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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

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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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April 20, 2016 8

Why I’m Speaking to Students at J Street U

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium on April 17, 2016.

J Street U

This morn­ing, I will speak to stu­dents at the J Street U National Assem­bly, the annual gath­er­ing of more than 200 young lead­ers from across the coun­try who con­verge on Wash­ing­ton D.C. to dis­cuss the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, and to exchange views about what they can do on cam­pus to advance a two-state solu­tion. J Street U reached out to me seek­ing to engage with the Jew­ish com­mu­nity, eager to estab­lish a rela­tion­ship with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which it has never had.

As I begin to chart the course of my lead­er­ship, I felt it was impor­tant that I accept this invi­ta­tion. I feel this way because of my con­vic­tion that it is vital to engage with all mem­bers of our com­mu­nity, even and espe­cially those with whom we might have disagreements.

We can’t talk only to those who are aligned with us on every point.

In our time of hyper-polarization and the ero­sion of civil dis­course, I believe it’s imper­a­tive that the orga­nized Jew­ish lead­er­ship mod­els the traits that we want to define the broader pol­i­tics in our coun­try. When I started my tenure as CEO, the coun­try was locked in a bit­ter debate over the Iran deal. More than any­thing, the expe­ri­ence showed me that our com­mu­nity suf­fers from an inabil­ity to thought­fully and respect­fully engage across polit­i­cal divides.

I saw it first­hand as Jews who sup­ported the deal as well as those who opposed the deal both were attacked viciously for their views, par­tic­u­larly by fel­low Jews. I was dis­mayed by the self-destructive behav­ior — tak­ing out news­pa­per ads, plas­ter­ing munic­i­pal buses, exco­ri­at­ing oth­ers with ad home­nim attacks — such attacks don’t advance the debate. They dimin­ish all of us.

For a peo­ple who ele­vated the notion of dis­sent as a bedrock prin­ci­ple of our reli­gious prac­tice, the unwill­ing­ness to coun­te­nance oppos­ing views is counter to the best tra­di­tions of our peo­ple. As a leader, I will not engage in these tac­tics. Instead, as the CEO of ADL, I will be an active advo­cate for civil­ity and avoid the pol­i­tics of per­sonal destruction.

Build­ing from this frame, I see my remarks today as a major oppor­tu­nity for ADL to accom­plish two things.

The first is to deliver the mes­sage that, at ADL, we are com­mit­ted to ensur­ing Israel remains a safe and secure, Jew­ish and demo­c­ra­tic state, as enshrined in its procla­ma­tion of inde­pen­dence. It was that remark­able Zion­ist vision expressed from the cra­dle of Israel’s birth that cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and the world, the notion that Israel would be a coun­try unlike all others:

“…based on free­dom, jus­tice and peace as envis­aged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure com­plete equal­ity of social and polit­i­cal rights to all its inhab­i­tants irre­spec­tive of reli­gion, race or sex; it will guar­an­tee free­dom of reli­gion, con­science, lan­guage, edu­ca­tion and culture…”

Frayed Israel Flag

That is why ADL has had a pol­icy of sup­port for a two-state solu­tion for decades. This means advo­cat­ing for the legit­i­macy and secu­rity of the Jew­ish state even as we sup­port Pales­tin­ian dig­nity and equal­ity of Arab cit­i­zens in Israel. These ideas should not be in con­flict. Rather, they are con­sis­tent with our cen­ten­nial com­mit­ment to civil rights and social justice.

Sec­ondly, I see an oppor­tu­nity to deliver an impor­tant mes­sage to these impas­sioned stu­dents who are gal­va­nized by the imper­a­tive to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. At ADL, we equally want to see a res­o­lu­tion of the con­flict. Israel must take real, mean­ing­ful mea­sures to pro­mote an end to the impasse. How­ever, the idea that peace can be brought about only by apply­ing pres­sure to one side of the con­flict — Israel — is a strat­egy bound to backfire.

Fur­ther iso­lat­ing Israel at a time of great local tumult and regional volatil­ity will only rein­force the polit­i­cal psy­chol­ogy of Israelis who eye con­ces­sions made in the con­text of nego­ti­a­tions with the Pales­tini­ans as inevitably endan­ger­ing them. And this fear is real. It is sub­stan­ti­ated in the unrav­el­ing of the mod­ern Mid­dle East, the rise of vio­lent non-state actors com­mit­ted to the destruc­tion of Israel, ter­ror­ist groups like Hezbol­lahISIS and Hamas, and the regional power of Iran whose rev­o­lu­tion­ary ide­ol­ogy remains firmly rooted in anti-Semitism. As Israelis look around they see regional chaos engulf­ing their neigh­bor­hood: whole­sale slaugh­ter in Syria, chaos in Sinai, chal­lenges to the sta­bil­ity of their friends in Jor­dan. Any rea­son­able approach to solv­ing the con­flict in order to be cred­i­ble in the eyes of Israel must bear in mind this new reality.

Given these facts, it is only the con­stancy of Amer­i­can guar­an­tees of moral and phys­i­cal sup­port that will under­gird an even­tual agree­ment. And under­min­ing that sup­port endan­gers the prospects of peace. While a respon­si­ble approach should rec­og­nize that there are steps that Israel must take to ensure the via­bil­ity of a two-state solu­tion, a rea­son­able approach must have expec­ta­tions of the Pales­tini­ans as well.

Ignor­ing the steps they also must take, com­pro­mises they too must make to achieve peace, does a deep dis­ser­vice toward that goal.

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The fact is that the Pales­tini­ans, under the lead­er­ship of Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Abbas, twice rejected seri­ous Israeli peace offers, once in 2008 dur­ing direct talks between Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert and Abu Mazen, and again under the Obama Admin­is­tra­tion — an admin­is­tra­tion which I was a part of. When Pres­i­dent Obama offered Pres­i­dent Abbas an Amer­i­can frame­work doc­u­ment for the res­o­lu­tion of the final sta­tus of the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, Abbas decided to ignore it entirely. That is an incon­ve­nient fact for some who wish to por­tray the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict as a sim­plis­tic story of Israel’s unwill­ing­ness to make peace. But it is a fact that can­not be ignored.

The cham­pi­ons of Pales­tin­ian self-determination must hold the Pales­tin­ian lead­er­ship to task for its fail­ures as well.

But even as I will make these points, I want to stress that despite this, we must find the areas where we can be partners.

It is vital to be in con­ver­sa­tion with these stu­dents and the next gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can Jew­ish lead­ers because it they who can cred­i­bly bro­ker crit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions on cam­puses rooted in a com­mit­ment to peace, while unmask­ing the dam­ag­ing effects of BDS and anti-normalization.

The imper­a­tives for social jus­tice today do not lie in the Israeli-Palestinian nego­ti­a­tions alone. We can­not let our dif­fer­ences over how to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace keep us from work­ing together to address so many other chal­lenges fac­ing our nation. There are vital issues of struc­tural racism that we must address now, mat­ters of press­ing racial injus­tice that wrack our own soci­ety. There are dem­a­gogues ris­ing to power in Europe and the intro­duc­tion of a ter­ri­ble new type of polit­i­cal dis­course that threat­ens our fun­da­men­tal values.

The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 with an endur­ing mis­sion that still rings true today: to stop the defama­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and to secure jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all. For more than 100 years, we have worked to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of big­otry even as we equally have fought for civil rights and social jus­tice for Jews and other mar­gin­al­ized people.

But it always has been a shared strug­gle, one that we have not waged our­selves but that has been a prod­uct of alliances, coali­tions and part­ner­ships. And the work is not yet com­plete. There is still much to do be done. Hope­fully we can do it, together.

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April 13, 2016 451

Anti-Semite Ken O’Keefe On A U.S. Speaking Tour

Ken O’Keefe, an anti-Zionist ex-Marine and anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­rist with a sub­stan­tial fol­low­ing on YouTube, is cur­rently on a national tour of the United States titled “F-ck the USSA/TSA/ Home­land Secu­rity Tour.” He is sched­uled to visit cities all over the U.S., as well as Canada.

O’Keefe proudly announced that he would embark on this tour, tak­ing Amtrak instead of fly­ing. In announc­ing the tour, he claimed that the secu­rity polices of the TSA and Home­land Secu­rity vio­late people’s rights by “order­ing” them to undergo a body scan, which he termed “radi­a­tion crap.” How­ever, while osten­si­bly focused on secu­rity poli­cies, his talks mostly pro­mote anti-Semitic and anti-Israel themes.

Ken O'Keefe

Ken O’Keefe

For exam­ple, at a talk in Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia, on March 17, hosted by the con­spir­acy the­o­rist group 9-11Truth.org, O’Keefe pro­moted a vast array of con­spir­acy the­o­ries vil­i­fy­ing Jews and Israel. He alleged that a small group of individuals—later referred to as Jew­ish bankers—controls the world’s money. He called these indi­vid­u­als trai­tors, psy­chopaths, sociopaths, pedophiles and “oth­er­wise cor­rupt, immoral, lack­ing in empa­thy peo­ple” who “bought every­thing and every­one that can be bought.”

He went on to say that Jews con­trol the media and Hol­ly­wood. He also claimed that Israel oper­ates within “Tal­mu­dic dic­tates” and alleged that the Tal­mud allows for Jews to rape non-Jewish three-year-old girls.

Later, when talk­ing about Israel’s 1967 acci­den­tal attack on an Amer­i­can ship, the U.S.S. Lib­erty, O’Keefe asserted that Israel can do any­thing with impunity. He added, “They even abduct, tor­ture, have sex with and rit­u­ally sac­ri­fice young chil­dren.” He also pro­moted the con­spir­acy the­ory that Israel would take the “Sam­son option,” and exter­mi­nate the world “if it feels that its exis­tence is threatened.”

Ear­lier in the week, at a pro­gram in San Diego, also hosted by the 9-11Truth.org, O’Keefe expounded on sim­i­lar anti-Semitic themes. He claimed that Israel and Mossad were behind the 9/11 ter­ror­ist attacks. O’Keefe’s tour con­tin­ues into the end of April, and he has stated that he plans to reach 17 cities across the U.S. and into Canada.

In 2014, O’Keefe attended Iran’s New Hori­zon Con­fer­ence, which drew anti-Semites and Holo­caust deniers from the U.S. and other parts of the world. He has also appeared on Press TV, the anti-Semitic Eng­lish lan­guage sta­tion run by Iran, and has writ­ten arti­cles for Vet­er­ans Today, an anti-Semitic conspiracy-oriented website.

O’Keefe has been an anti-Israel activist for many years. His YouTube videos, some of which have gar­nered hun­dreds of thou­sands of views, fea­ture anti-Jewish and anti-Israel themes. He sup­ports the Pales­tin­ian cause and has claimed both Irish and Pales­tin­ian cit­i­zen­ship. He was on a flotilla in 2010 that was stopped by Israel before the ship made it to Gaza. A num­ber of activists on that ship were killed by Israeli armed forces and O’Keefe was arrested and deported. In addi­tion, he was on a flotilla that entered Gaza in 2008. He was also jailed by Israeli author­i­ties in 2004 when he attempted to enter the Gaza Strip to dis­cuss with Pales­tin­ian rep­re­sen­ta­tives his pro­posed plan to bring 10,000 activists to the West Bank and Gaza.

As O’Keefe trav­els the coun­try, it is likely that he will con­tinue to pro­mote vir­u­lent anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries to his audi­ences. The spon­sors of his talks often tout him as a peace activist and ignore his anti-Semitism. In some cases, they have been recep­tive to his anti-Semitic tropes, as they were in Berke­ley, and even applauded his rhetoric.

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