Irwin Cotler: Laundering Antisemitism Corrupts Our Common Humanity

  • 0

A world-renowned Canadian parliamentarian, jurist and human rights activist emphasized last night that global hostility to Israel is the “new antisemitism,” The Algemeiner has learned.

The Honorable Irwin Cotler, addressing an international conference at Indiana University called, “Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, and the Dynamics of Delegitimization,” also warned that rising global antisemitism is in fact an attack on universal public values and on the very institutions and mechanisms of global justice.

Traditional antisemitism, Cotler asserted, was directed primarily against individual Jews, and still remains alive today. According to statistics he cited from a recent global study conducted by the Anti-Defamation League, large numbers of people across the globe still believe that Jews have too much power, are devious and evil and are Christ-killers.

Cotler said that the new antisemitism targets less the individual Jew than the collective Jew — the state of Israel — partly by ascribing to the Jewish state the various nefarious traits antisemites traditionally ascribed to individual Jews, but also by operating under a number of modern forms, including what he called “genocidal antisemitism” and “anti-Jewish terror antisemitism.”

“International law proscribes incitement to genocide,” Cotler said. “Yet such incitement is precisely what we regularly see from Israel’s enemies.” He cited remarks by Iranian leaders, and the charters of groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, explicitly calling for the destruction of Israel and the murder not of “Zionists,” but of Jews. “These are clear violations of the international conventions against incitement, yet nobody acts to prosecute them.”

Nor is genocide merely a threat, he added. Not only have thousands of Jews around the world been wounded or killed in “anti-Jewish terror” attacks over the past decade or so, including hundreds in recent months alone, he said. But, again, the world pays almost no attention to them.

The most sophisticated — and therefore most troubling — modern phenomenon, Cotler argued, is “the masking of antisemitism under ‘universal public values.’ Our international institutions and mechanisms for promoting human rights and global justice have been co-opted, corrupted, toward antisemitic ends.”

He described how the United Nations repeatedly violates its own charter’s requirement for “equality for all states” in its single-minded focus on condemning Israel. He explained how international law has been directed almost exclusively toward prosecuting Israel, at the expense of ignoring dangerous and tragic situations around the world. He showed how organizations that fight for human rights, and against racism, have had their missions transformed almost entirely toward attacking Israel, again at the expense of ignoring all other dangers.

“These phenomena,” Cotler observed, “not only fuel the anti-Israel hatred going on across campuses today, but do so by giving the veneer of respectability to what, in fact, are racist, antisemitic campaigns.”

The damage they do, however, is not limited to Israel and to global Jewry, he claimed. “The ‘laundering’ of antisemitism through these mechanisms greatly damages the mechanisms themselves. When international law is twisted toward bigoted ends, that undermines the authority of international law. When ‘human rights’ activism is used the same way, that corrupts the whole ‘human rights’ project.”

Addressing these problems isn’t merely a concern for Jews, therefore, Cotler concluded. It should be a concern for all who care about universal public values, human rights and global justice — for if those institutions lack integrity and authority, then the world as a whole, “our common humanity,” will suffer.

Gerald Steinberg, president of watchdog group NGO Monitor and a conference participant, observed: “Cotler delivered a sharp warning on the mainstreaming of antisemitism under the facade of anti-Zionism. The goal of the current campaign to label Israel as an ‘apartheid’ state is to justify the elimination of Israel, and, as Cotler warned, by giving this immoral campaign the facade of legitimacy in the UN and among various NGOs, the new antisemitism has become truly virulent.”

Richard Landes, board member of the pro-Israel group Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, praised Cotler’s “discussion of the human rights situation at the UN, which is a grotesque travesty of what it’s supposed to be. Cotler is right to say that we must challenge the UN on its moral inversions. But the real take-home point is his insight that ‘what’s bad for the Jews and Israel is bad for the rest of the world.’ In order to attack Israel, her enemies have to corrupt and destroy the very mechanisms of global justice. Everyone loses — except for the tyrants and haters, perhaps.”

The conference runs from April 2 through April 6 at Indiana University’s Bloomington campus. Cotler’s speech, its keynote address, was entitled “Global Antisemitism, Demonization, and the Laundering of Delegitimization under Universal Public Values.”

Irwin Cotler: Laundering Antisemitism Corrupts Our Common Humanity

  • 0

Andrew Pessin

Andrew Pessin is Professor of Philosophy at Connecticut College, and author of several books of philosophy for the general reader as well as a novel. For more information, visit

Read all stories by Andrew Pessin