Diaspora attitudes increasing anti-Semitism?

In May 2014, the Anti-Defamation League (“ADL”) posted an article that stated “More than a Quarter of the World is Anti-Semitic”.  That equates to 1.1 billion (yup, “b”, not “m”) of adults worldwide. 70% of those surveyed who described themselves as “anti-Semitic” had never met a Jew. 35% had never heard of the Holocaust! 14% of Canadians hold these views.

The survey gauged anti-Semitism by asking respondents if they agreed with an index of 11 statements that the ADL believes suggest anti-Jewish bias. Those statements are as follows:

  • Jews talk too much about what happened to them during the Holocaust.
  • Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the countries they live in.
  • Jews think they are better than other people.
  • Jews have too much power in international financial markets.
  • Jews have too much power in the business world.
  • Jews have too much control over global affairs.
  • People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave.
  • Jews have too much control over the U.S. government.
  • Jews have too much control over global media.
  • Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars.
  • Jews don’t care about what happens to anyone but their own kind.

Respondents who agreed that a majority of the statements are “probably true” were deemed anti-Semitic.

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has some strong words or the U.S. Congress: If you don’t like the rise of anti-Semitism that has accompanied Israel’s latest war, then you should pressure Israel to stop killing Palestinians.

The majority of the diaspora Jewish population make no effort to hide their support in part, or in whole, of the Israeli government’s military actions in Gaza.  This is being proved by very vocal rallies all over the world as well as by the explosion of pro-Israel content we find on social media. That’s a good thing!

We need to show our support to those whom we know are in grave danger of being mortared on a daily basis. We need to show our support for those whom we know cannot walk home from Yeshiva without being abducted and shot in the head. We need to show our support if we agree with the need to oust Hamas and its terror supporters from Gaza, once and for all, and provide the children and innocent victims of Hamas’ gross humanitarian crimes with a safe place to live.

As Jews, it is difficult to separate our love and dedication to the State of Israel as our Jewish homeland from a more cerebral perspective that puts the country in the same category as any other Middle East player.

Our ancient history tells us that Israel is our birthright. Our more recent history, at least that after the formation of the State in 1948, tells us that it is our responsibility to protect that nation for our future and the future of l’dor v’dor, or “generation to generation”.

Unfortunately, that passion and dedication often leads us to use the terms “Israeli” and “Jew” or “Jewish” interchangeably when we talk about the country, the land, the people and the government.

But, are we, through our own words and actions, contributing to the rest of the world’s inability to separate Israel, as a country, from the Jewish people? Are we contributing to anti-Semitism; the very thing that threatens our future?

Sam Harris recently wrote in his blog “Why Don’t I Criticize Israel”:

I don’t think Israel should exist as a Jewish state. I think it is obscene, irrational and unjustifiable to have a state organized around a religion. So I don’t celebrate the idea that there’s a Jewish homeland in the Middle East. I certainly don’t support any Jewish claims to real estate based on the Bible. [Note: Read this paragraph again.]

Though I just said that I don’t think Israel should exist as a Jewish state, the justification for such a state is rather easy to find. We need look no further than the fact that the rest of the world has shown itself eager to murder the Jews at almost every opportunity. So, if there were going to be a state organized around protecting members of a single religion, it certainly should be a Jewish state. Now, friends of Israel might consider this a rather tepid defense, but it’s the strongest one I’ve got. I think the idea of a religious state is ultimately untenable. [Note: It is worth observing, however, that Israel isn’t “Jewish” in the sense that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are “Muslim.” As my friend Jerry Coyne points out, Israel is actually less religious than the U.S., and it guarantees freedom of religion to its citizens. Israel is not a theocracy, and one could easily argue that its Jewish identity is more cultural than religious. However, if we ask why the Jews wouldn’t move to British Columbia if offered a home there, we can see the role that religion still plays in their thinking.]

I think that we need to read those paragraphs more than once.

In return, Israel has always had a special obligation to protect the Jewish diaspora. Throughout its history, Israel has helped airlift vulnerable Jewish populations in countries like Yemen and Ethiopia to safety. The state also secretly aided the immigration of Soviet Jews to Israel during the Cold War when such dissidents were refused the right to leave the Soviet Union.

Israel must also take into consideration that every move it makes may have a ripple effect on communities throughout the diaspora.

So, it is mixed up and muddled. Even the State of Israel isn’t really just the State of Israel.

Herein lies the danger.

We have a responsibility to educate those who have been fed a diet of anti-Semitic themes: Blood libels, Holocaust deniers, people who believe that the Jews killed Jesus, and those that still think Jews caused the bubonic plague.

We have a responsibility to educate those who are simply CNN viewers and never pick up a newspaper or change the channel. The view that observers with no vested interest in the outcome of this war is one that is uniquely formed by the media. In fact, most have no opinion, and that is dangerous. They will be spoon-fed an opinion by the media and social media.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls stated at a rally in March: The old anti-Semitism of the French extreme right “is renewed,” he said. “It feeds off hate for Israel. It feeds off anti-Zionism. Because anti-Zionism is an invitation to anti-Semitism.”

The media here in my own country are not helping. Recently, in Calgary, there was a violent protest between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian protesters. Calgary Herald reporter, Erika Stark, admitted that she had censored her reports to omit the fact that protesters were shouting “Heil Hitler”.   This is further proof that a rally in a country that considers itself very accommodating to people of all religions and races can turn ugly, and fast. And the media reported the fisticuffs without providing an accurate portrayal of the incitement leading up to the fray. Viewers are left thinking that this was simply “Israel” versus “Palestine”.

Describing Israel as “our” homeland adds to the impression that Israel is uniquely racist. How can we have a country that “belongs” to a specific religion? Let’s remember that according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the Arab population in 2013 was estimated at 1,658,000, representing 20.7% of the country’s population. Christian Arabs comprise about 9% of the Arab population in Israel. [I was unable to find reliable statistics to present regarding the Druze population.]

We need to share these statistics in any conversation that includes the phrase: “Israel is the Jewish homeland.”

We need to present these numbers at every opportunity and remind people that Israel is a democracy, that Arabs, Christians, and other groups are afforded full voting rights, there are Arab members of Knesset, and they own businesses and homes in Israel. And, many live in cities and towns outside of Gaza and The West Bank. They aren’t segregated. There is no apartheid.

In a terrifying example in Australia, a 12, 10 and eight year old child were terrorized on a bus by drunken louts cum neo-Nazis shouting ‘Heil Hitler’, ‘kill the Jews’, ‘Palestine must kill you Jews’, ‘we’re going to cut your throats and slice your throats open’. ‘f*** Jews’ and ‘stop taking over Palestine’ and ‘we will kill you and cut your throats’.”

Wait. Are you pro-Palestine? Anti-Israel? Neo-Nazi? Or Anti-Semitic? Or are all of those terms suddenly interchangeable?

Isabelle Stanton, a mother whose daughters were on the same bus, said, “it’s absolutely wrong to import something from the Middle East. I have no words. When children are involved it triggers some terrible emotions.”

The Middle East? They weren’t shouting “death to Israelis”. Doesn’t she see the difference either?

About the Author
Jennifer Hill-Simpson is a superhero, semi-supermom, and supporter of the State of Israel.