Anti-Semitism can be fought only with policy action, not lip service

February 21, 2020 by Fiamma Nirenstein -
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Anti-Semitism turns truly dangerous when it becomes the organizing principle of a society. This occurred during the past century under Nazism and communism, and it is occurring again today.

French President Emmanuel Macron with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani before a meeting in New York on Sept. 18, 2017. Credit: Iran Press.

Unrelenting bias against Israel, Zionism and thereby the Jewish people has become progressively interwoven with institutional power. It has penetrated the mindset of all those living under the “intersectionality” roof, i.e., those who feel oppressed and who harbour social frustration in various forms. Zionism and by extension the Jewish people are cast as oppressors, and this view has been granted political legitimacy by organizations such as the European Union and United Nations.

Ethnicity, gender, culture, etc.—are have become commingled. And all—feminists, university professors, members of the LGBT community, Hollywood directors, child-rights advocates—attack Israel, for reasons that can vary from “pinkwashing” to white supremacy to neo-colonialism. There are seemingly infinite themes available. This commingling not only animates but also strengthens bias. This stream of thought holds the State of Israel to be warmongering, colonial and racist in nature; Judaism, which generated Israel, is held responsible. The simple idea that Judaism includes the entire Jewish people then closes the circle of antisemitism.

The most important institutions in the world today push this line of thought, even if not explicitly. The parents of contemporary antisemitism are the same ones appearing in conferences, institutions, synagogues and even in Israel to proclaim their campaigns against antisemitism.

Fiamma Nirenstein

So what can be done? The generally accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism is a positive step because it ties antisemitism and “Israelophobia” together. Yet it is not enough. Only policy action, not blame or promises to teach the history of the Shoah, can combat antisemitism. This is why U.S. President Donald Trump’s Executive Order against antisemitism is so essential; it is composed of political steps that destroy the paradigm of political antisemitism.

There has been some progress in Europe as well. Hungary and the Czech Republic made great strides against antisemitism by abstaining from the U.N. General Assembly’s 2017 vote condemning Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Six E.U. member states (including, once again, the Visegrád Four) also took a stand against antisemitism earlier this month by opposing a resolution by E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell calling for a joint European condemnation of Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan. By their action, they opened a real discussion about Israel’s security needs and the legality of the settlements.

France, Germany and the United Kingdom, after long defending the egregious 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement of the P5+1 nations with Iran, showed willingness to challenge Tehran when they set in motion the deal’s dispute resolution mechanism, potentially leading to the reimposition of sanctions.

Iran and its threats to eradicate Israel are a particularly important element in the modern institutionalization of antisemitism. As long as institutions don’t remonstrate with Iran for repeatedly expressing the forbidden threat to exterminate the Jews, there will be no stopping antisemitism, and “Never Again” will remain empty words.

Anti-Semitism also cannot be defeated as long as the European Union continues to legitimize anti-Israel incitement based on the fiction of the settlements’ “illegality” and the presentation of armistice lines as state borders. The settlements are not illegal; they are disputed. They are an essential part of the cradle of Jewish history, and by completely ignoring this point, the European Union promotes the libel of Jewish colonialism, and by extension all of the associated antisemitic canards.

The European Union’s message with regard to the settlements grants tacit permission to blame and hate Israel and, by extension, the Jews. The European Union thus reconnects with the ancient tradition of murderous European antisemitism.

The only way to fight against this is through policy action. Such action must include stopping the discriminatory labelling of Israeli products sold in Europe, abolishing blacklists of businesses active in the disputed territories and banning the BDS movement.

When French President Emmanuel Macron came to Jerusalem in January to attend the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, titled, “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Anti-Semitism,” he gave a moving speech, full of tragic memories and good intentions. However, during a visit with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, he appeared utterly oblivious to the fact that Abbas denies the Shoah, makes antisemitic statements, incites terrorism and refuses to recognize the Jewish state. This myopia is a policy failure that prevents France from fighting antisemitism.

In short, to combat today’s institutionalized antisemitism, battles are required on two fronts: Iran and the disputed territories. (It is no coincidence that U.S. President Barack Obama’s last executive move against Israel was at the United Nations, with Resolution 2334 in December 2016.)

While a decisive battle against discriminatory labelling of Israeli products on sale in Europe has not yet been seen, despite East European countries raising opposition, the U.S. policy action enabling Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, on both security and legal grounds, is an effective antidote to European Union and United Nations claims. It cancels out the idea that Jews are the illegitimate, cruel, colonialist and illegal usurpers of the land of Israel.

Unsurprisingly, European opposition to this American attitude, and to U.S. policy on Iran, have been incredibly robust.

As long as Macron can shake hands with and pat on the shoulder Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, he cannot be a real warrior against antisemitism. His actions legitimize the mad vows of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to destroy the Jewish state.

E.U. foreign policy chief Borrell says, “Iran wants to wipe out Israel; nothing new about that. You have to live with it.” With this cavalier attitude, antisemitism is institutionally promoted.

Journalist Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies. She served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including “Israel Is Us” (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

This is an edited version of an article first published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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