Editor’s Note: This is the third of a three-part series on anti-Semitism. Part 1, Surge of European anti-Semitism sets off alarms, is available here. Part 2, American anti-Semitism amplified by Internet, is available here.
JERUSALEM – Hatred of Jews and anti-Semitic attacks are escalating worldwide, according to polls, Jewish groups and experts who spoke with WND.
While rising anti-Semitism throughout wide swaths of the Middle East and Europe is particularly serious, the problem is truly global in scope.
In April, researchers with the European Jewish Congress and Tel Aviv University released a report that documented a massive 30 percent increase in serious anti-Semitic incidents around the world last year.
Linking the ongoing economic turmoil to the sudden rise in anti-Jewish hatred, the report documented 686 incidents in 34 countries – everything from violent attacks on Jews to vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and places of worship. Some 40 percent of the incidents included physical violence.
By comparison, 526 incidents were documented in 2011.
In this series, WND recently examined the surging levels of anti-Semitism throughout Europe and in the United States, where the problem remains relatively tame despite the explosion of hate being expressed online and on the fringes.
Other regions of the world, however, are having major issues with anti-Semitism, experts told WND.
Anti-Semitism in the Middle East
Nowhere is the rise of anti-Semitism more extreme than in the Islamic world.
According to a 2011 Pew Research poll, part of the Global Attitudes Project, Muslim-majority nations harbored overwhelmingly negative attitudes toward Jews.
In Egypt and Jordan, for example, just 2 percent of respondents had a favorable view of Jews.
The Islamic country with the most favorable views toward Jews is Indonesia. But even there, less than 10 percent of the population has a positive attitude.
“In the Middle East it’s definitely getting worse – it’s at crazy proportions,” said Martin Himel, a Canadian film director who recently produced a ground-breaking documentary examining anti-Semitism around the globe.
In Islamic Pakistan, there are essentially no Jewish citizens. The overwhelming majority of Pakistanis have never even met a Jew.
When Himel traveled to the Muslim nation to document anti-Semitism for his film “Jew Bashing: The New Anti-Semitism,” what he found was profoundly disturbing.
More than a few people, for example, expressed the view that “Jews have taken over America” and “engineered the 9/11 attacks” for the purpose of conquering Afghanistan and Iraq as a prelude to taking over Pakistan, Himel told WND.
“You talk to the average, non-informed Pakistani on the street and ask him what has to be done, and they say, ‘Well, thank God we have nuclear weapons, we’re gonna’ nuke the Jews’; and they’ve never even seen a Jew in their lives,” he said.
Extremist Muslims and anti-Semitism
Amid the divisions within the Muslim world between, for instance, Shias and Sunnis, there is at least one point of unity: anti-Semitism and opposition to the Jewish state.
The Shiite regime ruling Iran and Sunni regime ruling Saudi Arabia offer good examples.
In Saudi Arabia, despite global pressure for reforms, school textbooks examined by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom in recent years still teach impressionable young students to equate Jews with “apes and swine.”
Saudi children also learn that Jews are conspiring to “gain sole control over the world,” that the thoroughly debunked “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is historical fact and that Muslims will be called to exterminate Jews on Judgment Day.
The Shiite Iranian regime, meanwhile, despite fundamental disagreements with Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi rulers over Islamic doctrine, is widely considered one of the most dangerous anti-Semitic forces on the planet.
While a small Jewish remnant remains in Iran, top leaders in Tehran regularly demonize Jews, Judaism, Zionism – and especially Israel, which Iranian leaders openly say they hope to annihilate.
“It has now been some 400 years that a horrendous Zionist clan has been ruling the major world affairs,” declared then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a speech last year. “And behind the scenes of the major power circles, in political, media, monetary, and banking organizations in the world, they have been the decision-makers.”
Iranian leaders, going all the way to the top, also continue to boast publicly about their plans to destroy the Jewish state.
Last year, for example, Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, chief of staff of the Iran’s Armed Forces, declared again that “the Iranian nation is standing for its cause that is the full annihilation of Israel,” echoing past statements by other top officials.
According to the U.S. State Department’s Commission on International Religious Freedom, the tiny Jewish minority in Iran, along with other beleaguered religious minorities, is coming under increasing pressure from authorities.
“Heightened anti-Semitism and repeated Holocaust denials by senior government officials and clerics continue to foster a climate of fear among Iran’s Jewish community,” the U.S. commission said in its latest report. “Physical attacks, harassment, detention, arrests and imprisonment intensified.”
Israeli leader responds to rhetoric
As WND reported in May, Deputy Knesset Speaker Moshe Feiglin of the ruling Likud Party views Iranian leaders’ vicious rhetoric as an even bigger threat to Israel and the Jewish people than nuclear weapons.
Feiglin, who leads the Jewish Leadership (Manhigut Yehudit) faction of Likud, told WND in an interview at his Knesset office in Jerusalem earlier this year that the real agenda was to delegitimize the Jewish state.
“We should learn from our own Holocaust 70 years ago,” the lawmaker said. “The Holocaust did not start in 1939; it started with the speeches in the Reichstag of the Third Reich in 1933 until the war. Those speeches led to delegitimization, to a question mark, to rise about the right of the Jew to exist.”
The same phenomenon is happening with the Iranian regime and its rhetoric, Feiglin said, adding that he views the issue as an Israeli problem that should be solved by Israelis.
“Those speeches of [then-Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad led to the question mark above the right of the state of Israel to exist,” he explained, saying the regime – not the Iranian people as a whole – was the real problem. “You can see the connection between Ahmadinejad, the fact that Israel did not react, and this question mark above our legitimacy to exist, and you can see that it comes altogether; that’s the connection.”
When the Nazis in Germany were able to cast doubts on the right of the Jewish people to exist, the Holocaust became possible, the liberty-minded legislator explained.
As such, he sees Ahmadinejad’s speeches – “the fact that the leader of a big country, a member of the U.N., speaking like that and not being punished by us right away” – as a greater threat to Israel and the Jews than any military weapon.
“We should ask ourselves how many millions would not have lost their lives if the Western world would have understood that concept with Hitler and acted at the right time,” Feiglin said.
Egypt and the Arab Spring
Egypt, the largest Arab nation in the world, harbors vicious anti-Semitism as well – a problem that came to the surface following the so-called “Arab Spring.”
After massive protests resulted in the ouster of the decades-old Mubarak dictatorship, Egyptians went to the polls. The election saw the rise of the radical Muslim Brotherhood, another one of the most potent anti-Semitic forces in the world, with members spread across the globe.
“The Jews have dominated the land, spread corruption on earth, spilled the blood of believers and in their actions profaned holy places,” claimed Muhammad Badie, the “supreme guide” of the Brotherhood. “Zionists only understand the language of force and will not relent without duress. This will happen only through holy jihad.”
While the anti-Semitic regime was ousted by the Egyptian military recently, the Muslim Brotherhood remains a powerhouse – not just in Egypt, but throughout the region and beyond.
As the “Arab Spring” continues to rip through the Islamic world, Feiglin and numerous other experts expect Islamists obsessed with destroying Jews – or at least the Jewish state – to keep expanding their reign of terror.
“It’s going to continue, and we are going to see one big Gaza all around us,” Feiglin told WND. “There will be no return address for the missiles that will fall here from Syria, or from Jordan, or Iraq, or from anywhere else. It’s going to be exactly the same as Gaza, like the Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
Middle East Anti-Semitism Spreads
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told WND that the Muslim Brotherhood is among the most serious anti-Semitic threats.
While it has recently been ousted from power in Egypt, it is “still an enormously powerful and impactful institution that impacts on attitudes among Muslims all over the world, not just in Egypt,” he explained in a phone interview.
“They have an 80-year track record of anti-Semitism,” he added. “Unfortunately, their worldview includes anti-Semitism.”
According to Cooper and other experts, the hardcore Islamist hatred of Jews expressed by the Brotherhood and like-minded extremists spreads especially when there are outbreaks of instability in the Middle East.
“You have those kinds of incidents that will take place on university campuses; you’ll have demonstrations that say things like ‘Hamas was right’ or ‘Jews to the gas chambers,’” Cooper said.
“So the unfortunate and irresponsible leakage of political dispute between Israelis and Palestinians is re-cast in very, I would say, harsh, racist and ugly ways in order to promote the hatred of Jews.
“Global anti-Semitism is definitely fueled not only by the Muslim Brotherhood, but by the fact that the ayatollahs who run Iran, starting with Ayatollah Khomeini, are at war with the Jewish people,” Cooper continued.
“They have made Holocaust denial the state policy of the entire country,” he said. “When you run a country, there’s a lot you can do.
“Part of their narrative is to demean and to hate the Jewish state, and also to mock the victims of the Nazi Holocaust,” Cooper said. “It’s one thing for a person who’s on the lunatic fringe in France or the United States to do that – it’s another thing when you run an entire country.”
Anti-Semitism at the U.N.
Indeed, hatred of Jews fueled by Islamic extremism and other forces is spreading well beyond just the Middle East.
The United Nations provides what is perhaps the most obvious example, according to some experts.
Despite the vast number of ruthless dictatorships and mass-murderers that are U.N. member states – including North Korea, China, Cuba, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Zimbabwe and Sudan – the Jewish state has been targeted by the U.N. with more allegations of “human rights violations” than any other country.
“It’s not legitimate, no; it certainly expresses strong bias,” explained Alvin Rosenfeld, director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism at Indiana University and author of the recently published book “Resurgent Antisemitism: Global Perspectives.”
While arguing that the U.N. as an idea is “noble,” Rosenfeld said the genuine atrocities committed by rogue nations receive very little criticism, if any, when compared with Israel.
“Israel’s human rights record, while not perfect – neither is America’s, neither is Canada’s, etcetera – looks a whole lot better than the human rights records of a lot of other countries,” he explained. “But in the name of human rights, Israel is constantly being attacked; so, yes, the bias is clear.”
Leadership and senior officials of numerous member-state dictatorships represented on the U.N.’s Human Rights Council have also been exposed promoting anti-Semitism.
While Europe has had more than its fair share of homegrown anti-Semitism over the centuries, massive Islamic immigration is adding a new dimension to the problem.
Perhaps the most alarming indication in recent memory was the murder of three Jewish children and a rabbi in Toulouse, France, last year by a radical Muslim of North African origin.
In Muslim-majority nations, because there so few Jews, the hatred does not generally translate into attacks.
“However, we’re living at a time when literally tens of millions of people are being fed hostile anti-Semitic propaganda through translations into Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, you name it, of ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ – it’s been discredited, but it doesn’t keep it from being popular – and the notion of a Jewish world conspiracy, that the Jews are in control of the media, of politics, of the economy, in countries throughout the world,” said Rosenfeld, the anti-Semitism scholar at Indiana University.
According to Rosenfeld and other experts, much of the hate has its roots in “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” an anti-Semitic fraud claiming to document a meeting of Jewish leaders conspiring to take over the world.
Hitler and other anti-Semites relied on it despite the fact that it had already been debunked.
Today, however, the bogus document is back in circulation throughout significant swaths of the globe – especially throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world.
“That book is a best seller all over the place, it’s also serialized into TV programs, it gets into the preaching of clerics in mosques, it enters through schools and TV commentary, etcetera,” Rosenfeld told WND.
Another book in wide circulation in large sections of the Muslim world, in translation, is Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” he noted.
“Well, when you put those two books together, you have a very, very toxic brew of anti-Semitic conspiracy theory at its most ferocious,” he said. “So what we’re looking at, in fact, is the propagandizing of anti-Semitic teachings throughout very large stretches of the Muslim world – we can’t overlook that.
“Some of this stuff then gets into segments – not entireties, but segments – of Muslim communities living in Europe today.”
Estimates of the number of Muslims in Europe today vary, but Rosenfeld cited figures of between 14 million and 20 million.
“Most of those people, for sure, are not active anti-Semites,” he argued. “But numbers that are not negligible are absorbing anti-Semitic teachings, so that’s a serious concern, there’s no question about it.”
As WND reported recently, other forces at work in Europe’s anti-Semitic scene are neo-Nazis and far-left radicals.
Anti-Semitism in Latin America
Beyond Europe and the Middle East, anti-Semitism is also on the rise in Latin America, where there are relatively large local Jewish communities estimated to number around 500,000.
As the Iranian regime and other autocracies continue making inroads across the region, top socialist political leaders have even made openly anti-Semitic remarks in public speeches.
“The world is for all of us,” declared the late Venezuelan tyrant Hugo Chavez in a 2005 speech. “But it so happens that a minority, the descendants of the same ones that crucified Christ, the descendants of the same ones that kicked [Simon] Bolivar out of here and also crucified him in their own way in Santa Marta, in Colombia. A minority has taken possession all of the wealth of the world.”
While Chavez is dead now, his regime is deeply intertwined with a powerful network of Latin American socialist and communist forces known as the Foro de Sao Paulo – an alliance with powerful foreign allies that now controls most governments in the region.
The late Venezuelan despot’s hand-picked successor, meanwhile, recently took power amid dubious elections.
According to the U.S. State Department, however, little has changed in terms of anti-Semitism.
“When political leaders condoned anti-Semitism, it set the tone for its persistence and growth in countries around the world,” states the 2012 International Religious Freedom Report.
“Of great concern were expressions of anti-Semitism by government officials, by religious leaders, and by the media, particularly in Venezuela, Egypt, and Iran. At times, such statements led to desecration and violence.”
The State Department report also noted that regime-controlled media outlets in Venezuela have continued to publish anti-Semitic diatribes – especially because failed opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, a Catholic, apparently has some Jewish ancestry.
Estimates cited in media reports suggest that about half of Venezuela’s Jewish population has emigrated over the last decade.
In the wake of 2009 Israeli military response to terrorist activity in Gaza, meanwhile, Jews came under physical attack in places like Buenos Aires, Argentina, and other major capitals.
Jewish life in Latin America is still flourishing for the most part.
More than a few anti-Semitic incidents have been documented throughout the region, however, and with Iranian influence on the rise – especially among the radical socialist regimes – some experts told WND that concerns are increasing.
The significance of the global rise
Indiana University’s Rosenfeld told WND that hatred against Jews is “certainly on the rise, there’s no doubt about that” and poses a danger if left to fester.
“Anti-Semitism is always, at least, potentially a major problem, given what we know about the history of anti-Semitism and the results of anti-Semitic passions if they’re allowed to go unchecked,” he said.
He urged caution, however, when making historical comparisons.
“Are we facing anything like a new Nazi period or a new Holocaust? Nothing like that is in the air,” he asked.
“On the other hand, Jews are certainly under threat in many, many places. Individual Jews have already been killed and beaten; synagogues have been attacked, Jewish schools have been attacked, Jewish cemeteries have been attacked; Jews have been made to feel insecure and unwanted, and on and on and on,” the professor of Jewish studies explained. “So if you add all of that up, it’s a problem.”
Levels of anti-Semitism today already represent a threat that needs to be taken very seriously, he added.
Understanding the danger today
“While one shouldn’t exaggerate the present-day threat of anti-Semitism, one shouldn’t minimize that threat either,” Rosenfeld told WND.
“Anti-Semitism always carries the potential to be destructive, and ultimately, what one wants to try and do is restrain it and make sure that it doesn’t get allied to political power,” he said.
Even though anti-Semitism continues to grow throughout most of the world, Rosenfeld said its contemporary manifestations, which are different in some ways than past anti-Semitism, need to be properly understood.
Present manifestations include rhetorical as well as physical elements, he explained in an extended phone interview with WND.
In the past, Western anti-Semitism stemmed in large part from anti-Jewish Christian theological teachings, the scholar said.
“While that continues today to some minor degree, it has lost respectability and no longer represents the threat it used to,” he added.
Beginning in the 19th century, race-based anti-Semitism superseded theological anti-Semitism, eventually culminating in the Holocaust.
“The new ideological and political anti-Semitism certainly is asserting itself very strongly, and that typically takes the form of hatred against Jewish collectivity, especially in its national form – in the state of Israel – attacks on Zionism and Israel,” Rosenfeld said.
“It also takes the form of Holocaust denial, Holocaust minimization, relativization and the like, and there is a close link between denying the Holocaust or minimizing the extent of the Holocaust and attacking claims to Jewish nationhood,” he added.
“All of that is very serious on the ideological, political and rhetorical level.”
On the physical level, Rosenfeld continued, there are also “bad things going on” – especially in Europe, with France being the country that right now is seeing most of the physical assaults against Jews.
Links between current and past anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitic hate goes back many centuries, but it continually morphs into new forms and manifestations, experts told WND.
There are parallels, however, that run through the various strands of anti-Semitism observed around the world.
“Today’s anti-Semitism, to a notable degree, draws on rhetorical tropes of past anti-Semitisms, so it’s a given among people who think along these lines that the Jews are always guilty, that Jews are always to blame,” explained Rosenfeld. “The question is what are they to blame for, what are they accused of, what are they guilty of, etcetera?”
Among the most complex but crucial issues to understanding modern anti-Semitism is the relatively new phenomenon, historically speaking, of what is known as “anti-Zionism” – essentially, opposition to the existence of the Jewish state.
“Israel, like all countries, is far from being perfect, and it shouldn’t be, in fact, free of criticism,” said Rosenfeld, adding that Israelis themselves are “extremely intense critics” of developments in their own country.
According to Rosenfeld and other mainstream anti-Semitism scholars, objecting to particular Israeli government policies or actions is entirely legitimate.
“You begin to approach and then cross a line that distinguishes between legitimate and illegitimate when you’re questioning not individual policies or individual actions, but the existence of the state itself,” Rosenfeld said.
“There’s no other country today whose future is put under a question mark,” he added. “For all of the justified criticisms, let’s say, of North Korea and China and Iran – you name it – no one is saying that North Korea and China and Iran have no legitimate right to a future. When it comes to Israel and Israel alone, however, the existence of the state is put into question, and at that point, yes, one has crossed the line.”
Not everybody, of course, agrees with that notion.
On one extreme are those who attempt to label all criticism of Israeli authorities as anti-Semitic by definition.
On the other, experts say, are those who call for the destruction of the Jewish state while hiding behind a veneer of “anti-Zionism” and ignoring atrocities perpetrated by governments all over the world.
All of that is complicated by the fact that there are indeed some very religious “anti-Zionist” Jews.
However, countless experts say that rabid “anti-Zionism” is increasingly being used as cover by full-blown anti-Semites seeking to maintain some degree of respectability while expressing hate.
Global anti-Semitism on the left and right
In a seemingly bizarre twist, communism has played an important role in fueling anti-Semitism across the political spectrum, according to experts.
Among certain political forces that tend to be associated with the “right,” for example, there are countless variations on conspiracy theories about “Jews” being in alliance with communists in an effort to destroy Christendom and nationalism.
Such notions are particularly widespread in regions like Eastern Europe, where, as WND reported as part of this series, some political parties that are considered anti-Semitic have been on the rise.
Even in the United States some prominent figures, such as David Duke, widely criticized as anti-Semitic by Jewish groups, point to individual “Jewish”-communist mass-murderers as evidence of something larger.
On the political left, meanwhile, the link between communism and increasing anti-Semitism is very different, according to experts.
“With the collapse of communism both as an ideology and as an ideology that established and maintained state structures, with the collapse of that, people at least on the radical left were left marooned,” explained Rosenfeld.
“They didn’t know how to explain the world because the previous paradigm was no longer really there, so they found their way to the old paradigm: Blame the Jews,” he said. “It sounds simplistic, it sounds dopey, and it is both of those things.”
While such sentiments have certainly not gained much respectability or mainstream traction, experts say they have caught on, especially in certain Western European circles.
“The difference being ‘Jew’ and ‘Jews’ has been replaced with the term ‘Zionist’ and ‘Israeli,’” Rosenfeld explained.
“Otherwise, today’s anti-Semitism is recognizably akin to previous anti-Semitisms in all of these respects, with two new elements,” he said.
“The two new elements are Holocaust denial, which is more widespread than people in this country realize, and the kind of fierce anti-Zionism and anti-Israelism, which at bottom is an objection to Jewish collectivity itself,” Rosenfeld added. “It doesn’t jive with people’s reading of the world that’s meant to be universalist in value, cosmopolitan in value, and not particularistic; and the Jews remain a particular people, they now have a nation-state of their own and the ability to defend it, and all of that flies in the face of what a lot of people call progressive thinking – it’s out of sync with that.
“Hence, people on the left feel comfortable adopting these pretty hostile attitudes,” he concluded.
Combating the Hate
Experts largely agree that anti-Semitism is already a major problem in some parts of the world, and that it could become a serious threat in others areas, too – at least if it is left unchecked.
As far as combating global anti-Semitism, however, virtually no two experts share the exact same views.
Most analysts who spoke with WND agreed that education and understanding are crucial tools in the battle.
A handful thought laws criminalizing certain forms of anti-Semitism could be effective, too, citing Germany and other nations that have outlawed expressions of Holocaust denial and other types of speech that is considered anti-Semitic.
Such restrictions, though, would of course be incompatible with American traditions of constitutionally protected free-speech rights.
Other Jewish leaders say explaining the difference between different types of Jews can be effective as well.
Responding to the sharp rise of anti-Semitism around the world, the World Zionist Organization and the Israeli Knesset on July 30 set up the “Committee for Combating Antisemitism.”
The committee aims to fight and track anti-Jewish hatred using a range of measures such as promoting awareness, legislation, responses to online anti-Semitism and more.
Another key element in fighting global anti-Semitism cited by several experts who spoke with WND was getting a better idea about the real scope of the problem.
To do that, anti-Semitism scholars and human rights leaders say governments that do not yet have effective mechanisms in place should develop tools to monitor and track anti-Semitic incidents with more accuracy.
Political leadership is also seen as crucial. One leader who has been praised repeatedly by Jewish leaders around the world for his work combating anti-Semitism is Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has denounced anti-Semitism in his official capacity on more than one occasion.
Media, churches, schools, labor unions, law enforcement and numerous other fields are also cited regularly as potentially important avenues for combating hatred around the world.
Of course, virtually nobody expects global anti-Semitism to be eradicated anytime soon – if ever.
However, if the negative effects can at least be mitigated using effective tools and strategies, then experts and Jewish leaders say progress will have been made.