NEW YORK (Nov. 12)
If Abraham Foxman’s predictions are right, “we currently face as great a threat to the safety and security of the Jewish people as the one we faced in the 1930s — if not a greater one.”
That’s the case the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, a child Holocaust survivor, makes in his new book, “Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism.”
In his opening address at the ADL’s 90th annual meeting in New York on Nov. 6, Foxman anchored today’s “sobering times” in another anniversary — the 65th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi-inspired pogrom in Germany and Austria on the night of Nov. 9-10 that presaged the Holocaust.
Kristallnacht, when Nazi-inspired rioters stormed the streets torching synagogues and beating Jews, is a stark reminder that anti-Semitic persecution “started with glass” and “ended with flesh,” Foxman said.
Today’s version primarily is hidden under the guise of anti-Zionism, he said.
Holding Israel to a double standard and questioning the Jewish right to self-determination smacks of anti-Semitism, Foxman and others argue.
Today’s anti-Israel messages carry broad appeal, finding champions among the right and left, with bigots and anti- colonialists adhering to the cause. Globalization and the Internet allow anti-Israel tirades that dehumanize Jews and delegitimize Israel to move around the world in seconds.
Foxman’s book hits shelves amid two incidents that reflect his argument.
The first is last month’s speech by Malaysia’s then-prime minister, Mahathir Mohammad, who told the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference that “Jews rule the world by proxy,” and urged the Muslim world to unite to defeat the Jews.
The second development is a recent poll revealing that more Europeans — about 59 percent — consider Israel the greatest threat to world peace than any other country.
Under leaders that excuse the anti-Semitism in their midst, Europe — home to a fast-growing Muslim population — has given rise to extremist political parties and hate crimes against Jews, Foxman notes in his book.
But “Never Again?” also comes as the FBI prepares to release data Wednesday showing a downward trend in anti- Semitic crime in the United States.
The FBI reports 931 anti-Jewish incidents in 2002, down from 1,043 in 2001 and 1,119 in 2000, FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said.
Some Jewish community observers take issue with Foxman’s argument.
The idea that Jews are more vulnerable today than in the 1930s is “absurd,” said Steven M. Cohen, a sociologist of American Jewry and professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
“We have the most powerful military in Jewish history” in the State of Israel, Cohen said, “and possibly the most influential Diaspora Jewry since Joseph sat next to Pharoah on the throne of Egypt.”
In his book, Foxman admits that it may seem ironic to stress Jewish vulnerability while Israel exists.
Yet he worries that 40 percent of Jews live in a state surrounded by much larger countries that wish to destroy it. And the size of Israel’s Arab minority ultimately will force the Jewish state to choose between its democratic and its Jewish sides, Foxman writes.
Furthermore, he says, Israel has become an easy target for world criticism, with world leaders applauding or looking the other way.
After Mahathir’s speech before the Organization of the Islamic Conference, “heads of state, kings, potentates stood on their hind legs and gave him a standing ovation,” Foxman said.
Like Foxman, other Jewish leaders are topping their agendas with talk of the “new anti-Semitism.”
Sallai Meridor, chairman of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency for Israel, has proposed an “international campaign on behalf of Zionism and against hatred of Israel and the new anti Semitism.”
The Zionist General Council, an international body of Zionist groups that is meeting this week in Jerusalem, is slated to discuss putting the issue at the center of its activities in the coming year.
According to Foxman, Israel has few friends.
With the United Nations a bully pulpit for the Palestinian cause, the Jewish state often finds itself allied only with America and Micronesia, he said.
Simply put, Israel has become “the Jew of nations,” Foxman told Wolf Blitzer last week in a CNN interview — shunned, hounded and persecuted.
Indeed, his words took on an eerie resonance only a few days later. At a 65th anniversary commemoration of Kristallnacht in Vienna, protestors waved Palestinian flags and yelled anti-Israel slogans, disrupting the Holocaust ceremony.