Anti-Semitism Surges as Lessons of Holocaust Erode: Guest Commentary

By Foxman, Abraham H | Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), October 24, 2014 | Go to article overview

Anti-Semitism Surges as Lessons of Holocaust Erode: Guest Commentary


Foxman, Abraham H, Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)


The surge of anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe, during the recent conflict in Gaza was both shocking and yet not surprising.

The shocking side of the phenomenon lay in certain manifestations of the hatred. Most egregious in this respect were the two incidents in Paris following an anti-Israel protest, in which demonstrators tried to invade two synagogues where Jews were meeting. While the efforts failed, it was noted that this incident was the first of its kind in France since the horrors of the Holocaust.

Shocking as well was the appearance of vicious anti-Semitic signs brandished during anti-Israel protests in various cities across Germany. The fact that such things happened in of all places, Germany, is particularly hard to stomach.

These and other egregious incidents, however shocking, must be seen in the context of developments that have evolved over the last decade and more.

Anti-Semitism shares with other forms of prejudice characteristics such as stereotyping and discrimination. What makes it unique, however, and explains many anomalies about it is the underlying assumption of the hard-core anti-Semite that Jews are not what they appear to be: that the Jew is secretive, conspiratorial, all-powerful and poisonous.

This notion, with its roots going back many centuries, found its full expression in the fraudulent document the "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion," which purported to be the secret discussions of Jewish leaders in the final years of the 19th century revealing their plans to take over the world.

The idea of a secret Jewish global plot is the leitmotif for blaming Jews whenever society enters a period of crisis and anxiety. As an individual in France conjectured recently about why there were attacks against Jews: "Somehow, some Jews control politics, information, business and finance.... Jews, in general, only let you see what they want you to see."

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Ever since 9/11, anxiety has been a characteristic of the modern world. Al-Qaida terrorism, the Middle East conflict and the world financial collapse created a perfect storm. Blaming Jews for 9/11, demonizing Israel for all Middle East problems, or attributing the recession to Jewish manipulation became all too common.

At the same time, a major inhibitor of anti-Semitism for decades - shame about the Holocaust - is eroding. As time moves on, as survivors pass away and new generations are more remote from World War II, the lessons of Auschwitz and where anti-Semitism can lead are weakening.

Add to this the corrosive effect of year after year of withering attacks in some circles on the Jewish right of national self- determination and Israel as the achievement of that right, and it is no surprise that anti-Semitism has resurged in an unprecedented manner since World War II.

When Germans organized a rally to protest against this summer's sudden outbreak of anti-Semitism, only 5,000 people attended, a disappointing number and much lower than past expressions. While it is not totally clear why so few participated, it is reasonable to assume that many thought it would be viewed as supporting Israel in its war in Gaza. …

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