More than six decades after the end of the Second World War, anti-Semitism is still alive and well and growing. Not only is anti-Semitism still prevalent, but is evolving into new, contemporary forms of religious hatred, racism, and political, social and cultural bigotry. That was the message of U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal to a recent Holocaust Symposium in London.
Traditional forms of anti-Semitism, said Ms. Rosenthal, continue around the world, including the defacing of property and desecration of cemeteries with anti-Semitic graffiti.
A new form of anti-Semitism that has reared its head in recent years is the denial of the Holocaust, the systematic murder of six million Jews by Nazi Germany. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been particularly outspoken in his denial of the Holocaust, but he is sadly not alone in making such outrageous statements. Such denial is not simply historically inaccurate, said Ms. Rosenthal, “it is anti-Semitism. And it must be called out.”
Another trend is holocaust glorification. This is a concern in Middle Eastern media, some of which is state-owned and operated, some have gone as far as to call for a new Holocaust to finish the annihilation of Jews. Another concern is Holocaust relativism, where some governments, museums, and academic research institutions are conflating the Holocaust with other terrible events that entailed great human suffering.
In many parts of the world there is an increasing tendency to blur the lines between opposition to the policies of the state of Israel and anti-Semitism. Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism. But if all Jews are held responsible for the decisions of the sovereign state of Israel, or Israel is delegitimized with people saying it has no right to exist, this is not objecting to a policy; it is hatred of the collective Jew, or anti-Semitism, said Ms. Rosenthal.
Jews also face the threat of growing nationalistic movements, which target groups such as immigrants, or religious and ethnic minorities, in the name of protecting the identity and so-called purity of their nation.
Leaders must confront bigotry, said Ms. Rosenthal. Where there is hatred born of ignorance, we must teach and inspire. Where there is hatred born of blindness, we must expose people to a larger world of ideas. Where there is hatred whipped up by irresponsible leaders, we must call them out and answer as strongly as we can – and make their message totally unacceptable to all people of conscience.