My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. . Proverbs 4:20

Too much about Anti-Semitism?

UK’s Channel 4 screened a “True Stories” Programme produced by Yoav Shamir, entitled “Defamation.” It was billed as a controversial, personal exploration that asks, "What is anti-Semitism today?" Is it a real and continuous danger that requires eternal vigilance or a tactic used by right-wing Zionists to discredit and cow their critics?

Among those he interviews are Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, who is adamant that anti-Semitism is rife and must be exposed; while Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry: The Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, claims that anti-Semitism is being used for political gain.

Observations

The programme was cleverly made with an unsophisticated appearance, using behind the camera comments and hand drawn captions on the screen images. This technique reinforced the producer’s assertion that this was his personal journey of discovery as someone coming from Israel who didn’t know what anti-Semitism was. This tends to suggest serious ignorance on his part unless he meant only that he had not experienced it personally. Having adopted the “personal journey of discovery” approach he appears to have opted out of researching and weighing opinions in favour of capturing and showing whatever is said; a very casual way of handling such an important issue!

The programme followed Abe Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League, who came over as passionate but pushy, and Norman Finkelstein, who came over as most unpleasant and appears to have been turned against Zionism and Holocaust awareness by excessive exposure to it during childhood. Also prominently covered was a guy in black who upset an anti defamation conference with his speech saying that no-one cares about the Palestinians being abused. What the programme lacked was any attempt at evaluating the truth of the statements. As long as different opinions were aired, that appeared to be sufficient. For example, the (false) assumptions advanced by the Palestinian supporter about Israeli abuse were not evaluated in any way.

The programme also followed a group of Israeli teenagers on a tour in Poland and ended with the group visiting a concentration camp. Attention focused on the girls becoming very emotional about what they had learned. The final opinion voiced by Shamir, from behind the camera, was generally that you can overdo Anti-Semitism tours. Neither the context nor his comments made it clear if this visit was once in a lifetime or a regular trip; clearly important if one is to say it is overdone.

Conclusions

It may be possible to dwell too much on Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, although some people may have an unreasonably low threshold of impatience with hearing about Anti-Semitism. It is hard to see how making all youngsters, especially Israelis, aware at some time in their young lives can be anything other than essential if there is to be any chance of educating against a repeat. There is a case for avoiding over-emphasis on the Holocaust if people start to believe that it is the sole justification for Israel’s existence or what defines being a Jew.

Defamation did not really answer the question it was billed as addressing but by default appeared to undermine a position Channel 4 described as "right-wing" . Perhaps this reveals prejudice in funding and screening the programme. Nearly every British TV programme about Israel, even those not overtly critical, chips away a bit more at the reputation of Israel

Most disappointing was the failure to examine the truth of opinions expressed. By unquestioningly screening the opinions about “occupation”, “brutality” the programme gave yet another platform to untruths (however sincerely believed) from Israel’s enemies. To my mind, Yoav Shamir may not be a “self loathing Jew” as some have described Norman Finklestein but he is another self damaging Israeli. Open mindedness is admirable, but gains no credit in a world devoted to deligitimizing and then destroying the state of Israel. Viewers might think, "If Israelis will not defend Israel, it must all be true", and Israel gets pushed further into the corner where it has no friends.

Are the Jews crying "Anti-Semitism" too much ?

The world at large appears to believe that the Jews (and Israelis) are making too much of the hatred they are experiencing and crying "anti-Semitism" to silence any critical comment.

But most of us have no concept of what an existential threat is. Our nations may have been attacked in various wars down through the centuries, but never wars that would have resulted in total national anihilation if we had lost. This is what the Jews have faced so many times in their history and what Israel still faces today. Their enemies don't just want to defeat them, but to wipe the nation off the map and drive the Jews into the sea. Their leaders say this often enough, but our leaders and media don't take it seriously. Listen to Michael Oren's explanation of an Extential threat.

 

A perspective in 2021

Considerable progress has been made in persuading governments to accept the definition of Anti-Semitism and to condemn it whenever possible - But has anti-Semitism fallen off or gone away ?

NO! It continues to grow around the world and to become more strident open and vicious.

WHY ?

Has naming and shaming anti-Semitism discourage people from holding and expressing their hatred of Jew and their state ? Apparently not.

Criminalising "hate speech" does not deal with the hate. It has, incidentally, given Islamic clerics a stick with which to punish anybody criticising Islam.

Perhaps, if everybody got to visit Auschwitz or Yad Vashem (with an open mind) they would be revolted by Jew Hatred. But perhaps not; Holocaust education has to contend with the prevalence and propagation of Conspiracy Theories (eg "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and Holocaust Denial ) via social media, with its unpleasant and divisive "Echo Chamber Effect." People now choose their sources of news and opinions to match their own leanings and share these views and prejudices around within their circle.

This polarisation and refusal to make any attempt to understand the other side came to an ugly head in the 2020-2021 US presidential election, when political to and fro turned into hatred and efforts to destroy "the other side." Legal processes were used vindictively rather than for establishing truth and the judiciary and FBI were made to look (or revealed to be) politically partisan.

The social media fallout of this was several people, including Donald Trump, being de-platformed (or "Cancelled ) by social media tech giants for expressing "unacceptable views." This is an interesting situation, as facebook and others have been under growing pressure from many quarters, including we who wish people to understand Jew Hatred, that they should police the content posted on their platforms.

So now the (mostly liberal) social media are taking action against users who they find offensive, and we are concerned about private big business censoring free speech.

My opinion is tending towards the view that we can not legislate against people being stupid and wilfully ignorant. No amount of legislation (short of totalitarian rule) can force people not to be stupid, bigoted and hate filled. It is part of the human condition.

We can not, and should not attempt to, force people to be good and loving towards others. Only the love of God can break through; and then not into the most hardened hearts.

Society must protect its minorities from harm - but not from opinions. So all we can do is to plant the truth into open hearts as and when opportunities arise.

 

Updated 20/02/12

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