The pre-Holocaust era of anti-Semitism was denoted by activities such as slanted media coverage, demonizing propaganda, racist cartoons, dehumanization, physical attacks, pogroms, etc. The atmosphere today is a déjà vu, starting to resemble the one preceding WWII.
Will the world be indifferent or silent like before? Or is this an opportunity for repair and healing?
Rebirth of European Anti-Semitism
“People are no longer ashamed to be Anti-Semites.” Elie Wiesel, January 2014
Many of the dynamics that surrounded and facilitated the Holocaust are being re-enacted today, including demonization, pogroms in Europe, and ideologies openly calling for the extermination of Jews and Israel. Because now there is a Jewish state standing in defense of its population, these hatreds are expressed as terrorism and military attacks against the state of Israel.
Just as Nazism started with the Jews and eventually threatened all of Europe, radical Islamists threaten both Jews and non-Jews and find unlikely allies through a virulent anti-Semitism, gone from a muted to a vociferous tone.
This time the international community has a chance to achieve an outcome different than war and genocide, in which all are winners, pursuing and fulfilling their basic physical and psychological universal needs.
New Anti-Semitic Strategies
Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah threaten Israel’s destruction with impunity. Millions of copies of the fraudulent “Protocols of Zion” are sold. Conspiracy theories abound all over the world, accusing Israel of having committed the 9/11 attacks, being responsible for all wars, for the world’s economic collapse, of controlling the media, the banks and Hollywood. Israel’s attackers exploit “moral grounds” to make their accusations against Jewish circumcision and ritual slaughter, making Jewish life in Europe untenable.
Again, the demonization of the Jew is reminiscent of anti-Semitic pre-war Europe, using Nazi language, symbols, propaganda and obsessive meme. However, astoundingly, the Israelis are being compared to the Nazis, and accused of apartheid, etc. Judaism and the Jews are still under siege, living in the shadow of extermination, this time in Israel.
False Use of Proportionality
Recently, a disorienting idea of proportionality took extraordinary hold in the rationalization of how much self-defense is possible: judging the morality of the fighting by comparing the number of deaths on both sides, regardless of context and content, such as who started the war.
During each military battle between Hamas and Israel, the international media slanted its coverage, accusing Israel of abuses because there are more Palestinian civilian fatalities than Israeli, overlooking that, were it not for the miracle of the costly Iron Dome, the shelters and the training to use them, thousands Israeli civilians would have died. The media also overlooked the discovery of attacks tunnels in Gaza; Hamas’ unreliable numbers; and intimidation of the media. It showed double standards by ignoring Hamas’ human rights abuse of Gaza children, used as human shields; it did not offer any analysis of the chronic existential threat for Israel. They indulged in a romanticized narrative of Hamas, even as other Arabs were condemning it, and totally missed how a Hamas victory would empower and attract more radicals.
Course of Action
We must use the re-enactment of the pre-Holocaust conditions to change these conditions and this time, arrive at a different solution that can benefit everyone.
We must address the deep-seated religious roots of unrelenting anti-Semitism and its new expression, anti-Zionism, which now facilitates and amplifies Islamic Jihadism, a virulent threat against Muslims, against the West, Israel and the Diaspora Jews.
Anti-Semitism thrives where there are followers of the Abrahamic religions with their replacement theologies and difficulty in seeing the “downfallen Chosen People” recover their intellectual, geographical and religious place in the world. The Buddhist and Confucian worlds do not harbor this type of animosity and admire Jewish creativity and
Obviously, the most important change is the creation of the Israeli state in 1948, its strong military; and a better organized Jewish world, more capable of articulating their defense and the defense of their homeland.
The Holocaust is memorialized in many countries, with Holocaust memorials and museums; and we have seen a burst of Holocaust-related news stories and movies since the 1990s.
On the religious front, there have been major advances toward Holocaust repentance and healing of anti-Semitism, including the Catholic Church changing is basic dogma of deicide, in Nostra Aetate of 1963. There are interfaith encounters and cross-cultural religious studies and opportunities, which did not exist previously. There are concerted efforts at reformation, analysis, and studies for each Abrahamic religion. New voices in Islam are rising up against fundamentalism. These religions must embrace the Jews’ mission of serving humanity as the “People of the Book.”
The bond between the US and Israel and Israel and Germany strengthen the ability of the Jews to defend themselves.
Confronting the Obstacles
There are many obstacles to eliminating anti-Semitism and the conditions of the pre-Holocaust era. Political and economic interests have become extremely complex and bypass alliances and moral values, etc.
Because of the developments of worldwide technology, an inner-connectivity now exists in the world, with a globalization of relationships, both personal and political, with both a positive and negative impact
A new form of Arab immigration into Europe, intent on non-assimilation, is unwittingly encouraged by a deep belief in multi-culturalism Europe’s answer to the destructive nationalist movements of WWII- and has recently created a mob mentality in European cities, fear in their host nations, a dangerous political correctness regarding political Islam, and renewed questions about the safety of Jews in Europe.
Further adding to the instability in the world, the looming possibility of nuclear weapons in the hands of anti-Semitic groups and nations threaten Israel, Jews and their supporters worldwide.
The ongoing violent Shiite/Sunni split, with different groups vying for control in the Muslim world, continues to foster anti-Semitic rhetoric as a way to gain primacy in the Muslim world. The UN is hostile to Israel.
Interventions Already in Place
Many things are already happening that repair the past. This year, for example, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner stated that European states should punish hate speech and the denial or trivialization of the Holocaust. Germany specifically has made amends over the last 70 years, taken responsibility for the Nazi crimes, made reparations, created holocaust memorials and invite Jews to return to Germany. More has to be done.
What Can Be Done
There are creative ways to manage new energy, strength, and awareness to fight anti-Semitism, which include:
• Research must be conducted about the social/political implications when an atmosphere of permissibility for anti-Semitism (and other racisms) is present. When and why does the moral compass against denying the Holocaust slackens? Europe may have to do more work to come to terms with its colonial past, balancing its multi-cultural ideals with a healthy dose of nationalism, in order not to provoke a chauvinistic backlash.
• Research can be conducted into how anti-Semitism is culturally transmitted through literature, art, and architecture. A commission regulating the Arts can be developed with a view towards curtailing anti-Semitism.
• Offending artists should be banned and not enable a forum for incitement of anti-Semitic violence.
• Artists and musicians should be encouraged to play or exhibit in Israel
• Creative meme countering anti-Semitism can be created.
• While there should be visible arrests and prosecutions for anti-Semitic behaviors, civil society’s efforts must be supported, such as new NGOs working on the subject. .Strategies for relevant social sectors (especially the media, the clergy, the educational field and the NGOs and diplomats) can be developed with educational literature, videos, workshops and myriad of efforts to eliminate anti-Semitism, like the European Round Tables proposed.
• Scrutiny of the media and politicians’ influence to promote anti-Semitism should help silence some of the abuse against Israel, including those threats that come from the UN.
• Biased reporting and media coverage under the guise of proportionality must be investigated. It is crucial that European governments and institutions continue to pursue their commitments to: 1) condemn and successfully combat anti-Semitism and any form of racism; 2) establish criminal laws with a bite, to protect the fundamental freedoms of each individual, including those of the Jews; 3) Support the efforts of individual European citizens and civil society to also combat anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism.
• Continue to support Holocaust study, education. During conflicts between Hamas and Israel, Western countries and the international media must not protect Hamas and must confront its dangerous charter.
• A Nobel Price for Tolerance can be created for those who come up with the most effective strategies to fight against anti-Semitism. A Righteous Person/Nation Nomination can be created by Yad Vashem (for example) for both individuals and nations fighting against anti-Semitism.
• We must research the effects of unprocessed shame and guilt for the Holocaust on the Déjà Vu energies being re-enacted and establish a framework to heal the trauma of victims and victimizers, in addition to Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. There are many innovative stress release techniques that can be used by lay people
• The study of the Holocaust must be presented in an innovative way, such as that the confronting and processing of this difficult subject will automatically bring psychological well-being and a sense of redemption. Creative ways of teaching the Holocaust should include helping people process the difficult emotions the teaching brings up and the community’s validation for the effort.
• Understanding the intricacies of anti-Semitism, and how it has meshed with so many different energies, conflicts, and religious, political, economic, and racial parties over two thousand years, may take a lot of research and several books. We must be willing to fight for truth and morality, for justice and rights of every Jew, as well as every person in the world. We have a special opportunity to repair and heal by having the courage to face the daunting conditions and difficulties confronting us. This time, we can reach a completely different outcome to the telltale emerging signs of anti-Semitism in the world. With such consciousness of purpose, we can avoid another murderous vortex and create a framework toward peace.
Gina Ross, MFCT, is Founder/President of the International Trauma-Healing Institute in the US (ITI-US) and its Israeli branch (ITI-Israel). Born in Aleppo, Syria, Gina lived in eight different countries on four continents. A specialist in individual and collective trauma, she authored a series of eight books “Beyond the Trauma Vortex into the Healing Vortex,” targeting 10 social sectors implicated in amplifying or healing trauma. She also created a “Protocol for Conflict Resolution and Successful Communication.” Gina focuses her analytical and advocacy work on the collective trauma behind politics, specifically the Israeli-Jewish/Palestinian–Arab conflict.
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