Last night, live on CBC television, I reminded millions of Canadian viewers that Antisemitism does not only affect the Jewish community – it affects all of humanity. It is a social illness transmitted generationally based on racism, myths and conspiracy theories about Jewish people. Historically it infected the most civilized societies – to their own detriment – and this is why this should matter to everyone.
Take one step back. If an alien landed on Tuesday night on Place de la Republique in Paris in the middle of the demonstration against Antisemitism, what would he say?
Bewildered,he would see thousands of protesters marching on the streets holding up signs that read in French – “Ca Suffit” – that’s enough! He would see other protesters with placards which read, “Je Suis Juif” – I’m Jewish. Alongside the throngs of people, he could see President Emmanual Macron and former President Nikolas Sarkozy and others – marching alongside Jewish community leaders.
Turning to a protester beside him, the alien might ask, “what’s this about?”. “Oh, it’s the Antisemitism. Its Back!” would come the reply.
Unlike most other countries, antisemitism in France tends to be violent. In 2015 for instance, four Jewish shoppers at a Kosher market were murdered in cold blood as they were shopping for Shabbat dinner. Let us not forget preceding that in 2012 three school children and an adult were killed at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish day school in Toulouse. In the last number of days, over 90 Jewish headstones were spray painted with Swastikas, while this past Sunday, a group of“Yellow Vests” harassed Alain Finkielkraut, a well-known philosopher – calling him a “dirty Zionist shit” and telling him to “go back to Tel Aviv”.
Worse,a tree in memory of Ilan Halimi, a young Jewish man kidnapped, tortured and murdered in 2006 was destroyed - a message of hostility to the Jewish community. The incidents have mounted. To make matters worse, polls have emerged showing a 74% increase in Antisemitic attacks in France. Trying to stem the tide of Jewish exodus from France, President Macron has said this is the worst its gotten since World War Two and pledged sweeping changes including rightly branding anti-Zionism as Antisemitism.
As a civilized country, France is not alone in its antisemitism. In England,antisemitism is allegedly institutionalized in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. This week, nine Ministers of Parliament (so far) quit the party citing antisemitism. In a scathing letter of resignation, MP Joan Ryan wrote: “I cannot remain a member of the Labour Party while its leadership allows Jews to be abused with impunity and the victims of such abuse to be ridiculed…while its leadership singles out for demonization and delegitimization the world’s only Jewish state”.
Ryan’s earth shattering letter warned that Jeremy Corbyn is not “fit to be Prime Minister of this country”. This morning, news broke that veteran Labour MP, Ian Austin joined the dissent and also quit the party citing a culture of antisemitism and extremism. A party that has been the bedrock of anti-racism and human rights has been infected by Antisemitism at the highest levels – and it's very possible that its leader might become the next prime minister of the UK. How can this be?
And across the pond, in America, well known television commentator on CNN, Fareed Zakaria scolded two new house representatives, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib for not being more sensitive to antisemitism in their public statements. “Their tweets and comments have been portrayed by some as evidence of a rising tide of antisemitism on the new left” said Zakaria. “I do believe that Muslims should be particularly thoughtful when speaking about these issues because antisemitism has spread throughout the Islamic world like a cancer” he added.
That cancer is unfortunately also spreading well beyond comprehension onto university campuses (the bedrock of western civilization) targeting Jewish students and faculty. Imagine for a moment that your father was involved in building up a university and became its president. Now imagine you now worked for that university as a professor and its faculty turned against you because of your religion and your personal ideals. That’s exactly what has happened to Michael Goldstein at Kingsborough Community College at City University of New York (CUNY).
In Goldstein’s words this week: “I’ve worked at Kingsborough for 20 years and within CUNY for 30 years. The Antisemitic vandalism and death threat perpetrated outside my office this past February was unlike anything I’ve experienced before. The reason for the attack? I’m Jewish, politically conservative and I believe in Zionism, the civil rights movement of the Jewish people...each time I walk into my office…I draw inspiration from a picture of my father, Leon Goldstein, the school’s president for 29 years and the man who built the college’s modern-day campus. Yet in recent months, Antisemites turned my father’s photo from a source of inspiration into a symbol of destruction. The vandalism marked the start of a systematic and pernicious campaign in which I have been targeted and harassed because of who I am and what I believe”.
There are no words and explanations. The world took a break from hating Jews after the Holocaust. Even in Germany, police recently reported 1,646 Antisemitic offences – or an overall increase of 10% over the previous year and a 60% increase in violent attacks. This is shameful for a country that perpetrated the greatest murder of all time. As I said on CBC last night, Antisemitism is based on ignorance, a lack of education and an inability to think critically and independently. It is not based on fact or evidence.It is a social illness that is educated into people and therefore, we must all work together to break this cycle.
As for the alien described above, as he headed home he flew past Israel’s new Genesis (Beresheet) moon lander which was successfully launched into space making Israel the fourth country to land on the moon. He thought: “advancing science and humanity – now this is time better spent. Thankfully, they have Israel”.