Traditional Anti-semitism Has Given Way to New Forms, Conference Finds

While anti-Semitism today may be especially visible on the political left, it can be rooted in the rightwing as well, a former Irish diplomat and author reminded a conference here.

Conor Cruise O’Brien, a former UN official, deplored the current anti-Zionism of pro-Arab forces and their supporters on the left. But he also recalled that the Holocaust was perpetuated by rightwing ideologies. He noted, too, that despite recent anti-Semitic terrorist activities, grass roots anti-Semitism is probably not as common as it used to be.

O’Brien was one of some 25 participants in a three-day conference on “Anti-Semitism in the Contemporary World” co-sponsored by the American Jewish Congress and the International Center of Rutgers University. It was held at the Hyatt Regency here.

The Irish diplomat and writer shared the perception of many other conference participants in pointing out that anti-Zionism is but the latest form of anti-Semitism. He deplored the fact that even on basic matters of survival, Israeli held to a double standard.

“Any other country in the world faced with Israel’s position and lack of security would have been regarded as being justified in removing the PLO from Lebanon,” O’Brien said. “But because Israel did it, it was accused of acting like Nazi Germany.”

A RECURRING THEME

The conference brought together academics and specialists from across the country. The proceedings will be published at a later date.

A recurring theme at the sessions was that traditional anti-Semitism, which used to manifest itself as discrimination in employment, housing and education, has now been replaced by a still unmeasurable form of “anti-Jewishness.” The symptoms include attacks on the existence of the State of Israel and a denunciation of all activity or ideas to which the label “Zionism” can be applied, whether or not they are related to Judaism or the Zionist movement at all.

“This anti-Jewishness is an attempt to identify Israel with the total evil in the world, by using the term Zionism out of context,” said Prof. Dan Segre of the political science department at Haifa University. Citing misuses of the term, he noted that a Russian radio station recently described its Chinese enemies as “Zionists.”

Segre, author of “A Crisis of Identity: Israel and Zionism,” reported that the first recorded use of anti-Zionism as a mask for anti-Semitism took place in the Soviet Union in 1925. But he added that the technique did not become commonplace until the creation of the State of Israel. Passage in the UN of the 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism provided additional ammunition for anti-Semites, he said.

Traditional anti-Semitism, as reflected in discrimination in employment and public opinion surveys, is declining, said Dr. Irwin Cotler, a professor of law at McGill University in Montreal. “But a new anti-Jewishness for which we have yet to develop appropriate indexes of measurement may be emerging.”

Although a new vocabulary is needed to “define” contemporary anti-Jewishness, he said, it “can best be defined as the discrimination against, or denial of, national particularity anywhere, whenever that national particularity happens to be Jewish.”

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