The resumption of Israeli-Hamas fighting this week, after the ambush Tuesday of an Israeli military patrol along the Gaza border killed one Israeli soldier and injured three, comes at a time of increasing anti-Semitism around the world.
“It has been the worst we’ve ever seen,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “Usually when there is violence in the Middle East it results in increases of anti-Semitic activity, but nothing like we’re seeing now. There are calls for the boycott of Jewish-owned businesses in Italy, Turkey, South Africa and Venezuela. This is reminiscent of the Nazi days.
“This is a new manifestation of anti-Semitism that is targeting Jews, not just Israelis,” he added.
At a World Zionist Congress conference Monday in Jerusalem, Dina Porat, the head of Tel Aviv University’s School of Jewish Studies, said the type of hateful rhetoric heard at recent anti-Israel demonstrations put an end to the European taboo of equating Jews with Nazis.
“[Muslims] were waiting for a signal or a pretext to launch this campaign and the Nazism comparison,” she was quoted as saying in the Israel newspaper Haaretz. “Europeans are burdened by the Holocaust, and accusing the victims of being like the Nazis helps distribute some of the burden and guilt.”
There was a 300 percent spike in the number of anti-Semitic attacks worldwide during Israel’s three-week military offensive in Gaza compared to the comparable period a year ago, according to the Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism.
Although the report said the vast majority of the 250 anti-Semitic incidents were carried out in Western Europe and were led by local Muslims — France and Britain both reported 100 incidents each — other parts of the world were not immune. In Buenos Aires and other Argentine cities there were a series of rallies that included such slogans as “Jews Assassins.”
Foxman noted that the rallies were accompanied by an “atmosphere of intimidation [that has] contributed to a wave of threats of violence, intimidation and attacks against Jewish communal institutions and individuals.”
He said the Internet appears to be the primary vehicle for spreading the hateful messages because similar slogans — even the same graphics — are appearing in different corners of the globe.
“This has been spearheaded by Muslims in Europe and aided and abetted by leftwing groups throughout Europe,” Foxman said. “We’ve seen more demonstrations all over the United States than ever before, using such slogans as ‘Gas the Jews.’ ”
Although there was a drop in incidents when Israel initiated a unilateral cease-fire Jan. 18, Jewish Agency Treasurer Hagai Meirom predicted a new wave of global anti-Semitism, according to reports.
The renewed fighting this week is likely to see that prediction realized.
Raphael Israeli, a professor of Islamic, Middle Eastern and Chinese history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the only reason fighting resumed was because Israel’s military offensive “was badly unfinished” and that attacks similar to this week’s against Israel are “likely to be with us for months and years to come.
“When Hitler launched a war against Britain, Britain didn’t seek an occupation [of Germany] or to be a humanitarian,” Israeli said. “All it wanted was Hitler defeated – that he should capitulate without conditions. That is how you destroy an enemy. When you capitulate, you have to accept whatever is imposed on you.”
But because Hamas was not defeated, Israeli said, the terror group is “free to attack when it wants and can hide behind civilians while the entire world is against Israel.”
But Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University, insisted, “anyone who thought [Israel’s military] operation would completely end attacks is on another planet.”
He predicted that Israel’s war against Hamas would be handled as it had been before the three-week offensive began, with Israeli troops moving “in and out and heavy air” attacks.
“The fringe in Israel want Israel to go back and reoccupy Gaza and that is not going to happen,” Steinberg said. “Hamas was allowed to accumulate power during the six-month cease-fire. It probably has a couple of thousand more rockets in storage and the only way to destroy it is if the IDF goes from house to house. The cost of that is too high because it means walking into traps.”
Opinion polls taken in Gaza after the first three months of the six-month cease-fire showed Fatah gaining and Hamas losing public support. Samuel Lewis, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, explained in a recent conference call organized by the Israel Policy Forum that when Hamas is not pursuing its objective of destroying Israel, its popularity wanes.
Lewis said that for any new cease-fire to work it has to be reinforced with a “long-term truce agreement.” And the key for that to work is to prevent Hamas from re-arming, he said.
“The international community, which is anxious to help rebuild Gazan society, is wrapped around the axle, I think, and figuring out how to put a lot of economic aid assistance into Gaza that doesn’t recognize in some way Hamas’ official role as leadership in Gaza,” Lewis said. “None of the European countries want to recognize Hamas, and until now the American government certainly hasn’t wanted to. Certainly the Israelis don’t.”
Regarding the polls, Lewis said most Arab commentators “are now convinced that Hamas having come out without having been defeated — though having taken dreadful blows but still standing and claiming a victory — that their political support has actually gone up in the West Bank and Gaza and the trend toward Fatah has been reversed.”
He said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “may be the biggest loser from the events of the last three weeks. That’s an Arab judgment, and some Israeli observers I think tend to agree, though the Israelis tend to put the accent on how badly Hamas has been beaten up and damaged. But the political fallout of that may well be the opposite.”