewish people. Good people found it impossible to raise voices; To vote against it or to walk out.

Another recent example was the convening of the Fourth Geneva Convention. You need to understand what that means. The Geneva Convention codified rules of war and behavior. That is why we can have international tribunals, because even in war there are certain standards. After the atrocities of the Holocaust and World War II it was realized that more defined standards were needed and they came up with the Fourth Geneva Convention. It stipulates how to deal with civilian populations in wartime, enmity, et cetera. And the keeper of the Convention is Switzerland. It has to be petitioned for the Geneva Convention to be called.

From 1949 to 1999 nobody ever called that Convention into session. Nobody. Yet, from 1949 to 1999 there were certainly atrocities against civilians throughout the world, and yet nobody thought it would be possible or doable until 1999. So the Fourth Geneva Convention convened over what? The "atrocity" of Har HaHoma, a neighborhood in Jerusalem where Israel decided to build housing. It didn't matter that one-third was set aside for Palestinians. Bulldozers brought into session the Fourth Geneva Convention for the first time in history. To make sure that it not be a unique thing, four months ago the Fourth Geneva Convention met again. Guess what was the subject? Israel.

Since the events of Sept. 11, we are being told that the world has changed. The fact that the United Nations continues to vote against Israel the way it does is another significant lesson that the more things change, the more they stay the same. 137 nations raised their hands to condemn Israel. Only the United States remains stalwart and a few Pacific islands who had the courage to vote NO.

What if there is another calamity? What if there will be a greater price to be paid and will have to be paid? Who will stand with us, by us, for us, when the finger will again be U.S foreign policy vis--vis Israel?

Anti-Semitism and Political Expediency

Last week we wrote to President Jacques Chirac about the synagogues that are being burned in France; about the Jewish children that are being attacked. We are being told these events are the result of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Not so! It is anti-Semitism. It is politically expedient for Chirac and Jospin to keep quiet because they are heading into elections with several milion Arab votes at stake. So, they avoid calling the actions what they are -- anti-Semitism -- and put them under the guise of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict or simply crimes. The burning of a synagogue in France, or anywhere else, has nothing to do with the Middle East. It is pure anti-Semitism.

I'll never forget the dialogue we had with President Hosni Mubarak when we raised the issue of anti-Semitism in the Egyptian media. Mubarak said it was anti-Israel. I told him he surely knew the difference between anti-Israel and anti-Semitism, and what we see and hear and read in Egypt is both anti-Israel and anti-Semitism.

We can no longer tolerate those euphemisms because they are very, very dangerous. So what did we do? We do what we have always done. We tell the truth. We credibly expose those who condone anti-Semitism. We challenge leadership to stand up and say no, to stand up and say this is anti-Semitism and it is unacceptable. We must motivate good people, increase our efforts, and raise our voice. We must develop more creative response mechanisms because the crisis is here now and the danger is real.

The Call to Jihad

Finally, one last important point. I agree with President Bush in almost everything he has said and done regarding the war on global terrorism, fighting for democracy and mobilizing our nation and the world, except for one thing that makes the current anti-Semitism much more powerful, virulent and threatening. And that is the question of religion. I know why the President says this is not a religious war. I know why it is important for him to say it.

But the fact is Osama bin Laden and his ilk say this is a religious war, a war against the infidels, the unbelievers, and they are the Jews and the Christians, the Christians and the Jews.

What emanates from Radio Islam, Radio Cairo and Radio PA is in a religious context. It is a call for Jihad, and Jihad is a religious precept. It is a call of hate, an incitement to kill, urging suicide bombers to act in the name of God, and that adds a dimension of this anti-Semitism threat that did not exist before.

We saw the rise of anti-Semitism in an anti-religious, anti-Christian, paganism. Now we have the religion element, and that is a dangerous element. My father used to say one should always be careful of God's Cossacks. Those who act in the name of God and believe they have the truth, the only truth. That is very dangerous. It makes this virulent epidemic of anti-Semitism that much more dangerous, that much more virulent and that much more threatening.

We do not have the luxury to err on the side of caution because the signs are there to be read. What we do have is the will not permit history to repeat itself. Thank you.

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For Teachers:
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