Tag Archives: Jewish Museum of Belgium

Historian Deborah Lipstadt Assesses the New Anti-Semitism

Historian Deborah Lipstadt has published an accessible and comprehensive book about contemporary anti-Semitism called “Antisemitism: Here and Now.” The book, in which she spells anti-Semitism as “antisemitism” for reasons she outlines—is structured as a series of letters she writes to a fictional student and colleague — both of whom are composites of people Lipstadt has taught and worked with at Emory University in Atlanta.

Lipstadt, the author of books on Holocaust denial and the Adolf Eichmann trial, has experienced anti-Semitism as a result of confronting Holocaust deniers. In the early 2000s, she prevailed in a defamation lawsuit brought by David Irving, one of the more prolific and notorious Holocaust “revisionists.” Her victory was dramatized in “Denial,” a 2016 movie starring Rachel Weisz.

Lipstadt writes that anti-Semitism is challenging to define:

“It is hard, if not impossible, to explain something that is essentially irrational, delusional, and absurd.”

She recently spoke to JewishBoston about her new book and the ongoing scourge of anti-Semitism around the world.

°°°

Is today’s anti-Semitism “old wine in new bottles?”

On some level, it is old wine in new bottles. There are certain aspects of the stereotype which continue to exist and don’t go away. What’s different today is a number of things. First of all, it’s coming from the right and the left simultaneously. That’s different. At the same time, we’ve got a third source, and that is Islamic extremists who have been responsible for dangerous, deadly events in Europe. In some sectors of the Muslim community, it has become embedded among people who wouldn’t think to do anything violent but think evil things of Jews. This combination is different, but the charges are classic.

Actor Rachel Weisz and author Deborah Lipstadt on the set of their film “Denial,” a Bleecker Street release. (Photo credit: Liam Daniel/Bleecker Street)

Actor Rachel Weisz and author Deborah Lipstadt on the set of their film “Denial,” a Bleecker Street release. (Photo credit: Liam Daniel/Bleecker Street)

In your introduction, you write, “By the time this book appears there will have been new examples of antisemitism.”

In some ways, the book is a work in progress. I was sure by the time it was published there would have been a number of instances that could have appeared. Five weeks after I hit the send button, Pittsburgh happened.

Speaking of ongoing anti-Semitism, what inspired you to write a book about it?

I wrote an article right after Gaza happened the summer of 2014 for The New York Times op-ed page. What struck me was the degree of anti-Semitism that got mixed up in opposition to that war. But it wasn’t just the war. There was the 2006 murder of Ilan Halimi. In 2012 there were the murders at a Jewish school in Toulouse. Then there was the shooting at the Jewish Museum of Brussels just before Gaza. Anti-Semitism was coming back in a way that deserved attention. The Times article was very popular, and my agent asked where my book proposal was. I sent him a brief proposal as a favor. He came back to me shortly afterward and said he sold the book. That’s how I came to write a book about anti-Semitism.

You talk about what I describe as “low-voltage anti-Semitism” that can happen casually at dinner parties or in dorm rooms. How do Jews deal with that?

While this book has received mostly amazing reviews, like any author, I tend to linger on the one or two negative ones. One of the reviews said I should not have told my fictitious student Abigail that when she encountered anti-Semitism among her roommates to go back and have a discussion. The reviewer said, “I would have told her to find new friends.” That’s the wrong answer. We’ll run out of friends very quickly if we do that. There is a lot of misunderstanding of what anti-Semitism is and what constitutes it. Our job should be to try to explain that to people. However, when you call me a termite [as Louis Farrakhan did] because I’m a Jew, I’m not going to try and educate you anymore. We have to discern between ignorance and what is absorbed from the ethos sphere, and the committed anti-Semite.

What do you say to young Jews participating in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement? And what are some of the anti-Semitic tropes associated with BDS?

Many people on campus who support BDS probably couldn’t find Israel on a map. I don’t immediately brand every person who supports BDS as an anti-Semite. Some people erroneously equate BDS with their parents’ votes against apartheid. But if you drill down to what BDS is all about it, it calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. That is anti-Semitism. As for the tropes, it’s this talk of power, control and money. It’s the anti-Semitic stereotypes put into a Middle Eastern context. A few days ago, people said the seven Labour lawmakers who resigned over anti-Semitism in their party were being paid to do so by Israel. If that supposition weren’t so dangerous, it would be simply absurd.

Antisemitism

(Courtesy image)

Are anti-Zionists and anti-Semites the same?

They are backing into each other. If you look at each of them in 1935 or 1945, they are not one and the same. Bret Stephens had a great article about the difference. I second what he says very much. Look at the division and we now see something quite distinct. We see something that has become this hostility to Israel. Opposition to Israeli policy is not anti-Semitism. It’s important to recognize that. We’re talking about a myopic view that all the troubles in the world are the Palestinians’—the only one at fault in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is Israel. Something is wrong with that.

I recently heard a story about a student in a New York City public high school who asked her teacher to sign a letter of recommendation for a summer program. She brought him the form, and when he saw it was for Israel, he said he wouldn’t write a letter for her. She asked if he would write a letter for a program in North Korea, China, Myanmar or Sudan, and he said yes.

Something is wrong when your singular focus is on one country. Something is wrong when you look at this complicated situation in Israel where there are wrongs on both sides. We see a dedication to Palestinian organizations that have a major commitment to the destruction of Israel within their charters. And you have to ask, why this myopic view? That’s when you come to anti-Semitism.

It’s almost Purim, and your middle name is Esther. Do you feel you have a Queen Esther-like role in the Jewish community?

Someone once sent me a quote from the Book of Esther where Mordechai comes to Esther to tell her she has to approach the king, or our people will be murdered. She initially says she can’t go to the king because she will be killed. But then she does talk to him on behalf of her people. In fighting deniers and anti-Semitism, I don’t feel I’m a queen of anything. What I do feel is very gratified that I’ve been given a chance to do this work. I wish anti-Semitism were an old problem, but there’s an urgency to understand it. People are so grateful and appreciative that I do that. I feel humbled and thankful that I’m getting this kind of reaction. I’m not a Queen Esther, but I have been given a similar gift of being in the right place at the right time. This enables me to contribute to an important battle.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

+++

Related

2 Comments

Filed under Activism and Peace Work, Crimes & Atrocities, Cultural affairs, Headlines - News, Lifestyle, Re-Blogs and Great Blogs, Religious affairs, Social affairs, World affairs

The danger of having less than 25 000 Jews in Belgium

Most of the countries that have their Jewish population dropped below the 25,000 level over the past 70 years were in Arab and Muslim countries including Morocco, Egypt, Algeria and Iran, as those countries effectively expunged the Jewish populations due to anger over the founding of Israel. The total population from all of those Arab and Muslim countries now stands at 27,000, just north of the 25k mark (15k in Turkey, 5,800 in Iran, 2,000 in Morocco and Tunisia 1,000).

On Thursday, after a two-month trial in the Belgian capital, 12 jurors found the 33-year-old guilty of the four anti-Semitic murders during a shooting spree at Belgium’s Jewish Museum in Brussels on May 24, 2014. It was not the first incident against Jews in that country, but it may be considered as the first terrorist attack by IS and the turning point for many Jews to feel not safe any-more in Belgium, because the country from then onwards started also showing an evolution to the far-right and anti-Semitic groups.

Kölner Karnaval Nazi-propaganda against Jews – Germans making fun of Jews in the 1930s

Aalst Karnaval 2019 Joodse Karrikaturen – Recycled puppets for 2019 Aalst Carnaval

We can question of the depiction of Jews in the carnival of Aalst would be of similar intent to what could be seen in Germany in the 1930ies. The stereotypes and images found in Nazi propaganda were not new, but were already familiar to their intended audience. You can not ignore that it reminds us of the Nazi-propaganda during the rise of Nazism. If that carnival group wanted to have a sabbath year, why did they spend so much money on such puppets? Such depictions are just provoking and are adding to the trouble atmosphere which is growing in Belgium.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish organization headquartered in the US, believes that Aalst Carnaval defiles the reputation of Belgium as the host country of the European institutions. This is stated in an open letter to Federal Minister of the Interior Pieter De Crem (CD & V). The federal government must, according to the director of international relations Shimon Samuels, patronize the Aalst carnival group publicly.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is an NGO that collects it worldwide for the interests of Jews.

‘We are disgusted by the images of the parade during the carnival on 3 March in Aalst’,

is the letter to Minister De Crem.

‘With stereotyping and hateful images of Jews with bags full of money and hook-noses that are reminiscent of Nazi collaborating Belgium.’

Also the Jewish community was very chocked with those images, which reminded of the years before the 2nd World War.

parade float at the Aalst Carnaval in Belgium features caricatures of Orthodox Jews atop money bags, March 3, 2019 Aalst Carnaval

B’nai B’rith International termed it “disgusting.” Both umbrella groups of Belgian Jews filed a federal complaint for incitement against the group, called Vismooil’n, saying the float looked like Nazi propaganda.

Even the European Commission slammed the display, with a spokesperson saying

“It is unthinkable that such imagery is being paraded on European streets 70 years after the Holocaust.”

Why do those people from that group Vismooil give the impression that Jews are the cause of the rising prizes?

Joel Rubinfeld, the president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, or LBCA.

“Prices are rising, so who do they blame? The fat, greedy Jew,” he said.

Not only on a Facebook page of carnival enthusiasts, we could see lots of “anti-Semitic humour”.

One blamed

“the sad Jews, closed off from the rest of society in Antwerp, who have no sense of humour.”

Another referred to Jews as “dick cutters,” adding they are

“whiners with sausages for ears and woolly curls on their heads.”

Commenting on Jewish anger over the float, another wrote:

“Later you wonder why Jew hatred is growing …”

For Rubinfeld it is

“What’s happening in recent years at the carnival is a symptom of a wider problem, which the return of 1930s anti-Semitism, alongside the upgraded version that we’ve become used to, that targets Israel as a substitute for Jews and visa versa.”

At the moment there is an American petition concerning the Aalst Carnival on the Unesco-heritage-list to remove its status as an intangible heritage. What the carnival group the Vismooil Sunday has shown, with the Jewish decorated float, in any case does not fit with the norms and values that Unesco stands for.

We must take the “view on the Jews” seriously. We may not ignore a serious peril of a growing negative stance against Jews and Muslims. In europe there is a growing tendency to have bad jokes about Jews and to point the finger as if they would be part of the present problems.

Vile comments made by elected officials (including in the US, UK and Iran) attacking Jews and basic Jewish human rights in those two remaining outposts – and defended by senior politicians – rises to the level of attempted genocide of the Jewish people. {FirstOneThrough}

We cannot stay silent and should speak up. We also should show non-Jews that there are different Jewish communities with different lifestyles. But also Jews could come to see that in Christendom and in Islam there are very different groups with totally different ideas. Not all those different groups have a grudge against the other. There are enough religious and non-religious groups who are willing to live together in symbioses. Best way not to make people so afraid they find it better to leave the country is making sure they all feel welcome and can trust each other.

It is up to the governement to make sure that those people who are a danger for democracy are disciplined.

In Belgium the politicians and the police should also show they are taking certain matters seriously and should further protect all of the Jewish community. But also in the Jewish community Jews should make work of it to communicate better with each other and to accept the different sorts of Jews in this country.

Also let us think about why there are now 17 countries with over 25,000 Jews which is half of the total that existed when Israel was founded in 1948.

+

Find to read:

  1. 25,000 Jews Remaining
  2. A Hebrew-Christian movement
  3. Jeshuaists = Juifs pour Jeshua ou Jésus Christ
  4. Marchons avec courage!

2 Comments

Filed under Headlines - News, History, Religious affairs, World affairs