The Continuity of the New Anti-Semitism and Anti-Semitic Hate Acts and Terrorism
Michael Kleinman, Brandeis Blog
October 26, 2015
The Times of Israel reported last week that according to the latest annual US State Department Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, the level of anti Semitic incidents continues to rise in Europe. That report found that the rise in European anti Semitism was tied to criticism of Israeli policy.
The Times reported that Secretary of State John Kerry presented the report together with Ambassador At Large for Religious Freedom David Saperstein at the State Department. Saperstein stated that “in Europe, many governments are struggling to cope with the aftermath of terror attacks such as those in France, Belgium and Denmark, along with increased anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim actions and sentiments.”
Saperstein continued stating that such criticism of Israel, “has often crossed the line when groups try to argue that Israel is an inherently illegal state and doesn’t have a right to exist as a Jewish state here and takes actions to delegitimize those fundamental rights,” and that such statements are “right on the cusp of that line when it holds one country to different standards than it would hold any other country.”
Apparently linking hateful anti Semitic terrorism and discourse together, the Report states that “countries such as France and Germany witnessed a wave of anti-Israel sentiments that crossed the line into anti-Semitism,” which “left many pondering the viability of Jewish communities in some countries,” and that while “most anti-Semitic incidents consisted mainly of hate speech and the desecration of institutions, monuments and cemeteries, others turned violent.”
The Report likewise noted an upswing of anti Semitic incidents in Austria, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland, often in connection with Israel’s 2014 Operation Protective Edge campaign against rocket attacks from Gaza. Likewise, in the midst of that conflict, the Netherlands’ government-sponsored Independent Registration Center for Discrimination on the Internet (MDI) recorded the highest spike in anti-Semitic incidents in its history.
France reported a 101 percent increase in anti-Semitic acts during the year in comparison with 2013, likewise also as a result of the 2014 conflict, including “numerous cases of physical violence against the Jewish community where individuals were targeted and beaten and synagogues were firebombed.” The State Department wrote that anti-Semitic speech and actions likewise increased in Germany.
Information gathered from this report echoes earlier reports on anti-Semitism from prior years. Already in January 2005, the State Department’s 2005 Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism Report mentioned that “demonization of Israel, or vilification of Israeli leaders, sometimes through comparisons with Nazi leaders, and through the use of Nazi symbols to caricature them, indicates an anti-Semitic bias rather than a valid criticism of policy concerning a controversial issue,” and that “strong anti-Israel sentiment [often] crosses the line between objective criticism of Israeli policies and anti-Semitism.”
The report noted that “beginning in 2000, verbal attacks directed against Jews increased while incidents of vandalism (e.g. graffiti, fire bombings of Jewish schools, desecration of synagogues and cemeteries) surged. Physical assaults including beatings, stabbings and other violence against Jews in Europe increased markedly, in a number of cases resulting in serious injury and even death. Also troubling is a bias that spills over into anti-Semitism in some of the left-of-center press and among some intellectuals.”
Notably, the “Second Palestinian Intifada,” a years long wave of brutal terrorist attacks committed by Palestinians against Israelis, began in Israel in September 2000, and is arguably directly related to the increase in anti-Semitism in 2000 noted by this first State Department report on global anti-Semitism.
The report concluded that “the disturbing rise of anti-Semitic intimidation and incidents is widespread throughout Europe,” and that “European governments in most countries now view anti-Semitism as a serious problem for their societies and demonstrate a greater willingness to address the issue.”
The State Department’s 2008 Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism Report likewise noted an upsurge in anti-Semitism. The report quoted the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in its report which stated that “anti-Semitic incidents and crimes continued to threaten stability and security in the OSCE region, remaining at high levels in terms of both frequency and intensity.” Likewise, the report quoted the United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism, which in its report stated that “it is clear that violence, desecration of property, and intimidation directed towards Jews is on the rise.” The report also noted a “sharp increase included major attacks perpetrated with a weapon and intent to kill” and “serious incidents of violence and vandalism aimed at Jewish persons, property, and institutions.”
The 2008 Report noted that a “new anti-Semitism” had evolved based on “criticism of Zionism or Israeli policy that…has the effect of promoting prejudice against all Jews by demonizing Israel and Israelis, and attributing Israel’s perceived faults to its Jewish character.” For instance, “comparing contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis is increasingly commonplace,” and “‘anti-Zionist discourse’ often employs classic, demonic stereotypes of Jews.”
As examples of this new anti-Semitism, the report mentioned:
– Placards reading “Death to the Jews—Death to Israel” and Stars of David emblazoned with swatiskas are “commonplace at anti-Israel rallies on every continent.”
– A United Kingdom-based University and College Union offered two separate resolutions which would require its membership to support a Palestinian call for a boycott and endorse restrictions on collaborative research with Israeli scholars, and that “the debate over the proposed academic boycott featured anti-Semitic demonization of Israel, such as Nazi analogies and suggestions that Israel is ‘a fascist state.’”
– The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) voted unanimously to pass a resolution to support the “international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until that state recognizes the Palestinian right to self-determination.” The resolution repeatedly made references to “Israeli Apartheid.”
– Various United Nations bodies that are asked each year on multiple occasions to “commission investigations of what often are sensationalized reports of alleged atrocities and other violations of human rights by Israel.” Such bodies have been set up “with the sole purpose of reporting on what is assumed to be ongoing, abusive Israeli behavior.” The State Department report commented that “[t]he collective effect of unremitting criticism of Israel, coupled with a failure to pay attention to regimes that are demonstrably guilty of grave violations, has the effect of reinforcing the notion that the Jewish state is one of the sources, if not the greatest source, of abuse of the rights of others, and thus intentionally or not encourages anti-Semitism.”
The report described the new anti-Semitism as “commonly manifest[ed]…in the guise of opposition to Zionism and the existence and/or policies of the state of Israel,” and that it thereby often “escapes condemnation since it can be more subtle than traditional forms of anti-Semitism, and promoting anti-Semitic attitudes may not be the conscious intent of the purveyor.” Quoting the 2006 United Kingdom Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism, the report stated that “the left in particular sees itself as immune from anti-Semitism, which it considers the exclusive province of the xenophobic right…. Commitment to Palestinian independence comes not from anti-Jewish prejudice but from a sense of justice and the need to redress grievances in what is increasingly seen as unfinished post-colonial business…. Many on the left are firm in their condemnation of racism and would almost certainly not accept that they were guilty of anti- Semitic discourse.”
The report continued by addressing the link between the new anti-Semitic discourse and the upsurge in anti-Semitic hate acts and acts of violence. “Disproportionate criticism of the Jewish State and/or Israelis and demonizing them,” explained the report, “is anti-Semitic, [it] has the effect of causing global audiences to associate those bad attributes with Jews in general,” and “constant and disproportionate criticism of Israel can…promot[e] anti-Jewish prejudice.”
The report concluded that “those criticizing Israel have a responsibility to consider the effect their actions may have in prompting hatred of Jews,” noting that “at times hostility toward Israel has translated into physical violence directed at Jews in general.” The report noted, as an example, “a sharp upsurge in anti-Semitic incidents worldwide during the conflict between Hizballah and Israel in the summer of 2006,” during which “frequent media images of Israel as a ‘Nazi-state’ during that conflict.”
In that report, the State Department the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC)’s definition of anti Semitism as a helpful way to understand and prevent the spread of the new anti-Semitism. The definition included “such manifestations [of anti-Semitism that] also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity… Examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:
– Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.…
– Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
– Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
– Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
– Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.”
These reports of the “new anti-Semitism,” from both prior State Department reports, echo current concerns reported today by the State Department. What emerges is that since 2000, around the time of the beginning of the Second Palestinian Intifada, worldwide anti-Semitic hate acts and violent attacks surged in direct correspondence to the growing trend of demonizing, delegitimizing and casting double standards and Israel as the “collective Jew.”