Antisemitism in 2016: A Year in Review (Part II)

July 2016: Holocaust Memory: What Would Elie Wiesel Do?

Elie Wiesel passed away on July 2nd, 2016 at the age of 87. In a sense, the passing of this giant is the silencing of one man who chose to perpetuate Holocaust memory in any way he could. He leaves behind him 57 books, too numerous to list or recommend here except maybe for his death camps Memoir Night, written in 1960. To Wiesel who received the Nobel Peace prize in 1986, much remained to be accomplished to remember the past and alleviate a similar future.

To him, apathy or indifference was one the worst evil in the world.  That is exactly why he spent the bulk of his life educating a world in shock that later morphed into a numb world to eventually become the postmodern world in denial that it currently is. He once said “I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead and anyone who does not remember betrays them again.”  He had always felt guilty of not being able to do more for his dad during their imprisonment in the camps.

He leaves us with a tremendous challenge. We must continue his fight.  If we remain silent, his voice will fade away into oblivion or worse, get relegated to a couple of statements about an event that many are already starting to doubt or deny. To honor the memory of Elie Wiesel is more than appropriate, but to remember the Holocaust is vital to the survival of Western civilization. As a matter of fact, to remember the Holocaust and teach it to the next generation IS to honor the memory of Elie Wiesel.

August 2016: Does World Vision’s Entanglement with Hamas show Naiveté or Malice?

World Vision International (WVI) humanitarian work has become the hallmark of Christian love and aid over the decades, so much that their yearly revenue nears $3 billion. Their published mission statement says “World Vision is an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.”

In August 2016, Israel’s internal security service accused WV Gaza office manager, Mohammed El Halabi of using up to $50 millions of charity funds to pay Hamas fighters, build tunnels and buy weapons. He was arrested in June and detained for fifty days before the accusation was made public. The Shin Bet claims to have more than sufficient proof that will be produced in court. Consider a few more facts about World Vision:

• When the Palestinian movie “With God on Our Side” came out in 2010, It was endorsed by World Vision VP, Steven W. Haas. His endorsement read “I dare anyone to see this film and remain unchanged.
• On the World Vision website, all the countries helped by the organization are listed. While Palestine and/or Israel are not listed by names, “Jerusalem/West Bank/Gaza are listed. They made a clear choice in their labelling.
• in 2007, World Vision International, which by all standards is NOT A CHURCH, decided to change its fiscal status to a “Church Status” enabling them to no longer file the IRS form 990s. By changing their status to a church, they limit the amount of financial information they have to share.  All these elements related to the reputation of WVI give us a picture of a shady organization with less integrity that they would like us to believe they have.

September 2016: Go ahead, build a security wall…Unless of course you are Israel!

Most people have heard about the Great Wall of China, started in the 7th century AD and continued for almost 1,000 years. It was built to originally protect China from repeated Eurasian invasions and continued to be used for border control over the centuries. It measures over 13,000 miles. A much smaller wall is currently being erected in the northwest part of France in the town of Calais. It has already been dubbed “The Great Wall of Calais.” Of course, Israel has been working on their security fence/wall for several years since 2003 and hundreds of lives have already been saved because of the fence. It has been a very difficult diplomatic and political battle for Israel, constantly accused of being an “Apartheid State.” Comparing Israel to South Africa is far from honest since Apartheid in South Africa was based on racial tension and falsely assumed elitism, while Israel has been building its wall solely for security reasons.

The double-standard used regarding the building of walls (including the recent one started by Saudi Arabia to also protect itself from ISIS terrorists) is upholding. France and England build a wall to protect themselves from illegal migrants who most likely include sleeper ISIS members, and that’s OK! Saudi Arabia builds a 600 miles wall to keep ISIS out, and that’s OK! So why is Israel building a wall to keep terrorists out considered to be a human rights violation?

October 2016: When fighting antisemitism, it is never too little or too late!

While they have the same source, roots and much of the same history, Christianity and Judaism have been at odds for as long as man can remember. Many of the Church Fathers such as Justin Martyr, Chrysostom, Augustine and others set the stage for Christianity to alienate Judaism by reinterpreting the Bible. Slowly, laws were passed and enforced. Jewish life became hard and often near impossible, but against all odds and because of God’s grace, the Jewish people are still here today. In spite of the Middle Ages Blood Libel, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Pogroms and the Holocaust, we are still standing. Christianity has had a difficult relationship with the Jewish people, so much so that the default mechanism for most Jewish people today is to believe that all Christians are antisemitic. That is why, whenever a Christian figure makes a repentant statement in favor of the Jewish people, it should be noted.

The 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby made such a statement. He recently stated “The fact that antisemitism has infected the body of the Church is something of which we as Christians must be deeply repentant.” This would appear to be a simple statement, but it isn’t. Welby wrote a powerful piece titled “Vigilance and resolution: Living antidotes to an ancient virus.” in which he says “It is a shameful truth that, through its theological teachings, the church, which should have offered an antidote, compounded the spread of this virus.” Welby appears to be trying to bridge the gap between Christians and Jews.  The simplest antidote to antisemitism can be found on the pages of the entire Bible. Many of its readers have re-interpreted it to exclude and even damn the Jews and Israel. Maybe I am hopelessly optimistic, but Welby's words could help in preventing further damage in Judeo/Christian relations. We certainly could use a little respite.

November 2016: Unprecedented Rise in Anti-Semitism Confirmed at ADL Summit in New York!

The Anti-Defamation League's current CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt said at the opening of their first summit on antisemitism on November 17, 2016 in Manhattan: "ADL had never before convened a summit like this on anti-Semitism. This is a first. ….And yet, today, I think all of us fear that something has changed. There are troubling signs. Now they may be subtle, they may go unnoticed by the vast majority of Americans, but we see them. We know…the American Jewish community has not seen this level of anti-Semitism in mainstream political and public discourse since the 1930s.”  This is what I brought back from attending such a powerful summit:

• American Jews are worried about their future.
The elections brought out a vast amount of anti-Jewish sentiment expressed in the media with probably the most of it coming from social media. Like one speakers said “if it happens on Twitter, it could very well transfer into real life events.”

• Criticism of Israel is different from demonization.
Nobody fights the idea that Israel can be criticized for certain decisions that its government makes or has made. But criticism is very different from demonization.  Natan Sharansky reminded us of the real danger facing us today as he spoke of the three Ds against Israel he so eloquently defined years ago: Delegitimization, double-standards and demonization.

• Our greatest threat might come from American Universities.
US campuses are where the next generation of American leaders are being molded and mentored. Regardless of your political inclination, it is an accepted fact that most US campuses are very liberal and the radical Left BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction) movement is spreading like wildfire on American campuses. This is a battleground that cannot be ignored, but to the dismay of most of the speakers, Jewish students on various campuses are too often poorly equipped at best and uninformed at worst, to fight BDS.

• The time to act is NOW!
While the focus of the summit was on how to fight anti-Semitism, other minorities were represented throughout the day. The reason is rather obvious; those who oppose and harass Jewish people will seldom stop there. Bigotry is always an equal opportunity hater.

I applaud the ADL for its efforts, and I encourage all of you who read me to be more vocal and more involved because NEVER IS NOW and to quote Mr. Greenblatt one last time: “We need to educate where we can, oppose where we must, and lock arms with those who embrace our mission.”

December 2016: Battles against ISIS can be won, but what about the war?

Not a week goes by anymore without the world being affected by radical Islam. The latest victim of this barbaric, medieval ideology, was Berlin, Germany. In a scenario similar to the one that took place in Nice, France on July 14, 2016, a terrorist drove a truck through a crowded Christmas market, killing 12 and wounding 49. Anis Amri, the Tunisian immigrant who attacked the Christmas market was caught and shot as he was on the run in Italy. He had sought asylum in Germany a few years ago but was denied because of possible ties with radical Islam. Just days prior, Andrey Karlov, the Russian Ambassador in Turkey, was shot seven times in public in Ankara, while the Turkish shooter screamed Allahu Akbar (God is great) in Arabic, followed by “Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria! Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria!”

The Islamic State seems to be the ideological thread between these violent murders across the planet.

• The Islamic State murders: They will kill in many ways using men, women AND children to further their agenda of death as they seek Islamic bliss in paradise by killing more infidels. The culture of death that drives ISIS seems unstoppable against a world that values and respect life.

• The Islamic State infiltrates: The Russian Ambassador's shooter had a connection to ISIS. The November 2015 Bataclan massacre in Paris was facilitated by the migrant crisis ebb and flow throughout Europe. At least one of the protagonists came to Paris through that venue and they will continue to do so all over the world until better vetting systems are in place.

• The Islamic State recruits: For reasons that remain hard to figure out, they also have been rather successful at recruiting Westerners. This makes profiling much more complicated. Social media has also been a very fruitful platform for radical Islam recruiting.

• The Islamic State inspires: But the most dangerous aspect of the Islamic State is the fact that even outside of infiltrating or recruiting, they inspire! Their apocalyptic ideology of death is inspiring people to act on their behalf even without having been trained in Syria or elsewhere.

The old optimistic adage of “losing the battle but winning the war” has been reversed for our generation. I am convinced that we will successfully win many battles against Islamic terrorism but we might never win the war!

In conclusion, the Jewish people continue to be seen by many as the guilty people, responsible for many of the ills of the world, far beyond the "disputed territories and/or the settlements as the United Nations, Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry seemed to believe in the last days of 2016. While there is much unknown with the coming new US administration and the upcoming French and German elections, the Jewish people will most likely continue to be the scapegoats of humanity. 2016 wasn't the worst year for Jewish people, but then again,  a good day for the global Jewish community is seldom measured on how good it was but rather on how bad it could have been. You can call me a fatalist but based on my work of the last 17 years, I prefer to call myself a realist.

Unprecedented Rise in Anti-Semitism Confirmed at ADL Summit in New York!

Since its creation in 1913, the Anti-Defamation League has been fighting racism and bigotry in general and anti-Semitism in particular. They claim that they exist to "fight anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all." For over 100 years, they have been very vocal and active in fighting for Jews across the globe, but times are changing fast as ADL's current CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt said in his opening remarks on November 17, 2016:
Now, it may come as a surprise but, in our 100 year history, ADL had never before convened a summit like this on anti-Semitism. This is a first. In our early days, I suppose, it was because everyday anti-Semitism was a given; it’s why ADL was founded....And yet, today, I think all of us fear that something has changed. There are troubling signs. Now they may be subtle, they may go unnoticed by the vast majority of Americans, but we see them. We know...the American Jewish community has not seen this level of anti-Semitism in mainstream political and public discourse since the 1930s."

I attended that one-day summit. In the midst of over a thousand people (most of them Jewish), I felt a sense of community, but also an overarching sense of concern and even fear the future. Throughout the day, most of the speakers felt compelled to give various brief commentaries on the recent results of the presidential elections, adding their respective sense of anxiety to the general surprise and even shock of the outcome. For the most part, the Jewish community felt that the Trump victory represents an undeniable shift towards what has been called the Alt-Right by many, not to call it extreme right. It is not my intention to ad my commentary to the election results, suffice it to say that the theme of the Summit compelled many to comment on the current temperature in America, including the political AND racial divides.  I believe that regardless of the election outcome, anti-Semitism is on the rise and will continue to affect our Jewish communities globally. I also believe that the consequences of this recent rise in anti-Semitism will probably be handled differently from each end of the political spectrum...but time will tell! In the meantime, this is what I brought back from such a powerful summit:

• American Jews are worried about their future.
The elections brought out a vast amount of anti-Jewish sentiment expressed in the media with probably the most of it coming from social media. Again, using Mr. Greenblatt's words "The sum total of all these signs? People are afraid. They worry about their children. Many are asking themselves — are we safe?"  Many of these online threats can become real, physical threats in our own Jewish communities. An increase of swastikas have been found, painted on dorm rooms, Jewish property has been vandalized and cemeteries continue to be desecrated. Like one speakers said "if it happens on Twitter, it could very well transfer into real life events."

• Criticism of Israel is different from demonization.
Nobody fights the idea that Israel can be criticized for certain decisions that its government makes or has made. This criticism can be very healthy and constructive. I couldn't agree more. But criticism is very different from demonization. The first will isolate issues that are dangerous or negative and need to be addressed, while the second will paint with broad strokes and demonize Israel and the Jewish people indiscriminately. The summit brought the danger of demonization to the forefront of all the issues. Natan Sharansky reminded us of the real danger facing us today as he spoke of the three Ds against Israel he so eloquently defined years ago: Deligitimization, double-standards and demonization.

• Our greatest threat might come from American Universities.
US campuses are where the next generation of American leaders are being molded and mentored. Regardless of your political inclination, it is an accepted fact that most US campuses are very liberal. The Jewish community has a long history of liberalism in America. The Jewish involvement in the Civil Rights movement of yesteryear has morphed into a modern involvement in global social justice. Yet, the radical Left BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction) movement is spreading like wildfire on American campuses. This is a battleground that cannot be ignored, but to the dismay of most of the speakers, Jewish students on various campuses are too often poorly equipped at best and uninformed at worst, to fight BDS.

• Jewish power has nothing to do with Jewish hatred.
In a discussion on Jewish power and powerlessness, Former Knesset member Dr. Einat Wilf proposed that anti-Semitism had nothing to do with Jewish power. Even though the ADL has increasingly empowered the Jewish people over the last 100 years– and we are not talking about the false accusation of a global Jewish takeover– Jewish power isn't necessarily a cause for anti-Semitism. Dr. Wilf reminded us that throughout history, Jews were singled out and persecuted for being either too rich or too poor, capitalists or communists and even for being too different or too much like the people they lived with. So I would agree with Dr. Wilf that anti-Semitism isn't related to any rational assessment of Jewish life and actions, and as such, it is obviously unjustified.

• The time to act is NOW!
While the focus of the summit was on how to fight anti-Semitism, other minorities were represented throughout the day. The reason is rather obvious; those who oppose and harass Jewish people will seldom stop there. Bigotry is always an equal opportunity hater. Those who are anti-Semitic often extend their hatred further.  Blacks, gays and or Christians to name just a few, are all at risk. But the focus was on anti-Semitism because it has indeed been the longest hatred, is highly irrational AND is on the rise globally in an unprecedented way.

The ADL will probably have more summits of the sort in the future because such a fight will not be won overnight. Something that wasn't approached at the summit was the potential for any spiritual connection to anti-Semitism. I think that it was unfortunate because I am convinced that Satan is at the root of anti-Semitism. As a matter of fact, I call the last developments in global anti-Semitism, "End-Times anti-Semitism" because I clearly see an irrational convergence of Classical and New anti-Semitism coming after our communities that very possibly is Satan’s last attempt at annihilating the Jews. I applaud the ADL for its efforts and I encourage all of you who read me to be more vocal and more involved because NEVER is NOW and to quote Mr. Greenblatt one last time: "We need to educate where we can, oppose where we must, and lock arms with those who embrace our mission."