The Islamist rhetoric blaming Jews for the Sept. 11 attacks on America has gotten bad enough that President George W. Bush and other national and international political leaders need to counter the anti-Semites and quell the growing anxiety of Jewish citizens, says the national director of the Anti-Defamation League.
“President Bush should publicly put his arms around the Jewish community,” Abraham Foxman said. “Some leaders don’t think it’s serious, but as Jews we take it very seriously.”
Foxman, speaking at the ADL’s annual national policy conference — moved from San Francisco back to New York as a show of support — said the anti-Semitic charges are reverberating throughout the Arab world, from Cairo to Damascus to Riyadh.
“Our challenge will be to have good people understand that they need to stand up because what’s said in Cairo no longer remains in Cairo,” he said. “It travels the globe and it makes it to the major cities in Europe, where political anti-Semitism moves very quickly to real anti-Semitism where synagogues are torched.”
The three day conference, attended by about 300 ADL staff and lay leaders at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Manhattan, focused on global terrorism and its effect on America, Israel and Jews.
Several ADL officials linked the start of the Palestinian intifada in September 2000 with August’s anti-Israel UN Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, as clear warning signals that led to the Sept. 11 attacks.
While anti-Semitism is down in the U.S., it is on the rise abroad, they said (see box).
Conference speakers included former FBI director Louis Freeh; William Burns, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs; and Boaz Ganor, Israel’s leading expert on counter-terrorism. ADL announced it was forming a partnership with Ganor’s International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism for public education about terrorism.
Foxman repeatedly questioned what he called “a clear hypocrisy” by the Bush administration advocating the targeting of Islamic terror network leader Osama bin Laden while criticizing Israel’s policy of proactively assassinating Palestinian terrorist leaders.
But Foxman also praised Bush for strongly defending Israel.
“From Jan. 20 of this year, [Bush] has stood with Israel … has been supportive of Israel in very difficult and trying times. And time and time again, where political expediency could have moved him the other way, he was there. And that’s important to remember.”
Foxman, a Holocaust survivor and ADL head for the past 14 years, called the Islamist (or radical fundamentalist) scapegoating of Jews for the Sept. 11 attack the realization of his worst nightmare — “that something would happen in the United States, something dramatic, something tragic … and we, the Jews, would be blamed.”
He was referring to pronouncements by Islamist leaders that the Jews were behind the World Trade Center destruction, or that it was done because of U.S. support of Israel.
ADL officials complained that despite defending Muslims from bias attacks after Sept. 11, national Muslim or Arab organizations are unwilling to join the ADL in unequivocally denouncing suicide terrorist attacks against America, Israel and Jews.
“We have not found one Arab-American, Muslim-American organization in this country who has ever condemned [terrorism] without that ‘but’ — that famous phrase ‘yes, but’ — to distinguish against terrorism directed against innocent men, women and children who happened to be Israelis, which they will not condemn, and the terrorism directed here in the United States, which they so loudly condemn.”
Other speakers also denounced Islamist rhetoric and raised the specter of the Holocaust.
“The parallels between the anti-Semitic campaign leading to the Holocaust in Europe and what is now going on in parts of the Islamic world in demonizing the Jews is chilling,” said Brown University historian David Kertzer, author of the explosive new book “The Popes Against the Jews” (Knopf), which documents the anti-Jewish Church teachings that preceded the Holocaust.
“There are clear similarities between the Islamist campaign of contempt aimed at the Jews and that which the Catholic Church was involved in during the half-century preceding the Holocaust,” Kertzer said.
He cited the Christian charge of ritual murder, now altered for an Islamist audience, and the use of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” “which was distributed in the 1920s in Germany by the Nazi Party and in both France and Italy by well-known — and papally honored — Catholic priests.”
Kertzer noted that the Islamists have also taken up “the old anti-Semitic stereotypes championed in the Vatican up through the 1930s of the Jews as engaged in a world conspiracy aimed at world conquest, Jews as lacking in moral values and concerned only with other Jews.”
He called on Jewish leaders to confront the danger and not hide. He sharply criticized university groups such as New York University’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Life, which last month canceled a panel to discuss his new book, bowing to pressure from Jewish officials who say now is not the time to publicly discuss anti-Jewish history.
“For Jews to try to stick their head in the sand and deny the parallels is, I believe, very dangerous,” Kertzer said. “It is very disturbing to find Jews in responsible positions, especially in universities, too embarrassed or afraid to address these issues.”
Michael Salberg, a New York attorney who helped represent the ADL in Durban, offered a chilling account of his trip. Salberg said he was nearly brought to tears by the intensity of the anti-Semitic rhetoric at Durban and the failure of supposed moderate nongovernmental organizations to speak up and defend Jews.
“There is nothing in my experience as an American-born Jew growing up in the second half of the 20th century that could have prepared me in any way to what we were faced with,” he said, telling of anti-Israel T-shirts, pro-Hitler cartoons and posters likening Zionism to Nazism allowed to be displayed at the conference’s official information tent.
“This was an environment of raw unvarnished anti-Semitism. The hatred in many instances was mindless,” Salberg said. “There were no non-Jewish groups at that conference that stood up and said publicly this is wrong, this shouldn’t be happening here. No one said a word.”
Ganor, the Israeli counter-terrorism expert, said that in order to beat the terrorist fundamentalists it is of “utmost importance” for moderate Arab and Muslim countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia to defeat the Islamist forces in their own countries.
“This is definitely a religious war,” he declared several times. “The U.S. should be insisting that they not declare their position on fundamentalism only in English, but to say it in Arabic and on Arab TV stations.
- San Francisco
- Louis Freeh
- Eric J. Greenberg
- Boaz Ganor
- David Kertzer
- Continental Hotel
- assistant secretary of state
- William Burns
- Michael Salberg
- Israel T-shirts
- Abraham Foxman
- George W. Bush
- South Africa
- united states
- New York
- Staff Writer
- United Nations
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Anti-Defamation League
- bin Laden