Dr.Gerstenfeld’s article was published in the Jerusalem Post and republished here with the author’s consent.
SMOKESCREENING THE FIGHT AGAINST ANTISEMITISM
“Smokescreening the fight against antisemitism” has received little or no attention in the current debate about Jew-hatred in Europe. Smokescreeners are people who claim that they fight against antisemitism, but do so at best, only partly. This behavior stems from a variety of motivations. The following examples illustrate some aspects of the widespread occurrence of smokescreening.
Europe’s “supersmokescreener” is Jeremy Corbyn. He has called members of the genocidal terror organizations Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends” and “brothers.”1 2 He has donated privately to a Holocaust denier and appeared on the same podium with another Holocaust distorter.3 4 Corbyn is an extreme anti-Israel inciter and in the past participated in a meeting where there were placards stating that Israel is a Nazi state.5 He has also hampered the establishment of an effective organization within the Labour party to fight antisemitism.
Yet, Corbyn on many occasions has also declared how vile antisemitism is. He said, “I have campaigned against racism all my life and the Jewish community has been at the heart of the Labour party and progressive politics in Britain for more than a hundred years.”6 Corbyn has also insisted he is “not an antisemite in any way” and called prejudice against Jews “a cancer in our society.”7 In further acts of smokescreening he sends well wishes to the Jewish community on the occasion of Jewish holidays.8
One can be a smokescreener simultaneously with being a whitewasher and/or minimizer of antisemitism. Corbyn said for instance: “People in politics do sometimes cross the line and confuse issues and can dip into antisemitic tropes and language.”9
While Corbyn is a known part-time antisemite, there are other important smokescreeners of a very different nature. One such example is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She is pro-Jewish and pro-Israel. Merkel has on a variety of occasions declared that a major effort should be made to fight antisemitism. She remarked for instance that one must repeat to the younger generation: “What horrors history has produced which started on German soil.”10
On January 27th, 2019, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Merkel said in a video podcast: “Every individual has the assignment to carry responsibility for it, that we show zero tolerance against antisemitism, hostility toward humans, hatred and racial idiocy. Antisemitism and incitement against humans is still part of our society today.”11
Yet despite significant German right and left-wing antisemitism Merkel has from 2015 onwards welcomed far more than a million refugees – many of those from the Arab world.12 The percentage of antisemites among the latter is much greater than that of the indigenous population. One might call Merkel a humanitarian importer of antisemites.
Beyond individuals, there are also organizations that apply smokescreening tactics in the fight against antisemitism. The UK Labour party is a case in point. At the top of the party, alongside Corbyn, there are others who claim to fight antisemitism, but actually protect antisemites.
Another organization which merits detailed investigation for frequent smokescreening of the fight against antisemitism is the European Union (EU). One example: In 2002, the European Monitoring Center for Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) asked the Center for Antisemitism Research (ZfA) at the Technical University in Berlin to analyze data on antisemitism received from a number of member states. The ZfA concluded its document in October 2003. It singled out young Muslims of Arab origin as the main culprits of physical attacks on Jews and damaging of synagogues. The EUMC suppressed the study.13
A more recent example: In December 2018, the Council of the European Union approved a declaration on the fight against antisemitism. It was hailed by Israel as a “breakthrough.” The declaration, which was passed in Brussels, also calls for the development of a common security approach to better protect Jewish communities and Jewish institutions in Europe.14
First EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans and EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vera Jourová welcomed this declaration in a joint press release: “In times of growing antisemitic hatred, the unanimous adoption of the Declaration on the fight against Antisemitism by the 28 EU Member States sends an important signal to the Jewish community; the EU and each of its Member States stand by their side to guarantee their safety and well-being…Member States are called to use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of Antisemitism as a guidance tool, which would be an important step in the fight against Antisemitism.”15 Yet one can only wonder why the EU itself has not adopted this IHRA definition.
There are many studies on widespread antisemitism in Europe, including EU studies on how antisemitism is perceived by Jews.16 17 One would have expected that after the December 2018 declaration there would be a substantial organization established in the EU to confront antisemitism. Instead, smokescreening has once again been used to ‘address’ antisemitism. In the EU the antisemitism issue is dealt with by an official with minimal staff. She certainly makes an effort but her effectiveness is limited by the modest means made available to her to fight this giant challenge.
The smokescreening technique in the fight against antisemitism is damaging. The public at large may be lulled into believing that effective action against antisemitism is being undertaken by the smokescreeners.
Smokescreening is a general phenomenon in society, not limited to the fight against antisemitism. For instance, smokescreening by claiming a false friendship with Israel is yet another manifestation of this type of hypocrisy which should be investigated. A good person to start with is U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders who dishonestly claims to be one hundred percent pro-Israel.18
18 // jns.org/opinion/can-you-be-100-percent-pro-israel-and-call-its-government-racist/