Jewish Agency says world anti-Semitism surges: truth or propaganda?
From the World Jewish Congress, Jan. 25:
Anti-Semitism has reached its highest level since the end of World War II, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) has concluded in its latest report released in Jerusalem on Sunday.
Jews in Europe were particularly affected by the dramatic rise of incidents in 2009. The JAFI report says that the number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the first three months of 2009 in western Europe surpassed that of the entire year 2008. The data showed a spike in anti-Semitic violence during and after Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip last winter. In France, for example, there were 631 anti-Jewish incidents in the first half of 2009, of which 113 were violent, according to the study. In Britain, some 600 anti-Semitic incidents occurred. In the Netherlands, around 100 anti-Semitic incidents were noted following the Gaza war.
The study also noted that election campaigns in Ukraine and Hungary had given rise to public displays of anti-Semitism, which was deployed as a tool by the some political parties. In Ukraine, a story surfaced during that country's election campaign that Israel had brought 25,000 Ukrainian children to the Jewish state for the sole purpose of harvesting their organs.
World-wide, eight people were killed in attacks targeting Jews in 2009. Two murders linked with anti-Semitism in the United States in 2009 – one of a female university student in Connecticut and the other of a non-Jewish guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. This rise in anti-Semitism was noticeable on both the political Left and Right, according to JAFI.
At the press conference at which the report was presented, officials referred to a film that was making the rounds which alleges that Israel is stealing organs from patients treated at the IDF hospital in Haiti, the newspaper Haaretz reports.
JAFI Chairman Natan Sharansky pledged to dispatch representatives from his organization to combat growing anti-Semitism at European universities. "Classical anti-Semitism is changing, and it has been replaced with a new anti-Semitism that takes its shape in the form of unbridled attacks against the idea of a Jewish state," he told reporters in Jerusalem.
Now that last quote really sums up exactly what is wrong with the whole report. Last year, Israeli director Yoav Shamir's film Defamation documented how Anti-Defamation League (ADL) surveys inflated incidents of anti-Semitism by throwing in criticisms of Israeli policy. It is a repulsive practice that calls into question alarming ADL findings of recent years—and, if their unscrupulous methods are being copied, those of JAFI.
But there is a growing reaction to this dishonest propaganda which is equally part of the problem. The debate is rapidly narrowing into a contest between pro-Israel propagandists with an interest in exaggerating the threat of anti-Semitism, and anti-Zionist propagandists who think that they have an interest in denying it.
Yoav Shamir, alas, may provide a case in point. The favorable review from Variety prominently displayed on the film's website asks: "Is anyone who expresses anti-Zionist opinions necessarily also anti-Semitic? Is anti-Semitism itself still an endemic and dangerous global problem?"
These are very distinct questions. The answer to the first one is obviously no. But the answer to the second one is obviously yes. Even if the new JAFI study is inflated with mere anti-Zionist "incidents" in ADL style, the incidents actually highlighted in the press release—most notoriously the Holocaust museum attack—are indicting enough.
Shamir also turns in his film to the highly problematic John Mearsheimer as a voice to counter the ADL—as well as Norman Finkelstein, who has been amazingly cavalier about the whole question of Jew-hatred.
Unfortunately, truth and propaganda are not mutually exclusive categories. On the contrary, all effective propaganda must exploit an element of truth. The problem with the ADL's sinister tactic (and maybe JAFI's) is not only that it provides effective propaganda for Israel, but that it creates a boy-who-cried-wolf syndrome that erodes concern with real anti-Semitism among "progressives." Which only, of course, plays into Israel's propaganda.