Many people assumed that anti-Semitism died with Hitler in his bunker in 1945. Unfortunately, that was an illusion.
In 2010, then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of the frustration of fighting anti-Semitism: “Forms of anti-Semitism continue to evolve. You think you have a form in a box, but unfortunately another appears, “he told an audience at the State Department.
No truer words were spoken than Clinton’s.
We returned to the U.S. Transformed by these heroes, but not sure how or if the world’s Jews could prevent their brothers from being crushed by the mighty Soviet Union and fearful that their mighty propaganda giant would step up its vicious anti-Zionist revenge and anti-Semitic throughout the Iron Curtain, at the UN and beyond.
Fast forward. The Soviet Union no longer exists, and more than a million Russian Jews were able to make aliyah.
The Hanukkah menorah is lit annually in Red Square. And Natan Sharansky, who once addressed the Gulag, was released to leave a powerful mark on his beloved state and people, on the Israeli cabinet and as head of the Jewish Agency.
Most importantly, there is no longer the top-down drumbeat of anti-Semitic poison, mandated by the state. No more vile cartoons on Pravda, no more Moscow-led anti-Israel diplomatic crusades at the UN, in Eastern Europe, in Third World capitals or in the Arab world.
And yet, today, it would be difficult to find young Jews born in this century who had even a cursory hint about those desperate days.
Why? Because there are no victory parades in the war against anti-Semitism. It has raged again, perhaps even more unpredictable and dangerous than the horrible Cold War era.
How did we get from there to here? How do we get vaccinated against today’s insidious variants?
Two events of the 21st century helped lay the groundwork: first, the infamous UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.
I was the spokesperson for Jewish NGOs, each of which traveled to Africa to work with 3,500 other guardians of civil society. Instead, we were targeted by the most dire anti-Semitic hate party since the Shoah.
Two years ago, I met with the top law enforcement agencies of the NYPD. “How do you explain the increase in violent hate crimes against Jews in New York in 2019?”
“Social networks” was his immediate response.
It is used 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to demonize and delegitimize Jews and Israel.
Social media is the other multiplier of the virulent Jewish hatred of the 21st century.
Provides the backwind of BDS campaigns and other anti-Semitic incidents at universities and colleges across North America.
It has served as a platform for successful Irish author Sally Rooney, who refuses to have her book translated into Hebrew.
It allowed an anti-Semitic chairman of Ben and Jerry’s board of directors to turn ice cream into a weapon against the Jewish state.
The social media giants have done a despicable job of debasing anti-Semitic hatred online. From Telegram to Twitter to Tiktok, conspiracy theories blaming Jews for all evils, from 9/11 to COVID.
Thanks to social media, Jewish haters like Ayatollah Khamenei, who is seeking genocide in Iran, have access to multiple multilingual platforms to spread false and pernicious news that demonize our people.
There are two key items in our virtual tool chest to help us and our allies fight online and in the virtual world. The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is one.
You cannot get effective laws passed or police or judicial action taken without a working definition. It has been adopted by nations, states, cities, and entities on both sides of the Atlantic. It is worth trying to get the local community, city council, and school board to adopt.
Equally important are Sharansky’s 3 “Ds.” Developed in the wake of Durban, it is key to combating the current variants in which anti-Semitism is shrouded in anti-Zionism. It focuses on three types of attacks against the Jewish state: delegitimization, double standards, demonization.
If criticism of Israel crosses one or more of these lines, it is anti-Semitism.
Don’t worry Trayvon, we will.
The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a 100% chance of anti-Semitism.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights organization. Cooper has been a longtime activist for Jewish and human rights causes on five continents and is a recognized expert on online terrorism and hate.