Renewed Anti-Semitism is a Global ProblemGregg Rickman, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism
The Washington Times
June 8, 2007
Anti-Semitism, one of the world's oldest hatreds, has resurged with a vengeance. Around the globe, Jews are being assaulted, some even murdered. Synagogues are being attacked. Jewish gravestones are being desecrated by the hundreds. Even the historical fact of the Holocaust is being questioned. The threat today is not existential. There is no room for complacency.
The increase in anti-Semitism is all the more disturbing because it is occurring not only in authoritarian societies where governments fan the flames of hatred to distract publics from their governments' shortcomings. Anti-Semitism also is on the rise in fully democratic countries where governments and civil society have admirable records of promoting tolerance and actively combating anti-Semitism.
According to the Community Security Trust in London, last year in the United Kingdom anti-Semitic incidents, defined as any malicious act aimed at Jewish people, organizations or property, rose 31 percent from 2005; the total number of incidents for 2006 was more than any other year since 1984, when statistics were first collected. In France, according to the European Jewish Congress, there were over 112 anti-Semitic attacks, a 45 percent increase from 2005. In all these cases, the governments are taking steps to combat the problem, yet more needs to be done.
Here in the United States, there was a reported 12 percent decline in anti-Semitic incidents in 2006. Even so, in just the last year there were attacks on synagogues in Chicago, Tarzana, Calif. and in North Miami Beach, Fla. In Seattle, Pamela Waechter was murdered and five others were shot in an attack at the Jewish Federation last July by a gunman incensed at Israel's war with Hezbollah.
Another category of concern, however, is the situation in Iran, where anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are state policy. The Iranian government held a Holocaust-denial conference in December; an Iranian newspaper offered cash prizes for the best cartoon mocking the Holocaust and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly threatened to "wipe Israel off of the map." This week in Bucharest, Romania, delegations from countries across North America, Europe and Eurasia will gather for a high-level conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki human-rights process, to develop strategies for combating this growing problem and other forms of religious and ethnic intolerance.
The U.S. delegation to the Bucharest Conference will be led by Republican Reps. Eric Cantor of Virginia and Chris Smith of New Jersey and will include representatives from America's Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities. The Bucharest Conference must focus on concrete solutions. Governments and community leaders must speak out in condemnation of hatemongers and promote tolerant values by word and example.
Educating future generations will counter the influence of deceitful, hate-filled, anti-Semitic propaganda. A greater exposure to tolerance and understanding could prevent many hateful acts, such as the one that occurred in Odessa, Ukraine in February 2007. When they were arrested, the drunken teenagers who systematically sprayed swastikas on 302 gravestones in Odessa said that they "wanted to see how the system would react." Fortunately, Ukrainian authorities reacted quickly. And, setting an important example, the nation has banned the sale of the notorious and long-discredited Protocols of the Elders of Zion from the grounds of the Ukrainian Parliament.
Countries must more effectively implement hate-crime legislation and take robust law-enforcement measures. For example, last fall Argentine special prosecutors issued a comprehensive report on the investigation of the 1994 Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) bombing which alleged that the attack was planned and financed by the government of Iran and carried out with the operational assistance of Hezbollah and local Iranian diplomats. We support the Argentine government's efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of this attack which killed 85 and injured more than 150.
It will be vitally important to identify new programs to combat anti-Semitism that originate not from the Jewish community, but from outside of it. More non-Jewish voices need to be heard. Anti-Semitism must be understood not solely as a Jewish issue but as a fundamental human-rights issue and treated as such.
In sum, we need to establish a practical framework for sustained legal, educational, cultural, political and diplomatic efforts to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance.