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Does Esau Hate Jacob and Why


An article written Dr. Dina Porat, Head of the Institute for Research on Antisemitism at the University of Tel-Aviv, published in the Summer 2002 edition of “Gesher” a periodical on Jewish affairs




In the Weekend Supplement of Yedioth Aharonoth, of 24th May 2002, the following title headlined an article written by Sever Plotzker, a well-known and respected journalist and commentator: “The Jews in the United States are Afraid of a Second Holocaust”. Above the title were the words of a well-known newspaper editor: “If I hear loudspeakers ordering the Jews of New York to assemble in Times Square – I won’t be surprised”. Nothing less. On the next page, Daniel Cohen-Bendit (Red Danny) warns of “real danger to the Jews of Europe”, once again, nothing less. These very troubled feelings on the part of the Jews require serious consideration, even if the expression of these feelings in occasionally exaggerated.

Over the past 20 months, since September 2000, a new expression has become extant among us: it is “New Antisemitism”. The question is, just how justified the use of this expression is. An even more essential question is “What are the causes of the present wave of hatred and strongly worded expressions against Jews and Israelis”?

As to the time frame, reference is to a period of about six weeks in October and November 2000, parallel to the outbreak of the new Intifadeh, followed by a lull in violent incidents and their renewal in October and November 2001, parallel to the Durban Conference and the 11th September attacks. This was followed by another lull until Passover, late March 2002, parallel to Operation “Defensive Shield”, when these activities were renewed and are still in full swing.

Geographically, reference is to events that occurred mainly in Western Europe, the United States and Canada in the year 2000, but following the events of 11th September the main arena became Western Europe, principally Belgium and France. Note should be taken of the fact that in South America and Eastern Europe (with the exception of Russia) there was no significant rise in the number of violent antisemitic acts, and the same held true for Germany.

As to the nature of these incidents, a level of violence, which had been reached that had not been seen for decades, since these incidents followed closely upon one another over a short period of time, directed mainly towards synagogues with worshippers in them and towards people rather than towards cemeteries, monuments and property and they were perpetrated during the Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. The degree of violence also increased to the point of burning synagogues to the ground and attacks on Rabbis and obviously religious Jews on the street, which created a deep sense of increased violence of a religious nature. However, it would appear that the main problem, no less than the violence, was the antisemitic and anti-Jewish atmosphere reflected in the media, in street demonstrations, in expressions within intellectual and regime circles and the surrounding society and in the failure of the authorities in the various countries to react quickly. There can be no doubt that the violence had its source mainly within Muslim immigrant circles and found expression in circles of the local population, however it is undoubtedly clear that each group nourishes the other.

As to the number of violent incidents, 255 occurred in 2002, 66 of which included the use of firearms and arson, an increase of 100% over the previous year. There were 230 violent incidents in the year 2001, in 50 of which arms were employed with intent to kill. Since Passover 2002, there have 117 violent incidents 80 of them in Western Europe, most of them in France. The plethora of harassments, insults, threatening letters, unpleasant experiences in work places and educational institutions, graffiti, to say nothing of the use of Internet in particular and the media in general – which is impossible to measure – is a cause of concern for the Jews as individuals and as part of their communities no less than physical violence, and possibly even more so on the psychological level.

Do the violent incidents over the past 20 months justify the use of the term “New Antisemitism? Until now, it had been the practice to speak and write about antisemitism in the ancient world and the early and late Middle Ages, about political antsemitism in the 19th Century, about Nazi antisemitism and, after World War II, about modern antisemtism. In the course of these phases, an image was created, especially by the Catholic Church and later by the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, of a community and all those who were part of it as having absolutely negative characteristics, thus posing an economic, religious and political threat – the Nazis adding a biological threat and even an apocalyptic threat to the world in general – mainly because of the desire of the Jews as a community to take over the world. This image has not changed appreciably in recent times.

What has changed is the exacerbation of that image and the degree of its condemnation and denunciation and the political use that is being made of it. This is the first time in the history of antisemitism that its main arena has moved from the Christian World to the Muslim World, which uses it to gain its political objectives, first and foremost in its struggle against the West and the United States. In this struggle, the Jews and Israel, which represent the West and modern democratic civilization, are the primary enemies that the Radical Islam is striving to conquer and perhaps even to remove from the world. The wave of antisemitism, which broke out in 2000, out together with the second Intefadeh, and has been characterized since then by a deliberate blurring by the Muslim propaganda of the difference between Israel and the Jews, and thus the blurring of the difference between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. The latter, to the extent that it was directed against the very existence of Zionism as a national movement or against the existence of a state based on the Zionist idea, in any case discriminated against the Jewish People, and attempted to deny it the elementary right granted to every tiny island in the Pacific Ocean.

When the lines between it and antisemitism became blurred, the State of Israel was portrayed as a Jewish state, in other words, a group bearing the same characteristics as described by the Church, the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and Nazi ideology and disseminated by propaganda, literature and the media. Thus, the prominent characteristics of this group are lust for murder, treachery and greed, serving the desire to control the world. This desire gained the status of an international conspiracy, a genuinely satanic conspiracy following the 11th of September events. This is constantly presented by spokespersons for Muslim circles as an act perpetrated by American Jews working together with Israel and the Mossad in order to incriminate Islam, and America knows this and keeps silent because those in control behind the scenes, ostensibly the Jews, have tied its hands. This libel is a clear example of the blurred lines differentiating Israel from the Jews, the passage of these characteristics from the People to the State, and political use made of the gap between reality and imagination.

The activities of Radical Islam against the Jews, especially against the State of Israel in the framework of world political activity – are defined in far stronger terms by governments and people in academe in Israel and abroad. In early January 2002, when Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Rabbi Michael Melchior established the International Commission for Combating Antisemitism, he called recent events “a hate campaign”. Per Almark of Sweden and Prof. Erwin Cotler, co-chairs of the Commission, spoke of the aim of the new antisemitism to make the world not “judenrein”, like the old antisemitism, but rather “Judenstaatrein”, and this refers to the dimensions that have already developed in keeping watch on the old antisemitism and thus is not relevant today, with antisemitism aimed at the Jewish collective, i.e. against the State and it supporters in the Jewish world.

Prof. Yehuda Bauer also participated in that event where he spoke of the new antisemitism as “genocidal”, whose unequivocal aim is to exterminate the State of Israel and also put forward the thesis that even if the Middle East conflict is resolved either by agreement or extermination, antisemitism will continue against Jews in other parts of the world considered to represent the same values and the same entity that Israel represented. Per Almark, a non-Jewish thinker, who established a commission to combat antisemitism over a decade ago in his own country, Sweden, where he served at one time as Deputy Prime Minister. Cotler is a member of the Canadian Parliament and is a world-renowned expert on human rights. Bauer is one of the most important researchers on the Holocaust and antisemitism in the world and one of the organizers of the Stockholm Conference held in January 2000, devoted to the lessons learned from the Holocaust. These three men of world renown and are trained in careful examination of data and in the use of cautious language. However, their statements are unequivocal, and they join the harsh feelings expressed in the headlines by Jews in the United States and Europe. In a recent interview (see a three-article series in Ha’aretz by Ya’ir Sheleg), Rabbi Melchior continued in this vein, he defines the present situation as “marking Israel as the ultimate evil” which is reminiscent of the Christian marking of the Jew as the ‘anti-Christ’, the enemy of the Messiah”. (Ibid. 5th May).

However, the most important question is, what element brought the claims, accusations and propaganda, whose source is Radical Islam, into the Western world, first and foremost Western Europe. The Muslims’ motivations are clear – the struggle against Israel, against its supporters among the Jewish communities in the world and in the United States. The causes for the sharp rise in antisemtism in the world, in Western Europe in particular, and the attitude towards Israel there in the past year, are more complicated, and they are the main subjects of this paper.

The present attitude towards the Jewish People and its State must be studied in connection with international developments on the socio-economic plane, on the civil legislation plane, on the political plane and on the historical memory plane.

On the socio-economic plain the motivation is mainly anti-globalization. The globalization process began at the beginning of the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and because of the increased need – even before that – for an available work force to carry out the unskilled jobs thus making trained personnel available to the high-technology industries. Even at the United Nations International Conference Against Racism, at the end of the summer last year, considerable use was made of the differentiation between “the poor South” i.e. Latin America and countries in Africa and Asia, and the “rich North” i.e. Europe, mainly Western Europe, and North America. The waves of immigrants who arrived in the North from the South, and are still arriving, present an increasingly severe problem for the definition of a democracy and its duty towards anyone entering its gates, for defining local nationality and its culture. The question of the rights, status and wages of immigrants has served as a central subject for the hundreds of organizations involved in human rights, in its struggle against globalization and its implication for the individual, for privatization and for unemployment.

In this set up, activists from various organizations operate in conjunction with the spokesmen from Muslim countries because as European Leftists they connect globalization with giant corporations, with international money and with Jewish magnates who ostensibly control stock exchanges and world markets. Islam, for its part views globalization as the product of cosmopolitanism and capitalism manufactured by Western democracies, which runs counter to Islamic views. Israel, as a modern democratic country, is viewed as the “Trojan Horse” that carried the West into the Muslim Middle East, and they view Israel’s desire for a “New Middle East” as an attempt to control it by means of the economy, which the Jews control in any case.

In the sphere of civil legislation: The waves of immigration have created a further connection between the European Left and Islam, especially with the Palestinians. The presence of refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers and foreign workers of various nationalities require redefinition of “nationality”, “ethnicity”, “race” and “status”. This variegated reality has led these liberal left-wing organizations, actively opposed to globalization and searching for better definitions, to transform the issue of human rights their, “civil religion”, as Prof. Erwin Cotler frequently describes it. With the absence of proper legislation prior to the 1990s, legislation on and definition of these concepts developed slowly, in the face of a rapidly exacerbating problem: the presence of about 18 million Muslims in Europe today, and this does not take into account illegal residents, and there are also those members of other peoples and faiths such as those who have arrived from the Far East. In 1997, the United Nations convened a huge conference on human rights in Vienna. The year 1997 was declared the Year of the War on Racism, which in essence bore witness to the failure of the Vienna Conference, and the failure of 1997 resulted in Durban Conference, whose planning was begun in late 1998. The ongoing discussion of legislation and definition, both in the human rights organizations and in European administrative bodies, created a rather vague definition of the term “racism” which increasingly blurred its definition and it became a synonym for animosity between peoples and between minority groups. On the eve of the Durban Conference Against Racism, it was clear that the Conference would have on its agenda a wide variety of problems that had nothing to do with racism. Palestinian propaganda, with the support and funding of Arab countries was based on the success of the definition of racism as the definition of the Middle East conflict, which is in essence a national-territorial-military conflict between two peoples of Semitic origin. This concept created a further connection between the European Leftist volunteer organizations, mainly non-governmental organization (NGOs), and the Muslim countries supporting the Palestinians: a common war ostensibly against racism. The NGOs, especially in Western Europe, some of which were funded, often quite openly, by Arab money and were suffused with the fire of the anti-racist campaign, denounced Israel in the most radical terms, and more than that they attacked the Jewish organizations as its supporters.

In the political sphere: What is mainly evident is the increasing Islamization of the United Nations institutions: the entry of Sudan, a country in which slavery is an accepted fact whose northern Muslims have thus far slaughter two million southern Christians, as a member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, is a conspicuous and crude example of this process. Another example is the entry of Syria, a country that supports terrorism, to the Security Council, as is the voting in the U.N. institutions and commissions: 22 Arab League States, included in the 56 states of the Muslim Union, and around them about 77 Third World countries, do not leave much room for fair voting. Israel is not equal before the international law, as Prof. Kotler mentioned in January 2002, “This law is not applied in the identical manner to each and every country. On the contrary, it is specifically those countries breaching the law, those countries in which human rights are trampled under foot, that are leading the anti-Israel campaign. Israel is the only country in the United Nations that has been judged according to the Geneva Convention, and the only country whose name is mentioned in the draft proposal presented to the participants in the Durban Conference.

This Islamization is the result of demographic changes created by immigration, mainly in Europe. High birth rates among the immigrants vis-?-vis aging cities with low birth rates, has accelerated this process of change. In not much more than a decade, the Muslim population in the large European cities will make up about one third of the total, according to demographers’ predictions. In the same time period, and perhaps even earlier, the white population in the United States will lose its majority status to a combination of Hispanics, Orientals and Blacks. Today, there are about one billion Muslims in the world, about 15% of the total world population. Most of the oil sources in the world lie beneath Arab-Muslim feet, and that is a consideration that provides them with a tremendous bargaining advantage. Oil money, the birth rate, increased pressure on centers of authority and society in the cities, the number of Muslim countries and their supporters in the United Nations – all this can explain Islam’s increased political and media clout.

In Europe, Muslim immigrants are in constant contact with Jews in the outskirts of the large cities and are angry at those Jews who have become successful and have left the outskirts. This potential for friction, to which one must add the Jews’ support of Israel and the Muslims’ of the Palestinians, explains some of anti-Jewish violence. Police forces and government bodies are afraid to confront the Arabs, even which crime is on the increase and there are serious social problems, because of their electoral strength as was seen during the last elections in France.

On the political plain, the following should be noted among the elements coming from within Europe and not forced upon it from without: as penance for the sins committed during the colonial period during which the European nations subjugated most of the world, killed and exploited peoples they had conquered and pillaged their natural resources, Europe is supporting the Palestinians and condemning Israel as the last colonial power. It does this while making no mention of the fact that the Jewish People returned to their homeland, while the European powers took over countries that did not belong to them, or to the role played by the British Mandate in creating nationalist conflicts in the lands it left behind. Deprecation of Israel also aids in drawing attention away from the demands of the countries which had been under colonial rule from their former masters, and also feeds the anti-American feelings which have grown stronger following the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the strengthening of the status of the United States as the only Superpower.

Several elements are at work on the historical memory plain, the strongest of them is the desire of European countries to remove the shadow of the Holocaust hovering over their heads by comparing Israel’s activities in the Territories to the deeds of the Nazis. This comparison achieves several aims: it minimizes the dimensions of the Holocaust, since it is clear to those who make this comparison that no gas chambers or crematoria have been reintroduced and reference is not to mass annihilation, but the comparison is more in the sphere of symbolism, the sphere of absolute evil with Auschwitz at the center. The second aim is the creation of a kind of balance according to which there was indeed a Holocaust for which the European Peoples were responsible, some to a greater degree and some to a lesser degree, but Israel, too, the State of the Jewish People, has sinned. Thus the account has been settled. “The historic blame that has been laid on the shoulders of the German People so no longer so heavy, if Israel is to blame for everything”, was the ironic remark made by Johannes Gerster the representative of the Adenauer Fund in Israel. (Berliner Morgenpost, 5 May 2002) The third aim is the rejection of Israel’s legitimacy, just as the Nazi regime had no right to exist, neither does Israel.

The question of the restoration of Jewish property robbed in the course of the Holocaust also contributed to the increase in antsemitic feelings. As Prof. Shmuel Almog justly stated, this question arose 50 years after the end of the Holocaust, especially when the Jewish People had reached one of the high points in its history, in the mid-1990s. Most of the Jews live in countries of the top ten percent in the world, and the State of Israel appeared to be drawing closer to an agreement with the Arab world. The demand, justified in itself, for the restoration of property, not necessarily in an hour of need, contributed to the image of the money-hungry Jew after his pound of flesh, both in the prosperous Western countries and in Eastern European countries whose economies had been destroyed by the Communist regime. The historical residue, especially the image of the Jew as cast in Christian culture, apparently leave no room for a rational attitude towards the Jews and Israel. A comprehensive article that appeared in the London Spectator analyzed the attitude of the Clergy in England, who openly acknowledge that “Animosity towards Israel has its roots in a deep hatred of the Jews” (Manley Philips 20 February 2002) The well-known Italian journalist Oriana Falacci (Courierra de la Sera 12 April 2002) strongly denounced the double standard practiced in Europe today – “one standard for the Jews and another for Christians and Muslims, one vis-?-vis Jewish blood that has been spilled and another vis-?-vis other blood. And there is the lack of proportion between attacks on Israel, which are not political criticism but saturated with antisemitic terms, and what Israel actually does”. It is interesting that this article, which was translated into many languages and was disseminated over the Internet, was not published in its entirety in any newspaper in Israel. Moreover, awareness of the waves of antisemitism has only recently been aroused in Israel. This may have been because of the Zionist thesis according to which antisemitism ebbed with the establishment of the State and the matter of making the Jewish People the same as all the other peoples. Recognizing the existence of antisemitism today means giving up that dream and coming to terms with the fact that the attitude towards us is not the same as the attitudes towards all the other peoples. Recognizing these facts also means that the Jewish communities are paying a heavy price for their ties to the Middle East, but the State of Israel also pays the price for being a Jewish state.

To sum up: It is very difficult to measure antisemitism and understand its origins or the reasons for its breaking out in a certain place at a certain time, since the emotional aspect carries a great deal of weight and because an analysis of its causes must lead to a broad view of the local and international constellations at one and the same time. Israel and the Jewish People are an essential part of the West, which struggled against Nazism and Communism and is now struggling against Islam. Thus, the attack against Israel and the Jewish People is like the opening salvo in a world struggle and the condemnation of antisemitism is part of the struggle against racism in general, against discrimination and against evil.

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