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The New Antisemitism – Minister Natan Sharansky

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One of the major difficulties in grappling with the New Antisemitism is the ease with which it can be denied. Unlike in the past, post-modern antisemitism no longer exclusively involves such phenomena as violence against the Jews, sporting swastikas and burning synagogues. While these phenomena do indeed exist and are even increasing, especially in Europe, today they form only part of the problem.

The New Antisemitism with which we have been dealing in recent years hides behind the cloak of “political criticism of Israel” in which the State of Israel is discriminated against, is held to a double standard and has doubts cast on its right to existence and security. As absurd as this may be, antisemitism even appears under the banner of “human rights” and “humanism”. Hiding in the shadow of these banners was the Durban Conference which was to have dealt with racism and in practice became a festival of antisemitism, with Israel being pilloried as the world’s main problem and as a racist state guilty of crimes against humanity. At the United Nations Conference on Human Rights (conducted this year by Libya, that paragon of human rights practices) Israel “earned” 30% of the condemnations, far more than the Arab “democracies” or African states. Even at the Conference of the Signatories to the Geneva Convention, Israel was the first state in 52 years to be singled out for condemnation. This “achievement” was especially impressive given the fact that Cambodia, Sudan, Rwanda and other countries that had “hosted” huge killing fields did not suffer such condemnation.

Basic to these events and to countless others reflecting a double standard and hypocrisy vis-à-vis Israel, is the questioning of the right of the Jewish People to exist as a sovereign People on its own soil. Equating Zionism with imperialism, comparing Zionism to Nazism, doubting the right of the Jewish People, unlike other Peoples, to a national state cannot be considered “political criticism” or “opposition to the occupation”. They must be called by their proper name – antisemitism.

For many years, I thought that antisemitism flourished only in totalitarian societies. That is how I explained Soviet antisemitism to myself. I believed that after the experience of the Holocaust antisemitism could not exist in a country imbued with democratic values. Today, I understand that realities are far more complex.

Antisemitism, that in the past had been the province of the radical nationalist right, is gaining more and more ground among organizations and societies which had in the past symbolized the forces of enlightenment, progress and democracy: the left-wing political parties, human rights organizations, academic communities and anti-globalization movements. Those that had been the leaders of the struggle against racism in its various forms now lead the boycotting of Israel, its ostracism from the family of nations and accusations of crimes against humanity. The absurdity shouts to the skies, but they do not hear it. Most horrendously, antisemitism has become “politically correct”.

The first phase in finding a solution is recognition of the problem. It must be made very clear that incitement against Israel rooted in falsehood and the discriminatory attitude towards it are acts of racism. The mask of enlightenment must be torn off anti-Israel propaganda to expose its true face – antisemitism. Antisemitism must be returned to its natural place as a venal and dangerous emotion, and expunged from the “right thinking” of certain sectors.

In the past, when coal miners went down into the mines, they took canaries with them. These birds served as a system of early warning about the presence of a gas leak. When the birds began to sing, the miners knew that they had to escape. Hatred of the Jews is the world’s canary. When this hatred erupts, this is a clear sign that danger is near. The antisemitic world carries a cancerous disease within it. At first, only the Jews are harmed, but it never stops with them. I believe that it is possible to fight this disease even though at times it seems incurable. I believe that we must fight against it before it is too late.