Islamic leaders make ‘groundbreaking’ visit to Auschwitz

Significant:

Muslim religious leaders joined members of a U.S. Jewish group at Auschwitz on Thursday for what organizers described as “the most senior Islamic leadership delegation” to visit the site of a Nazi German death camp.

The interfaith visit came four days before the 75th anniversary of the camp’s Jan. 27, 1945, liberation by Soviet forces and as world leaders gathered in Jerusalem to commemorate the Holocaust.

The secretary general of the Muslim World League, Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, and the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, led the tour to the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial in Poland. The Nazis operated extermination and concentration camps in Poland when Germany occupied the country during World War II.

The American Jewish Committee said that Al-Issa, who is based in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, led a delegation of 62 Muslims, including 25 prominent religious leaders, from some 28 countries during the “groundbreaking” visit. At one point, they prayed with their heads pressed on the ground at Birkenau, the largest part of the camp and the most notorious site of Germany’s mass murder of European Jews.

The AJC delegation included members of the organization, among them children of Holocaust survivors.

“To be here, among the children of Holocaust survivors and members of the Jewish and Islamic communities, is both a sacred duty and a profound honor,” Al-Issa said. “The unconscionable crimes to which we bear witness today are truly crimes against humanity. That is to say, a violation of us all, an affront to all of God’s children.”

Auschwitz was the most notorious in a system of death and concentration camps that Nazi Germany operated on territory it occupied across Europe. In all, 1.1 million people were killed there, most of them Jews from across the continent.

The visit comes as Saudi Arabia works to be seen abroad as a moderate and modernizing country following decades of adherence to a hard-line interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism. The Muslim World League, under al-Issa’s leadership, has embraced the effort.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s strategy to modernize the kingdom is aimed in part at attracting greater foreign investment and fostering a national Saudi identity that is not founded solely on conservative religious values.

Al-Issa’s outreach to Jewish organizations also coincides with a broader alignment of interests and ties emerging between the Arab Gulf states and Israel, which share a common foe in Iran.

On Friday, members of the delegation will visit the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and attend Muslim and Jewish religious services there.

Source: Islamic leaders make ‘groundbreaking’ visit to Auschwitz

German Court May Reject Appeal to Remove Anti-Semitic Relic

Similar to discussions in Canada about statues of former historical figures and leaders. Believe there is a greater risk in removing the ugly parts and aspect of our history and historical figures than not, and having interpretative plaques or adjacent exhibits is a better approach:

A court in eastern Germany indicated Tuesday that it will likely reject a Jewish man’s bid to force the removal of an ugly remnant of centuries of anti-Semitism from a church where Martin Luther once preached.

The Naumburg court’s senate said, at a hearing, that “it will maybe reject the appeal,” court spokesman Henning Haberland told reporters.

“The senate could not follow the plaintiff’s opinion that the defamatory sculpture can be seen as an expression of disregard in its current presentation,” Haberland said.

The verdict will be announced on February 4.

The so-called “Judensau,” or “Jew pig,” sculpture on the Town Church in Wittenberg dates back to around 1300. It is perhaps the best-known of more than 20 such anti-Semitic relics from the Middle Ages that still adorn churches across Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Located 4 meters (13 feet) above the ground on a corner of the church, it depicts Jews suckling on the teats of a sow, while a rabbi lifts the animal’s tail. In 1570, after the Protestant Reformation, an inscription referring to an anti-Jewish tract by Luther was added.

Judaism considers pigs impure and no one disputes that the sculpture is deliberately offensive. But there is strong disagreement about what to do with the relief.

Tuesday’s hearing was the second round in the legal dispute, which comes at a time of mounting concern about anti-Semitism in Germany. In May, a court ruled against plaintiff Michael Duellmann, who wants the relief to be taken off the church and put in the nearby Luther House museum.

Judges in Dessau rejected arguments that he has a right to have the sculpture removed because it formally constitutes slander and the parish is legally responsible.

The relief “is a terrible falsification of Judaism … a defamation of and insult to the Jewish people,” Duellmann says, arguing that it has “a terrible effect up to this day.”

When the church was renovated in the early 1980s, the parish decided to leave the sandstone sculpture in place, and it was also restored. In 1988, a memorial was built on the ground underneath it, referring to the persecution of Jews and the killing of 6 million in the Nazi Holocaust.

Pastor Johannes Block from the Town Church says the church also considers the sculpture unacceptably insulting. However, he argues it “no longer speaks for itself as a solitary piece, but is embedded in a culture of remembrance” thanks to the memorial.

“We don’t want to hide or abolish history, but take the path of reconciliation with and through history,” he says.

In Berlin, the federal commissioner for Jewish life in Germany told reporters he favored putting the relief down into a museum.

“This would be a good contribution by the church to overcome anti-Semitism,” Felix Klein told reporters ahead of the court hearing.

Anti-Semitism in the schoolyard: A new front in Germany’s struggle

Disturbing:

The security at the New Synagogue, located in Berlin’s city center, is regrettably familiar in Germany.

The approach is well protected: A chain-link barrier keeps vehicles at a distance, two guards flank the main entrance, and a metal detector arcs over visitors’ heads. It takes about five minutes to get through.

“In the U.S. you can go into a synagogue without any kind of controls,” says Sigmount Königsberg, the commissioner against anti-Semitism for the Jewish community in Berlin. His office is housed within the synagogue. “In Germany, we hardly remember a time like this. Even when I was 10, growing up in the 1970s, there was always a police officer standing in front of the synagogue.”

Such security remains critically necessary, as anti-Semitic incidents in Germany are on the upswing. A shooting outside a synagogue in Halle captured global attention in October, but the gunman couldn’t foil security measures to enter. Metal detectors also stand at the entrance to Jewish kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, and homes for senior citizens.

Christian Mang/Reuters
Security like these police officers outside the New Synagogue in Berlin has long been used at Jewish institutions in Germany to protect from anti-Semitic incidents.

But Mr. Königsberg and other activists warn that though such measures are still needed, to root out anti-Semitism it must be fought someplace where it cannot be physically blocked: in schoolyards and classrooms. To stop an anti-Semitic hate that seems at once more aggressive and also more subtle, they say, it needs to be addressed at an early age. And that means ground zero must be schools.

“Nine of 10 children are in public schools,” Mr. Königsberg says. “You can start there.” Yet efforts to date are underfunded and a bit random; more systemic action is needed, he says.

Anti-Semitism in the schoolyard

Society-wide, the numbers around anti-Semitism are stark. Six of 10 Jews in Germany have experienced anti-Semitic “hidden insinuations,” while 9 of 10 Jews in Germany feel “strongly burdened” by anti-Semitism directed at their family, according to a 2017 qualitative study out of Bielefeld University titled “Jewish Perspectives on Antisemitism in Germany.”

Schools in Berlin have seen an uptick in incidents, reporting 41 incidents in 2018, up one-third from the previous year, according to RIAS, a monitoring agency that tracks anti-Semitic incidents.

Recently, at one Berlin public school, Mr. Königsberg says, a teacher was instructing a unit on religion. One boy offered up that he was Jewish, only to hear a classmate mutter in response, “I’ve got to kill you.” The teacher heard the remark, but did nothing to intervene, says Mr. Königsberg.

Other school situations can be understated or offhand, and even perpetrated by teachers, he adds. Take the time a Berlin public school took a field trip to the city’s Holocaust memorial. A 14-year-old Jewish girl, emotional over what she was seeing, began to sob. Her German teacher told her, “Why are you crying? It was so long ago.”

“There is no typical story, no typical solution,” says Mr. Königsberg. “Sometimes I need a lawyer, and other times I need a psychologist.”

Other times, one might need the police. A Jewish woman whose child attends an elite Berlin public school says she volunteered to run the Israel booth at the school’s international fair. She says she immediately felt uncomfortable. First, a child of about 5 years passed by and told her, “Israel is bad.” Later, as students assessed the falafel offered at the booth, several offered that the food had “nothing to do with Israel.”

Toward the end of the fair, a teenager leaned over the table to get in her face, snarling, “I wish the falafel were grenades, and that they would explode in your face.” Another parent intervened and moved the teen away from the table.

The woman visited with police over the verbal assault, but ultimately decided not to file a report. “I didn’t feel a 15-year-old should have a criminal record,” she says.

When she reported the incident to the school principal, she came away disappointed. “The issue was never raised with the community,” says the woman, who wished to remain anonymous since her child is still enrolled in the school. “Eventually the principal left. Nothing was done.”

That incident brings up the question: Where is the anti-Semitism coming from? Reporting around incidents doesn’t often include the background of the perpetrator, so good data is unavailable, says Mr. Königsberg. Yet, while it’s clear that some problems stem from increasing immigration from the Middle East, a greater hostility originates inside Germany’s increasingly vocal far-right, exemplified by the Halle shooting. The far-right is hostile to both Muslims and Jews, says Mr. Königsberg, and it’s important to tackle both. “People need to learn to accept minorities.”

Teaching teachers how to respond

Doing nothing is easiest in the face of an issue that’s “massively complex,” says Levi Salomon, lead spokesman for a lobbying group called Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism. “Anti-Semitism is the oldest form of group-targeted hatred, and 2,000-year-old stereotypes are archived in European memory. Teachers are hesitant and unclear how to deal with that history.”

On top of that, teachers are overwhelmed and overworked in the face of a massive educator shortage, says Heinz-Peter Meidinger, president of Deutscher Lehrerverband, Germany’s largest teachers association. In other words, even if there were a nationalized curriculum for addressing the issue of prejudice, there’s little time to implement it.

There are also institutional problems: Reporting an anti-Semitic incident is not universally required. “Teachers should be required to report,” Mr. Meidinger says. “I also wish that every German state appointed an independent contact person in the school ministry to take reports.”

Administrators’ instincts also might be to keep the issues quiet. “For example, if a student does the Hitler greeting, school management is often afraid of reporting because they think, ‘If this reaches the outside world, we’re ruined,’” says Mr. Meidinger.

Other times, educators who are sensitive to the issue feel isolated or alone, found a 2017 survey of anti-Semitism in schools out of Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences.

The German government has implemented a number of measures against anti-Semitism broadly in society. For example, denial that Jews were murdered during the Holocaust is a crime, as is the display of a swastika. Golden Stolpersteine, concrete cubes with inscribed brass plates, are displayed at thresholds to commemorate victims of the Holocaust.

Regarding schools specifically, anti-Semitism has been introduced as a category of discrimination in the emergency response plans for schools in Berlin and two other states. This requires administrators to report any incidents to a government office starting the 2019-20 academic year. Politicians in other German states are considering following suit.

Yet the people working on this issue feel that much more awareness around anti-Semitism and structural change inside the education system is needed. “We’re hoping for a continuous conversation, rather than one-off approaches around single incidents,” says Marina Chernivsky, head of the Competence Center for Prevention and Empowerment. Her organization is focused on bringing change via outreach and providing educational workshops to teachers, families, and the public. “We can help educate and teach, but there needs to be a shift and systemic change.”

She’s working toward a time when a Jewish child won’t be asked to draw a family tree in class, without the teacher first thinking about the context and possible repercussions of such a request.

In that recent case, says Ms. Chernivsky’s colleague Romina Wiegemann, a child given such an assignment suddenly came home asking questions of a mother who wasn’t prepared to field questions about relatives lost to the Holocaust. When the mother raised the question with administrators, she found little support.

“We must think about the effect this has on children, and make sure schools engage with topics,” says Ms. Wiegemann.

Mr. Königsberg at the New Synagogue thinks that there’s reason to hope. “When I call the schools now, I get an appointment,” he says. “Last year, they ignored me.” But he sees the fight against anti-Semitism as a fight for democracy. “A true democracy doesn’t work with discrimination.”

Our Reaction to Anti-Semitism Is Both Overblown and Underdeveloped

A different perspective than that of Deborah Lipstadt (Jews Are Going Underground: Lipstadt) and the contrast between the USA and Europe, along with the need for all sides of the political spectrum to take antisemitism seriously.

Canada more like the USA but welcome comments and view:

We American Jews enter a new decade that feels like a much older one. Fresh off murderous and violent attacks on Jews in Jersey City, Monsey, and across Brooklyn, resurgent anti-Semitism and the resulting fear for our physical safety is for many American Jews a new phenomenon and one we never thought we would experience. Uncertainty is gripping the Jewish community and the new decade feels as if it will be a pivotal one for the quality and sustainability of American Jewish life as we know it. It strikes me that we are both overreacting and underreacting at the same time and need to recalibrate our approach.

What we have seen on the streets of the New York metropolitan area, and the fear that it has engendered, seems out of place here. It is reminiscent of scenes from European cities, where Jews are attacked for displaying outward signs of Judaism, or attacked for the offense of speaking Hebrew in public, or attacked in their homes for nothing beyond the crime of being Jewish. Orthodox residents of Crown Heights and Williamsburg are afraid to walk the streets or send their children to school. None of this is normal, none of this is acceptable, and it should not be treated as either. And it is not incumbent upon American Jews to find a solution; it is incumbent upon our elected political leaders and American society writ large to find a solution. When Jews are afraid to be Jewish, it says absolutely nothing about the victims and everything about the perpetrators and anyone or anything that abets them.

Yet while making sure that this problem is dealt with swiftly and comprehensively, it is also important to diagnose the breadth of the problem accurately. Deborah Lipstadt has forgotten more about anti-Semitism than I will ever know, but her speculation that American Jews may end up imitating medieval Spanish Marranos – hidden Jews who privately maintained their Judaism while outwardly appearing as Christian converts – by going underground strikes me as inapt. Spain’s Jews faced a choice at the end of the fifteenth century of expulsion, conversion, or death. The entire force of the Spanish state, intertwined as it was with the Catholic church, was brought to bear against the country’s Jews. Hiding one’s Judaism was not about avoiding potential danger, but in response to a fatal decree from absolutist monarchs. While a step down from the Inquisition and Torquemada, the environments created by the ruling class of Tsarist Russia that fomented pogroms or by Soviet leaders that sanctioned anti-Jewish discrimination were also the result of official state policies, of governments giving the green light to or directly leading anti-Semitic mobs.

Contrast that to the reaction of federal, state, and municipal governments to the anti-Semitic incidents in New York and New Jersey. They have been denounced by the president, governors, mayors, and members of Congress. Elected leaders have promised to devote resources toward combatting anti-Semitic attitudes and protecting Jewish institutions and have rushed to demonstrate solidarity with the Jewish community. Until words are turned into actions, we should withhold judgment on the seriousness and efficacy of these promises. But that the wall to wall reaction is to condemn anti-Semitism and evince a desire to remove its scourge demonstrates why the situation in the U.S. is a universe away from the ones that previous generations of Jews fled from in Europe.

As for Jews going underground in Europe today, it is indeed frightening and saddening. But it is unfortunately not a recent occurrence. It is the norm in Europe, whereas in the U.S. it remains the exception. I do not dismiss or make light of college students who feel compelled to downplay their Judaism or their Zionism. If it happens to even one person, that is one person too many. But we are not at the point in the U.S. where we have blast walls and machine gun-toting guards outside of our synagogues, where we have to ask a local for the address of a kosher restaurant that has no visible markings or identification as such, or where government officials issue warnings against wearing kippot in public, nor do I think we ever will be. Not for nothing is anti-Semitism described as the world’s oldest and most persistent hatred, and it should be clear to all American Jews that we will never be free of it entirely. Jews will be killed for being Jews, and it is small comfort to point out that such incidents remain exceptional. But it is premature to declare that it is open season on American Jews, that American Jewish life is fated to retreat behind high walls and closed doors, and that past is prologue.

All that said, there have been too many recent instances of American Jews not taking the current moment seriously enough, and nearly all of them revolve around some form of excusing inconvenient anti-Semitism away. We have all seen this in doses over the past few years, with a camp that kicks into high gear over right-wing white nationalist anti-Semitism but is blind and deaf to the far left variety that inherently views Jews as oppressors, and a camp that has a hair trigger for the anti-Semitism of progressive intersectionality but is blinded to right-wing classically anti-Semitic stereotypes by the glow of the Jerusalem embassy. On both sides, this has to end. It cannot be that the far right and the far left, despite the chasm that separates their worldviews, can manage to be united in their sneering hatred of Jews while we Jews ourselves cannot manage to be united in combatting that hatred.

If your response to the Jersey City or Monsey attacks was that it is a complicated situation, you are not serious about anti-Semitism. If your response to any display of anti-Semitism is some form of whataboutism in insisting that the other side’s is worse or more dangerous, you are not serious about anti-Semitism. If you think that it is okay to rail about globalist Jews as long as you support Iron Dome or West Bank settlements, or that it is okay to rail against evil Zionists so long as you display phantom nuance by separating them from good non-Zionist Jews, you are not serious about anti-Semitism. And if your reaction to a politician who proudly stands next to Robert “Judaism leads people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell” Jeffress differs at all from your reaction to a politician who proudly stands next to Louis “Jews are the mother and father of apartheid” Farrakhan, you should think about whether you are more interested in combatting anti-Semitism or more interested in weaponizing it. If we want to make sure that anti-Semitism remains unacceptable, then we have to treat it as such no matter the source, the target, or the ostensible motivation.

Source: Our Reaction to Anti-Semitism Is Both Overblown and Underdeveloped

Bard’s Kenneth Stern: “I drafted the definition of anti-Semitism. Rightwing Jews are weaponizing it.”

More good commentary from someone involved in the drafting:

Fifteen years ago, as the American Jewish Committee’s antisemitism expert, I was the lead drafter of what was then called the “working definition of antisemitism”. It was created primarily so that European data collectors could know what to include and exclude. That way antisemitism could be monitored better over time and across borders.

It was never intended to be a campus hate speech code, but that’s what Donald Trump’s executive order accomplished this week. This order is an attack on academic freedom and free speech, and will harm not only pro-Palestinian advocates, but also Jewish students and faculty, and the academy itself.

The problem isn’t that the executive order affords protection to Jewish students under title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The Department of Education made clear in 2010 that Jews, Sikhs and Muslims (as ethnicities) could complain about intimidation, harassment and discrimination under this provision. I supported this clarification and filed a successful complaint for Jewish high school students when they were bullied, even kicked (there was a “Kick a Jew Day”).

Source: Bard’s Kenneth Stern: “I drafted the definition of anti-Semitism. Rightwing Jews are weaponizing it.”

ICYMI: Trump’s Racist Ban on Anti-Semitism | by Ian Buruma

Good commentary:

US President Donald Trump thinks that anti-Semitism is a serious problem in America. But Trump is not so much concerned about neo-Nazis who scream that Jews and other minorities “will not replace us,” for he thinks that many white supremacists are “very fine people.” No, Trump is more worried about US college campuses, where students call for boycotts of Israel in support of the Palestinians.

Trump just signed an executive order requiring that federal money be withheld from educational institutions that fail to combat anti-Semitism. Since Jews are identified in this order as a discriminated group on the grounds of ethnic, racial, or national characteristics, an attack on Israel would be anti-Semitic by definition. This is indeed the position of Jared Kushner, Trump’s Jewish son-in-law, who believes that “anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”

There are, of course, as many forms of anti-Semitism as there are interpretations of what it means to be Jewish. When Trump and his supporters rant in campaign rallies about shadowy cabals of international financiers who undermine the interests of “ordinary, decent people,” some might interpret that as a common anti-Semitic trope, especially when an image of George Soros is brandished to underline this message. Trump even hinted at the possibility that the liberal Jewish human rights promoter and philanthropist was deliberately funding “caravans” of refugees and illegal aliens so that they could spread mayhem in the US. In Soros’s native Hungary, attacks on him as a cosmopolitan enemy of the people are unmistakably anti-Semitic.

Conspiracy theories about sinister Jewish power have a long history. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian forgery published in 1903, popularized the notion that Jewish bankers and financiers were secretly pulling the strings to dominate the world. Henry Ford was one of the more prominent people who believed this nonsense.

The history of extreme anti-Zionism is not so long. In the first years of the Jewish state, Israel was popular among many leftists, because it was built on socialist ideas. Left-wing opinion in Europe and the United States began to turn against Israel after the Six-Day War in 1967, when Arab territories were occupied by Israeli troops. More and more, Israel came to be seen as a colonial power, or an apartheid state.

One may or may not agree with that view of Israel. But few would deny that occupation, as is usually the case when civilians are under the thumb of a foreign military power, has led to oppression. So, to be a strong advocate for Palestinian rights and a critic of Israeli policies, on college campuses or anywhere else, does not automatically make one an anti-Semite. But there are extreme forms of anti-Zionism that do. The question is when that line is crossed.

Some would claim that it is anti-Semitic to deny Jews the right to have their own homeland. This is indeed one of the premises of Trump’s presidential order. There are also elements on the radical left, certainly represented in educational institutions, who are so obsessed by the oppression of Palestinians that they see Israel as the world’s greatest evil. Just as anti-Semites in the past often linked Jews with the US, as the twin sources of rootless capitalist malevolence, some modern anti-Zionists combine their anti-Americanism with a loathing for Israel.

In the minds of certain leftists, Israel and its American big brother are not just the last bastions of racist Western imperialism. The idea of a hidden Jewish capitalist cabal can also enter left-wing demonology as readily as it infects the far right. This noxious prejudice has haunted the British Labour Party, something its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has consistently failed to recognize.1

In short, anti-Zionism can veer into anti-Semitism, but not all critics of Israel are anti-Zionist, and not all anti-Zionists are prejudiced against Jews.

Quite where people stand on this issue depends heavily on how they define a Jew – a source of endless vagueness and confusion. According to Halakha, or Jewish law, anyone with a Jewish mother, or who has converted to Judaism, is Jewish. That is the general Orthodox view. But more liberal Reform Jews allow Jewish identity to pass through the father as well.

On the other hand, while most Orthodox Jews consider a person to be Jewish even if they convert to another religion, Reform Jews do not. Israel’s Law of Return grants “every Jew” the right to immigrate, but refrains from defining Jewishness. Since 1970, even people with one Jewish grandparent have been eligible to become Israeli citizens. In the infamous Nuremberg laws, promulgated by the Nazis in 1935, people with only one Jewish parent could retain German citizenship, while “full” Jews could not.

The whole thing is so complicated that Amos Oz, the Israeli novelist, once sought to simplify the matter as follows: “Who is a Jew? Everyone who is mad enough to call himself or herself a Jew, is a Jew.”

There is, in any case, something ill-conceived about the stress on race and nationhood in Trump’s order on combating anti-Semitism. Israel is the only state claiming to represent all Jews, but not all Jews necessarily identify with Israel. Some even actively dislike it. Trump’s order might suggest that such people are renegades, or even traitors. This idea might please Israel’s current government, but it is far from the spirit of the Halakha, or even from the liberal idea of citizenship.

Defining Jews as a “race” is just as much of a problem. Jews come from many ethnic backgrounds: Yemenite, Ethiopian, Russian, Moroccan, and Swedish Jews are hard to pin down as a distinctive ethnic group. Hitler saw Jews as a race, but that is no reason to follow his example.

To combat racism, wherever it occurs, is a laudable aim. But singling out anti-Semitism in an executive order, especially when the concept is so intimately linked to views on the state of Israel, is a mistake. Extreme anti-Zionists may be a menace; all extremists are. But they should be tolerated, as long as their views are peacefully expressed. To stifle opinions on campuses by threatening to withhold funds runs counter to the freedom of speech guaranteed by the US Constitution. This is, alas, not the only sign that upholding the constitution is not the main basis of the current US administration’s claim to legitimacy.

Source: Trump’s Racist Ban on Anti-Semitism | by Ian Buruma

Trump Goes Full Anti-Semite in Room Full of Jewish People

Sigh….

Back in February 2017, Donald Trump was asked what the government planned to do about an uptick in anti-Semitism, to which he characteristically responded, “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.” That statement, like the ones he’s previously made about being “the least racist person there is anywhere in the world,” was, and is, obviously not true at all. Prior to being elected, Trump seemed to suggest to a room full of Jews that they buy off politicians; tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton’s face atop a pile of cash next to the Star of David and the phrase, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”; and releasedan ad featuring the faces of powerful Jewish people with a voiceover about them being part of a “global power structure” that has “robbed our working class” and “stripped our country of its wealth.” After moving into the White House, and just a few short months following his assertion that he is the least anti-Semitic person to walk the earth, Trump refused to condemn neo-Nazis and, just last August, accusedAmerican Jews of being “disloyal” to Israel by voting for Democrats. And if you thought the coming holiday season would inspire the president to pump the brakes on blatant anti-Semitism, boy, do we have a surprise for you!

Speaking at the Israeli American Council in Hollywood, Florida, on Saturday night, Trump hit all of his favorite anti-Semitic tropes before a room full of Jewish people. He started off by once again invoking the age-old cliché about “dual loyalty,” saying there are Jews who “don’t love Israel enough.” After that warm-up he dove right into the stereotype about Jews and money, telling the group: “A lot of you are in the real estate business, because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all,” he said. “But you have to vote for me—you have no choice. You’re not gonna vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax. Yeah, let’s take 100% of your wealth away!” (It feels beside the point that neither Elizabeth Warren nor any other Democratic candidate has proposed a 100% wealth tax.) He continued: “Some of you don’t like me. Some of you I don’t like at all, actually. And you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’re going to be out of business in about 15 minutes if they get it. So I don’t have to spend a lot of time on that.”

Source: Trump Goes Full Anti-Semite in Room Full of Jewish People

What constitutes fair and unfair criticism of Israel?

An article that tries to articulate, in concrete terms, what is legitimate and what is not legitimate criticism of Israel.

When I was involved in negations over the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, there was a preference for more general wording (“criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic”) with some examples, rather than a more comprehensive illustrative list.

Using international human rights as a basis, as Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann argues, is the most sound approach although there will likely be differences of interpretation:

Canada recently voted at the United Nations for the establishment of a Palestinian state. At the same time, Canada reiterated its position that there were too many UN resolutions about Israel. Canada argued that these resolutions unfairly singled out Israel for criticism.

Nevertheless, Israel’s ambassador to the UN claimed that Canada’s vote delegitimized Israel.

This event raises questions of what are legitimate or illegitimate criticisms of the state of Israel. It also raises questions about when or whether such criticism is anti-Semitic.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance defines anti-Semitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.” It states that evidence of anti-Semitism “might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.”

However, it also states that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.”

Using this definition, Canada’s vote for creation of a Palestinian state does not delegitimize Israel, any more than Canadian criticism of any other state delegitimizes it.

Illegitimate criticism

On the other hand, activists for Palestinian rights who call for the state of Israel to be destroyed, for example, by referring to a free Palestine “from the river to the sea,” engage in illegitimate criticism.

Regardless of the circumstances of its creation, Israel is a sovereign state that enjoys the right to exist. All sovereign states enjoy this right. Like any other state, Israel also has the right to defend itself against attack.

To suggest that Jews have no right to live in Israel is also to engage in illegitimate criticism. All states are permitted to determine who will live within their borders. And suggesting that Jews should not live in Israel means advocating the creation of a huge refugee population based on religio-ethnic criteria.

Some critics call Israel a colonial power. They assume that it is illegitimate for any Jewish “settler” to live in Israel proper. This assumption is based in part on the belief that Jews are not indigenous to the Middle East. But Jews have lived in the Middle East for thousands of years.

Israel was created in 1948. An estimated 600,000 to 760,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled in the subsequent Arab-Israeli war.

In later years, about 800,000 Jews left Arab countries. About two-thirds of them settled in Israel, and the other third elsewhere. Many of these Jews had been forcibly expelled.

Many Jews settled in Israel from Europe. It is important to remember the context of European pogroms and Nazi genocide that obliged many of them to flee.

This does not justify Israeli violations of the human rights of either Israeli Arabs or of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. It merely provides some context as to why so many Jews have settled in Israel.

Sanctions against Israel are legitimate

Having said this, I agree with the opinion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance that it’s legitimate to criticize Israel as one might criticize any other state. Thus the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel is legitimate, as long as it does not simultaneously question the right of Israel to exist as a state. Many Jewish people both within and outside Israel who are concerned about Palestinian rights support this movement.

Similarly, although it is not strictly accurate to call Israel an apartheid state, it is within the realm of acceptable political rhetoric. Legally speaking, apartheid can only occur within a state. So calling Israel an apartheid state suggests that it has legal sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza.

A better way to judge Israel’s actions in Gaza and the West Bank is through universal standards. One such standard is international humanitarian law, especially the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. This convention prohibits transfers of population, either from or into conquered territories. That means Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal.

The International Court of Justice also adheres to universal standards. It ruled in 2004 that the wall separating Israel from the West Bank is illegal, because part of it is built outside Israel’s territory. This wall frequently separates Palestinians from their land, work opportunities and family members.

International human rights law is another universal standard that protects Palestinians. Israel definitely denies some human rights to people in the West Bank and Gaza. But so do Palestinians’ own political leaders, Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank. Both these political groups deny their subjects civil liberties. They also use torture and arbitrary arrest, prohibited by international human rights law.

Other states punish Palestinians

Other states also undermine Palestinians’ human rights. Like Israel, Egypt periodically blockades Gaza . These blockades deny Palestinians freedom of movement across national boundaries. Both these states have the legal right to control their own borders. But these controls frequently mean that Palestinians cannot buy food, go to hospitals or work in Israel or Egypt.

Arab states also undermine Palestinians’ human rights. Some have given shelter to Palestinian refugees and their descendants for decades, but refuse to grant them citizenship.

These states are not legally obliged to grant citizenship to refugees and their descendants. But the reason that Jewish emigrants and refugees from Arab states do not constitute a political bloc, which Palestinians emigrants and refugees do, lies partly in citizenship laws.

Jewish emigrants and refugees obtained citizenship in Israel and other countries like the United States and Canada. Palestinians emigrants and refugees from Israel, and many of their descendants, remain stateless.

Universal rules and responsibilities

Serious concern for the human rights of Palestinians requires consideration of all the states that violate their rights under international human rights and humanitarian law.

These legal standards are universal. As long as they do not advocate eradication of the state of Israel and/or expulsion of Israeli Jews, states and activists that adhere to these standards are engaged in legitimate criticism.

Activists should respect Israel’s rights as a sovereign state. But Israel should respect Palestinians’ rights under universal human rights and humanitarian law. Israel is the most important of all the states in the Palestinian crisis.

Unfortunately, the government of Israel in 2019 was nationalist and expansionist. There’s little hope as we head into 2020 that Israel will negotiate in good faith with Palestinian leaders. Yet Israel will never be safe from attack until it negotiates a peaceful settlement that gives Palestinians their own state.

Source: What constitutes fair and unfair criticism of Israel?

There is no conflict between the struggle against antisemitism and the struggle against Israeli occupation

Valid critique:

Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that, if you are attacked for the same text by both sides in a political conflict, this is one of the few reliable signs that you are on the right path. In the last decades, I have been attacked by a number of very different political actors (often on account of the same text!) for antisemitism, up to advocating a new Holocaust, and for perfidious Zionist propaganda (see the last issue of the antiemetic Occidental Observer). So I think I’ve earned the right to comment on the recent accusations against the Labour Party regarding its alleged tolerance of antisemitism.

I, of course, indisputably reject antisemitism in all its forms, including the idea that one can sometimes ”understand” it, as in: “considering what Israel is doing on the West Bank, one shouldn’t be surprised if this gives birth to antisemitic reactions”. More precisely, I reject the two symmetrical versions of this last argument: “we should understand occasional Palestinian antisemitism since they suffer a lot” as well as “we should understand aggressive Zionism in view of the Holocaust.” One should, of course, also reject the compromise version: “both sides have a point, so let’s find a middle way…”.

Along the same lines, we should supplement the standard Israeli point that the (permissible) critique of Israeli policy can serve as a cover for the (unacceptable) antisemitism with its no less pertinent reversal: the accusation of antisemitism is often invoked to discredit a totally justified critique of Israeli politics. Where, exactly, does legitimate critique of Israeli policy become antisemitism? More and more, mere sympathy for the Palestinian resistance is condemned as antisemitic. Take the two-state solution: while decades ago it was the standard international position, it is more and more proclaimed a threat to Israel’s existence and thus antisemitic.

Things get really ominous when Zionism itself evokes the traditional antisemitic cliché of roots. Alain Finkielkraut wrote in 2015 in a letter to Le Monde: “The Jews, they have today chosen the path of rooting.” It is easy to discern in this claim an echo of Heidegger who said, in a Der Spiegel interview, that all essential and great things can only emerge from our having a homeland, from being rooted in a tradition. The irony is that we are dealing here with a weird attempt to mobilise antisemitic clichés in order to legitimize Zionism: antisemitism reproaches the Jews for being rootless; Zionism tries to correct this failure by belatedly providing Jews with roots. No wonder many conservative antisemites ferociously support the expansion of the State of Israel.

However, the trouble with Jews today is that they are now trying to get roots in a place which was for thousands of years inhabited by other people. That’s why I find obscene a recent claim by Ayelet Shaked, the former Israeli justice minister: “The Jewish People have the legal and moral right to live in their ancient homeland.” What about the rights of Palestinians?

For me, the only way out of this conundrum is the ethical one: there is ultimately no conflict between the struggle against antisemitism and the struggle against what the State of Israel is now doing on the West Bank. The two struggles are part of one and the same struggle for emancipation. Let’s mention a concrete case. Some weeks ago, Zarah Sultana, a Labour candidate, apologised for a Facebook post in which she backed the Palestinian right to “violent resistance”: “I do not support violence and I should not have articulated my anger in the manner I did, for which I apologize.” I fully support her apology, we should not play with violence, but I nonetheless feel obliged to add that what Israel is now doing on West Bank is also a form of violence. No doubts that Israel sincerely wants peace on the West Bank; occupiers by definition want peace in their occupied land, since it means no resistance. So if Jews are in any way threatened in the UK, I unconditionally and unequivocally condemn it and support all legal measures to combat it–but am I permitted to add that Palestinians in the West Bank are much more under threat than Jews in the UK?

Without mentioning Corbyn by name, the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis recently wrote in an article for the Times that “a new poison–sanctioned from the top–has taken root in the Labour Party.” He conceded: “It is not my place to tell any person how they should vote,” though went on to add: “When December 12 arrives, I ask every person to vote with their conscience. Be in no doubt, the very soul of our nation is at stake.” I find this presentation of a political choice as a purely moral one ethically disgusting–it reminds me of how, decades ago, the Catholic Church in Italy did not explicitly order citizens to vote for Christian Democracy, but just said that they should vote for a party which is Christian and democratic.

Today, the charge of antisemitism is more and more addressed at anyone who deviates from the acceptable left-liberal establishment towards a more radical left–can one imagine a more repellent and cynical manipulation of the Holocaust? When protests against the Israel Defense Forces’ activities in the West Bank are denounced as an expression of antisemitism, and (implicitly, at least) put in the same line as Holocaust deniers–that is to say, when the shadow of the Holocaust is permanently evoked in order to neutralise any criticism of Israeli military and political operations–it is not enough to insist on the difference between antisemitism and the critique of particular measures of the State of Israel. One should go a step further and claim that it is the State of Israel that, in this case, is desecrating the memory of Holocaust victims, ruthlessly using them as an instrument to legitimise present political measures.

As Mirvis wrote, the soul of our nation is indeed at stake here–but also, the soul of the Jewish nation. Will Jews follow Finkielkraut and “take roots”, using their sacred history as an ideological excuse, or will they remember that ultimately we are all strangers in a strange land? Will Jews allow Israel to turn into another fundamentalist nation-state, or remain faithful to the legacy that made them a key factor in the rise of modern civil society? (Remember that there is no Enlightenment without the Jews.) For me, to fully support Israeli politics in the West Bank is a betrayal not just of some abstract global ethics, but of the most precious part of Jewish ethical tradition itself.

Source: There is no conflict between the struggle against antisemitism and the struggle against Israeli occupation

Belgian Carnival Town to Renounce UNESCO Title Amid Anti-Semitism Controversy

Of note. Understand from one of my readers that the mayor is also a member of parliament of a right-wing Flemish nationalist party:

The famed Belgian Carnival town of Aalst wants to renounce its place on the U.N. cultural heritage list, saying it is sick of widespread complaints that this spring’s edition contained blatant anti-Semitism.

Town officials say the float objected to, with stereotypical depictions of hook-nosed Jews sitting on piles of money, was trying to make a joke and they contend no one should try to muzzle humor of any kind during the three-day Carnival.

Aalst mayor Christoph D’Haese said Sunday that city officials “have had it a bit with the grotesque complaints and Aalst will renounce its UNESCO recognition.”

UNESCO, Jewish groups and the European Union have condemned the float as anti-Semitic, with the EU saying it conjured up visions of the 1930s.

UNESCO already was planning to consider at its Dec. 9-14 meeting in Bogota, Colombia, whether to kick Aalst off the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

“It was clear that we had to go, so we kept the honor to ourselves,” D’Haese told VTM network.

Aalst is one of Europe’s most famous Carnivals and it is a celebration of unbridled, no-holds-barred humor and satire. Politicians, religious leaders and the rich and famous are relentlessly ridiculed during the three-day festival ahead of Roman Catholic Lent.

Imposing limits on that would take away the essence of the town’s Carnival, said D’Haese, who has seen revelers impersonating leaders of his Flemish nationalist N-VA party leadership go around in Nazi uniforms.

For him, it is the be-all, end-all of Aalst Carnival, in which a laugh trumps ethical concerns. The parade of floats draws some 100,000 visitors every year to the city close to Brussels. Most often it goes off without a hitch.

After the outrage in early March, D’Haese claimed city elders reached out to Belgium’s “anti-discrimination center and several Jewish organizations, for whom it will never be enough.”

Hans Knoop of the Belgian Forum of Jewish Organizations told The Associated Press that the mayor had not been cooperative in discussing the issue.

And Knoop warned that renouncing the UNESCO cultural heritage tag should not open the way for more similar displays at the festival in late February.

“They are not at liberty to spew any more anti-Semitic dirt,” he said. “We will keep a close eye on Aalst.”

He insisted there are merry Carnivals around the world without a hint of racism or anti-Semitism.

D’Haese said it would be “unavoidable” that there would be Jewish ridicule at the next edition. He has said it was not for him to police humor.

“We are on a very dangerous slippery slope when people will be able to decide what can be laughed at,” he said.

A decision by UNESCO to remove Aalst would be a first since the 2003 convention that created the cultural heritage label.

The Aalst Carnival has been on the list since 2010.

Now, D’Haese said, “I want to give Aalst Carnival back to Aalst.”

Source: Belgian Carnival Town to Renounce UNESCO Title Amid Anti-Semitism Controversy