Anti-Sem Conf. at Yale

Aviva Raz-Shechter, head of Israeli Foreign Ministry Dep't to Combat Global Anti-Semitism: 'Anti Zionism is anti-Semitism'.

Fern Sidman, INN NY Correspondent , | updated: 07:56

Aviva Raz-Shechter
Aviva Raz-Shechter

From August 23rd through August 25th, Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut was the venue for a scholarly conference entitled, "Global Anti-Semitism: A Crisis of Modernity". Organized by the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA) and The International Association for the Study of Anti-Semitism (IASA), the conference featured an impressive and lengthy list of academics and scholars from around the world who spoke of the burgeoning growth of anti-Semitism, its relation to the demonization of Israel and the spread of radical Islam. Opening the forum was Aviva Raz Shechter, who heads the department on combating anti-Semitism for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Israel National News sat down with Ms. Shechter to discuss her views on this dangerous phenomenon.
FS:  You were keynote speaker at the opening session of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of anti-Semitism. Could you tell us what the focus of your address was and what you hope this conference will accomplish in terms of addressing global anti-Semitism?
ARS: I am proud to say that this conference was the first of its kind held at Yale and it was an important and powerful one in terms of concretely addressing ways in which we can all participate in confronting this egregious trend. We brought together both scholarly and very opinionated people who have studied modern trends in anti-Semitism, those who are dedicated to preserving the remembrance of the Holocaust and those who are in the forefront of fighting Holocaust revisionism. 

I spoke of the new face of anti-Semitism which couches itself in the more trendy term known as anti-Zionism. College campuses are hotbeds for the apologists of terrorism who call themselves human rights activists. They reserve their harshest criticism for Israel, yet they remain silent in the face of Muslim human rights abuses that occur in such countries as the Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and other countries.
These same people are also in the forefront of organizing academic boycotts of Israeli professors, and sadly, some Jewish academics have played a major role in this. When I speak to government leaders, decision makers and these purported human rights activists, they tell me that if Israel would only "cease and desist in being an occupying power", then that would obviate the need for Israeli opposition groups. I respond by telling them that this is nonsense and haters will always come up with new reasons to hate Jews. 
FS: You are the director of the department that combats anti-Semitism at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Can you tell me about your duties; what organizations and government bodies you address and work with?
ARS: My focus is to concentrate on creating dialogues with organizations, government representatives, NGOs and chairing
...haters will always come up with new reasons to hate Jews.
the International Task Force on Holocaust Remembrance. We work towards establishing a commitment towards formal education on the horrific ramifications of anti-Semitism and what the Holocaust means to all of humanity. I have discovered that people do understand that we are all adversely affected by the proliferation of anti-Semitism; that left unchecked will become a universal malady that inherently poses a threat to our cherished value system of justice, freedom and liberty. As such, I encourage government leaders to initiate legislation to fight the rising tide of anti-Semitism and to go on record as speaking out vociferously against it. 
FS: Just this week in the news, there was a shocking article about a pig's head with a Hasidic hat and peyot left at the entrance to a synagogue in Kaunas, Lithuania. What are your thoughts on the presence of blatantly anti-Semitic politicians in such countries as Hungary?
ARS: There is no question that we are witnessing negative and frightening trends in these countries. Historically, we have seen first hand that growing nationalism fuels anti-Semitism. Even in countries where the Jewish population is quite small, there are those who seek to revive the ideology that precipitated the Holocaust.

Because Israel is consistently featured in the news, the Jewish residents of these countries are no longer considered victims but have become aggressors. We raise these issues with elected officials and parliamentarians and we exhort them to vocalize their opposition to these reprehensible acts.  As with all politicians of every stripe, they enjoy retaining their seats in government and keeping their powerful positions, so they do not speak out enough.
FS: Many in the global Jewish community feel there is a direct link between the demonization of Israel and classical anti-Semitism. They liken the times that we live in to pre-WWII Europe. Do you feel that European Jews are living in a tenuous state due to the burgeoning Muslim immigration there and do you feel that these Jewish communities may be subject to pogroms and even another Holocaust?
ARS: We want all Jews to know that the situation is quite different know than it was in the previous generation because there is a state of Israel that is dedicated to protecting Jews and welcoming them to live in Israel.

I don't believe that Jews in Europe will be subjected to pogroms or organized anti-Semitic lynch mobs and I don't think we are facing a time that is similar to pre-World War II Europe. State sponsored organizations and governments are more aware of their responsibility to stem the tide of anti-Semitism. 

Silence is the biggest danger that we face, as Elie Wiesel has said. Incitement against Jews in Europe by radical Islamists presents a threat to everyone and it is everyone's obligation to speak out against it. Governments must build coalitions with other like-minded governments who consider such values as democracy and freedom as sacrosanct and work together to make people aware that we are not safe and sound. They must work to educate people about the scourge of Islamic terrorism throughout Europe and the world as we have seen manifested on many occasions.

Right now, there are those who would wish to implement Sharia law throughout Europe and we know that can have devastating consequences to the rights of minorities and anyone who is not Muslim. 
FS: Are you working towards establishing a Holocaust curriculum in public schools throughout Europe, South America, Australia and the US and do you feel that this is a deterrent to youth instigated anti-Semitism?
ARS: While education is very important as a deterrent to anti-Semitism, it is not a healing recipe or panacea for anti-Semitism. We do encourage teacher training and the creation of a viable Holocaust studies program throughout elementary schools and high schools especially in Eastern Europe, but we know that anti-Semitism is deeply ingrained in the culture and political systems of many countries. It starts with the higher echelons and goes down or begins at the lower rungs and climbs up. It is often aided and abetted by the media which denigrates Jews on a consistent basis.

This is clearly unacceptable and as we see radicalism growing, we also hear the deafening silence of decent people who are fearful about speaking out as they are intimidated by the violent tactics of radical Muslims who subscribe to terrorism.
FS: Is the current US administration is feeding anti-Semitism by drastically altering its political posture towards Israel?
ARS: I have just met with prominent people in the current administration who are in the forefront of fighting anti-Semitism and I believe they are very firm in their commitment to this. I completely reject the notion that this administration is trying to encourage anti-Semitism. I met with Chana Rosenthal, who is a special envoy of the US government for combating anti-Semitism and she just returned from a visit to the Buchenwald concentration camp in which she was accompanied by several imams and the impact of her journey was very important. She also works closely with the State Department in trying to improve Jewish relations around the world.
FS: Some say that the global Jewish community is also facing a crisis of sorts as manifested in a spiritual Holocaust and they turn to such statistics as the skyrocketing intermarriage rate and lack of any formal Jewish education. Do Jews who are not connected to their heritage care less about the spread of anti-Semitism?
ARS: Clearly, we are facing the most painful of challenges in terms of Jewish identity in every country and on every continent. The younger generation is simply not connected with the State of Israel and many are ashamed of the Zionist movement and ideology because they've bought into the incessant anti-Israel propaganda that is a staple on campuses and in the media. Those Jewish youngsters who do have a substantial Jewish education not only feel a strong bond with their religion, heritage and culture but are more active in terms of supporting Israel.

The Birthright programs are crucial in terms of introducing Israel to young Jews who know little or nothing about their backgrounds and their homeland.

We have also found that Jewish private schools do not do the best job in terms of fostering an unbreakable bond between Jewish youth and Israel and they do not enough to encourage pro-Israel activism.

We must re-package Zionism and teach Jewish students the truth; and that truth is that Zionism is composed of Western values of individuality, equality, justice and freedom and is not a bellicose ideology that is bent on racism and prejudice as our enemies would have us believe.