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Same old anti-Semitism, different Jews

The hatred is always lurking, using different excuses for the same wicked ends. Today we have a response for it -- and it's not love
French President Emmanuel Macron looks at a grave vandalized with a swastika during a visit at the Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, on February 19, 2019, on the day of nationwide marches against a rise in anti-Semitic attacks. (Frederick Florin/Pool/AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron looks at a grave vandalized with a swastika during a visit at the Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, on February 19, 2019, on the day of nationwide marches against a rise in anti-Semitic attacks. (Frederick Florin/Pool/AFP)

My family is under attack.

My home is under attack.

My people are under attack.

The dramatic rise in incidents of violent anti-Semitism this past year is a direct attack on my family. The synagogue in Pittsburgh, the synagogue in Halle, swastikas in cemeteries in Ukraine, the BDS movement, the attacks on Jewish students on campuses across the US and Europe. In France, again and again, Jews are attacked in the street, next to synagogues.

In many cases, anti-Semitism comes top down, from the leadership. Jeremy Corbyn in the UK is an anti-Semite. Of the oldest style. Erdogan in Turkey, an old style anti-Semite. The Polish Holocaust law, which tries to erase their responsibility for what happened in Poland during the Holocaust, is intolerable. It’s all part of the same thing. Anti-Semitism is here.

I do not talk about the “return” of anti-Semitism, because it never left. It just waited for the right time to rise again. Anti-Semitism thinks this is its time. But while the anti-Semites might be the same as they always were, the Jews are not. We won’t stay silent. We’ve got no intention of trying to appease them.

The great Jewish satirist, Ephraim Kishon, once wrote: “The State of Israel wasn’t founded so that anti-Semitism would end. It was founded so that we could tell the anti-Semites to shove it.”

Jews are done being afraid. We’ll fight back. In the legal arena, the press, if we need to use physical force – the State of Israel knows how to do that. If we need to target anti-Semitic terror networks, the Mossad will be there.

The anti-Semites say, “the Jews are different from us, that’s why we’re allowed to attack them.” Too many Jews in too many places say: “you are wrong, we’re not different. All people are the same.” It doesn’t help because it isn’t true. We are different. We have a different religion, we’re part of an ancient and unique culture. There is a covenant between us. We’re proud of it. Loving your brother isn’t a crime. Being different isn’t a crime. We don’t need to pretend we’re not different. We need to fight for the principle that you don’t discriminate against people because they’re different. You don’t kill people because they’re different.

The anti-Semites say, “The Jews think they’re better than others.” Are we meant to feel uncomfortable and apologize? I refuse to apologize. The Jews aren’t better than others but there is no reason to ignore our contribution to humanity. Jews are 0.2% of the global population. And still, we gave the world the Torah, the Theory of Relativity, psychology and nearly a quarter of all Nobel prize winners.

The biggest anti-Semitic project, throughout history, is to convince the world that anti-Semitism is the result of something the Jews did. Anti-Semitism never admits to what it really is: xenophobia, which is simply the hatred of what you don’t understand because you don’t understand it; hatred of those that are different because that’s the only way evil people can love themselves. You look for someone to hate. You look for someone to blame for all your problems. You tell yourself that they threaten you so that you can justify your violence towards them. So that you can justify the hate and violence inside you.

If you need proof that anti-Semites are only looking for an excuse to hate Jews, look at how often throughout history they changed the excuse. The Spanish Inquisition tortured and killed Jews because they killed Jesus. Shakespeare, who never met a Jew in his life, wrote Shylock the Jew who only loves money. The Nazis talked about racial purity. The blood libels blamed Jews for paganism. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion claimed Jews were trying to take over the world through the banks and media. The Jihadis blame the Jews for sending the Prophet Muhammed a poisoned lamb.

When the excuse changes every time, you know it’s a lie. It’s always different but really it’s always the same. They don’t hate Jews for something the Jews did, but because of something within themselves. Something evil, malicious and ugly.

In recent years there is a new excuse. It’s because of Israel. Because of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. They don’t care about human rights, they’re anti-Semites. They were silent while Assad murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people. They were silent when over four million were killed in the civil war in Congo. They are silent when homosexuals are hanged from cranes in Iran. They only start to shout when it comes to a democratic, law-abiding state which does everything in its power to protect human life. Why? Because it’s the Jews. And they hate Jews. They don’t really care about the fate of children in Gaza.

If they cared, then they’d speak out against Hamas, which sends children to die on the fences. Against Islamic Jihad, which uses children as ‘human shields’ for their crimes. There is only one reason they prefer blaming Israel instead of those really responsible for the tragic death of those poor children – they’re anti-Semites. Israel angers them because we refuse to be the victim.

That’s the real grievance against Israel. We gave you a role, anti-Semites say throughout the generations. You’ll be the victims. They will try to kill you; Iran will openly proclaim it wants to destroy you; Terror organizations with advanced weapons will try to kill your children. If you try to defend yourselves, we’ll condemn you. How dare you defend yourselves? Every time you do that, we’ll gather the UN Human Rights Council to condemn you. To make clear that you’re not meant to protect yourselves when they try to kill you. We’ll gather all the countries that are members of that grotesque council: Afghanistan and Angola, Bangladesh and Congo, Eritrea and Iraq, Rwanda and Somalia and South Africa. Each country is responsible for the deaths of far more people than Israel. For terrible horrors. Many aren’t democratic. But they have an advantage. They’re not Jews. They’re not the ones anti-Semites always choose to blame.

Sometimes you need to state the obvious, so I’ll say it: Israel does everything in its power to avoid hurting innocents. Certainly children. There are very few examples, across all the wars in history, that a country made so much effort to avoid harming innocents on the other side. If Hamas stopped firing missiles at our children, the restrictions on Gaza would be lifted within 48 hours. Three times we’ve offered the Palestinians more than 90% of the land territories and their own state. Three times they refused.

If there was a Palestinian state, if all the restrictions on Gaza were lifted, if Jews and Palestinians would live together in peace and harmony – the anti-Semites would find another reason to hate Jews. An old excuse or a new one. It doesn’t matter. That’s them.

They’re not trying to delegitimize Israel or its policies. They’re trying to delegitimize the Jewish people. The very fact that Jews exist. There is no point trying to appease them. There is no point trying to prove to them that they’re wrong. There are no facts in this debate. There is no fact they won’t distort. No lie they won’t spread.

We won’t change the anti-Semites, but we have the tools to fight back. If they raise a hand against a Jew, they need to know that other Jews will respond. If they’re planning a terror attack against Jews, they need to know – it’s a death wish.

Mostly, we need to fight the industry of lies and tell our story better. We need to fight together for the hearts and minds of the billions of people who don’t know the facts. Those who were sold lies by the new anti-Semites. The silent majority. We need to explain to them that they’re hearing the voices of hate. The BDS movement is the voice of hate. The voices of the anti-Israel protesters in Paris, or in London, or on campuses in the United States – are the voices of hate. Politicians who suggest boycotting Israel and supporting terror organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, they are the voices of hate.

I’m no pacifist. I don’t believe in facing hate with love. You don’t fight hate with love, but with organizational ability, clear messaging, with determination and strength. You fight it in TV studios and on the battlefield. You fight it by telling the truth. It’s not a political debate. It’s not a debate about Israeli policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians. It’s an ancient attempt to destroy a small and talented people that insists on maintaining their unique identity and unique voice. We will continue to insist on our voice. We will continue to make it heard loud and clear, everywhere. To say to the agents of hate – Jews will no longer be silent. Jews will no longer be afraid.

Adapted from a speech given to the ELNET Conference, “Facing Security Challenges: European and Israeli Perspectives

About the Author
Yair Lapid is a member of Knesset and the chairman of the Yesh Atid party.
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