Top Trump officials headline conference focusing on the ‘new #antiSemitism’

Worth reading for the last pointed question posed to the three, which all deflected:

U.S. Attorney General William Barr called anti-Semitism a “cancer” at a Department of Justice summit on the topic notable for its focus on anti-Israel activity and for speeches by the top leaders of the departments of Education, the Treasury and the FBI.

Monday’s Summit on Combating Anti-Semitism, held at the DOJ headquarters here, featured panel discussions and an audience of about 150, mostly men representing various Jewish organizations and government agencies that deal with some aspect of hate crimes and civil rights.

The conference was bracketed by speeches by Barr and three other top officials of the Trump administration: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Elan Carr, the State Department’s Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism, said the lineup was a sign of how seriously the administration is taking what he called a “time of striking growth in anti-Semitism around the globe.” He said that growth extends from Europe to the United States, “where vandalism in New York and other cities, according to the Anti-Defamation League, occurs on a fairly regular basis, and campuses have become hostile places for Jewish and pro-Israel students.”

Anti-Israel activity — at colleges and by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel — was perhaps the major theme of the summit, with two of the four panels largely devoted to aspects of the topic: “Anti-Semitism on Campus” and “Combating Anti-Semitism While Respecting the First Amendment.”

Carr noted at least three sources of present-day anti-Semitism: the “white supremacist far right,” the “anti-Zionist far left” and “radical Islam.”

But he drew particular attention to what he called “the new anti-Semitism,” which he said “attempts to disguise its Jew hatred as hatred for the state of Israel and the anti-Zionist endeavor.”

DeVos said that “BDS stands for anti-Semitism.” She described her department’s investigations into incidents of alleged discrimination aimed at pro-Israel students at Williams College in Massachusetts and at a pro-Palestinian event sponsored by departments at Duke University and University of North Carolina.

She also invoked President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as did Mnuchin, as a sign of U.S. support for Israel.

In his remarks, Barr referred to the wide landscape of anti-Semitism, including a rise in reported hate crimes, the deadly shootings at synagogues in Pittsburgh and southern California, conspiracy theories and cemetery vandalism.

Describing anti-Semitism as a “cancer,” he said he wants to “assure the Jewish community that the Department of Justice and the entire federal government stands with you and will not tolerate these attacks.”

The conference, scheduled for weeks, was held following a news cycle dominated by accusations that President Donald Trump had himself courted bigotry, first in hosting a meeting at the White House for right-wing social media figures and then saying in a tweet that four Democratic members of Congress, all women of color, should “go back” to their countries of origin.

Josh Rogin, a columnist for the Washington Post who moderated a panel on “Prosecuting Hate Crimes,” referred to this tumult in a question to the three law enforcement officials on the panel. Asked to what they attributed the rise in hate crimes, and if they considered Trump’s often polarizing behavior as one of the causes, all three — representing the Attorney General’s civil rights division, the FBI’s criminal investigation division and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia — declined to offer any reasons.

All three focused their answers instead on their efforts to prosecute purveyors of hate crimes and their work with local communities on prevention.

Source: Top Trump officials headline conference focusing on the ‘new anti-Semitism’

Berlin professor: Contemporary antisemitism is not racism or xenophobia

While I am not convinced by the arguments to consider antisemitism as a completely distinct form of racism and discrimination, her points on its history, incidence and the distinctions between antisemitism and criticism of Israel are thoughtful:
Statistics indicate a dramatic rise in antisemitism everywhere in the world. The brutal murder of Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll last year in Paris and the murder of 11 worshipers in the attack on the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh last October are only the devastating peaks of this development. Germany’s antisemitism czar recently warned that it is not safe for Jews to wear kippot in certain areas.
In February, French President Emanuel Macron said that antisemitism has reached its highest level since World War II.
“We have predicted this development for a long time, but our warnings were dismissed as alarmism,” says Monika Schwarz-Friesel, a professor of cognitive science at the Technical University of Berlin and one of the world’s leading antisemitism researchers. She blames Israel-related antisemitism and the failure of politicians, scholars, civil society and the media to address it. In an interview with The Jerusalem Report, Schwarz-Friesel also talks about the results of her recent research on online antisemitism and her new book, Jew-hatred on the Internet: Antisemitism as cultural constant and collective sentiment. (The title is translated from the German.)
Where is the current explosion of antisemitism coming from?
We are waking up to a reality that has developed over a long time. Antisemitism was never really gone. There was a period after World War II when its open communication was suppressed, but that doesn’t mean that it was erased from people’s minds. It only mutated into new forms, among which Israel-related antisemitism became the most pervasive and influential. The latter, very prominently promoted, e.g. by the BDS movement, has been instrumental in making Jew-hatred respectable again by whitewashing it as criticism of Israel. That whole process was never really challenged. On the contrary, everything has been tried to deny and marginalize it. Now we are facing the consequences.
Are you saying that the present situation was predictable?
Indeed so. I can read out for you the minutes of a symposium in which I participated 10 years ago in Jena, Germany, and you would think that they were written today. We made it very clear, back then, that Israel-related antisemitism is increasingly promoting the dissemination, radicalization and social acceptance of Jew-hatred. We explicitly warned that lest decisive counter-measures are taken, there will be an eruption and normalization of antisemitism. No one heeded our warnings. Instead, they were dismissed as alarmism. The fight against antisemitism remained focused on the activities of right-wing neo-Nazis, who in fact have very little influence on society as a whole. In contrast, Israel-related antisemitism and its massive popular impact were ignored. I clearly blame politicians, civil society and the media for ignoring, belittling and sometimes even participating in the dissemination of Israel-related Judeophobia.
Recently, however, the German parliament passed a resolution against BDS and anti-Israel antisemitism.
That resolution was a right and important decision. But I am afraid it is too little too late. It should have been passed 10 years ago.
There are many who think that measures against the BDS campaign infringe on free speech. How do you respond to people who say that charges of antisemitism are used to silence criticism of Israel?
Plainly, that they are wrong. Their accusation is void of any empirical merit. We actually did check this in various corpus-based studies. There is no noteworthy actor or discourse that has ever claimed that it is forbidden to criticize Israel, or that has used the charge of antisemitism to silence rational and fact-based criticism of the Jewish state’s policies. The opposite is true. Barely any other country is criticized as much as Israel in the European media. Those who emphatically claim that criticism of Israel must be allowed oppose a taboo that in reality does not exist. And they usually do so to whitewash Israel-related antisemitism.

So how do you distinguish between criticism of Israel and Israel-related antisemitism?
In fact, this is very simple. The line is crossed when statements about Israel reflect antisemitic stereotypes rather than the reality on the ground.
Can you give an example?
Let’s take the recent Israeli Nation-State Law. Criticizing this law as counterproductive, unnecessary or discriminatory is certainly not antisemitic. But when people, as we have seen, label it the “new Nuremberg race laws” or a “diabolic Zionist crime,” then they demonize Israel in a way that is antisemitic. Such statements are not based in reality. Instead they project stereotypical ideas of Jews as an absolute evil, by rendering the Jewish state a Nazi-like regime.

Outbursts of antisemitism often coincide with Israeli military operations, such as the 2014 Gaza War. What role does the Middle East conflict play in promoting Jew-hatred?
Crises in the Middle East often trigger antisemitic outbursts, but they are not their root cause. We can conclude that from our observation. Most antisemitic communications reproduce stereotypes that are much older than the Israeli-Arab conflict on which they are often projected. This also applies to antisemitism among Muslims. Mantras such as “child murderer Israel” target the Jewish state, but in fact replicate the classic antisemitic blood libel that has been around for centuries.

Your current book covers, among other things, the results of your much acclaimed new long-term study on antisemitism online.

What are your findings?Throughout the last decade, antisemitism on the Internet has been growing significantly. In some data sets we found an increase as high as 22 percent. In the online talkback sections of quality German newspapers, the number of antisemitic comments multiplied by four. This is accompanied by a radicalization in terms of semantics. In contrast to survey data, the Internet communications that we have reviewed are authentic, meaning they were not produced in response to the question of a researcher, but rather express the genuine impetus of their authors. So far, our study is the first of its kind in antisemitism research.

Is there any social group that stands out in particular among the producers of antisemitic speech online?
Our findings confirmed once more that antisemitism is not the exclusive problem of political extremists or of people with a low level of education. In fact, most antisemitic communications are authored by normal everyday users. That means that we encounter Jew-hatred everywhere on the web, and not only in confined spaces specifically dedicated to radical ideas.
A few weeks ago YouTube announced that it would ban videos that promote Holocaust denial. Shortly before that, Facebook said it would delete the profiles of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Islamist Louis Farrakhan. Did these measures make a difference?
According to our observations of the past five years, things only got worse. We regularly conducted spot checks to see whether certain contents have remained or disappeared. Also after Germany’s so-called Network-entrenchment law took effect in October 2017, imposing fines on social media providers who don’t comply with regulations for the restriction of hate speech, nothing substantial changed. The only thing that happens is that specific extreme cases of Holocaust denial get deleted. However, usually these contents just reappear later somewhere else. Eliminatory antisemitism expressed in mantras such as “Bomb Israel!” “Destroy Israel!” or “Jews are the biggest scum on earth” is still widespread all over cyberspace. The old anti-Jewish eliminatory hate is unbroken, as if Auschwitz never happened.
How is that possible?
There is a very simple explanation: 2,000 years of Jew-hatred are met by no more than 50 years of very ineffective education against it. In addition, large parts of society are in denial when it comes to facing the actual scope of antisemitism. Influential people, among them also scholars, continue to oppose measures against BDS. They falsely claim that criticism of BDS is an infringement of free speech and disseminate the fairytale that charges of antisemitism are used to silence criticism of Israel. Such arguments are void of any empirical corroboration. They not only sabotage the struggle against antisemitism, but actually promote the respectability of modern Jew-hatred.
So what can be done?
The political world has to face the facts and base the struggle against antisemitism on scholarly research rather than on empirically unsubstantiated fantasies. This will lead us automatically to the conclusion that Israeli-related Jew-hatred has to be targeted much more decisively.
By the same token, we have to dismiss the wrong but popular idea that contemporary antisemitism equals racism or xenophobia. Antisemitism is rooted in Christianity’s attempt to dismiss the Jewish basis it evolved from. As such, it has been an integral part of Western civilization for 2,000 years, deeply shaping the ways in which people think and feel. Comprehending this unique character of Jew-hatred as a cultural category sui generis rather than as one form of prejudice among others is a precondition to challenging it successfully.

Source: Berlin professor: Contemporary antisemitism is not racism or xenophobia

UK’s Labour Party spars with BBC over charges of anti-Semitism

Ongoing train wreck (the Conservatives have the same problem with anti-Muslim attitudes):

British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn’s office interfered in independent party discipline processes aimed at rooting out anti-Semitism, the BBC said on Wednesday, a claim that the Labour Party sharply rejected.

A BBC investigation spoke to former Labour officials who said top party figures, including Corbyn’s communications director Seumas Milne and general secretary Jennie Formby, had minimized complaints of anti-Semitism against party members.

Labour said the accusations were “deliberate and malicious misrepresentations designed to mislead the public”.

Labour has battled accusations of anti-Semitism since 2016 and Corbyn – a veteran campaigner for Palestinian rights – as well as other senior party officials have been criticized for failing to take decisive action to deal with it.

British Jewish groups have accused Labour of becoming institutionally anti-Semitic, and the issue has played a part in Labour’s failure to take electoral advantage of the Conservative government’s turmoil over Brexit.

The BBC quoted an email from Milne telling Labour’s internal complaints team that “something’s going wrong, and we’re muddling up political disputes with racism”.

Labour said this misrepresented Milne’s email, which referred to a dispute between Jewish Labour members with Zionist and anti-Zionist views. A fuller extract of the email read: “If we’re more than very occasionally using disciplinary action against Jewish members for anti-Semitism, something’s going wrong, and we’re muddling up political disputes with racism.”

The BBC investigation also quoted former party members who felt a hostile atmosphere toward Jews within the party in recent years, who were sometimes challenged over Israeli government actions by other party members.

Nine lawmakers quit the party this year, citing the leadership’s handling of anti-Semitism as well as its stance on Brexit as reasons for leaving.

British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said the BBC investigation showed that Corbyn was either “wilfully blind to anti-Semitism or anti-Semitic himself”.

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, who is frequently critical of Corbyn, said he was “shocked, chilled and appalled” by the allegations in the BBC report.

Labour’s press office said the party was “implacably opposed to anti-Semitism,” and that some of the former officials quoted by the BBC had “personal and political axes to grind” against Corbyn.

Britain’s Conservatives face regular accusations of hostility toward Muslims. On Monday broadcaster Channel 4 published a survey of 892 Conservative Party members by pollsters YouGov which showed that 56% believed Islam was a general threat to Britain’s way of life.

Source: UK’s Labour Party spars with BBC over charges of anti-Semitism

There’s a debate over Canada’s new definition of anti-Semitism, and it might sound strangely familiar

Needed raising of some parallels:

You could be forgiven for having missed the fact that Canada has adopted a formal definition of anti-Semitism. It was included as part of the government’s new anti-racism strategy, announced by Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez earlier this week, in a list of terminology toward the end.

“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” it reads. “Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

This is a relatively recent definition, adopted in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), an intergovernmental body with 31 member countries, including Canada. It’s since been adopted by a handful of countries, including the U.K. and Germany.

But controversy has bubbled up around the IHRA definition, fuelled by those who believe it’s over-broad and could chill legitimate criticism of the Israeli state. Though Canada isn’t passing any new laws to curtail debate about Israel, some believe the IHRA definition is a threat to free speech.

If this sounds strangely familiar, that’s because the debate bears a certain resemblance to the controversy that raged for months over M-103, the Liberals’ anti-Islamophobia motion that Conservatives claimed would threaten people’s right to criticize Islam. The arguments in both cases are oddly similar — they’re just coming from very different quarters.

The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is brief, but includes a list of 11 contemporary examples, such as “the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy,” and the claim that Jews invented or exaggerated the Holocaust. It also lists as anti-Semitic “applying double standards by requiring of (Israel) a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

Aidan Fishman, former national director of B’nai Brith Canada’s league for human rights, said his organization pushed for Canada to adopt the IHRA definition because of a “really alarming rise” in anti-Semitic incidents in recent years.

“It’s a very comprehensive definition, which really encapsulates anti-Semitism in its modern form,” he said. Canada’s decision comes in the midst of an international effort by Jewish organizations to urge governments and political parties to formally adopt the IHRA definition.

Anthony Housefather, a Liberal MP from Montreal and chair of the House of Commons justice committee, said defining anti-Semitism is key to fighting it. “Most people just need to be educated and understand where something crosses the line,” he said.

Still, the IHRA definition has not been universally embraced. Last week, just days before the anti-racism strategy was released, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) released a statement saying the definition is “extremely vague,” “open to misinterpretation” and could undermine Charter rights to free speech. “We fear that if adopted, the IHRA definition will serve to severely chill political expressions of criticism of Israel as well as support for Palestinian rights,” the association said.

In a statement to the National Post on Thursday, the NDP said the party supports the anti-racism strategy, but likewise raised concerns about the IHRA definition, saying it “could be a threat for people who legitimately denounce grave human rights abuses by the government of Israel against Palestinians.”

Independent Jewish Voices, an organization that supports the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, is urging Ottawa to reconsider. “The full definition’s examples conflate fundamental criticisms of Israel and/or Zionism with anti-Semitism — a position IJV strongly rejects,” the organization said in a statement, adding its adoption “would pose a serious threat to freedom of expression and academic freedom in Canada.”

Fishman and Housefather both denied this, pointing out that the definition states that “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.” But Fishman said support for the BDS movement does constitute anti-Semitism under the IHRA definition to the extent that supporters also, for example, call for the lifting of sanctions against Iran — a double standard, he argued.

“There are many parts of BDS which are indeed a new form of anti-Semitism when you single out Israel,” Housefather said.

Canada’s anti-racism strategy does not propose any new penalties for anti-Semitism, nor does it propose new legislation — it provides only a definition. But Meghan McDermott, staff counsel for the BCCLA, said she worries it could eventually be incorporated into the Criminal Code. “It’s kind of what we would call soft law for now,” she said. “We just worry about that whole floodgates argument.”

That “floodgates argument” is strikingly similar to the concerns raised by Conservatives and other critics of M-103, the 2017 motion that called on the government to condemn Islamophobia and all forms of racism and religious discrimination. Though M-103 was not a government bill and proposed no changes to legislation, critics claimed that because Islamophobia was not precisely defined, the motion could restrict legitimate criticism of Islam.

B’nai Brith was among those critics. At a 2017 meeting of a parliamentary Heritage committee conducting a study of systemic racism as required by M-103, Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith, called Islamophobia a “confusing” term with competing definitions. “We must ensure that no one can hide behind the idea that any criticism of Islam represents Islamophobia, or a vague definition to this effect,” he said.

Ultimately, the Heritage committee recommended Canada update its national action plan against racism, a commitment that’s now been fulfilled with the release of the new anti-racism strategy, which defines both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Its definition of Islamophobia “includes racism, stereotypes, prejudice, fear or acts of hostility directed towards individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general.”

The Conservatives did not respond to a request for comment about the new strategy and its definitions.

McDermott insisted the two debates — about anti-Semitism and Islamophobia — are not analogous, as the controversy over the IHRA definition centres around criticism of a foreign nation. The debate over M-103, she said, wasn’t “grounded in reality.”

“It seemed to me that it was… people who were Islamophobic who were making those arguments,” she said.

For his part, Fishman said criticism of the IHRA definition is ill-founded. “And I think some of it is actually motivated by a desire on the part of certain groups… to keep pushing anti-Semitism,” he said.

Cara Zwibel, director of the fundamental freedoms program of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said she’s concerned about any definition of racism that’s too broad, because of the importance of freedom of expression. Still, she pointed out, nothing in Canadian law has actually changed.

“There’s nothing in that strategy at the moment that seems to restrict rights in any way,” she said. “It’s more about empowering people to respond.”

Editorial: Estonia needs to tackle anti-Semitism before it’s too late

Generally, not much coverage of Estonia:

For the small Estonian Jewish community, times have been peaceful – but recent anti-Semitic acts are a reason for concern.

Over the weekend of 22-23 June, several headstones at the 110-year old Rahumäe Jewish cemetery in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, were knocked over. On 23 June, swastikas were spray-painted on large stones by the Lille bus stop in Tallinn’s Kristiine district.

“On 23 June, when all of Estonia celebrated the 100th anniversary of the victory of Estonian troops over the Baltic Landeswehr (Baltic German troops during the Estonian War of Independence – editor) near Võnnu, there were two extremely outrageous incidents in Tallinn,” the Jewish Community of Estonia wrote on its Facebook page on 24 June.

“This monstrous act of vandalism at a place where our ancestors rest in peace, where every human being thinks about spirituality, their connection to past generations and human values, is offensive, frightening and unacceptable in our society,” the Estonian Jewish Community and the Estonian Jewish Congregation said in a statement.

The community added that the act of vandalism was the first at the Jewish cemetery – it was not defiled even during the Nazi occupation of Estonia (from 1941-1944 – editor).

According to Alla Jakobson, the chairwoman of the Estonian Jewish Community, it is hard to believe that these malicious actions were organised specifically during the holidays in Estonia (when the country celebrates Victory Day, Midsummer Eve and Midsummer Day – or St John’s Day). “It is hoped that it was just a very unfortunate coincidence,” she said in a statement.

“We honour the memory of the deceased and would like society to show understanding and mutual respect for the memory of the people who lost their ancestors in that country. I am convinced the [police] investigation will identify those whose behaviour caused sorrow and pain,” Jakobson added.

The Jewish Community of Estonia added that “such acts of vandalism and the spray-painted swastikas in public places are a direct reference to the tragic [historical] events. We hope [these events] will never happen again. Not in Estonia, or in any other country.”

Several incidents in a row causing a concern

The latest anti-Semitic acts follow the incident in March, when a 27-year-old Estonian man aggressively shouted at the country’s Chief Rabbi, Shmuel Kot, on the street: “What are you staring at, Jew? You’re going into the oven.” The man also shouted “Sieg Heil” and “Heil Hitler” at Kot while the rabbi was walking to Tallinn’s synagogue with two of his children, aged seven and 12. The police later identified the abuser, arrested him – and he was sentenced to eight days in prison.

According to Kot, this kind of an incident was the first time two of his children had witnessed any such harassment.

In August 2018, unidentified individuals vandalised the Holocaust memorials at Kalevi-Liiva in Estonia’s Harju County. Thousands of Jews perished there during the Nazi occupation of Estonia, from 1941-1944. The memorials were spray-painted with swastikas, anti-Semitic and Nazi messages.

6, when Estonian World spoke to Rabbi Kot, he told us Estonia was a very peaceful, calm and good country for Jews. Therefore, the latest developments cause a serious concern – and in the light of far-right gains in the last parliamentary election in March, beg the question whether an anti-Semitic sentiment is on the rise in Estonia.

A troubled history, but mostly tolerant country for Jews

Like many European countries, Estonia may have had a fair bit of troubled history with anti-Semitism, but for the most part of its existence, it has been regarded as a tolerant country for Jews.

From the very first days of its existence as a state in 1918, Estonia showed tolerance towards all the peoples inhabiting her territories. In 1925, the Act of Cultural Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities was enacted in Estonia, giving minority groups consisting of at least 3,000 individuals the right of self-determination in cultural matters. Thus, in 1926, the Jewish cultural autonomy was declared – first of its kind in the world. For its tolerant policy towards Jews, even a page was dedicated to the Republic of Estonia in the Golden Book of the Jewish National Fund in 1927.

Sadly, the history took a wrong turn. With the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940, Jewish cultural autonomy, in addition to the activities of Jewish organisations, was terminated. All Jewish schools were closed and 414 Estonian Jews (10 per cent of the Jewish community) were deported to Siberia in the course of the mass deportations of June 1941.

Worse was to come. During the German occupation, the Nazis murdered approximately 1,000 Jews who had failed to flee Estonia (most had escaped to the Soviet Union before the Nazi occupation). In addition, about 10,000 Jews were transported to Nazi concentration camps in Estonia from other parts of Europe. Only a handful of them survived.

During the second Soviet occupation (1944–1991), many Jews migrated to Estonia again to escape the anti-Semitism prevalent in many parts of the Soviet Union. After the restoration of Estonia’s independence in 1991, the local Jewish cultural life was reinvigorated again and the community of about 2,500 people has generally thrived since. In 2007, a new synagogue was opened in Tallinn – the first synagogue to open in Estonia since the Second World War.

Let’s keep Estonia an educated and tolerant country

This publication calls the Estonian society and institutions to take the anti-Semitic incidents seriously – it’s important to tackle the hatred and prejudice and cut it at its roots. More education is needed about the Holocaust – there is sadly still too much ignorance and denial about the genocide that also took place in Estonia, among many European countries.

The local media – and especially the country’s public broadcasting, ERR – could also highlight the positive contribution of thousands of Estonian Jews throughout the history, which has benefitted not just Estonia, but also the world. From Louis Kahn to Eri Klas, from Yuri Lotman to Eino Baskin, many Estonian Jews have made Estonia and the world a better place.

Until recently, Estonia stood out positively as a place where Jews could live in peace and thrive – let’s keep it that way.

Source: Editorial: Estonia needs to tackle anti-Semitism before it’s too late

Canada adopts universal definition of anti-Semitism

Another pre-election announcement. The sensitive part of the non-legally binding working definition concerns criticism of Israel.

Comparable issues arise in any definition of Islamophobia or anti-Muslim hate between the relatively easy definitions of discriminatory behaviour or hate against Muslims and criticism of Islam itself:

Canada’s government announced on Tuesday that it will formally adopt the widely accepted definition of anti-Semitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance as part of the country’s anti-racism initiative.

“To help address resurgent anti-Semitism in Canada, we’re adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism as part of our strategy,” said Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism.

Canada joined the IHRA is 2009 and is one of 32 member states.

The IHRA definition says: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Jewish groups applauded Rodriguez’s announcement.

“Peddlers of anti-Semitism must be held accountable, but this can only happen if authorities can clearly and consistently identify acts of Jew-hatred,” said Joel Reitman, co-chair of the board of directors at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

“This is why CIJA has been calling on all three levels of government to use the (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism,” he continued. “The IHRA definition, which has been adopted by dozens of democratic countries, is a vital tool in countering the global rise in anti-Semitism.”

“Canada adopting IHRA’s definition of antisemitism is an important symbolic and declaratory move,” said NGO Monitor founder and president Gerald Steinberg. “We hope that the next steps will pertain to its implementation within Canadian policy, including regarding Canadian international aid and support of NGOs.”

B’nai Brith Canada labeled the IHRA standard “the most universally accepted and expertly driven definition of anti-Semitism available today,” and one that “enjoys unprecedented consensus.”

Some 392,000 Jews reside in Canada, or 1 percent of the overall population.

Overall, 2,041 anti-Semitic incidents in Canada were reported in 2018—a 16.5 percent increase from the previous year, according to B’nai Brith Canada.

Incidents of vandalism decreased from 327 to 221, as violent anti-Semitic attacks also dropped, from 16 in 2017 to 11 in 2018.

Source: Canada adopts universal definition of anti-Semitism

UK: How a radical new form of anti-racism can save Labour

Valid approach that applies more broadly that antisemitism/anti-Zionism. But hard to implement as it requires some compartmentalization:

An announcement by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that it is launching a formal investigation into antisemitism in the Labour party is one more sign that the controversy cannot be addressed by internal procedures alone. Was it ever solvable through the party’s own efforts? There was a time when I thought it might be.

Even before Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour party in September 2015, there was deep disquiet in sections of the British Jewish community about what was perceived as his tolerance for Islamist terrorist groups. Following his election, repeated instances of antisemitic comments in the burgeoning Corbynite grassroots further stoked alarm. The attempted coup against Corbyn’s leadership in June 2016 deepened the problem, with non-Corbynite Jewish party members (and those within the Jewish Labour Movement in particular) becoming the focus of anger from some who supported Corbyn’s transformation of the party.

There has been no shortage of efforts to address this situation. There was the Chakrabarti inquiry in June 2016 and repeated statements by Corbyn and others condemning antisemitism. There have been meetings, both confidential and announced, between Jewish communal leaders and the Labour leadership. There have been rule changes and bureaucratic restructuring intended to improve the party’s disciplinary procedures.

For years I’ve been advocating dialogue as a way to address the crisis generated by antisemitism within Labour. For a long time my working assumption was that hardcore, unrepentant, unredeemable antisemites in the party were a tiny minority, but there was a much bigger group that fell into antisemitic language occasionally or out of ignorance. The first group could not be dialogued out of existence – only expelled – but the larger group might be open to education. What was crucial was to engage those Corbynites who had no history of antisemitism and might be able to exert influence on others. I did have some hope that, through hard work and trust-building, it might be possible to reach some kind of understanding between those who lead the Labour party and Jews concerned about antisemitism.

Not only has nothing worked, but efforts to fix things have themselves deepened the controversy. Meetings between Corbyn and Jewish community leaders have been tenseand incomprehending affairs. Institutional investigations and reforms are either seen as a whitewash from the Jewish side (as with the Chakrabarti report) or as an unacceptable compromise with them (as in the 2018 adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism by the Labour party national executive committee).

Now, with Jewish support for Labour dropping like a stone and accusations that the party is institutionally antisemitic, antisemitism in the party has not gone away and the political dispute over it is worse than ever. There is no reason to think that the EHRC will end the dispute, whatever its findings – things are just too far gone for that.

So what next? There is a way back, but it’s going to take a radical rethinking of what anti-racism means.

We got into this mess in the first place because sections of the left have never been able to reconcile themselves to the fact that the majority of British Jews are Zionists in some shape or form, either self-identifying as such or supporting the principle of Israel as a Jewish state. That fundamental bewilderment, that sense that Jews should know better, has been combined with a love of that significant minority of Jews who are not Zionists. Groups such as the Corbyn-supporting Jewish Voice for Labour, which is largely made up of Jews who reject Zionism, tacitly encourage the sentiment: “Why can’t all Jews be like that?”

Given that the divisions between Jewish Zionists and anti-Zionists are very much out in the open, it is all too easy to pick and choose the Jews one listens to and to damn the rest.

I am not one of those Jews who would argue that members of Jewish Voice for Labour are not really Jews and should be shunned by non-Jews. But there is no way around the fact that, intentionally or unintentionally, they encourage the fantasy that all you need to do to oppose antisemitism is to draw close to those Jews with whom you are in sympathy. This fantasy has exposed under-discussed questions about how anti-racism should express solidarity with minorities who are subjected to racism: what happens when those minorities, or significant sections of them, hold to politics with which you don’t agree? And what happens when those minorities treat those politics as non-negotiable parts of their identity?

Too often, anti-racism on sections of the left is predicated on wilful ignorance about what the victims of racism actually believe. Jews have a way of forcing the issue: our overwhelming (but by no means total) embrace of Zionism has been so public that it cannot be avoided. This has presented a quandary to those who see themselves as supporters of the Palestinians: how can the victims of racism be racists themselves? The way out of that has sometimes been to deny that Jews today constitute a group that can suffer racism at all (other than perhaps at the hand of good old-fashioned Nazis); we have been subsumed into white privilege. The result has been that progressive movements increasingly find it difficult to include Jews who do not renounce Zionism, as the controversy surrounding antisemitism in the Women’s March in the US has shown.

The only way out of this impasse is to recast anti-racist solidarity so that it is completely decoupled from political solidarity. Anti-racism must become unconditional, absolute, and not requiring reciprocity. Anti-racism must be explicitly understood as fighting for the right of minorities to pursue their own political agendas, even if they are abhorrent to you. Anti-racism requires being scrupulous in how one talks or acts around those one might politically despise.

This isn’t just an issue that applies to Jews and antisemitism. We are beginning to see the strains in other forms of anti-racism too, when minorities start becoming politically awkward. The opposition from some British Muslim groups to teaching LGBT issues in school is one example of this. Yet opposition to Islamophobia is as vital as opposition to homophobia and one must not be sacrificed on the altar of the other.

The anti-racism that I suggest is a kind of self-sacrifice. Anti-racists must acknowledge but restrain how they really feel about those who must be defended against racism. Doing so involves a constant balancing act: supporting the right for Zionist Jews to live free from abuse and harassment while, at the same time, fighting for the right of Palestinians to live free from oppression. Creating that balance involves teeth-gritting; choosing not to pursue the most unbridled forms of political warfare when it involves ethno-religious minorities such as Jews.

It sounds like a horrible, frustrating and maddening process. But who said that anti-racism was going to be easy? Well, it isn’t easy and the fantasy that it is got us into this predicament in the first place.

This, then, is what a solution to the Labour party antisemitism crisis will have to look like, now that dialogue and conflict resolution have proved to be dead ends: an acknowledgment from the anti-Zionist left that anti-racist solidarity with those seen as despicable Zionist Jews must be unconditional. This is what I call “sullen solidarity” – and it is the most powerful form of solidarity there is.

Paradoxically, the first step in cultivating this sullen solidarity should be restraining love for those Jews with whom one is most in sympathy. The Labour leadership needs to stop its repeated expressions of support for particular Jewish traditions; its Passover messages about social justice and its invocations of the battle of Cable Street. As a leftwing Israel-critical Jew, I myself honour and respect some of the traditions with which Corbyn empathises, but I don’t need my way of being Jewish to be validated by anyone. Anti-racism should not be a reward for being culturally interesting or politically sympathetic; it should require no justification.

I am totally uninterested in whether the Labour leadership like Jews or what sort of Jews they like. I care only that they will refrain from expressing love for certain kinds of Jews and distrust of others, and that they will defend all of us from antisemitism, however unlikable they might find us.

Source: How a radical new form of anti-racism can save Labour

Antisemitism: Spell it Without the Hyphen-Please

Uphill struggle but I always use the correct spelling (and urge others to do the same):

Antisemitism should be spelled without the hyphen. It’s something I’ve known for years, even if auto-correct just won’t get the message. Neither will the media, of course, or even most dictionaries.

“What’s the difference?” you might well ask. “It’s just a little mark on the page. Meaningless.”

Ah, but it’s not.

The concept of “antisemitism” (without the dash, thank you) and the term, were introduced by Wilhelm Marr when he founded the Die Antisemitenliga, the League of Antisemites, in 1879. Materials put out by the league often employed the word “antisemitism.” The league, in fact, was the first popular political movement based solely on anti-Jewish sentiment. Marr’s famous and oft-reprinted tract, The Victory of Judaism Over Germandom, made the claim that “the Jewish spirit and Jewish consciousness have overpowered the world.”

Statutes of the Antisemitism League flanked by two of Marr’s antisemitic tracts

Marr wore the title “antisemite” as a badge of honor. From the perspective of Marr and his colleagues, to be an antisemite was to be “woke.” But then, politics with a specifically anti-Jewish flavor and focus were big all over Europe in the years leading up to the 20th century.

The word “antisemitism” had its roots in an 18th-century treatise on languages which analyzed the differences between Aryan and Semitic languages. The terminology that was used led to the false assumption that there were racial groups corresponding to these two groups of languages. The minds of the time made a leap so that “Jew” became synonymous with “semite” in the lexicon of the day.

The interesting thing here is that there was already the perfectly good expression Judenhass, or “Jew hate,” in the popular lexicon. But Marr wanted to make his hatred about race, rather than religion. The new term he coined avoided altogether the question of religion. “Antisemitism” also sounded more scientific, more intellectual, therefore more credible and more acceptable. Also, people just liked it. So the word “antisemitismus” spread like wildfire as a new way to speak about hating the Jews.

But the thing is, there’s no such thing as a “semite” or even a “semitic” people. The terms were invented by some historians in the 1770s to refer to people who speak Semitic languages But in truth, there are only Semitic languages. There is no race or people that are “semites.”

In other words, when you spell the word with a hyphen, the word makes no sense. Because you can’t be against something that doesn’t exist. And there’s no such thing as a semite.

The other problem is that people say that Arabs are semites, too, therefore Arabs can’t be antisemites, because they can’t be against themselves.

Except there’s no such thing as a semite.

The term antisemite, you see, is standalone. It only means “someone who hates Jews.” And that is all it was ever intended to mean.

Antisemitism, as a term, is based on racist claptrap. The word was lifted from the field of linguistics to give weight to the idea of hating the Jews (and only the Jews) as a race (which they aren’t). The pseudoscientific sound of the term gave it loft and validity. Which is stupid.

To be clear: Jews aren’t semites. Neither are Arabs.

Antisemites hate Jews, not Arabs.

So when you use the hyphen you’re unwittingly espousing turn of the century European racism. You’re also ignorant of history. If Marr had meant to include Arabs he would have spelled the word he invented with a hyphen to include them.

Historians, at least those who care about academic rigor, are careful to spell the word without the hyphen. But the media continues to hyphenate the word. And spell-check and the auto-correct function of Word just won’t get the message. Historian Shmuel Almog, in fact, wrote about the problem with the hyphen all the way back in 1989:

“So the hyphen, or rather its omission, conveys a message; if you hyphenate your ‘anti-Semitism’, you attach some credence to the very foundation on which the whole thing rests. Strike out the hyphen and you will treat antisemitism for what it really is—a generic name for modern Jew-hatred which now embraces this phenomenon as a whole, past, present and—I am afraid—future as well.”

Source: Antisemitism: Spell it Without the Hyphen-Please – The Jewish Press

The New German Anti-Semitism

Good long and disturbing read:

One of Wenzel Michalski’s early recollections of growing up in southern Germany in the 1970s was of his father, Franz, giving him some advice: “Don’t tell anyone that you’re Jewish.” Franz and his mother and his little brother had survived the Holocaust by traveling across swaths of Eastern and Central Europe to hide from the Gestapo, and after the war, his experiences back in Germany suggested that, though the Nazis had been defeated, the anti-Semitism that was intrinsic to their ideology had not. This became clear to Franz when his teachers in Berlin cast stealthily malicious glances at him when Jewish characters — such as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” — came up in literature. “Eh, Michalski, this exactly pertains to you,” he recalls one teacher telling him through a clenched smile. Many years later, when he worked as an animal-feed trader in Hamburg, he didn’t tell friends that he was Jewish and held his tongue when he heard them make anti-Semitic comments. And so Franz told his son Wenzel that things would go easier for him if he remained quiet about being Jewish. “The moment you say it, things will become very awkward.”

As a teenager, Wenzel defied his father’s advice and told a close friend. That friend quickly told his mother, and the next time Wenzel saw her, she reacted quite strongly, hugging him and kissing his face: “Wenzel! Oh, my Wenzel!” Now a stocky, bearded 56-year-old, Wenzel recalled the moment to me on a recent Saturday afternoon. He raised the pitch of his voice as he continued to mimic her: “You people! You are the most intelligent! The most sensitive! You are the best pianists in the world! And the best poets!” In his normal voice again, he added, “Then I understood what my father meant.”

Wenzel Michalski is now the director of Human Rights Watch for Germany. He and his wife, Gemma, an outgoing British expat, live in a cavernous apartment building in the west of Berlin. In their kitchen, Gemma told me that after arriving in Germany in 1989, she often got a strangely defensive reaction when she told people she was Jewish; they would tell her they didn’t feel responsible for the Holocaust or would defend their grandparents as not having perpetrated it. And so, to avoid conversations like these, she, too, stayed quiet about being Jewish.

Recently, the Michalskis’ youngest son became the third generation of the family to learn that telling people he is Jewish could cause problems. The boy — whose parents asked that he be called by one of his middle names, Solomon, to protect his privacy — had attended a Jewish primary school in Berlin. But he didn’t want to stay in such a homogeneous school for good, so just before he turned 14, he transferred to a public school that was representative of Germany’s new diversity — a place, as Gemma described it, where he “could have friends with names like Hassan and Ahmed.”

The first few days there seemed to go well. Solomon, an affable kid with an easy smile, bonded with one classmate over their common affection for rap music. That classmate introduced him to a German-Turkish rapper who would rap about “Allah and stuff,” Solomon told me. In return, he introduced the classmate to American and British rap. Solomon had a feeling they would end up being best friends. On the fourth day, when Solomon was in ethics class, the teachers asked the students what houses of worship they had been to. One student mentioned a mosque. Another mentioned a church. Solomon raised his hand and said he’d been to a synagogue. There was a strange silence, Solomon later recalled. One teacher asked how he had encountered a synagogue.

“I’m Jewish,” Solomon said.

“Everyone was shocked, especially the teachers,” Solomon later told me about this moment. After class, a teacher told Solomon that he was “very brave.” Solomon was perplexed. As Gemma explained: “He didn’t know that you’re not meant to tell anyone.”

The following day, Solomon brought brownies to school for his birthday. He was giving them out during lunch when the boy he had hoped would be his best friend informed him that there were a lot of Muslim students at the school who used the word “Jew” as an insult. Solomon wondered whether his friend included himself in this category, and so after school, he asked for clarification. The boy put his arm around Solomon’s shoulders and told him that, though he was a “real babo” — Kurdish slang for “boss” — they couldn’t be friends, because Jews and Muslims could not be friends. The classmate then rattled off a series of anti-Semitic comments, according to Solomon: that Jews were murderers, only interested in money.

Over the next few months, Solomon was bullied in an increasingly aggressive fashion. One day, he returned home with a large bruise from a punch on the back. On another occasion, Solomon was walking home and stopped into a bakery. When he emerged, he found one of his tormentors pointing what looked like a handgun at him. Solomon’s heart raced. The boy pulled the trigger. Click. The gun turned out to be a fake. But it gave Solomon the scare of his life.


Seventy-five Years Later, Hungary Still Hasn’t Come to Terms with its Role in the Holocaust

Good long and disturbing read by Anna Porter:

On the 75th anniversary of the extermination of most of Hungary’s Jews—including the Auschwitz deportations, which began in May, 1944—we should also take note of the Hungarian government’s apparent determination to distort the country’s historical record. In some circles, this effort includes even the rehabilitation of Miklós Horthy, the longtime Hungarian Regent who governed Hungary during the Holocaust.

A former admiral and adjutant to the Habsburg Emperor-King, Horthy entered Budapest in dramatic style with his army on November 16, 1919, astride a white horse. His army defeated the ragtag Bolshevik forces that had imposed 133 days of “Red Terror” upon the country, but also inflicted its own “White Terror,” in some ways more brutal than its communist predecessor. Early during Horthy’s rule, Hungary enacted some of Europe’s first 20th-century anti-Jewish laws. Jews were capped at 6% of university admissions, and subsequent measures limited Jewish participation in elite professions to the same benchmark.

Jews also were prohibited from working in the public service and judiciary, or as high school teachers. During World War II, an additional law was passed prohibiting marriage or sex between Christians and Jews, on the grounds that such unions were harmful to the “national soul.”

Horthy arrives in Budapest, 1919

Even before Hungary actively rallied to the German war effort, most of Hungary’s young Jewish men had been dispatched to so-called labour battalions, serving unarmed near the front, where they were as likely to be killed by their commandants as by enemy fire. In 1941, the Hungarian army rounded up about 17,000 Jews who couldn’t prove they were citizens, and dumped them across the border into Ukraine, where they were systematically massacred by German death squads. By 1942, labour service had been extended to all Jewish men under the age of 45. All this happened while Horthy—an “exceptional statesman,” according to current Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán—ran the country.

Meanwhile, Hungary’s participation in the invasion of the USSR led to the extermination of the flower of Hungarian youth. At the 1942 battle of Voronezh and subsequent operations, the underequipped Hungarian 2nd Army was practically wiped out as it launched itself against Russian defences in support of the ultimately disastrous German thrust toward Stalingrad. By late 1944, Russian troops got to the outskirts of Budapest, which suffered through a 50-day siege before Axis forces surrendered on February 13, 1945. Almost 40,000 civilians died during this period, and much of the city was destroyed.

By this time, most of the country’s Jews already had been deported to concentration camps. In all, an estimated 565,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. Historical documents show that even some Germans were amazed by the speed and efficiency of the Hungarian government’s co-operation, and by the cruelty of its gendarmerie.

Horthy and Hitler, in 1938

Some of the few elderly Hungarian Jews who survived in the Budapest ghetto can still remember scenes of rats feasting on the unburied dead in Klauzal Square, and the trigger-happy young men guarding the gates. I have spoken to many survivors, including Max Eisen, a Canadian Holocaust educator, who was a young teenager when his family was rounded up and sent to Auschwitz. He still remembers the terror of being crammed into a boxcar, standing-room only, a hundred to a car, with no water, food or sunlight. To this day, Eisen has nightmares about his mother holding his nine-month-old sister during that three-day journey. Most of his family was murdered mere hours after arriving on the platform at Birkenau. His father’s last words to him were: “If you survive, you must tell the world what happened”—which is what Eisen did with his devastating 2016 book, By Chance Alone.

But Horthy, who survived the war and lived till 1957, had different memories to relate. In his Memoirs, he pompously declared of the mid-1930s that “though times had changed considerably since I had been aide-de-camp to His Majesty Emperor Francis Joseph, my concepts of honour, law and justice…had not altered.” Of meeting Hitler in 1936, he wrote: “It was not my task to stand in judgment upon the man who, since he had come to power, had shown nothing but goodwill towards Hungary, and who had sent me an extremely friendly telegram on the 15th anniversary of my entry into Budapest. I decided, therefore, to avail myself of an Austrian invitation to a chamois [goat-antelope] shoot in August, 1936, to seize the opportunity of paying a personal visit to Herr Hitler. The Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg had offered me the choice between three hunting preserves; I chose Hinterriss, which is famous for its chamois and to which Bavaria affords the only access.”

In concrete terms, the German “goodwill” consisted of allowing Hungary to reclaim parts of historical territories it had lost after throwing in with the losing side in World War I. Horthy’s primary concern was to restore Hungary’s former borders, even if that meant joining the Nazi war effort. As such, his strong nationalism has a certain appeal to modern populists such as Orbán.

In his Memoirs, Horthy uses terms such as “regrettable excesses” to describe massacres of Jews. He claims that he told Hitler, in early 1944, that “a violent solution [to Hungarian Jews] would be contrary to humanity and morals would not only undermine law and order but would have a deleterious effect on production.” He also claimed that in mid-1944—after he had been marginalized by the Germans, who by now were taking direct control of the country—that he did what he could to save the Jews who remained.

On October 15, 1944, Horthy announced over the radio that he had decided to sign a separate peace treaty with the Allies and withdraw Hungary from the conflict. He talked of the grave injustices inflicted by the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, which had set the fate of Hungary following the First World War. He blamed everyone except himself for the tragedies that had unfolded. His one passing reference to the slaughter of his nation’s Jews was contained in this sentence: “In the shelter of German occupation, the Gestapo tackled the Jewish question in a manner incompatible with the demands of humanity, applying methods it had already employed elsewhere.” It was lost on no one that Horthy was changing sides in the war only after it had become obvious that the Nazis would lose.

Many Jewish survivors recall the forced marches to the Austrian border that began in November, 1944. There were women and children, grandmothers and toddlers. It took more than three days to cover the distance from Budapest. A woman named Aviva told me that those who could not move were shot, and the ditches were lined with bodies. There was no food or shelter. Young Hungarian men stood guard along the route. These were members of the Arrow Cross Party, the far-right Hungarian movement that would run the country from late 1944 to March, 1945.

Near the border, Aviva’s group was joined by a rag-tag group of labour-service men who had been force-marched from the Bor copper mines—more than 300 of them having already been killed. One of the survivors was the young Hungarian poet Mikos Radnoti. He was murdered near Gyor in Western Hungary. When his body was found in a mass grave, his pockets were filled with scraps of paper—his last poems.

Memorial at Liberty Square

Hungary does not deny the fate of its Jews. Indeed, 2014 was declared to be a year of official Holocaust remembrance. But a memorial commissioned by Viktor Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party and erected in Budapest’s Liberty Square has provoked controversy, and even outrage. It presents Hungary in the guise of a thin, languid Archangel Gabriel-like figure being seized upon by a nasty-looking German bronze eagle with outstretched wings and terrifying claws—a symbol plainly meant to suggest Hungary was an innocent party that had been preyed upon by an evil outside force. Historian Krisztian Ungvary has called it a “living horror,” and it has attracted regular protests. But the message is consistent with the larger agenda of Orbán, who wants to promote a new, whitewashed form of national history, according to which the suffering of the Jews was no more nor less brutal than that endured by the entire country under Nazi and then Soviet rule.

Not far from the monument, there is a bronze bust of Horthy at the entrance to a Hungarian Reformed church: At the 2013 unveiling ceremony, leading members of Orbán’s government were in attendance. But also nearby is a monument commemorating the orgy of killing by Hungarian cadres, even as German troops retreated from Budapest under Soviet bombardment in the last months of the war. This year, Hungary’s Jewish community was given permission to bury bones found in the river during the 2016 reconstruction of the Margaret Bridge across the Danube.

During this final spasm of senseless slaughter, thousands of Jews were marched to the Danube and shot, or just pushed into the icy waters to die. It’s important to remember that the killers weren’t German soldiers, but members of Hungary’s own Arrow Cross movement. During my research, I interviewed a survivor—a 4-year old-child at the time—who remembers being taken to the river with his mother. To this day, he thinks it was his childish voice that saved his family when he asked, “Mr. Arrow Cross, when can we go home?” he and his relatives were then ushered out of the line of fire, and he survived to tell the story.

“Shoes on the Danube” memorial

Orbán’s favorite historian, Maria Schmidt, is in charge of the museum known as House of Terror, at 60 Andrassy Boulevard in Budapest. It commemorates both the Nazi terror and the Communist terror, and includes material about Hungarian victims of the Holocaust. Five of the museum’s 17 rooms contain exhibits relating to this subject. But the same historian is also in charge of another, more controversial museum—the House of Fates, which originally had been set to open its doors five years ago. Its initial mandate had been to commemorate the Hungarian experience of the Holocaust. Israel’s Yad Vashem, Washington’s Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the distinguished Hungarian-American professor Randolph Braham (1922-2018) were invited to collaborate. But almost from the beginning, the government’s local appointees reportedly began to push for a new version of the narrative, one by which Hungarians were largely blameless victims of German and Soviet aggression. The whole project fell into limbo, seemingly hostage to opposing historical voices. A Yad Vashem official declared that, from what he’d seen, “visitors to the House of Fates are to be shown and taught that, except for a tiny, criminal and fanatic minority, the citizens of Hungary were essentially blameless for what was inflicted upon their Jewish neighbors.”

As someone who grew up under Hungary’s communist dictatorship, I have a complicated relationship with the past—as my memories of family and friends are intermingled with the fears of saying the wrong thing in a country where judges, schools, the judiciary and the education system were all controlled by the government. And I can see why the country itself also has a complicated relationship with the horrors that its citizens witnessed, endured—and inflicted. But the only way to start healing from these crimes is to acknowledge how they happened.

Source: Seventy-five Years Later, Hungary Still Hasn’t Come to Terms with its Role in the Holocaust