JERUSALEM, Feb. 11 (JTA) — The Anti-Defamation League is urging Jews to take a tougher stance against anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim world, admitting that the Jewish community has been too tolerant of these trends in recent years.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL, made his appeal Sunday at a news conference in Jerusalem, as the organization warned that a leading Holocaust denial group is planning a conference in Beirut on March 31. The Lebanon gathering of the California-based Institute of Historical Review would be the first time a major Holocaust denial-forum has met on Arab soil.
According to the ADL, the “Revisionism and Zionism” conference marks a new strategy for Holocaust deniers, who are reaching out to sympathetic populations and regimes in the Arab and Islamic world.
In recent years, Foxman said, the organized Jewish community has been too tolerant of anti-Semitism in the Arab world because the Israeli government turned the other cheek in order to advance the peace process. However, Foxman said, Israel and the Jewish community must realize now that anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic incitement is partly to blame for the current crisis.
It is time to have a “much higher standard of intolerance” for Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism, Foxman said, and “the same standards should apply” to the Arab world as to European countries.
“We need to put it higher up on the agenda,” he said.
Foxman said the formation of a national unity government in Israel would make it much easier for American Jewish groups to lobby for Israel in Washington.
The remarks came as Ariel Sharon, Israel’s prime minister-elect, pressed ahead with efforts to bring the Labor Party into his government, offering them two of the top three portfolios — the Defense, Foreign or Finance ministries — should they join.
A national unity government “will bring greater unity to the Jewish community and therefore a greater ability to bring support in the U.S.,” Foxman said.
In addition, the new U.S. administration will be watching the American Jewish community very closely to see where it stands on the Sharon government.
So far, Foxman said, the Bush administration has indicated it will remain engaged in the region through telephone calls and the fact that Secretary of State Colin Powell’s first trip abroad — tentatively scheduled for late February — is expected to be to the Middle East, including a stop in Israel.
“These are all signs that the administration will remain engaged,” Foxman said. “They are already much further than most people thought they would be at this time.”
He also said the U.S. administration has been “wise and warm and supportive” of the incoming Sharon government, and is “not jumping to conclusions” — generally negative — reached by much of the media.
An ADL study showed that of 22 editorials in major U.S. newspapers, 12 were critical of Sharon’s victory, while only 4 were favorable. Six were neutral, taking a “wait-and-see” approach.