Anti-Semitism: Jews Under Attack
Remarks by Abraham H. Foxman
National Director, Anti-Defamation League
To the ADL
National Executive Committee Meeting
February 6, 2009
Palm Beach, Florida
Posted: February 6, 2009
I stand here today to say to you that in all the years, of all my years at the ADL monitoring, exposing, combating anti-Semitism, I have never been so worried, so concerned about the safety and well-being of world Diaspora Jewry as I am today.
It wasn’t too long ago, it was the turn of the century, that we were shocked; that here we turned this century – from a century of hatred, destruction, of Holocaust -- and yet still with us is anti Semitism. And we engaged in all kinds of analysis -- new anti Semitism, old anti Semitism, is it anti Israel, is it anti Zionism – wow, a plethora of analysis and articles, and even I wrote a book, called “Never Again?” What is it? How is it? Where is it? When will it? And then it sort of subsided. But then it was limited, it was really limited to Western Europe -- ugly, violent, and yet with a great deal of effort.
And Dr. [Richard] Prasquier [President of CRIF, the umbrella body of French Jewish organizations] can certainly bear witness, we convinced a civilized world how serious it is to stop denying, to confront it, to develop an approach and a technique and have the courage to stand up.
And you know what? It happened. There was a Conference on Anti Semitism in Vienna, in Berlin, in Paris, even at the United Nations. And one by one, some of the Western European leaders stood up, spoke out, condemned it, developed even techniques for how to deal with it. And France became the model of how a caring civilized nation should respond.
And I think to most of us, we sighed a sense of relief that things are finally, finally changing. And then, six weeks ago, something happened. And I don’t think any of us, any of us could have imagined that what was happening in that tiny speck of land adjacent to Gaza, southern Israel, would so explode in an epidemic, a pandemic of anti Semitism.
And the reason I guess it came as such a shock, because those of us who watched the Middle East knew that every time there was violence, there was conflict, there was intifada, the result would be some anti Semitism somewheres around the globe, certainly in the Muslim world and other places where there was bias and there was prejudice against Israel. But this case? In this case?
If ever, if ever there was a just war, if ever it would be clear to every single decent thinking individual what this was all about, it would be here. Don't forget, because you're going to need to remember it.
Gaza. Israel withdrew. Withdrew. No settlements, no occupation, at a cost, at a tremendous cost of conflict, of pain. Some American Jews so excited about the future contributed millions of dollars to make sure that the greenhouses in those settlements would be handed over to the Palestinians so that 2,000 or 3,000 Palestinians would have a livelihood immediately.
Do you know what it means to a people whose synagogues have been destroyed for hundreds and thousands of years to uproot and destroy synagogues? And the Israeli army tenderly, with love, with respect, removed the mezuzahs, but even more so, dug up the graves of those who were buried in the Gaza, transplanted the cemeteries and said: “Here. You want freedom? You want liberation? You want self determination? It’s yours.”
And then even with those who said, “you do not deserve to live. You do not deserve to exist. We never will make peace with you" -- in its charter enacted the “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion” -- even with them, through the goodwill of Egypt, Israel negotiated a ceasefire so that good people on both sides of the border could live.
And then the ceasefire dissipated. And then Israel again and again restrained and restrained and restrained, maybe this and maybe that and maybe the U.N. will act and maybe the world will respond. And so you have a scenario unlike any incident in the last 60 years of where Israel acted almost in fulfillment of a formula that the world had dictated. No occupation, no settlements, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Depend on others to implement that ceasefire, and the bombs kept coming, and the Katushas kept coming and the Grads kept coming and much deeper and more frequently.
Then Israel did, I guess if you look at the statements somewhere that you will find around the world, almost every country well, not all countries, but many civilized countries – said “oh, yeah, there’s a right of defense and self defense. Oh, yeah, we probably would react the same way.”
But then, all of a sudden, as if the floodgates had been opened, within days an open season had been declared on world Jewry. There’s a new legitimacy. I challenge you to find a country in the world from Austria to Zimbabwe, including Iceland, that has its own tzuris, that is immune, that is not experiencing this recurring, returning, more virulent, more vicious, more violent virus of anti Semitism.
And now there isn't even a pretense that this is a political issue. It is almost established fact that Israel is wrong, Israel is evil, Israel is satanic and violator of international human rights and international law. All of these and within 30 days almost become givens. Talk about war crimes, war tribunals; Israelis are being told by their own government to “be careful about travel.”
And now it seems that the only issue is how responsible are the Turkish, French, Argentinean, Spanish, South African, British or other Diaspora Jews. How responsible are they for all these horrific Israeli deeds?
You have on the table two important publications. I don’t think we contemplated that we would ever again be writing reports in such graphic terms about current day anti Semitism. But it will not – it will not -- reflect the isolation, the anxiety, the fear that we hear in telephone conversations and discussions with our fellow Jews around the world.
There is no measure, but we know what is going on. Jews hiding their Jewish identity in more places in the world than we’d like to admit, removing mezuzahs, not going to synagogue, not being identified, not only in Islamic countries but in countries of liberty and fraternity and the places that gave us the Magna Carta.
And so I give you a full report. I'm not sure if this report would see the light of day and that this world would understand. And I have specific examples but more demonstrations, public demonstrations than we’ve ever seen before related to this act of self defense. More, more people, more intense, uglier, more in the United States than we’ve seen in all previous conflicts.
Language, language. The graphics, almost perfected: "The Star of David equals the swastika." You'll see some of it here, you'll see some of it up there. In every country, in every community, I can read the names of cities that should conjure up in your mind art, literature, history. Every city on the globe, every city on the globe has seen these epithets of “Israelis and Jews are Nazis” are forthright. The Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz have become epithets. For what? Israel exercising its right to defend its children, its women, its citizens?
This isn't a war. Is that a war? There's no territory. Its right to exist, to breathe. And the world responds in such ugliness, with "Jews to the gas" shouted at a protest in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We’re not immune in this country.
And the attacks, not that it's right, not that it's right that the protest and the attacks should be against Israeli embassies or Israeli consulates. It’s not right, so don't misunderstand me.
But at least there’s a certain logic and legitimacy if you act out a position on the international scene against a policy of a government you protest and you picket. But no, the protests, the pickets, the vandalism is against synagogues, Jewish institutions. Ironically one is Cyprus. The demonstrations there were not in front of the Israeli embassy, the Israeli embassy that 20 years ago was bombed and destroyed by Iran and its henchmen, and to this day nobody's been brought to justice. But the demonstrations -- in front of the AMIA in Buenos Aires, the Jewish body representing Argentinean Jewry, which was also destroyed by an Iranian bomb 14 years ago; again, nobody brought to justice. And so the demonstrations and the pickets are against Jewish institutions, Jews. Jews are being singled out as responsible.
And there is a dialectic, there is a dialectic. We are one, so one can say there's something wrong. That if you act out against Israel, you're acting out against the Jewish people, but we bear that jointly, proudly, there is a saying which says (speaking Hebrew) "Israel and the Torah are one" (speaking Hebrew) “Israel and Diaspora are one.” One in bearing the pain as well as the joint, but we need to understand and we need to communicate it.
This is the worst, the most intense, the most global that it's been in most of our memories. And the effort to get the good people to stand up is not easy. Dr. Prasquier will tell you of his efforts in France.
There are countries that to this day the spokesmen have not stood up to say "not acceptable” -- not in Norway, and not in Sweden, and not in Belgium, and not in Turkey -- although they're changing. But we need to insist that the civilized world stand up and say "no" in every single country on the international arena, to condemn this vicious, hideous, violent, insidious, scary response to one of the most legitimate, legitimate governmental responsibilities anywhere in the civilized world.
I wish I could tell you that I see the end. I wish I could tell you that now that somehow there is a ceasefire, that there are even debates between Hamas leaders as to what kind of a cease fire, although this morning I heard the delegations left Egypt.
I wish I could tell you that maybe the international community now understands that one way to prevent this is to seal the borders between Egypt and Gaza. I can't tell you that.
And unless that happens, there will, unfortunately, be more pain and more suffering and more exercise of Israel’s legitimate right to disproportionally protect its men, women and children. Because if we fought World War II proportionally, Europe would be a Nazi continent and Japan would rule Asia.
I have never, never heard the application of proportionality. I have never heard the dastardly argument, "well, only 13 Israelis died." What other country has been given that standard? The only "if one gets killed, you can only kill one?" Every country knows that it's to defeat the enemy, except for one country.
So on our agenda, dear friends, on our agenda for the foreseeable future will continue to be as one, anti Semitism and its ugliest, most scary manifestation. And we will need to continue to stand up to expose, to challenge, and to stand as one, as one people, as one people taking the responsibility and standing shoulder to shoulder, whether it be in Lima, Peru or Buenos Aires or Athens or Paris or Palm Beach or New York City, and we will need you, need you, to continue with that struggle.
We'll make the speech available. The speech is important because it lists specifically examples, horrific examples. It will list for you something we live through boycotts. You know, the start of so much of the pain in Europe 30, 40, 50, 60 years ago in the '30s was with boycotts. Today you will find boycotts against Jews called by an Italian trade union in South Africa by all kinds of good people listing lists of Jewish institutions, Jewish businesses. You'll find it in Turkey, you'll find it in France.
I got a call yesterday from Israel saying “we'll send you a list of Israeli companies which all of a sudden negotiations have ceased in Europe.” A company that was told in Switzerland that “the only reason we're dealing with you is we have no other choice, there is no other producer of this,” and now we’re beginning to hear this again. Israeli ships not being unloaded all because the Jewish people stood up, stood up to defend the lives of its men, women and children.
So take it the text will be given to you. Share it. Share it with friends, share it with your colleagues. Let them understand how hideous and how serious and how threatening this is.
Thank you very, very much.
In all my years at the Anti-Defamation League -- monitoring exposing and combating anti-Semitism -- I have never been so worried about the safety and well-being of Diaspora Jewry as I am today.
It is as if the floodgates have been opened. An open season has been declared on world Jewry.
A new legitimacy - there is no country in the world from Austria to Zimbabwe, including even Iceland - that is not experiencing this recurring returning virulent virus of anti-Semitism.
There is not even a pretense that this is a political issue – that Israel is wrong, evil, satanic, a violator of international human rights and international law. It has become a given.
And now the only issue is how responsible are the Turkish, French, Argentinean, Spanish, South African, British or other Diaspora Jews.
Every so often we hear rumblings that the Jewish community no longer needs an Anti-Defamation League. After all, say some, anti-Semitism is no longer a problem. That American Jews flourish, that Jews live freely in the world's democracies, and that there is a Jewish State of Israel all make their case, they say. I only wish it were so.
While I am practical enough to know that anti-Semitism will always exist in the hearts and minds of too many people despite the great strides we have made in our educational efforts and with the moral leadership of our government, religious and community officials, my hope is that we can keep it at bay, make it unacceptable for the bigots to act out their anti-Semitism.
These past six weeks, my hopes have been dashed by an explosion of anti-Semitic rhetoric and assaults across the globe.
Israel's operation to defend its people from Hamas rockets has had an impact far beyond Gaza and Israel's besieged southern cities. Its repercussions have been and are continuing to be felt by Jewish communities around the world, particularly the Jews of Western Europe and Latin America.
We reported on incidents from Thailand to Peru, but we followed especially closely the situations in the two European countries with the largest Jewish populations.
In France, 113 incidents were reported during the three weeks of the fighting, roughly the same number of incidents that occurred over three months in 2007. In Toulouse, a burning car was rammed into a synagogue, and Molotov cocktails were thrown at several others houses of prayer around the country. At a school in Nice, a children's mural was spray-painted with "Death to the Jews." In Paris, a teenage Jewish girl was beaten by a gang, including three of her classmates, who said they were avenging the Palestinians.
In the United Kingdom, 220 anti-Semitic incidents were reported during the three weeks of Israel's military operation, an eight-fold increase compared to the same time period a year ago. A synagogue was firebombed. Jews were beaten on the street. Graffiti in public areas included "Slay the Jewish Pigs," and "Jihad 4 Israel." At anti-Israel demonstrations, shouts of "Heil Hitler" and "Kill the Jews" were heard, as was the chant at a Muslim rally, "Jews, the army of Mohammed is returning."
In Amsterdam, Antwerp, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Caracas, Florence, London, Montevideo and Paris, Jews have been beaten on the street, synagogues have been firebombed and desecrated and Jewish institutions, businesses and homes have been attacked.
Holocaust comparisons abound in grotesque language and images:
• "Jews to the gas chambers" has been chanted at anti-Israel demonstrations in Europe, Latin America and even here at home, and similar calls for death to Jews have been heard across the Arab and Muslim world.
• At anti-Israel demonstrations in Bangkok, Barcelona and Buenos Aires, Israeli flags with a swastika replacing the Star of David were paraded.
• A Norwegian diplomat sent a mass e-mail comparing the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza to the Jews in concentration camps, including side-by-side photos -- 20 Holocaust photos paired with 20 photos of Palestinians.
• Articles about the "Zionist Holocaust against the Palestinians" or other Holocaust equations were a staple of the Arab media during the Gaza operation.
And then there is Chavez. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has emboldened and empowered anti-Semites by his rhetoric and actions and that of his minions. The synagogue attack in Caracas did not happen in a vacuum. It took place in an atmosphere of intimidation and threats against the Jewish community of about 15,000 that has been building for weeks, stoked by the vile comparisons of Israel's actions to the Nazis coming from Chavez and his regime.
Hamas terrorists and the leader of their main supporter, Iran, endorsed such incitement. One of the top Hamas leaders, Mahmoud Zahar, called for Jewish children to be attacked around the world. Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran said he would confer the status of "martyr" on "anyone who dies in this holy struggle against World Zionism," by which he means Jews anywhere.
The unsophisticated methods and materials used in anti-Semitic attacks that we have seen to date, particularly in Europe, indicate that the assailants are not Hamas sleeper agents, but individuals who have decided to single out Jews and Jewish community institutions.
These types of attacks may be dissuaded or deterred. But in order to prevent further incidents of anti-Semitism, political, religious and community leaders need to make clear that such attacks have no justification, no excuse, and will never be tolerated.
• In Belgium, attackers tried to burn down two synagogues and a Jewish home with firebombs. Jewish stores and a Jewish school were vandalized. To date, Belgium's prime minister has said nothing.
• In Denmark, two Israelis were shot by a Dane of Palestinian descent. Danish public school principals have called for Jewish students not to be admitted to certain schools for their own safety. Denmark's prime minister, a noted friend of Israel, has said nothing.
• In Greece, a synagogue was defaced with graffiti that read: "The state of Israel murders – whose side are you on?" Greece's Prime Minister has said nothing.
• In Turkey, an Israeli basketball team fled from the court into the dressing room because the crowd became threatening, calling them "killers." Prior to that, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan did worse than say nothing. He called on Allah to punish Israel.
• In Latin America, participants at an anti-Israel demonstration in Argentina held in front of a Jewish community center carried banners that equated Israel with the Nazis. Brazilian cartoons have made the same noxious comparison and the Chilean Jewish community reported a threat to kill everyone at one of their institutions.
• In Arab countries, the anti-Semitic incitement in the press has been ratcheted up to conflate Israelis with Jewish communities around the world. Every day Arab cartoons incite hatred by demonizing Israelis either as Nazis or with classic anti-Semitic stereotypes such as having horns or lusting after blood. Qatar's al-Watan published an article with the menacing statement, "The Zionists are spread all over the world and are connected through tribal bigotry with solid close ties … The World's Jews should know that their participation in our massacre will not pass silently."
Sadly, such hatred still hasn't been fully shamed into silence in our country.
At anti-Israel rallies in the United States, which promote the usual extreme anti-Israel and anti-Zionist messages, the demonstrators loudly and proudly engaged in anti-Semitic rhetoric and offensive Holocaust imagery, likening Jews and Israelis to Nazis.
At a Dec. 30 anti-Israel demonstration in Fort Lauderdale, a woman was heard shouting, "Go back to the oven, you need a big oven! That's what you need!"
And while these demonstrations have been largely nonviolent, I believe it is not a leap to say the incitement they fomented have led to attacks against Jewish institutions.
• Three synagogues in Chicago were vandalized and defaced early on a Saturday morning by vandals who smashed windows and doors with rocks and bricks and sprayed pro-Palestinian graffiti on the buildings that read "Death to Israel and "Free Palestine."
• Handmade signs left on the door of a synagogue in Dalton GA, showed a Jewish star and swastika.
• In San Francisco, the Holocaust Memorial outside the Palace of the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park was spray-painted in red letters about three feet tall saying, "Israel -- there blood is on your hands."
• In Hollywood, California - "Free Gaza" and "swastika = star of david" was spray-painted on a wall belonging to a TV studio.
We're also seeing the economic version of these anti-Semitic attacks – the boycotting of Jewish businesses. While physical assaults against Jews and Jewish institutions are of primary concern, anti-Jewish economic boycotts have a particularly menacing symbolism as actions that marked the beginning of the Nazi terror and isolated Israel for too many years.
• In Venezuela, opinion articles in government-owned newspapers have called for boycotts of Jewish-owned Venezuelan businesses and multinational companies believed to be owned by Jews.
• In Italy, a labor union distributed fliers that urged a boycott of "shops in central Rome linked to the Jewish community."
• In Malaysia, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad spoke at the National Mosque in support of the "Selective Boycott of Jewish Products" campaign, organized by the Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association. That organization also called for halal certification to be withdrawn from Jewish-owned companies.
• In South Africa, an email campaign is urging a boycott of businesses with "Jewish connections."
• In Switzerland, a sign was put on a kosher store that read "Swiss people, defend yourselves. Don't buy from Jews."
• In Argentina, a far-left politician has organized physical blockades of Jewish businesses, saying the protests target "rat nests."
• In Turkey, Jewish-owned businesses have been vandalized with posters calling on consumers to stay away.
Even America is not immune from calls for anti-Semitic boycotts. Fifteen professors in California recently called for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Despite all the concerns we have about college campuses these days, their appeal doesn't seem to be getting any serious support.
Once again we have to ask where are the voices from international leaders to counter the incitement of Hamas and Iran before their threats are translated into violence.
• President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, who is consistently outspoken in condemning anti-Semitism, made such a statement after several synagogues had been firebombed, saying that he "utterly condemned the unacceptable violence, under the pretext of this conflict, against individuals, private property, and religious buildings," and assured "that these acts would not go unpunished." In well-publicized statements, he told French security forces that they must enforce a zero-tolerance policy for anti-Semitic acts, and he convened a meeting with Muslim, Jewish and Christian religious leaders to urge a united religious front to condemn these attacks.
• The Dutch Justice Minister announced that he would investigate allegations of anti-Semitism and incitement to hatred and violence at anti-Israel demonstrations, including whether public prosecutors were enforcing hate speech laws.
• The British government also recognized and condemned the explosion of anti-Semitic incidents. Foreign Minister David Miliband condemned this anti-Semitism at the Parliament, and the Parliament's All-Party group against anti-Semitism expressed its "horror as a wave of antisemitic incidents has affected the Jewish community."
• In Caracas this past Monday, representatives of the United States, France, Canada, Finland, Germany and the Czech Republic visited the synagogue that was attacked on Friday evening, the start of Shabbat, to express their solidarity with the Jewish community and condemn the violence.
These important, but few statements have been the exception, rather than the rule. We find a vast official silence in the face of loud calls at demonstrations to "kill the Jews," the explosions of Molotov cocktails hitting synagogues, and the crash of bricks breaking the windows of Jewish schools.
Jews around the world were attacked when the second Palestinian Intifada began in 2000 and during Israel's war with Hezbollah in 2006. Security is government's primary responsibility, and an essential component of security is warning against threats and incitement.
Bully pulpits must be used to send a loud and clear message from political, religious and community leaders that attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions have no justification, no excuse, and will not be tolerated, whether in Belgium, Greece, Turkey, Uruguay, Chile or Venezuela. If world leaders do not speak out against anti-Semitic violence and incitement, if they allow the threats of Hamas and Iran to go unchallenged, they will have failed an important political and moral test.