Antisemitism presents a serious challenge for the global community today. The last decade has seen a shocking growth in antisemitic rhetoric and agitation, and routine acts of violence against Jews have returned to European cities 70 years after the Holocaust.
The battle between Israel and the Palestinians has become intractable, and the idea of a "peace process" that might finally resolve the issues is not taken as seriously as it was years ago. This fact does not bode well for Israelis or Palestinians, and given the obsessive focus on this conflict by the media and by both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel activist organizations, the lack of resolution and mounting frustration is an ongoing concern for all of us.
Today, we face a major impasse in our discussions about antisemitism: Where many Jews see a new or resurgent antisemitism, non-Jews are more likely to see political protest or a backlash against Israeli actions and policies. In truth, both characterizations can be accurate depending on the specific circumstance. Increasingly, however, this chasm in perception between Jews and non-Jews about the nature of antisemitism is widening, and it is one reason why there is a distinct lack of concern about the problem on the part of the world community today.
Along with news and debate about the conflicts in the Middle East, the Internet, satellite television, and social networking via cellphone allow people across the planet to share an enormous amount of explicit antisemitic material that is, quite frankly, poisoning the relationship between humanity and the Jewish people, making an intractable conflict even more difficult to resolve. This new reality is enormously threatening to a tiny people whose parents and grandparents survived being slated for extermination in Europe 70 years ago.
Antisemitic incitement breeds fear and anxiety in Jews and it destroys trust and goodwill, which makes authentic peacemaking between Jews and Arabs impossible. Anyone who claims to want to build peace between Jews and Arabs, especially those who want the Palestinians to build a positive peaceful future in their own state, should also commit to working against the problem of antisemitism and to help retard its growth, in the West and in the Arab and Islamic worlds. Antisemitism is one of the most serious impediments to peace in the Middle East, and that is why it should concern all of us.
Jews are an extremely small community of people on this planet, and non-Jewish attitudes and perceptions about Jews and Israel really do matter, especially in an increasingly globalized reality. In a world population of over 7 billion people, there are approximately 14 million Jews, and almost all of them live in only two countries: Israel and the United States. This means that Jews constitute 0.002 percent, or one fifth of one percent, of the entire human population on planet earth, which in turn means that while Jews know and interact with non-Jews, the vast majority of non-Jews will never meet a Jewish person. If this is our human reality, then what does it mean when 24 percent of the planet holds opinions deemed to be antisemitic, as reflected in the ADL's recent survey of 100 countries?
Obviously we have a phenomenon that is not based in reality or in actual human experience but is communicated and circulated through libel, rumor, mythology, and imagination, as it has been for 2,000 years. Given this, the new media presents a very significant challenge for those of us working to combat the lies and libels of antisemitism. Jewish existence is by necessity dependent upon, and determined by, relationships with the non-Jewish world. Antisemitism is a real and present danger to those relationships, and therefore it remains a threat to Jewish existence.
Our challenge for this new year is to clearly identify antisemitism as the conspiratorial and libelous phenomenon it in fact is so that people might consciously separate themselves from it and help mitigate the damage it does to Jews, their neighbors, and human societies.