Last week marked 75 years since World War II concluded in Europe with the unconditional surrender of the Germans to the Allies.
Hitler came to power on the back of a severely declining economy, for which the Jews became the scapegoat, ultimately leading to the barbaric murder of six million of our brethren simply because they were Jews.
Today, as we witness another steep rise in antisemitism, it is disturbing to read the British-based Community Security Trust’s recent Research Briefing. The CST is a charity that protects British Jews from antisemitism and related threats. Its mission statement says, “To work at all times for the physical protection of British Jews.”
The document brings to our attention the explosion of antisemitic conspiracy theories on social media that make the Jews solely culpable for the COVID-19 pandemic. These posts bridge continents and are illustrated with cartoons disturbingly reminiscent of those that appeared in Der Sturmer.
The Briefing reports, “The final station on this hateful journey is to try to use coronavirus to kill Jews. This is the logical conclusion of this antisemitism, with far-right activists talking online about getting infected, either deliberately or accidentally, and then going to synagogues and other Jewish buildings to try to infect as many Jewish people as possible. They have even given it a depraved new name – the Holocough.” The accompanying poster says, “IF YOU HAVE THE BUG – GIVE A HUG – SPREAD THE FLU TO EVERY JEW – HOLOCOUGH.”
The fear is that the longer the effects of the pandemic continue – loss of jobs, poverty and resulting psychological problems – the targeting of the Jew as the scapegoat will intensify.
A SPIKE in antisemitism linked to the spread of the coronavirus is affecting the 200,000 Jews in Germany. Felix Klein, the government’s first commissioner for Jewish life in Germany (appointed in 2018 because of the increase in antisemitism) stated, at the launch of a government research project into the issue, that the COVID-19 pandemic has created yet another vehicle for antisemitism.
The Magazine contacted Dr. Elvira Groezinger, founder of the German branch of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and its current vice-chairperson. Groezinger is perturbed about the growing prejudices against Jews and Israel amongst teenagers in Germany. She says the term “Jew” has become a swearword in German schoolyards. Some eight years ago, by chance, she opened her grandson’s elementary school book on the page where the Israel Defense Force was heavily criticized for being harmful to the life of a Bethlehem schoolgirl. The text was heavily biased against Israel; this was the catalyst for her founding the SPME Schoolbook Committee. As a result amendments have been made to the Internet version of the book, but unfortunately the printed version remains as is because textbooks are reprinted only every 10 years.
In 2015 Groezinger’s grandson became close friends with a Turkish boy; pupils at the same school where they were inseparable. Following a family holiday in Turkey his friend returned to Germany saying, “A pity not all of you were gassed.”
IN THE aftermath of World War II there appeared to be a hiatus in Jew hatred that extended over some 25 years; as witnessed on November 29, 1947 when the United Nations voted for the Partition of Palestine enabling the Jewish people to regain their rights in their homeland after an exile of 2000 years. It is doubtful whether some member states would have voted in favor of a Jewish State had they not felt justifiably guilty; I refer to those countries that refused entry to Jews seeking refuge from Hitler at a time when it was still possible for them to leave their European homes. These countries played a passive role in Hitler’s “Final Solution.”
As the years passed, the guilt dissipated, producing a new type of antisemitism: anti-Zionism, which was given an international imprimatur by the UN in 1975 with the passing of the “Zionism equals racism” resolution. The then-Israeli ambassador to the UN, Chaim Herzog, pointed out the irony of the resolution acquiring legality on the 10th of November – the same date as Kristallnacht in 1938, when the Germans burnt synagogues, destroyed Jewish businesses and took the Jewish males to Concentration Camps where many were murdered. Herzog’s impassioned speech reminded delegates that, with the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948, some 800,000 Jews were thrown out of Arab states where their families had lived for generations.
The UN’s so-called 2001 Anti-Racism Conference held in Durban (in which I participated) evolved into a racist hatefest against Israel and the Jewish people; it was here that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel was born.
These two UN gatherings were stepping stones to today, where the coronavirus provides the latest tempting opportunity to scapegoat Jews, reminiscent of Europe’s Black Death in the 1340s, which killed some 20 million people, for which Jews were blamed, expelled and murdered.
As we face a worldwide pandemic of antisemitism, let us remind ourselves of our heritage and remind the world of who we are and our contribution to civilization through the centuries. For this we can do no better than to quote from Herzog’s UN speech.
“As I stand on the rostrum, the long and proud history of my people unravels before my inward eye. I see the oppressors of our people over the ages as they pass one after another in evil procession into oblivion. I stand here as the representative of a strong and flourishing people which has survived them and which will survive this shameful exhibition and the proponents of this resolution. I stand here as the representative of a people one of whose prophets gave to this world the sublime prophecy which animated the founders of this world Organization and which graces the entrance to this building:
“Nation shall not lift up sword against nation neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).
The writer is public relations chairwoman of ESRA, which promotes integration into Israeli society.