Anti-Semitism: It Cannot Be Business As Usual
Posted: December 22, 2009
Address by Abraham H. Foxman
ADL National Director
Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism
December 16, 2009, Jerusalem, Israel
Ministers, your Excellencies, Ambassadors, Dear Friends.
There is something very depressing, ironic, sad, and exhilarating for a child survivor of the Shoah [the Holocaust], who was saved in "Yerushalyim D'Lita", the "Jerusalem of Lithuania" in Vilna, to be sharing a platform with the Foreign Minister of Lithuania, in the holy city of Jerusalem, the capital of the sovereign state of Israel, to address, again, and again, the subject of anti-Semitism. And so I find myself in a jumble of emotions at the very moment.
I know what brings us here, I know what motivates us to be here.
I respect and appreciate the presence of so many good people who have come from across the globe, because they understand the importance and significance of standing against anti-Semitism.
And yet at the same time, I am very troubled. Troubled because in a sense this has become a ritual; this has become an undertaking where we come together almost once a year; we address and we analyze and we go home. Yes, we pass some resolutions; make some promises and declarations, but in fact so many of the wonderful words remain at the conference. Even the small commitments that were made in the previous conference to do what? -- to monitor, to report -- that have not been implemented.
And so, this year has been probably the worst year of global anti-Semitism since the Second World War; the worst year since we have begun to monitor and report it. There has been no country, no city, no continent that was not witness to anti-Semitic manifestations, and we do not talk about thousands and thousands of Web sites, millions upon millions of hits to reinforce people's anti-Semitism.
This has been a year when the Jewish State has been vilified and defamed in ways none of us could have imagined. And yet we do not gather here in a sense of crisis, urgency, and emergency. We gather again as we did in London in February this year to assess, to evaluate, to reinforce. We are in crisis. It has never, in our life time, or in most of our life time been more serious.
It is Hanukkah. Do you know there is a war against the menorah out there? Several years ago there was an issue in the United States that there was a war against Christmas. I have got news for you: Menorahs are being desecrated in Austria, Moldova, in ten, twelve cities in the United States. And what do we do? We mark it down as a statistic. Another statistic of anti-Semitism.
Ten years ago when we witnessed an explosion of global anti-Semitism after we convinced the world to stop its denial, we met in crisis. And we did act together in a manner which began to stem the rise of this disease. So it was after the conferences in Vienna, in Berlin and in Brussels that countries began to take this disease more seriously and task forces were established, inter-ministerial meetings were convened and reporting processes and educational programs put in place.
My dear friends, we are again in a crisis and it will not be enough to go from session to session and become more enlightened and better understand that which we will never understand, for it is against all reason, and morality and rationale. So maybe what we need to do is to bring back the spirit of Billings, Montana. For it is Hanukkah.
In 1993 in a small town in Midwest America, a menorah was desecrated. Rather than record it as another statistic in the annals of anti-Semitism, the town of Billings, Montana, 99.4% non Jewish, organized and stood up. The citizens were urged to stand up and put an image of the menorah published in the newspaper in their window for the next eight days. They did, and all the citizens of Billings, Montana became Jews and said "No." It is that spirit we need to rekindle in Jerusalem this week, a spirit in response to a crisis that we have not witnessed in a long time.
Finally, I apologize to the good people who are here, for it is almost like the rabbi complaining to those who came to synagogue, about those who did not come to synagogue. For you are the righteous, you are those who care. But I beg you, care a little more, when you go home, when you report to your countries. This cannot be business as usual.