More on Counting Anti-Semites

A few months ago in this Blog (in “Europe’s Toxic Anti-Semitism Problem,” July 10), I used a somewhat misleading headline debate between Manfred Gerstenfeld, author of “Demonizing Israel and the Jews,” and Robert Wistrich, in my view the world’s leading authority on the history of anti-Semitism. According to the headlines, Gerstenfeld used polling data to estimate that “there are well over 150 million European anti-Semites,” while Wistrich countered that the existence of 150 million idiots does not necessarily equate with the existence of 150 million anti-Semites.

In fact, Gerstenfeld and Wistrich agree on the grim fundamentals with Daniel Goldhagen’s “The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism” (2013): that the fusion of old-style anti-Semitism(s) with more recent Israel hatred has created “a new anti-Semitism” lethally potent in Europe as well as the Arab and Muslim world. They would probably also agree that the U.S. is an outlier, a point dramatized by a new ADL poll showing a decline of “hard core” American anti-Semites to 12 percent today, compared to 15 percent in 2011. Actually, the ADL results should be read with care. Today’s decline is really just a return to the 2009 poll results that only partly reflected the upward blip in anti-Jewish conspiracy theories stimulated by the global financial crisis.

Anti-Semitism Surges in Europe

FRA Report on Discrimination and Hate Online Against JewsEarlier today, as we begin the weekend marking the seventieth anniversary of Kristallnacht (November 9-10, 1938), the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency issued a stunning report detailing the extent of anti-Semitism in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.  This is the best data that we have seen on contemporary anti-Semitism in Europe.  And the worst news.

The European Union’s headline news are sobering.  Two thirds of European Jews believe anti-Semitism to be a major problem in their respective countries, and 76% say the situation has deteriorated in the last five years.  One in five European Jews has been subjected to an anti-Semitic physical attack, harassment, or verbal insult over the prior year.

While we have long known that European Jews faced a bleak situation, the conditions turn out to be worse than we had thought.  It turns out that European agencies have not previously had reliable figures on anti-Jewish incidents for a simple reason.  A whopping three quarters of European Jewish victims of anti-Semitic harassment did not report the most serious incident to the police or any other organization.  This is also true of two thirds of those who faced anti-Semitic violence or threats of violence.

Many European Jews are now understandably uneasy.  One sexagenarian Hungarian told the agency that, “Unfortunately, the fight against anti-Semitism is more and more hopeless.”  An English woman in her later fifties told the agency, “I feel worried about anti-Semitism now in a way that I did not 30 years ago. Something that should have disappeared from social acceptability is instead becoming stronger.”

Brandeis Center Launches Second Law School Chapter at American University


          Yesterday afternoon the Brandeis Center has launched their first Law School Chapter in the East Coast, at American University’s Washington College of Law, located in Washington D.C. The law school chapter initiative is the most recent developed program, to involve future leaders who are passionate about justice in the Brandeis Center’s campaign against campus anti- Semitism.

          LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “This is absolutely thrilling news for the Brandeis Center, to know we have passionate and diligent law students who share our goals and want to take an extra step by learning and educating themselves about legal actions that they can take when they see injustice. These students are the future leaders of America, so their immense interest in our organization’s work truly means a lot.”

           The launch of the Washington Law College chapter follows quickly upon the launch of LDB’s first chapter at the UCLA law school. The launch started off with LDB’s newly featured video which explains the main goals for the creation of the law chapters and why law students across the U.S. should be part of it. Then, LDB’s staff attorney Danit Sibovits, answered multiple questions which sparked from the attentive student body. The students were interested in knowing how they can be more aware of campus anti-Semitism.  They learned that through the chapters, the Brandeis Center will help students host speaker events, lead various discussions, and conduct advocacy-orientated sessions that focus on Jewish civil rights and anti-Semitism on campus. So the law chapter members will actively use the skills they are learning to promote awareness and justice when they see any forms of campus anti-Semitism.

Brandeis Center Announces Formation of Law Student Chapters

            At the Brandeis Center we are thrilled to be launching an important, brand new initiative: law student chapters at select law schools throughout the United States. The new chapters will advance the organization’s mandate to combat campus anti-Semitism through legal means. This news is absolutely exhilarating because there are law students throughout the United States who wants to help with us with our mission to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all.

             LDB President, Kenneth L. Marcus, points out in our newly produced short film, The Louis D. Brandeis Center: For Human Rights Under Law, that the crucial aspects of the law chapter initiative is that it is a “vehicle for law students to get together to see what’s going on their campus and other campuses throughout their region, to get the training they need to address it, to educate undergraduates, and to take a leading role on their campus and their part of the country, to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all.” Everybody that is concerned about justice should be a part of these chapters, which are not just for Jewish students. The new film, by the way, is discussed by Eesha Bhave elsewhere at this blog.

Woody Allen May Be Seeing the Light About Israel—Sort Of

Woody Allen’s recent remarks about bigoted critics of Israel re-raise the perennial question about the Jewish roots to his serio-comic gift.

Born Allen Stewart Konigsberg in the Bronx in 1935, Allen was the son of Austrian and Russian-Jewish immigrants. His Orthodox family spoke German and a well as Yiddish at home, and while growing up in Brooklyn he lived at times with paternal relations who were refugees from Hitler’s Germany. Allen prayed each morning with phylacteries, attended temple every Saturday with his paternal grandfather, and Hebrew School in the afternoons for eight years until his Bar Mitzvah.

Three-time Academy Award-winner including as director for Best Picture “Annie Hall” (1977), Allen started as a teenage joke writer for comedian Sid Caesar and “The Tonight Show,” evolved into a standup comic, wrote plays as well as movie scripts, shaped from behind the scenes the television success of “Saturday Night Live,” graduated from slapstick comedy to films exploring the meaning of life, and is celebrated in France as a great auteur.

According to one student of Allen, Michael Abbott, “Allen’s didacticism, his tortuous self-questioning, his familiar use of a question in reply to a question, his mosaic storytelling style—all are rooted deeply in Talmudic thought and tradition.” Allen viewed matters differently: “I was unmoved by the synagogue, I was not interested in the Seder, I was not interested in the Hebrew school, I was not interested in being Jewish, . . . .” It just didn’t mean a thing to me. I was not ashamed of it nor was I proud of it. It was a nonfactor to me. I didn’t care about it. It just wasn’t my field of interest. I cared about baseball, I cared about movies. To be a Jew was not something that I felt ‘Oh, God, I’m so lucky’. Or ‘Gee, I wish I were something else’. I certainly had no interest in being Catholic or in any of the other Gentile religions.”

Yet Allen developed a persona very much in the tradition of Jewish humor. First, in his comedy monologues and early films like “Take the Money and Run” (1969) he was the Nebbish—a comic nonentity. But then he graduated to the role of Shlemiel—the failure with a brain and sense of humor—in an Americanized version of Menashe Skulnik of the Yiddish theater.

Pope Francis: Let anti-Semitism be banished from every heart

This morning, Pope Francis met with members of Rome’s Jewish community to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Nazi deportation of Rome’s Jews.  According to Radio Vatican, the pope took the occasion to express his feelings of closeness to the Jewish people.  In his remarks, Pope Francis also issued a ringing denunciation of anti-Semitism:

“We will remember in a few days the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the Jews of Rome. We will remember and pray for the many innocent victims of human barbarity , for their families,” said Pope Francis.

“It will also be an opportunity to keep vigilant so that, under any pretext, any forms of intolerance and anti-Semitism in Rome and the rest of the world not come back to life,” the Holy Father said.

“I’ve said it other times and I would like to repeat it now: It’s a contradiction that a Christian is anti-Semitic: His roots are Jewish,” said the Pope. “A Christian cannot be anti-Semitic ! Let Anti-Semitism be banished from the heart and life of every man and every woman!”

Kenneth Marcus Speaking at American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists event


The President of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law, Kenneth L. Marcus will be presenting in an upcoming special luncheon hosted by the New York area chapter of the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (AAJLJ). During this luncheon, Marcus will cover many of the topics that the Brandeis Center focuses on. Specifically, he will address resurgence of anti-Semitism on American Colleges. He will also look at the relationship between anti-Semitism and anti-Israel propaganda and advocacy, and the role of lawyers in responding to resurgent campus anti-Semitism. Marcus will address the impact of recent cases on college campuses as well as LDB’s continuing work to protect Jewish students from discrimination, harassment and hostile environments.

The Swastika as a Symbol of Happiness

The Polish criminal code, similarly to criminal codes in other European countries, prohibits incitement to racial hatred; public insult due to race, national, ethnic or religious origin; as well as public propagating of National Socialist and Fascist systems. Those who oppose the penalisation of words – including racist and xenophobic words – will most probably not approve of the situation in which it is possible to obtain a 3-year jail sentence for shouting “Hitler should have finished his work.” But the European system of human rights protection, founded on the rubble of a Europe devastated by the Holocaust and totalitarian regimes, applies legal measures for counteracting racism which constitute part of the concept of the “militant democracy”.

Białystok and Wrocław are big Polish cities where racism, anti-Semitism and the activities of extreme right-wing organisations are very visible. In those cities, in the last few months, disquieting and for some even frightening decisions have been passed by the prosecutors and judges. In the case of Wrocław, a judge has absolved of the blame of offending due to racism and calling to hatred due to racism a group of activists from National Rebirth of Poland, whose slogans and calls constitute the purest form of racism one could imagine. The judge’s explanation was shocking indeed: he stated that the opinions of those prosecuted are merely a proof of their fascination with the theory of “the preservation of separation in the rich mosaic of races,” developed by Arthur Gobineau, the author of “An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races”, whose main ideas were borrowed by Hitler and Nazism. If this very fact constitutes in the judge’s opinion an excuse for calls such as “Blacks to Africa,” we need to consider if the judge himself is not, by any chance, fascinated by the “mosaic of unequal human races”?

Not long afterwards, one of the Białystok prosecutors who received a notice of the crime committed by unknown perpetrators who painted swastika symbols on the buildings in public spaces, decided that the case needed to be abandoned because the swastika can of course be a symbol of National Socialists, but in fact should be seen as a symbol of happiness and wealth in the Asian culture (!).  It is possible that  neo-Nazis, who probably painted those swastikas, were themselves outraged by the fact that they were propagating Asian culture, which, as any other “under-culture”, they abhor. A question arises again: is the prosecutor aware of the scale of the problem of racism in his own city? Does he know of the devastations of synagogues, setting the flats of foreigners on fire, neo-Nazi marches? Did his history teachers at school not tell him what the swastika after the Second World War means in our part of the world? Has he ever heard of the crimes committed under the swastika symbol in Poland by the Nazis?

Call for Papers: Budapest Conference on “Narratives of Violence”

This announcement from our colleagues at the Pears Institute  for the Study of Antisemitism and the International Consortium for Research on Antisemitism and Racism (ICRAR) will be of interest to our anti-Semitism scholars:

A major international conference on Narratives of Violence, conceived by the International Consortium for Research on Antisemitism and Racism (ICRAR), of which the Pears Institute is a founding member, will be held in Budapest, Hungary, on 16-18 June 2014, hosted by the Jewish Studies Program at Central European University.

The call for papers appears below. Paper proposals of 200-300 words, together with a brief CV, should be sent to by 1 November 2013. 

Narratives of Violence

A major international conference on Narratives of Violence, conceived by the International Consortium for Research on Antisemitism and Racism (ICRAR), and hosted by the Jewish Studies Program at Central European University, will be held in Budapest, Hungary, on June 16-18, 2014.

Anti-Semitic Group Hate Speech Permeates Facebook

Facebook logoVery recently, Facebook Inc. has come under scrutiny for allowing certain hate groups against the Jewish community to stay online, while blocking other hate groups that target other minority communities. Within Facebook’s public, community standards, the company explicitly prohibits the “attack of others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.” These are standards that Facebook has set for its users, so it is natural that they should live up to the same guidelines, and focus on removing hateful, anti-Semitic groups.  As part of the effort to urge Facebook to disable the hateful groups, a group called “Remove Hate From FB” has called for an “offline” protest at on October 14th at Facebook’s headquarters.