Home > Anti-Semitism > 5770 was a year of alarming–and hopeful–developments for Jews

5770 was a year of alarming–and hopeful–developments for Jews

September 2, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

 By Robert G. Sugarman and Abraham H. Foxman

NEW YORK — The start of the New Year offers a chance to reflect on the events of the past year and contemplate what lies ahead for the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the world.
 
Anti-Semitism knows no borders and persistently rears its head in countries around the globe, particularly in Latin America and Europe.
 
In Chile, Jewish community leaders and institutions were targeted with death threats, anti-Jewish vandalism and other anti-Semitic incidents. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez continues to foster an atmosphere of intimidation and fear for the Venezuelan Jewish community.
 
Across the European continent, practitioners of anti-Semitism engaged in varied tactics. In Greece, arsonists attacked a synagogue on Crete; in Poland, spectators of a professional soccer match unfurled a large banner depicting a caricatured hook-nosed Jew; in Romania, the central bank chose to honor a notorious anti-Semite with a commemorative coin; and in Hungary, an openly anti-Semitic political party enjoyed a strong electoral showing.
 
In Scandinavia, vicious anti-Semitism has led to the exodus of many Jewish families from Malmo, Sweden, and anti-Jewish sentiment persists throughout Norway.
 
At the United Nations, the situation was not much better. The international body voted to endorse the biased and flawed Goldstone Commission report on the 2009 conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. And in a shocking speech, a Syrian diplomat referenced the ancient blood libel against Jews – a remark the president of the U.N. Human Rights Council failed to denounce.
 
At home, a number of well-known figures – from Helen Thomas to Oliver Stone to Louis Farrakhan – engaged in blatant anti-Semitism, employing age-old stereotypes and Jewish conspiracy theories. Anti-government hostility and an uncertain economic situation have contributed to an atmosphere of rage, anger and incivility. This not only impacts on Jews and Jewish safety, it is an ill omen for all minorities. In particular, we have seen an unfortunate spike in anti-Muslim activity and rhetoric which we have denounced. 
 
There is reason for cautious optimism in the Middle East, as the resumption of Israel-Palestinian direct talks brings renewed hope for peace.  Though there are many who are preemptively setting up Israel as the party responsible should peace talks collapse, the renewed dialogue is a welcome development and a reason to be hopeful.
 
The Israeli government continues to follow through on its willingness to make significant concessions in the name of peace. But direct talks are nothing without mutual reciprocity, and the Palestinian Authority must also take concrete steps if there is to be a chance for negotiations to succeed.
 
This hopefulness seems a far cry from a few months ago when the international community engaged in a biased rush to judgment against Israel in the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla affair. With lightning speed, many countries reflexively condemned Israel for the incident, barely giving consideration to the underlying circumstances.
 
Once again, those unilaterally opposed to Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself against an enemy which seeks its destruction cynically used the innocent people of Gaza to further their goals.
 
Hamas, meanwhile, has tightened its grip on the people and land of Gaza, smuggling in weapons and other contraband to be used against Israel. The recent killing of four Israelis, including a pregnant woman, by Hamas gunmen in the West Bank demonstrates anew the group’s dedication to terrorism and violence, and they continue to hold captive Israeli soldier Cpt. Gilad Shalit.
 
The shadow of Iran looms large as the regime steadfastly marches toward achieving nuclear capability. A nuclear Iran not only presents an existential threat to Israel, it also poses a serious risk to the security of the United States and the entire world. Iran cannot be allowed to go nuclear, and the United States deserves praise for its efforts to impose sanctions and increase pressure on Iran at the United Nations.
 
Yet there are bright spots to note.
 
Elena Kagan became the eighth Jewish justice and fourth female justice to sit on the United States Supreme Court and the fact that she is Jewish was virtually a non-issue – a demonstration that one’s religion no longer has the significance it once had.
 
European leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel and Lithuania’s Andrius Kubilius have spoken out forcefully against racism and anti-Semitism.
 
The ongoing battle against hate crime gained new momentum with the passage of comprehensive federal hate crimes legislation. It ensures that all bias crime victims are covered under federal law, and that authorities have the necessary tools to prosecute such crimes.
 
In a historic visit to Rome’s main synagogue, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged the validity of Judaism and reaffirmed the Catholic Jewish relationship.
 
Anti-Semitic attitudes in the United States remain at historic lows, with 12 percent of Americans holding anti-Jewish views, matching the lowest figure ever recorded.
 
In January 2010, Israel gained entry into an important political coalition of liberal democracies at the United Nations.
           
Despite being situated in a dangerous neighborhood, the State of Israel remains a light unto the nations, a place where democracy and freedom flourish and a land where economic innovation and entrepreneurship are outdone only by the incredible diversity and spirit of its people.
 
We pray for 5771 to be a year in which the Jewish people continue to thrive and the State of Israel finds lasting peace and security. We hope that the diversity of American society continues to flourish and the forces of anti-Semitism, religious intolerance and extremism are defeated.
 
L’Shana Tovah!
 
*
 
Robert G. Sugarman is National Chair of the Anti-Defamation League.  Abraham H. Foxman is the League’s National Director and author of “The Deadliest Lies: The Jewish Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control” and of the forthcoming “Jews and Money: The Story of a Stereotype” (November 2010).

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