On the Old and the New Antisemitism in the 60th Year of Israel's Independence

By Livni, Tzipi | Midstream, September-October 2008 | Go to article overview

On the Old and the New Antisemitism in the 60th Year of Israel's Independence


Livni, Tzipi, Midstream


It is encouraging to see such a wonderful gathering. I believe that the fact that we are all here today--not only representatives of the Israeli government or of Israeli society, but people gathered from all over the world, in order to fight this battle against antisemitism, demonstrates the fact that we can make a difference.

Although Israel is the homeland for the Jewish people, I believe that antisemitism, just like racism and xenophobia, is not only a Jewish problem or an Israeli problem. It says everything about the society in which it raises its ugly head. Antisemitism, the way I see it, is a sickness which eats at the core of humanity. It is a plague which the planet cannot tolerate. I firmly believe that only a true understanding of this can bring about real change.

The challenge must be met by the international community, and Israel, as the homeland for the Jewish people, is of course part of this battle. In a way, we are on the frontline, but we need the world, the international community and leaders from different parts of the world to work together in order to change the current reality. While for us in Israel, combating antisemitism is part of our foreign policy, I would like to see it as an important part of domestic policy throughout the world.

Sometimes we feel--when I say "we", I refer to society as a whole and to world leaders--that some cases are small and perhaps insignificant. Nonetheless, we cannot turn a blind eye to these cases and situations, as insignificant as they may seem. For example, when an Israeli coach in Britain gets a hate letter referring to his Jewish origin, it has nothing to do with football, but it is directly connected to his being a Jew. Only last week we witnessed a neo-Nazi march in Dresden; it says something. And when a burning object is thrown at a Jewish institution in Los Angeles, it means something.

These are signals that need to be taken into consideration. These are not minor events, because if we tolerate hate material, we will find ourselves tolerating verbal violence. And if we tolerate verbal violence, we will find ourselves in a culture of violence. So we need to take to heart all these minor acts against minorities, against others, and not only to take them into consideration but to act together against them.

The key to combating antisemitism, I believe, is an understanding that this is not only a matter for states and leaders; this is something that we expect every individual to act upon. Each person should understand that this is something that he or she cannot tolerate, when it takes place in his or her neighborhood, community or state.

We should be aware of the fact that while we gather here, there are other places around the world where there are those who support antisemitism as part of an ideology. These include both state actors and non-state actors. There are organizations, communities and individuals. There are intellectuals, academics and lay people. They use the Internet, cyberspace and every modern means available. They, in fact, manipulate modern technology and abuse it for their evil cause.

As was said before, and as is clearly understood here in this room, antisemitism has gone through different stages. It began with what was termed "Judenhass" (Jewhatred) and then developed into antisemitism. But I would like to refer to something that was mentioned also by Minister Herzog.

The most recent development in antisemitism is the anti-Zionist or anti-Israel approach, which is classical anisemitism disguised as legitimate, political criticism of Israel. I would like to make it clear that Israel willingly accepts criticism of its acts and decisions coming from the international community as long as this criticism relates to our actions and deeds--but not because of the fact that Israel is the homeland for the Jewish people.

Moreover, there are not many countries in the world which, I don't want to say, criticize their own actions but examine their own actions, in the way Israel does.

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