Short Takes on the World’s Oldest Hatred
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Probably the one agreed upon recommendation to emerge from the Global Forum on Anti-Semitism was to establish a central clearing house for all anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic events. All countries and organizations would submit reports of such incidents to one central location. The problem still to be resolved is who will operate the clearing house; who and how incidents will be defined and measured; and how much national politics (particularly if it is sited in Israel) will influence the efficacy of this totally sensible proposal. Furthermore, the unanswered question is how to fund such an operation.
Anti-Semitism continues to be a tolerated prejudice even 70 years after the Shoah. Perhaps only the Germans really understand their and the world’s responsibility. The Justice Minister, Heiko Maas, announced that the German Government is even now investigating why the German Government did not adequately pursue known Nazis in Germany in the 1950's and 1960's. Separately but related, Prime Minister Angela Merkel reiterated again in Berlin that Germany has a special relationship with Israel which will remain forever. She implied that today’s Germany sometimes may disagree with Israeli policies, but this never will lead to a situation of delegitimization.
With respect to the especially acute escalating crises in Western Europe, many of the delegates raised a classical issue which effects all European Governments; the role of the European Commission. There is an inherent problem within Europe that spills over to managing and considering anti-Semitic occurrences. Sovereign states and Jewish organizations within these states frequently view events that transpire within their own country differently than does the inter-European Commission and Human Right organizations. National politics thus conflicts sometimes with multi-lateral perceptions and vice-versa.
Here is the real crisis today; the new anti-Semitism—Islamic based hatred of Jews. It is religious, cultural, and political. It is the most virulent and dangerous form of hatred by far. The growing presence of increasing Muslim population has totally challenged Western and Jewish norms towards strangers. Belgium, for example, already senses the dimensions of the virtually unstoppable shift in its population. Growing anti-Semitic activity is only one part of its national concern for the future of the country.
The engagement of many non-Jews in the concern and study of anti-Semitism was impressive. Coming from numerous countries and representing an array of faiths, all of these delegates certainly understood the problem and the message. Youth and adult education appeared to be one of their central foci as the obvious strategy to reverse the escalation of anti-Semitism. All of these leaders understood fully the threat faced by all countries—especially in Europe—of Islamic based anti-Semitism.
Probably the most contentious and unresolved issue was the extent to which anti-Israel expression was indeed a manifestation of anti-Semitism or rather fundamental disagreement with governmental policy. While much depended on whether a person was Israeli or not, most delegates suggested there was a need to consider the tone and character of every action and/or statement as well as the context. The question remained as to when one crosses the line, how to recognize it, and how to measure it. While all the delegates were extremely concerned about this, it was especially Israeli groups who pounced on issues such as demonization of Israel and deligitimazation of Israel, as well as denial of Israel’s right to exist.