Since that day in 2001, we have become accustomed to declarations that the world will never be the same, and to some degree this is true. The “war on terror” has entered the vernacular; the radicalisation of Islam is now openly discussed, not just in the West but in the Islamic world as well; the world appears more dangerous; the identification of “global threats” - from terrorism to climate change - has become a dominant political discourse; populations in Western democracies, such as Britain and France, are now cognisant of alienated and radicalised home-grown sub-cultures.
At the same time, some things have not changed. Tragically, the existence of anti-Semitism is one of them. As the UK Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks said, “German fascism came and went. Soviet Communism came and went. Anti-Semitism came and stayed.”
In the ages long history of anti-Semitism there have been landmark examples of institutionalised persecutions, including the German Crusade of 1096, the Spanish Inquisition, pogroms and of course the Holocaust. In a Darwinian sense anti-Semitism has adapted to the cataclysms of the day, but with common antecedents that can be traced back to timeworn anti-Semitic archetypes.
It is therefore not surprising that the shockwaves of 9-11 would generate anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the planning and execution of the attacks. For Jews, the primary anti-Semitic motif following 9-11 - a Mephistophelian engineering of world events - is entirely familiar. Nevertheless the escalation of anti-Semitic incidents this century is alarming.
In last month’s report, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry documented the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents since it began aggregating these statistics in 1989. In the 12 months preceding the report more than 630 incidents of anti-Jewish violence, vandalism, harassment and intimidation have been reported to various Jewish community institutions, including the ADC.
This figure is double the annual average. Just as troubling is the fact that in the last two years we have witnessed an unprecedented level of serious anti-Semitic incidents, which included the use of weapons such as knives and baseball bats. Australia has witnessed one of the most drastic rises in (worldwide) anti-Semitic violence.
The anti-Semitic rhetoric of Islamic preachers is also a critical issue in Australia. Two of the more notorious recent examples are Sheikh Taj el-Din el-Hilali, mufti of Lakemba Mosque, Sydney, and Sheikh Feiz Mohammed, former leader of the Global Islamic Youth Centre in Sydney, whose anti-Semitic rantings were disseminated in the Death Series DVD that was distributed in Australia.
According to UN International Conventions, racial discrimination relates to “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin”. Thus holding any race, ethnic group or nationality to a different standard than others is racial discrimination. On this basis how do we assess the anomalous treatment of Israel? Just as Holocaust deniers hide behind the euphemism of “historical research”, so “anti-Zionism” has become the alter ego of anti-Semitism, particularly attractive to the gullible and politically naive.
Anti-Semitism masks as anti-Zionism when it is characterised by a demonisation of Israel, racist caricatures, conspiratorial overtones and depictions of the Holocaust as both the precursor of the “Zionist entity” and a point of comparison (i.e. comparing Jews with Nazis). Those who make these claims, often with references to apartheid and ethnic cleansing, do not seek to criticise Israel but to demonise it as a fascist regime in order to justify its destruction.
On the far Left there is a strange infatuation with the Jewish State, so much so that Israel is routinely demonised. Perversely the silence of the Left with regard to unequivocally racist regimes is odious. For instance, Slobodan Milosevic's genocidal attacks in Bosnia and Kosovo hardly raised a murmur in this country and the plight of Muslim separatists in Chechnya is rarely mentioned.
Where are the massive public campaigns to protest the Darfur genocide by Amnesty International Australia, or Human Rights Watch, which rushed to a false and mendacious judgment that Israeli soldiers massacred civilians in Jenin? In the six months following US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s declaration there were significant and credible eyewitness accounts of a genocide in Darfur, Amnesty International released 39 reports on alleged Israeli human rights abuses, mentioning the horrors of Sudan in only seven reports.
In Africa the ethnic militias in the Congo have killed more than a million in the last ten years: Chad, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Angola, Mozambique and Ethiopia add to that continent’s lethal tally. Yet the new United Nations Human Rights Council passed only 12 country-specific resolutions; nine censures of Israel and three non-condemnatory resolutions on Sudan. In 2006 it voted to make its review of human rights abuses by Israel a permanent agenda item of every council session, the only country subject to this regimen.
Anti-Semitism has been a scourge for over 2,000 years. That its re-emergence - after 60 years of scholarship into the gestation of the Holocaust, rafts of anti-racist legislation, and ever-increasing interfaith dialogue - is authentically shocking. More so that it appears to gain momentum in a liberal democracy where respect for freedom and dignity of the individual, together with ethnic tolerance, is ingrained in the fabric of the society.