There was a time — a blessedly long one, stretching across the second half of the 20th century — when anti-Semitism was, as Norman Podhoretz put it, “the hate that dare not speak its name,” a rare, suppressed, sub-rosa sentiment unacceptable to serious people in the Western world.
Alarmingly, though, as the world marks Holocaust Remembrance Day this year, the hate has returned above ground with a vengeance. Anti-Semites are once again making themselves heard throughout the Western world — on college quads, in parliament halls, in presidential campaigns, online, and offline, from the usual corners of the Middle East to Continental Europe and the U.S.
Consider all that’s happened just in the last few months:
Up to 50 members of Britain’s Labour Party have been suspended for anti-Semitic comments in recent weeks. It’s not just notorious Jew-baiter Ken Livingstone, who claimed last week that Hitler “support[ed] Zionism,” but Member of Parliament Naz Shah, who called in 2014 for Israel to be relocated to the United States and has likened Zionists to al-Qaeda.
Anti-Semitism, of course, is nothing new for Labour. There was Shah Hussain, a councilor in a northern English town, who in 2014 accused an Israeli soccer player of “doing the same thing that hitler [sic] did to ur race in ww2.” There was Nottingham City Councilman Ilyas Aziz, who in 2014 called on Jews to “stop drinking Gaza blood.” And let’s not forget Salim Mulla, a councilor in Blackburn with Darwen, who in 2015 wrote that “Zionist Jews are a disgrace to humanity.”
The epidemic of racism on the British left has proven so virulent that Labour’s sister party in Israel is considering suspending ties. The best response Labour’s far-left leader Jeremy Corbyn has been able to muster is the dubious claim that only a “very small number of people . . . have said things that they should not have.” Corbyn, it bears noting, once called Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends,” and even today refuses to renounce that stance. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that anti-Semitic attacks in England spiked by 60 percent last year.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the American university campuses where opposition to Israel’s very existence is de rigueur have turned even more hostile to the Jewish state and the Jewish people. A student senator at Stanford University made headlines in April when he claimed that Jews control “the media, economy, government and other social institutions.” A Harvard Law Student asked the visiting Tzipi Livni, a member of Israel’s Knesset and its former foreign minister, why she was “so smelly,” reviving an age-old anti-Semitic trope. A year ago, a Jewish student at UCLA applying to join a campus board was subjected to an inquisition over her religion, asked how she could possibly remain unbiased as a Jew.
As the world marks Holocaust Remembrance Day this year, the hate has returned above ground with a vengeance.
Such sentiments are no longer confined to the lunatic fringes of the left, either. As GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has picked up steam, it has also gained a legion of supporters from the so-called “alt-right,” including hard-core American anti-Semites.
Jewish writers and pundits critical of Trump have found themselves on the receiving end of vile threats and anti-Semitic taunts. Bethany Mandel was called a “slimy Jewess” who “deserve[s] the oven.” Dana Milbank was labeled a “kike communist.” And Julia Ioffe, who profiled Trump’s wife Melania, was called a “Filthy Russian Kike” and saw her face photoshopped into a mugshot from Auschwitz on Twitter. Trump may not himself be to blame for these outbursts, but he certainly hasn’t done much to quiet or discourage them when given the chance.
Anti-Semitic words are bad enough, but there is of course actual violence to contend with as well. In recent years, the world has witnessed dozens of deadly attacks against Jews worldwide, in Istanbul, Paris, Mumbai, and the Middle East, where Jewish perfidiousness is the one thing Sunni and Shia extremists can agree on.
I don’t count myself among the alarmists who detect another Kristallnacht lurking around every corner. I recognize that anti-Semitism never disappeared, not even after the Holocaust, and probably never will. But a dam of sorts appears to be breaking across the world. So as we bless the memory of the 6 million Jews who perished 70 years ago, it’s worth remembering that “Never Again” remains a commitment invested with real meaning and importance. Vigilance is needed now more than ever.
— Michael M. Rosen is an attorney and writer living in Israel.