When I first got to know Israeli author Manfred Gerstenfeld, who was recently honoured by the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, and read his many writings on contemporary anti-Semitism, I found them to be unnecessarily alarmist.
I also found it difficult to believe when he wrote about the many anti-Semites among human rights and feminist activists, and that there are those who, presenting themselves as devout humanitarians, compare the suffering inflicted on animals to the evils of the Holocaust.
But only a decade or so later, current events suggest that Gerstenfeld’s strictures were accurate, even prophetic. Recent events have shown how the old disease of Jew-hatred has again been claiming innocent Jewish lives and causing much distress in the world.
That continental Europe is affected by this trend is less surprising, given its history. But as you read this, Britons are heading to the polls and could elect an anti-Semitic prime minister. Even if Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t get to Downing Street, his party has been poisoned by Jew-hatred masquerading as support for the Palestinian cause.
By all accounts, in addition to the growing number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States, even U.S. President Donald Trump isn’t free of the disease. His ostensible support for the Jewish state doesn’t seem to come from his love for the Jewish people, or his belief in the Jews’ right to reclaim and return to their ancient homeland. His pro-Israel stance may only reflect his desire to impress his evangelical voters, who believe that returning the Jewish people to their homeland is a prerequisite for Jesus’ second coming.
In a recent blog post discussing fears that the Trump impeachment hearings will lead to more anti-Semitism due to the number of Jews involved, Howard Adelman, a former philosophy professor at York University in Toronto, argued that “the alleged Jewish conspiracy net will grow wider and deeper as the impeachment proceedings continue.”
Adelman adds that “we can expect Jews and Israel to become ready targets and branded as the economic cosmopolitan and international czars that brought about the great economic crash.”
Even Canada isn’t immune to this poison, judging by the number of hate crimes against Jews and the anti-Israel venom we see on university campuses.
As almost invariably happens nowadays, the excuse given for hating Jews is the alleged treatment of the Palestinians by Israel. The many Muslim immigrants, particularly in Europe, have attracted local supporters who are ready to fight “the Zionist entity” on the streets of Paris and elsewhere.
Mercifully, there have also been non-Jews who have reacted strongly against the recent upsurge of anti-Semitism. For example, a number of prominent British gentiles have declared that they won’t vote for the Labour party because of its anti-Semitic stance.
Even more significant is the denunciation of anti-Semitism by Pope Francis. At a general audience in Rome last month, he said that “there is a new rebirth of persecuting Jews,” and appealed to his followers: “Brothers and sisters, this isn’t human or Christian. Jews are our brothers. And they must not be persecuted.”
Though recent events are reminiscent of Europe in the inter-war period, there are important differences. Not only are many non-Jews prepared to stand in solidarity with their Jewish neighbours, but the existence of Israel means that no Jew needs to be stateless or outcast. Though today’s anti-Semites often justify their actions with their alleged commitment to the Palestinians, it’s the existence of the Jewish state that will protect the Jewish people from the threat of annihilation.
Gerstenfeld wrote recently that although anti-Semitism cannot be eliminated, it can be contained. His words must be heeded.