April 8, 2019
After years of trying to wake up the world to the rising tide of anti-Semitism, those on the front lines combating Jew-hatred welcomed the headline on the front page of The New York Times this week: “Anti-Semitism Is Back, From the Left, Right and Islamist Extremes.” At last, the Times was tackling the terrifying phenomenon that has re-emerged in Europe and the U.S. in recent years!
However, the story missed the mark – several marks, to be precise. For everyone concerned about the dramatic increase in anti-Semitism around the world, here are the five things you need to know about the Times’ piece on anti-Semitism.
1. The Reality of Anti-Semitic Violence and Its Perpetrators
The article is full of examples of specific anti-Semitic acts committed by those on the far-right, yet contains just one case of violent anti-Semitism emanating from extremist ideologies propagated in the name of Islam. Nowhere is it mentioned that every single Jewish person in Europe killed because of his or her religion in recent years was murdered by a jihadist.
In July 2006, Jewish cell phone vendor Ilan Halimi was kidnapped and tortured for 24 days before being tied naked to a tree and left to die. His kidnappers, a French gang led by a Muslim immigrant, claimed they set out to target wealthy Jews.
In March 2012, a jihadist targeted children and teachers at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France. Four months later, five Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria were killed by a suicide bomber on a passenger bus.
In May 2014, an Israeli couple, a French visitor, and an employee were killed by a Muslim terrorist, brandishing an assault rifle and handgun at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels. The French-born jihadist who spent a year fighting in Syria for the Islamic State was convicted of the murders last month.
In January 2015, an armed jihadist killed four people in a kosher supermarket in Paris, when many were shopping for Shabbat. A month later, another jihadist killed a Danish film director and Jewish night guard at a synagogue in a shooting rampage through Copenhagen.
In April 2017, the body of 65-year-old Sarah Halimi, an Orthodox Jewish woman, was thrown out her apartment window after she was beaten to death. Witnesses said they heard the suspect, a Malian Muslim, scream “Allahu akbar” during the attack.
These crimes should never demonize the majority of Muslims, who themselves are frequent victims of hate crimes. But by burying their heads in the sand when it comes to identifying the most violent source of anti-Semitism in Europe, European governments are exacerbating the problem.
2. Light on Examples of Anti-Semitism From the Left
While the article claims a resurgence on the right and left, it seriously downplayed the far left’s use of anti-Zionism as a veil for anti-Semitism. Although there were cursory mentions of the anti-Semitic tweets by U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MI) and use of similar tropes by British Labour Party politicians, the reality is that the problem runs far deeper.
British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn has publicly and privately linked himself with Hamas and Hezbollah, two anti-Semitic terrorist organizations with blood on their hands and a stated goal to eliminate the Jewish state. His tenure as party leader has been marked by one anti-Semitic scandal after the next.
The Times’ readers surely could have benefited from knowing that 40% of British Jews said they would seriously consider emigrating out of the country if Corbyn became prime minister.
Listen to AJC Passport about Labour's anti-Semitism problem
3. Victim Blaming
Jews did not bring any of these three sources of anti-Semitism on themselves. That is the implication, though, when a significant chunk of the story focuses on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cooperation with Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban. Orban’s rightist party has been accused of stoking anti-Semitism in order to win support at the ballot box.
One only has to look at Netanyahu’s protestations after Poland’s right of center government made it a crime to accuse the Polish nation of cooperating with the Nazis. By leaving out his opposition to this revisionist view of Holocaust history, the Times’ article selected only the facts that made Netanyahu look like the bad guy.
It also leaves out Netanyahu’s diplomatic efforts with other right-of-center leaders in Central Europe, including Slovakia and Czech Republic. Those nations, along with Hungary, are moving closer to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and establishing an official presence there.
Furthermore, Hungary has defended Israel in the EU and forums such as the UN Human Rights Council, where anti-Israel sentiments have been dominant.
4. Misleading Statistics
The article cites data, particularly from Germany, that suggests most contemporary anti-Semitism is perpetrated by the far right, who also direct their hatred toward Muslims. Unfortunately, Times readers weren’t told that German authorities simply do not collect data on crimes committed by jihadists because it’s considered ethnic profiling.
In fact, Felix Klein, Germany’s first-ever commissioner on anti-Semitism, has cast further doubt on his nation’s ability to accurately collect these statistics, telling The Washington Post, “Unfortunately, we don’t have concrete figures yet about [noncriminal] incidents. For the time being, we have organizations that register anti-Semitic attacks but only in some German cities. But we don’t have a Germany-wide system yet. This is one of the first projects I intend to tackle — to institute a system for reporting anti-Semitic attacks below the threshold of official crimes.
During the same interview, Klein asserted that Jewish victims of anti-Semitism often don’t report them to the police. One of the organizations that registers anti-Semitic attacks is the Research and Information Center on Anti-Semitism. While German police reported under 300 anti-Semitic incidents last year, RIAF reported more than 900. To be sure, the threshold of RIAF is lower and not all of the reported incidents rose to the level of a crime.
5. Silent On Efforts to Combat Anti-Semitism
The Times would have readers believe that anti-Semitism is a simmering problem without a solution. But there are formidable efforts underway to combat the problem.
France, along with the EU, have each appointed an official to direct efforts to combat anti-Semitism. In addition to Klein’s service as Germany’s national anti-Semitism czar, Hessen just became the 10th state (of 16) in Germany to name a state-level czar, elevating the problem by appointing a government official to monitor the problem exclusively. In February, Germany launched an online platform for victims of anti-Semitism to report without going to police.
Last year, Spain’s Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport agreed to train teachers on the Holocaust, the importance of Israel for the Jewish people, and the fight against anti-Semitism. France recently joined nine other European nations in announcing it would adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, which AJC helped draft.
President Trump recently named Elan Carr as U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism, a vacancy AJC pushed to fill. The diplomat is charged with addressing anti-Semitism concerns outside the U.S. and encouraging other governments to adopt the working definition of anti-Semitism developed by IHRA.
Listen to AJC Passport for an inside look at the Special Envoy’s vital role in fighting anti-Semitism
And thanks to AJC’s coalition work with diverse communities, the Muslim Jewish Advisory Council, co-convened by AJC and the Islamic Society of North America, secured passage of the Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act in the U.S., key legislation that provides for measures to deter, as well as punish, perpetrators of attacks on religious institutions.
No one expects the Times to detail each and every effort to counter anti-Semitism. But by failing to mention any such measures or, for that matter, even citing any community activists on the front lines of the struggle, the reader is left with the impression that anti-Semitism is essentially a right-wing phenomenon to be studied by academics. In fact, anti-Semitism is a clear and present danger to Jews and society at-large. It must be confronted at every turn, and can’t be left solely to the think tanks.