New project of Azeri.Today
With the assistance of one of the most authoritative public organizations in the world - B'nai B'rith, the information-analytical site Azeri.Today launches a new section "Anti-Semitism: A Global Challenge to All-Visionaries". The section will publish interviews with heads of regional offices of B'nai B'rith, scientists, professors, academicians, internationally recognized experts on the history, causes of anti-Semitism, the origins of hatred against Jews, the current aspects of modern anti-Semitism, the life of Jews in Azerbaijan.
The first guest of Azeri.Today is the Canadian academician, founder and director of the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy (ISGAP) Charles Asher Small.
- What do you see as the roots of anti-Semitism? Where do antisemites come from?
- Anti-Semitism is a complex and, at times, perplexing form of hatred. Some observers refer to it as the “longest hatred.” It spans centuries of history, infecting different societies, religious, philosophical and political movements, and even civilizations. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, some have even argued that anti-Semitism illustrates the limitations of the Enlightenment and modernity itself. Manifestations of anti-Semitism occur in numerous ideologically-based narratives and in constructed identities of belonging and Otherness such as race and ethnicity, as well as nationalist and antinationalist movements. When religion, in particular Christianity, represented the dominant way to perceive reality, the Jews were regarded as followers of the wrong religion. It was also believed that their refusal to accept the Christian messiah disqualified them from any form of redemption and even that Jewish stubbornness hindered world redemption.
When the dominant manner in which Europeans perceived reality was based on the nation state and biological notions of race and ethnicity, the Jews were constructed as belonging to another, inferior race. According to the Nazis and others who subscribed to racist beliefs, they were perceived as polluting the Aryan race and needed to be removed in order to save the purity of the “race” and “nation.”
Today, contemporary anti-Semitism contains these very same genocidal tendencies are manifesting primarily in the demonization and delegitimization of notions of “Jewish Peoplehood”, the State of Israel, the central manifestation of contemporary Jewish identity. Jewish communities that have – or are perceived to have - strong cultural, religious, and political ties to Israel, as well as Jewish students and faculty who maintain a connection with Israel, are similarly ostracized and perceived as being part of the “racist,” “apartheid” entity and the enemy of “progressivism” and “human rights.” In the contemporary context of globalized relations, anti-Semitism has taken on new complex and changing forms that need to be decoded, mapped, and exposed. These issues are especially of concern within political Islam and its ideology, and the extreme left in the west.
- How do you assess the level of anti-Semitism in Europe today, and in the world, in general?
- Today, we are facing a reactionary Islamist ideology, which promotes Nazi-like propaganda, claiming that Jews are “the descendants of apes and pigs,” “rabid dogs” and “scum of the human race,” and that Israel is a “cancerous tumour” that must be obliterated. In fact, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which helped paved the way for the Holocaust, lies at the core of this reactionary Islamist ideology. This demonization of the Jewish people and the State of Israel is spreading throughout Europe and the world. Now, Jews in Belgium, Paris, London, and countless other locations throughout Europe are being targeted. Yet, we know from history that anti-Semitism begins with Jews, but never ends with Jews; once this virulent form of hatred is unleashed, it attacks all of society. Indeed, while six million Jews were brutally murdered at the hands of the Nazis, this genocidal ideology devastated all of Europe, leaving 80 million dead. As global anti-Semitism continues to increase at alarming rates, we see that this ideology is the same ideology that enables the spread of terrorism to London, Manchester, Paris, Berlin, Brussels and numerous other cities worldwide.
- Do the anti-Semitic incidents increase or decrease in the world?
- In recent years, anti-Semitism has increased dramatically and has reached levels not seen since the end of World War Two. What was unimaginable after the Holocaust is now, once again, becoming reality. Jews are being deliberately targeted, violently attacked, and murdered at synagogues, schools, kosher markets, and museums, particularly in Europe and on university campuses . Mass demonstrations in European capitals, ostensibly to protest Israeli actions towards the Palestinians, are rife with anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans and imagery.
In the United States, for example, the FBI found that in 2015, over fifty percent of religiously motivated hate crimes were directed at Jews, who make up less than two percent of the population, while approximately twenty percent of religiously motivated attacks were directed at Muslims and about four percent were directed at Catholics. The New York Police Department similarly found that in the first two months of 2017, attacks against Jewish people in the United States rose ninety-four percent, compared to the year before.
Antisemitism on campus has also reached frightening levels. Jewish students and faculty on university campuses are being threatened, harassed, intimidated and silenced. BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) initiatives, “Israel Apartheid Week,” mock checkpoints and even the occasional swastika have become common place on university campuses, attempting to strip the State of Israel of its legitimacy and portray Jews as the new Nazis.
- Which countries have strong anti-Semitic sentiments?
- Antisemitic sentiments have become increasingly widespread in countries worldwide, particularly in Europe. The contemporary age of globalization effects socio-economic, cultural and political processes at unprecedented levels. Reactionary social movements exploit technological advancements, information flow and availability, as well as travel and migration possibilities, in order to advance radical ideologies. The circulation of signs, symbols, meanings, and myths creates a new network of global spaces, in which ideology plays a vital role, and is a challenge to democratic principles. While the intensification of worldwide social relations has the ability to promote economic development and freedom, it simultaneously gives rise to reactionary forces that promote radical ideologies that stand in stark contrast to notions of human rights, democracy and equality and pose strategic threats to Israel and other democratic nations and forces around the world.
In addition, PEW reports and other reliable indicators illustrate that in many Muslim countries, especially in the Middle East, distain for Jewish people and the State of Israel is extraordinarily high.
- The roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict go down in history. How has the attitude of the Arab countries to Israel changed over the past 10 years?
- Given the rise of radical political Islam which refuses to accept the existence of a Jewish state within its midst. It cannot accept any “other” having self-determination over what they perceive to be “Islamic land.” Some believe that if only Israel would change its policies, there would be peace in the Middle East. This is not the case. The problem lies in the inability of the Islamists to accept the “other” in their midst. The Iranian regime, Hamas and Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood have imported the most pernicious forms of European genocidal anti-Semitism and have infused this into their ideology. They are using anti-Semitism as a strategic weapon not only against Jews, but against the West and Western democratic values.
Having said that, given the growing threat to moderate regimes in the region to both radical Sunni and Shite Islamism, there are new possibilities for cooperation and hopefully normalization with Israel and the Jewish People. Israel – is a vibrant, creative, diverse society, that has developed into a leading nation at many levels – with technological innovation, top universities and research centers, a free press, the rule of law, and wonderful art, music, culinary scenes. It is time that leaders in the region go beyond the generational rhetoric of hate, and embrace this “other” among the nations”. We will all be the better for it – morally and ethically- economically, politically and culturally.
- The Holocaust is one of the most famous examples of genocide in the XX century. As a result of the Holocaust, 60% of Jews in Europe and about a third of the Jewish population in the world were killed. Why did Hitler hate the Jews so much?
- Many scholars have tried to psychoanalyze Hitler’s reasons for hating the Jews. That is not my goal, and I do not think deals with the real issue . I think we have to understand that this “longest hatred” has indeed spanned centuries of history, infecting different societies, as well as religious, philosophical and political movements. In Nazi-Germany, Jews were the convenient scapegoat, as they had been for centuries. Instead of trying to understand why Hitler hated the Jews, I think it is more important that we begin to understand that the same ideology that killed millions of people in the Secord World War still exists today. Radical political Islam seeks to obliterate the Jewish people and destroy notions of democracy, citizenship and equality. Indeed, Nazi ideology and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is at the core of this reactionary social movement. The Middle East is unravelling and political Islam is filling a vacuum - spreading at alarming rates, infiltrating societies, and threatening to, once again, engulf the world in flames. It is therefore incumbent upon all those who care about human rights and democratic principles to take a stand.
While too many people and institutions such as members of the Unites Nations, scapegoat the Jewish people and Israel, horrific massacres and the creation of millions of refugees in places like Syria go unnoticed in too many quarters. Anti-Semitism is the “socialism of fools’ - focus on Israel and the Jews, while the Middle East burns, human rights are being violated, and reactionary forces take power and destroy any opposition from their fellow citizens. This is a classical use of anti-Semitism.
- In Azerbaijan, there is a large state support for the confessions represented in the country, including the mountain Jews. The history of the settlement of Jews in Azerbaijan is over 2,000 years old. What do you know about the life of Jews in our country?
- Frankly speaking, Azerbaijan and state policy towards Jews is not my area of expertise. But I heard that Mountain Jews live in Azerbaijan and the state provides them with their support. And I know that Azerbaijan had a vast and interesting history, which I would be very interested in learning more.
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