The main antisemitic incidents of 2016
By Manfred Gerstenfeld
It has become a tradition that at year’s end the Simon Wiesenthal Center publishes a selection of the year’s major antisemitic incidents. When the list was started in 2010 it was two pages long. By last year it had tripled to six pages. Concerning 2016 there are two new aspects. The first is that a widely accepted definition of antisemitism has been in existence since May, namely that of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
Its acceptance required the approval of its 31 democratic member countries. The second aspect is that the perhaps largest antisemitic incident this year did not even mention Jews: in 2016, UNESCO accepted a resolution which refers to the Temple Mount exclusively as Al-Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aksa Mosque. In so doing, it dissociated Jews (and Christians) from Jerusalem.
This year it will be difficult for the SWC executives to do their work in view of the many major antisemitic incidents to choose from. A few suggestions thus may be helpful. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) coalition should be high on the list. Its platform falsely claims that Israel is an “apartheid state” which perpetrates genocide against the Palestinians.
Another prime candidate for the SWC list is Jeremy Corbyn, the extreme left-wing leader of the British Labour Party. Under his leadership antisemitism in the party has greatly expanded. Corbyn has called Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends” and for so many months refused to distance himself from that statement that when he finally did, it was meaningless.
Corbyn promoted his strategy adviser Seumas Milne, who is a Hamas proponent. He also gave notorious antisemitic slur producer Ken Livingstone an important position in the party. The latter was later suspended because of antisemitic remarks about Hitler supporting Zionism. When the antisemitism in the party became clear, he chose an unqualified investigator who produced a highly unprofessional report on the issue. Corbyn’s acts do not fit the IHRA definition. This shows that the definition in relation to anti-Israel antisemitism is far too concise and should be complemented by a more detailed definition of this type of antisemitism.
There are other candidates from the UK. One is Malia Bouattia, the president of the National Union of Students. The Home Affairs Select Committee of the Commons condemned her for calling Birmingham University a “Zionist outpost.” The committee also said that the National Union of Students (NUS) has failed to take seriously a growing culture of antisemitism on campuses.
The SWC will also have to decide whether it wants to include in the list regular producers of antisemitic smears that have made the list in the past, for example Baroness Jenny Tonge. This year she has said that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is a major cause for the rise of jihadism and Islamic State, and hosted an event at the House of Lords where Jews were blamed for the Holocaust and the British government was called on to apologize for the 1917 Balfour Declaration.
The Muslim world is a prime supplier of antisemitic recidivists. One of these is the Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan. One statement from 2016 which qualifies him is “I don’t approve of what Hitler did, and neither do I approve of what Israel has done,” according to a translation by AFP. “When it’s a question of so many people dying, it’s inappropriate to ask who was the more barbarous.”
In view of Hungarian antisemitism at least one candidate from that country should make the list.
Perhaps it should be the Hungarian government for awarding antisemitic Magyar Hirlap columnist and conservative party Fidesz publicist Zsolt Bayer the “Hungarian Middle Cross,” the third highest decoration of achievement the government bestows.
No annual list of antisemitic slurs can be complete without including candidates from the Scandinavian hotbeds of hypocrisy and antisemitism, Norway and Sweden. The third largest Norwegian town, Trondheim, is now in the running as candidate for Europe’s capital of the anti-Israeli version of antisemitism for deciding to boycott products from the settlements.
SWC circles informed me that Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström barely escaped the list of major antisemitic incidents last year. This year she should definitely be on the list for her comments calling for an investigation into whether Israel is guilty of extrajudicial killings of Palestinians during the most recent wave of terrorism. The leader of the Yesh Atid Party, Yair Lapid, explicitly called her an antisemite during a rally in Stockholm.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is also an annually returning antisemitic phenomenon. Seventy Jews wrote a letter to The New York Review of Books supporting only a targeted boycott of all goods and services from all Israeli settlements as well as investments there. They would be a representative candidate of the BDS list because of their double standards, which are a core element of antisemitism.
The above selection may be somewhat helpful to the SWC executives. The problem is that it only contains a small part of the many candidates for this year’s list.