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May 4, 2016 0

The History of Anti-Semitism and the Shoah

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Jerusalem Post Blog



As an orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to com­bat­ting anti-Semitism and fight­ing against all forms of big­otry, the Anti-Defamation League speaks often about the Holo­caust both from a Jew­ish frame­work and from one that addresses hatred and geno­cide in the world at large.

The moral les­son of the Holo­caust, or Shoah, is that we all must stand against hate wher­ever it sur­faces. This moral les­son moti­vates us in our work every day.

On the occa­sion of this year’s com­mem­o­ra­tion of the Shoah, how­ever, I would like to address the sub­ject of anti-Semitism from a his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive, before the Shoah and after.

It has often been said that the Shoah could not have hap­pened if not for the 2,000 year his­tory of anti-Semitism, par­tic­u­larly in Europe. At the same time, it is noted, what hap­pened dur­ing the Nazi period went far beyond any­thing that had tran­spired for millennia.

The strik­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic about anti-Semitism for cen­turies, which did reach its cul­mi­na­tion in the Nazi assault on the Jews, was its fan­tas­ti­cal core.  Jews were accused of things, par­tic­u­larly being an evil power, which had noth­ing to do with the real­ity of Jew­ish life for centuries.

Let’s not for­get that the tragedy of the Holo­caust was that a mani­a­cal regime com­mit­ted to the destruc­tion of the Jews gained con­trol of Europe at a time when Jews had absolutely no power – no army, no state, no place to go, and lit­tle polit­i­cal influence.

That absence of Jew­ish power, how­ever, had been true for 2,000 years.  Dur­ing that time Jews were accused repeat­edly of influ­enc­ing his­tory in an evil way, the killing of Christ, the poi­son­ing of the wells, the mur­der of Chris­t­ian chil­dren, even a plan to take over the world as embod­ied in the noto­ri­ous forgery, “The Pro­to­cols of the Learned Elders of Zion.”  When the Nazis began their cam­paign against the Jews, the same fan­tasy of evil Jew­ish power was at work.

That hor­rid mix of accu­sa­tions of Jew­ish power together with the real­ity of Jew­ish pow­er­less­ness cre­ated that worst of all moments for the Jew­ish people.

From then on, sev­eral things became clear.  First, there was a need to edu­cate about what anti-Semitism could lead to, hence the broad range of activ­i­ties focus­ing on the Holo­caust.  Sec­ond, was the recog­ni­tion that good peo­ple who stood up to res­cue Jews must be hon­ored to encour­age that kind of behav­ior for future generations.

Third, and most sig­nif­i­cant, Jews could never again afford to be pow­er­less.  While the legit­i­macy of the State of Israel rests on the 3,000-year con­nec­tion of the Jews to the land of Israel, the need for Jews to have a home and be able to defend them­selves was a pow­er­ful polit­i­cal fac­tor imme­di­ately after the Shoah.

Which brings us back to the his­tory of anti-Semitism: If that virus was based on fan­tasy before the Holo­caust, how does one define it after when Jews now have a degree of power as rep­re­sented by a Jew­ish State? By the incred­i­bly effec­tive Israel Defense Forces?  By a strong and vibrant Amer­i­can Jew­ish com­mu­nity that works for U.S. sup­port of Israel?

What this new and pos­i­tive real­ity, where Jews are no longer pow­er­less, sug­gests is that anti-Semitism in the mod­ern world is a much more com­pli­cated phe­nom­e­non.  Anti-Semitism as fan­tasy still exists.  A quick scan of social media will remind some­one that the nox­ious delu­sions of big­ots con­tinue to thrive in the dig­i­tal age, albeit the echo cham­ber now has much larger resonance.

Today, the locus of their atten­tion is the Jew­ish state which stands in as a proxy for the Jew­ish peo­ple.  So called “anti-Zionism” offers a con­ve­nient garb of polit­i­cal respectabil­ity to dis­guise the age-old virus of anti-Semitism.

A wide range of haters, from the rad­i­cal Islamists of Hamas and ISIS to odi­ous white suprema­cists here at home to so-called polite polit­i­cal cir­cles in Europe (as recently made clear by the scan­dal roil­ing the Labour Party in the United King­dom), all accuse Israel of being respon­si­ble for all the prob­lems of the Mid­dle East and the world.  We also see a broad range of base­less con­spir­acy the­o­ries pro­pounded by many in these groups that pos­tu­late Jews were the force behind the ter­ror­ism of 9/11 or that we some­how con­trol the inter­na­tional econ­omy or that we even con­cocted the Holocaust.

The other side of the coin, how­ever, is that power begets respon­si­bil­ity, thus top­ics like the Jew­ish state can be a legit­i­mate sub­ject of crit­i­cism by those who may dis­agree with cer­tain poli­cies and behaviors.

It is essen­tial that the Jew­ish com­mu­nity rec­og­nize that we can and should embrace such vig­or­ous debate.  Such con­ver­sa­tion only becomes sus­pect when the ques­tions shift from the legit­i­macy of pol­icy to the legit­i­macy of peo­ple or when Jews are held to a dif­fer­ent stan­dard by those who will­fully dis­miss or ignore the faults of other coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly when they are more egregious.

The price of power is respon­si­bil­ity.  Again, this is a wel­come change after mil­len­nia of Jew­ish pow­er­less.  In the case of the State of Israel, liv­ing in a volatile region embroiled in con­flict and sur­rounded with so many hos­tile forces, the need for strength is imper­a­tive.  When the Islamic Repub­lic of Iran threat­ens to wipe Israel off the map or tests mis­siles inscribed with hate­ful mes­sages in Hebrew, our grave his­tory com­pels us not to ignore such geno­ci­dal rhetoric and to demand that oth­ers respond to it with equal fer­vor.  Still, one can be crit­i­cal of Israel with­out any jus­ti­fi­ca­tion or accu­sa­tions of anti-Semitism.

On this Yom HaShoah, as we remem­ber those who per­ished, let us be thank­ful that Jew­ish pow­er­less­ness is a thing of the past.  Let us reded­i­cate our­selves to fight­ing the real anti-Semitism that very much still exists.  And let us show that we know what it means to have respon­si­ble power by not con­clud­ing that every crit­i­cism is anti-Semitism.

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May 3, 2016 3

Medina Arrest Highlights Threats of Anti-Semitism in Islamic Extremism

James Medina

James Med­ina

James Gon­zalo Med­ina, a 40-year-old res­i­dent of Hol­ly­wood, Florida, was arrested on May 2, 2016, for allegedly plot­ting to use an explo­sive device in a Florida syn­a­gogue on Passover. Court doc­u­ments indi­cate that he wanted to leave a notice with the bomb attribut­ing the attack to ISIS.

Vio­lent expres­sions of anti-Semitism, includ­ing encour­age­ment of attacks against Jews and Jew­ish or Israeli insti­tu­tions, have been at the core of pro­pa­ganda dis­trib­uted by Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Islamic extrem­ist ter­ror­ist groups for decades. Last year, the ADL released a report, “Anti-Semitism: A Pil­lar of Islamic Extrem­ist Ide­ol­ogy,” which describes the way in which ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions rely on depic­tions of a Jew­ish enemy to recruit fol­low­ers, moti­vate adher­ents and draw atten­tion to their cause.

Medina’s plot was never oper­a­tional because he had been work­ing closely with an under­cover infor­mant. ADL joined with the South Florida Mus­lim com­mu­nity in issu­ing a press state­ment con­demn­ing the plot, which is avail­able on the ADL web­site.

How­ever, Med­ina is not the first U.S. res­i­dent appar­ently moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­olo­gies to plot attacks against a syn­a­gogue. Oth­ers included New York res­i­dents Ahmed Fer­hani and Moham­mad Mam­douh, arrested in May 2011 for plot­ting to attack a syn­a­gogue in New York City and four New York res­i­dents who plot­ted to attack syn­a­gogues in the Bronx and to shoot down air­planes at a mil­i­tary base in New­burgh, New York in 2009.

More recently, there have been a num­ber of U.S. res­i­dents inspired by Islamic extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions who con­sid­ered attack­ing Jew­ish or Israeli insti­tu­tions or oth­er­wise indi­cated that anti-Semitism was an impor­tant ele­ment of their ide­ol­ogy. They included:

  • Samy Mohamed Hamzeh, arrested in 2016 for allegedly attempt­ing to bomb a masonic tem­ple in Wis­con­sin, had ini­tially expressed inter­est in trav­el­ing to Israel to kill sol­diers and civil­ians in the West Bank, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments. He allegedly changed his plan for logis­ti­cal reasons.
  • Tairod Pugh, arrested for allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS in 2015, wrote a Face­book post that stated, “All the evil done by the Jews came from within them­selves. On the day of Judg­ment full respon­si­bil­ity of the starv­ing, tor­ture, jail­ing and killing of inno­cent Mus­lims will rest upon there (sic) shoul­ders. Allah must really hate them to give the rope to hang them­selves,” and posted an image with text stat­ing, “Most Jews do not like to admit it, but our Gd is Lucifer.” He also shared an image on Face­book that ref­er­enced blood libel accu­sa­tions, depict­ing Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu slit­ting the throats of sleep­ing children.
  • Nader Elhuza­yel, arrested in 2015 for allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS, report­edly expressed excite­ment at the pos­si­bil­ity of ISIS attack­ing Israel. Court doc­u­ments claim that he wrote, “Look­ing for­ward to see some yahoodi (Jew­ish) heads rolling, or dead bod­ies car­ry­ing their own yahoodi heads, and jihadi john (iden­ti­fied as the beheader in sev­eral Screen­shot from Al Shabaab video call­ing for attacks on “Jewish-owned West­field shop­ping cen­ters” 9 ISIS videos) doing this stance on them…” as part of an Inter­net exchange in Decem­ber 2014.
  • Nadir Soofi, one of men who allegedly fired shots at a Gar­land, Texas com­mu­nity cen­ter in 2015, advanced con­spir­acy the­o­ries sug­gest­ing Jew­ish involve­ment in the Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 attacks in online forums.
  • Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell, arrested in 2015 for allegedly plot­ting to bomb the U.S. capi­tol and shoot gov­ern­ment offi­cials, report­edly expressed a desire to attack the Israeli Embassy in an inter­view con­ducted in prison fol­low­ing his arrest.
  • Shan­non Mau­reen Con­ley, arrested in 2014 for allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS, threat­ened a church in her home town repot­edly in part because of the church’s sup­port for Israel.
  • Basit Javed Sheikh, arrested for attempt­ing to join Jab­hat al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria) in 2014, advanced a con­spir­acy the­ory on online forums that there was a Jew­ish con­spir­acy to pro­mote mod­er­ate Islam, which he viewed as inau­then­tic, over fun­da­men­tal­ist or extrem­ist views of Islam

The ADL pro­vides secu­rity resources for Jew­ish insti­tu­tions, includ­ing best prac­tices for Jew­ish Insti­tu­tional Secu­rity and a Guide to Detect­ing Sur­veil­lance of Jew­ish Insti­tu­tions. Indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions can con­tact their local ADL offices for more infor­ma­tion and resources, includ­ing requests for secu­rity train­ing or to sign up to receive ADL’s Secu­rity Bul­letins and Alerts.

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May 3, 2016 0

Labeling Behavior, Not People

language graphicWith 28% of stu­dents ages 12 – 18 years old cur­rently report­ing hav­ing been a tar­get of bul­ly­ing, con­cerns about bul­ly­ing in schools have moti­vated hun­dreds of books to be writ­ten and a wide vari­ety of pro­grams to be designed and imple­mented with the goal of turn­ing the tide of bul­ly­ing. Many of these books and pro­grams aim to change the behav­ior of “bul­lies.” And herein lies one of the prob­lems that makes it so chal­leng­ing to change the dynamic of bullying.

First, what is it? Bul­ly­ing is the repeated actions or threats of action directed toward a per­son by one or more peo­ple who have or are per­ceived to have more power or sta­tus than their tar­get in order to cause fear, dis­tress or harm.

When most peo­ple pic­ture a “bully” in their minds, they see some­one who is big­ger than every­one else and goes around intim­i­dat­ing oth­ers. Because of this per­cep­tion, if you ask a room full of stu­dents if they have ever been a “bully,” chances are no one will raise their hand. Ask the same stu­dents if they have ever excluded some­one, called some­one a name, spread rumors or picked on some­one because of the way they look, you will find that many hands – if not all – will go up.

This tells us that there is a dis­con­nect between being labeled a “bully” and actu­ally engag­ing in bul­ly­ing behav­ior. As long as that dis­con­nect exists and we con­tinue to use the label “bully,” we will not be able to engage stu­dents in real con­ver­sa­tions that chal­lenge the social norms around bul­ly­ing. By iden­ti­fy­ing bul­ly­ing as a behav­ior rather than a label assigned to a per­son who exhibits the behav­ior, a few things happen:

  1. Stu­dents are able to self-reflect on their actions with­out fear of judgment;
  2. Stu­dents are able to rec­og­nize that the dif­fer­ent behav­iors that peo­ple choose play an impor­tant role when instances of bias or bullying—whether active or pas­sive occur; and
  3. Stu­dents begin to make con­scious deci­sions to respond in par­tic­u­lar ways when inci­dents occur and ulti­mately, take respon­si­bil­ity for mak­ing sure every­one is treated with respect by becom­ing an ally.

We live in a soci­ety that often uses labels to stereo­type and sim­plify peo­ple. Unfor­tu­nately, bul­ly­ing is not a sim­ple con­cept and it is up to edu­ca­tors and fam­i­lies to engage the young peo­ple in their lives in bet­ter under­stand­ing that bul­ly­ing refers to a behav­ior and not a per­son, and that it is a behav­ior that all peo­ple at some time in their lives have engaged in.  Under­stand­ing this dif­fer­ence empow­ers and moti­vates young peo­ple to move from being a bystander to an ally.


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