Address by Abraham H. Foxmam,
National Director of the Anti-Defamation League
To International Conference of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism
Jerusalem, February 24, 2008
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I have been lucky that by miracle and by my nanny's human courage I survived the Holocaust – as a child – and I have been privileged to spend my adult life fighting hate and prejudice and anti-Semitism.
But I didn't imagine nor could I believe that 60-plus years after the Shoah we would need to convene conferences – not to deal with anti-Semitism in a historic perspective as a lesson of the past - but as a current event, as a clear and present danger not in one geographic area but on a global scale.
None of us could have predicted that in our lifetime we would witness Jews being singled out as Jews to be killed.
Daniel Pearl was kidnapped because he was an American and a journalist. But he was killed because he was a Jew.
Ilan Halimi was kidnapped and murdered because of stereotypes that Jews were rich.
And Pamela Waechter, a young woman who worked at an office in Seattle, was killed because the place was targeted as a Jewish target.
I could not believe that in our lifetime rabbis and Jewish leaders would counsel for Jews to substitute baseball caps for their kippot and not to display Jewish symbols in public. We will never know how many parents chose not to enroll their children in Jewish schools so that they might not be targeted.
Nor could we believe that so many Jewish institutions would become armed camps and security would become a modern day Jewish ritual.
Almost 10 years ago the anti-Semitism explosion, earthquake, occurred. During the past decade we as a community and a people experienced this renewed trauma. For several years we fought denial, the denial coming from the international communities, the various governments and the media. After several years of debate the denial ended. Finally they began to focus on the issues. Thanks to Nathan Sharansky, we were able to put into focus anti-Semitism and it made it clear. We began to see parliaments in Europe, conferences in Vienna, Brussels, and Bucharest and even in the United Nations focusing on the manifestation of anti-Semitism. Then we debated was it new anti-Semitism or old anti-Semitism, and concluded that it was both.
We debated was it anti-Israel, or anti-Zionistic or anti-Semitic? And more recently, the media have become tired of the issue and many believe that it has abated and become less threatening.
So why are we here? We are here because we do not see the abatement or lessening of the disease of anti-Semitism or its virulence. The opposite. Those of us gathered here perceive the challenge and the threat to be more serious and we are determined to focus on the various virulent, mutations and permutations of the disease we witness:
- The return of state sponsored anti-Semitism, in Iran and now Venezuela. And the tolerance of many regimes to anti-Semitism.
- The virulent rise and proliferation of anti-Semitism in the Muslim and Arab world to a level not seen since the years of the Nazis. Children being raised on a steady diet of anti-Semitism.
- Growing efforts in political, academia, religious and cultural entities to delegitimize the Jewish state.
- The resurgence – this time in mainstream institutions - of the classic of all canards of conspiracy of Jews acting only in their interests. That Jews are not loyal. That they pervert their countries. Disproportionate control of governments and media by Jews to further their interests frequently vs. the best interest of the societies they reside in. The Jews were dragging their countries into war. Now it is legitimate to question the loyalty of Jews.
- And finally the Internet. The communications revolution – so much a boon to information, communication and education – has spawned anti-Semitism. Yes this was an unintended consequence. The Internet has undeniably provided a super highway for hate and anti-Semitism which Gobbles could never have imagined. It is global and anonymous and travels the globe in nanoseconds, entering the home, the school, businesses and elsewhere without perspective, challenge or restraint and legitimizes on the screen hatred previously much less available and prevalent.
Finally, we have frequently agonized - is this like it was in the 1930s and 40s? Most of us have concluded, no, it is not. But it hasn't been as threatening and as bad since then.
But there are significant differences. First of all, there is Israel. Our presence here, summoned and assembled in Jerusalem by the sovereign independent Jewish state by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni and the Minister of Diaspora Affairs Isaac Herzog is testament to the greatest of changes. The Jewish state sees its responsibility not only to protect the citizens of its country, but to worry about the safety and well being of Jews everywhere.
The second change is we, the global Jewish community, we have to come to inform, educate, sensitize and strategize how to combat global anti-Semitism.
And finally, we are not alone. Present at this conference of so many non-Jewish participants who have come to stand with us.
Finally, finally. We – our generations are unique in Jewish history. We witnessed, were scarred and survived Auschwitz, but we had the privilege to see the rebirth of the sovereign Jewish state. We have etched on an 11th commandment. Never Again. Never Again to be silent in the face of bigotry and racism and above all to the anti-Semitism out to hurt our people. But it is not limited to anti-Semitism. Never Again is an imperative to say no to any and all hatred for we frequently were its first victim, but not its last. We know it begins with anti-Semitism, but it doesn't end there.