From the Desk of Avi Benlolo: Is This How 1933 Felt Like?

July 5, 2019

Editorial

“Let's kill some Jews,” tweeted an Egyptian actor and writer with more than 800,000 followers. Even while Twitter suspended his account soon after he sparked outrage, apparently the actor had been tweeting various antisemitic conspiracy theories claiming that Jews are rapists and have a “deal with the devil.”

And in London, reportedly an Orthodox man was forced to flee from a knife-wielding attacker who threatened to “behead” him just this past Monday. The man was walking to work in the Whitechapel district in east London when he was accosted by someone who called him a “f**** Jew” before pulling out a knife, said the report.

Is it any wonder that antisemitism is a growing concern for the majority of Europe’s young Jewish people? According to a new report released this week by the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Human Rights, 90% of young Jews surveyed think that anti-Jewish sentiment has risen on social media and the internet in general. The study revealed that 44% “experienced at least one incident of harassment in the 12 months before the survey” and worse, “45% are scared to appear Jewish in public”!

Is it any wonder then that 41% of the survey respondents are considering leaving Europe, as they do not feel safe living a Jewish life? Unlike 1933 or 1939 for that matter, thankfully we have Israel – our intended safe haven – our place of refuge. When Theodore Herzl dreamed of the Jewish State, and in Basel in 1897 during the first Zionist Congress as he gathered Jewish leaders from the four corners of the world, he understood that because of and in spite of antisemitism, the Jewish State must be reborn.  

This rising tide of antisemitism is becoming more malicious by the week, but surprisingly, it may be having some positive effects: it is galvanizing Jewish communities across the globe, strengthening their identity and provoking them to action over complacency – including strengthening the Jewish State through immigration. It is converging people of influence and of multiple faiths and backgrounds to speak out and take action. Ordinary people and leaders with influence are stepping up, leaning in and raising their voice in opposition to antisemitism.

In fact, our 10th Compassion to Action delegation comprised of police chiefs, educators, politicians and leaders will be departing this weekend to Germany, Poland and Israel – to learn and to take action against this pernicious hatred. We are proud of this incredible show of defiance and dedication to universal values of tolerance, justice and human rights.

As reports about antisemitism from around the world pour in, and communities like California report a 21% increase in hate crime while the Czech Republic reports 347 antisemitic incidents in 2018 compared to 221 in 2015 – the public is also demanding that public leaders take a more responsible approach to rhetoric. Last week, a Holocaust survivor invited Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez to visit Nazi concentration camps to understand what transpired during the Holocaust.

Similarly, this week, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center extended an invitation to a former NDP candidate who made inappropriate remarks about Israel. In those remarks, the candidate compared Israel to Nazi Germany, calling Gaza “the new Auschwitz” and Israelis “the gatekeepers.”

It's time to ramp up our efforts and fight back. Last week, “Wonder Woman” actress Gal Gadot said that part of the reason she flaunts her Israeliness is because of antisemitism. She said “she receives many hateful messages online and therefore finds no reason to hide her pride in being Israeli.” It's not 1933. The antisemites can keep coming, but the world is different. Herzl’s dream has been fulfilled and this time around, we will defend ourselves – alongside all who stand for peace, freedom and human rights.

Shabbat Shalom,

~Avi

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