David Harris
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‘We haven’t shown enough outrage’

American Jews have stayed far too quiet on the alarming spread of anti-Semitism throughout Europe

The other day, I had occasion to watch once again French Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ extraordinary speech to the National Assembly in Paris, delivered in January just after the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris.

His passionate comments about the rise of anti-Semitism and the threat it poses to France ought to be obligatory viewing.

One sentence in particular has stuck with me. “We haven’t shown enough outrage,” the French leader proclaimed.

This comment was directed at the French political class and public at large. But, from my experience, these words could also apply to some Jews, especially in the U.S.

To be sure, many are well aware of the evolving situation and concerned about it. At the same time, the Jewish response to danger has always been rather complicated.

There are those Jews who seek to downplay or deny the danger; or convince themselves that it’s not directed at them, or that their particular place in life walls them off from it; or believe, in a variation of the Stockholm Syndrome, that it can in some way be justified and, therefore, requires behavioral changes by (other) Jews; or hope that by telling the world how much the Jews have done for everyone in science, medicine, culture, and philanthropy, we will change anti-Semitic attitudes; or reject the Jewish belief that “All Jews are responsible for one another,” so what happens in Paris or Brussels is essentially irrelevant to life across the ocean; or invoke the “IOI Syndrome” – “If only Israel” acted differently, all would be hunky-dory.

It is high time, I believe, for us to show more outrage at a number of the things that have been going on.

It’s not acceptable that Jews in some European countries worry whether they have a future because it’s no longer clear if governments, however much they might wish to, can protect them.

It’s not acceptable that we’ve witnessed murderous attacks, all by Islamists, against Jews in Toulouse, Burgas, Paris, Brussels, and Copenhagen.

It’s not acceptable that worshipers in Paris’s Don Isaac Abravanel Synagogue were surrounded last summer by a raging anti-Israel mob chanting “Hitler was right” and “Slaughter the Jews,” and were only stopped from wreaking havoc by some brave Jewish volunteers and a handful of policemen.

It’s not acceptable that Jewish parents in France, Belgium, and elsewhere wonder if they’re being responsible in sending their children to Jewish schools, which could one day be in the crosshairs of terrorists, just as the Ozar Hatorah School in Toulouse was.

It’s not acceptable that, last year, a synagogue in the German city of Wuppertal was attacked with firebombs, while keffiyeh-clad demonstrators shouted “Jews, Jews, cowardly swine, come on out and fight alone” in the streets of Berlin.

It’s not acceptable that fans of the Dutch soccer team, FC Utrecht, chanted “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas” to taunt the visiting fans of another soccer team, Ajax Amsterdam, which traditionally enjoyed support from the Jewish community.

It’s not acceptable that a journalist posing as a Jew in Malmo was harassed, ridiculed, and menaced as he walked in Sweden’s third-largest city.

It’s not acceptable that an openly neo-Nazi party, the Golden Dawn, sits in the Greek parliament and spouts every imaginable conspiracy theory about Jews.

It’s not acceptable that a spokesman for a xenophobic group in the Hungarian parliament, Jobbik, calls for the registering of Jews in the country, so as to be able to identify who and where every Jew is.

It’s not acceptable that the one majority-Jewish nation in the world, Israel, is the only country openly targeted for annihilation by another country, Iran, while Tehran not only remains uncensured for its rhetoric in the UN, but chairs the 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement.

It’s not acceptable that Israel is the only country in the world whose very right to exist is challenged daily, while no other nation is subjected to this kind of attempted delegitimization.

It’s not acceptable that Israel, the one liberal democracy in the Middle East, is the sole nation on earth to be targeted by a BDS movement.

It’s not acceptable that Israel has, on several occasions, sought to reach a two-state deal with the Palestinians, only to be rebuffed each time, and yet is depicted by many today in governments, the media, and academia as being the “principal” obstacle to peace.

It’s not acceptable that the UN Human Rights Council devotes well over 50 percent of its country-specific resolutions to Israel – a nation governed by the rule of law, monitored by an inquiring media, and boasting a vibrant civil society – while other countries whose human rights records are beyond appalling get off scot-free.

It’s not acceptable that the only country for which the UN Human Rights Council has a permanent agenda item is not Syria, Libya, Sudan, Iran, or North Korea, but Israel.

It’s not acceptable that in last summer’s war, triggered by the firing of rockets from Hamas-controlled Gaza into Israel and the kidnapping and murder of three young Israelis, the very same UN Human Rights Council criticized Israel by a vote of 29 to 1 (United States), with 17 abstentions, while blithely ignoring Hamas responsibility.

It’s not acceptable that five Latin American countries, including Brazil, Chile, and Peru, recalled their ambassadors from Israel last summer, whereas no one can remember the last time these same countries took such diplomatic action anywhere else in the world, despite a torrent of wars and crises.

It’s not acceptable that the presidents of Turkey and Venezuela have sought to pressure local Jewish communities to condemn Israel.

It’s not acceptable that two UCLA students were tormented for months and hauled before a student court because they had visited Israel, which was deemed by some as disqualifying them ipso facto from participating in a student government vote on BDS.

It’s not acceptable that two students at UCLA and Stanford were questioned about whether the fact that they were Jews was material to their desire to run for office on campus.

And it’s not acceptable that survivors of the Holocaust, who wanted to believe the world might learn something from what had befallen them, may now spend their remaining days fearing that Jews are once again at risk.

If we’re not outraged, why not? And if we’re not moved to act, what more will it take?

About the Author
David Harris is the CEO of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).
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