Address by Diaspora Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein at opening session of the 2009 Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism Conference
Jerusalem, 16 December 2009
On Yom Kippur, automatic rifle fire shattered the quiet outside the Great Synagogue of Paris, sending worshippers diving for cover.
In Denmark, two Jews were shot in a shopping mall in the town of Odense. A few weeks later, a Danish school principal declared Jewish students no longer welcome in his school, advising Jewish parents to send their children elsewhere.
In Sweden, a Jewish cultural center was attacked by arsonists, twice, in one week.
In Chicago, an unprecedented chain of anti-Semitic attacks left synagogues and schools with their windows smashed, and saw walls covered in graffiti and charred by the remains of a Molotov cocktail.
In London, attempts were made to burn down synagogues and loot local businesses. Men pulled a Jewish motorist out of his car and beat him.
Similar events took place in Belgium, Australia, and Brazil.
These events took place in 2009, not 1939. Many of these attacks were done in the name of justice for Palestinians: In order to create "peace" in the Middle East. In order to defend the underdog. In order to attack Jews!
In 1914, Russian historian Solomon Lyuria began research for a book no anti-Semitism in the ancient world. In the foreword to his book, Professor Lyuria relates that in 1917, following the October Revolution, he stopped his research, feeling the topic would no longer be relevant to modern readers in a new age of socialist equality. Three months later, seeing the life for Russia’s jews had not changed, Professor Lyuria resumed work on his book.
The story rings true today.
No longer permissible to openly proclaim hatred of the Jews? So – the anti-Semite must seek new forms and forums to release his poison. No longer politically correct to openly hate Jews? So – he has repackaged his hate – and in doing so, has been able to gain endorsement from academics, media outlets, and even political parties.
Do not be fooled, anti-Semitic malice has not decreased, rather anti-Semites have succeeded in repackaging their hate into a politically digestive form. It is no longer the individual Jew or a Council of Jewish Elders who has led the world into war and economic collapse – it is Israel, the state of the Jews, who have brought war and tragedy to the globe.
Where Jews were once depicted as blood thirsty, stingy, morally corrupt baby killers, after the horrors of World War Two, these depictions of Jews are hard for many to stomach. So the attack has been reframed and reworded.
There are no more Jews. Instead there are Israelis. Israeli soldiers kill babies. Israeli soldiers attack pregnant mothers. Israelis started wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Israel as a nation was not put through a Holocaust. Israelis have not been expelled, converted, exiled and enslaved. So if you attack Israel, you are not picking on the weak. Anti-Semites have warped tiny Israel into Goliath. This way you can hate Israel, you can hate Israelis, and you are not called anti-Semitic. Beyond having a license to hate, you may be violent, breach the peace, and oppress human rights – as long you loathe the State of Israel.
The Reverend Martin Luther King commented on this distortion of the truth when it first came into being over forty years ago:
"To be anti-Zionist is inherently anti-Semitic, and forever will be".
"Why is this? Zionism is nothing less than the dream and ideal of the Jewish people returning to live in their own land."
"Anyone who holds dear this inalienable right of all mankind… the right to self-determination, should understand and support the right of the Jewish People to live in their ancient homeland. All men of goodwill should exult in the fulfillment of God’s promise, that his People should return in joy to rebuild the Land of Israel."
What does it mean to be anti-Zionist? It is to deny the Jewish people of a "fundamental right that we justly and freely accord all other nations of the Globe. It is discrimination against Jews, because they are Jews. In short, it is anti-Semitism."
Whenever I travel abroad, I hear time and again the following two statements:
A state for the Palestinian people must be created – and the state created for the Jewish people? It is inherently racist and should be removed. I do not know if a more contradictory, irrational, and illogical argument have ever been made in the same sentence. The Palestinians are a people and therefore deserve a state. The Jews are a people, and therefore should not be allowed to have a state.
We must repeat again and again these basic facts – TO BE "anti-Israel" IS TO BE ANTI-SEMITIC. TO BOYCOTT ISRAEL, ISRAELI PROFESSORS and ISRAELI businesses, these are not political acts, these are acts of hate, acts of anti-Semitism!
Anti-Israel hysteria is anti-Semitic hysteria. They are one and the same.
Look at the reality Israelis face when traveling to international athletic, business, and academic events. More and more, when they arrive in Sweden, Turkey, England, and even the United States, they must lecture and perform before hostile or even violent crowds, requiring police protection.
We must not hesitate to expose this hatred for what it is. It is a strong and vile form of xenophobia. It expresses itself through violence, mockery, and exclusion. It is directed towards the outsider, towards that which is different, in appearance, speech, or prayer.
This forum has brought together elected officials from dozens of countries, committed to change, and pushing legislation in their countries to make a difference- but is proper legislation enough? Will legislation change attitudes and force extremists to reflect on the root cause of their hatred?
I have been asked, what are non-Jewish parliamentarians doing in this forum? Should we thank them? I’m not sure we need to, for their actions speak so much louder than words. Their commitment to equality, to a world free of hate, this will better their countries, and democracies around the world.
As written in the book of Ezekiel, "If the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people, and the sword comes and takes a life, I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood." We cannot wait for the sword to begin its downward stroke. Anti-Semites in Europe, America, and across the Middle East have declared their intentions for the Jews of Israel.
It is not enough to merely react in the wake of anti-Semitic acts, we must take a more proactive approach.
I hope this Forum can succeed in tackling the growing wave of new anti-Semitism. New anti-Semitism as defined by British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, "is discrimination against the Jews as a people. While classical antisemitism was discrimination against Jews as individuals, new anti-Semitism is expressed through hatred towards Israel. The logic is the same—to assault the perceived core of Jewish life."
Four decades removed from the Six Day War, Israel’s enemies prefer to shy away from open battle with the Jewish state. Iran hides behind her proxy armies, Hamas and Hizbollah, who hide behind woman and children, knowing Israel will hesitate to return fire on militants using innocents as human shields.
Foreign supporters of Islamic extremism, work to undermine Israel at a grassroots level. I pray these activists to not know what they are supporting when they take to the streets on behalf of Hamas and Hizbullah. They are supporting terrorists, supporting the implementation of Islamic law, denying rights to minorities and women. And time and again these rallies do not end peacefully. They end with a synagogue’s windows smashed, a store looted, a Jew beaten.
I am glad to inform you that a special ministry was formed half a year ago, which hopefully will allow us to double our efforts to combat anti-Semitism. The Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs will work very hard to widen the field of people dealing with this issue, and will do everything in our power to build the ICCA, the inter parliamentary coalition to combat anti-Semitism. Through the ICCA we can stand together, shoulder to shoulder, in the fight against anti-Semitism.
I will conclude by saying that a date cannot be set on which anti-Semitism will disappear. Nevertheless, we must dedicate ourselves to the cause. It is our moral duty to educate our children about anti-Semitism and the evils of senseless hatred.
I call upon each and everyone of us to sit with our children and talk with them about anti-Semitism, explaining why it is wrong to hate a person, and why it is wrong to hate a state.
Our goal must be to lay a foundation lf love, caring and understanding in our youth. Let them grow up in a world where all of humanity embraces that which is different, where vibrant colors and vibrant cultures are seen as the building blocks needed to build a better world.