New Virus, Old Disease — But There is a Treatment

May 4, 2020

Senior Advisor to the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement and former CEO of the World Jewish Congress, Robert Singer, recently published an important piece in Newsweek discussing the rise of anti-Semitism around the world both during and before the current coronavirus pandemic. While discussing the historical parallels between modern-day and age-old manifestations of anti-Semitism, Singer lays out a compelling argument for widespread adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of Anti-Semitism.

Below is the text of Singer’s piece in Newsweek:

An old virus has appeared alongside the novel COVID-19 pandemic. There’s nothing novel about this old disease. It’s instantly recognizable without a microscope. It’s the virus of anti-Semitism, the ancient hatred of the Jewish people.

Like the coronavirus, anti-Semitism can mutate over time. Like the coronavirus, it ignores borders, it infects both young and old and it can strike in Islamic, Christian and other societies alike.

In Shiite Iran and Sunni Pakistan, where anti-Semitism is rampant, Muslim preachers, bloggers and ordinary citizens rushed to blame the Jews for the outbreak of COVID-19 infections. Similar accusations have also been heard in the United States. Since the Orthodox Jewish community in New Rochelle, New York was among the first to be infected, many people, both online and offline, blamed Jews for the outbreak.

Pointing the finger at Jews in times of disease is nothing new. In the middle of the 14th century, Europe was ravaged by the Black Death. Rumors spread quickly that it was a Jewish conspiracy. Jews suffered terrible persecution, as a result. Throughout the Middle Ages, Jews were accused of poisoning wells. The conspiracy theories found new life in the 1930s and 1940s with the rise of Nazi Germany. In Joseph Goebbels’ documentary “The Eternal Jew,” for example, Jews were compared to rats that multiply and spread diseases.

Jews are an easy target when people look for a scapegoat in moments of crisis. Even before the global outbreak of COVID-19, anti-Semitism was on the rise. In 2019, the number of violent anti-Semitic incidents increased by 18 percent from the year before; this rise includes the murder of seven Jews. On average, an anti-Semitic assault is recorded every day in the United States and every three days in Germany.

Although the “oldest hatred” appears to be alive and kicking, anti-Semitism can and must be defeated. I was born in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union. I personally witnessed how anti-Semitism was deeply rooted in both government and society. Today, the situation is different. Ukraine is led by a Jewish president, and more than 30 members of parliament are Jewish. We still have a long way to go, but there is reason to be optimistic.

Moreover, there are concrete steps that can be taken. The starting point is a comprehensive understanding of what anti-Semitism actually is. We must define the problem if we are to tackle it. In this regard, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism is an absolute gift. It is clear, succinct and has already been adopted by countless government bodies and organizations. More must now be done to encourage its universal acceptance.

Such a framework would surely simplify the next step: legislating effectively against anti-Semitism. In fact, this is already happening. Harnessing the IHRA definition, the French parliament last December passed a resolution acknowledging that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.

Thirdly, legislation must be robustly enforced. The fight against anti-Semitism can only be transformed from rhetoric into action, if authorities treat anti-Semitic incidents with the utmost seriousness. In 2017, Germany adopted stringent legislation against online hate speech. Earlier this year, the country’s lawmakers gave it real teeth. They approved measures that will see social media networks that fail to report and remove online hate, including anti-Semitism, facing fines of up to $54 million.

Lastly, it is clear that eradicating anti-Semitism is not just a question of law and order. It is also a battle for hearts and minds. The most needed cure, in the long term, is education. Nobody is born to hate. Where it is learnt, it must ne un-learnt. I have never seen anti-Semitism as only a problem for the Jewish people. Racism and hatred of “the other” and of minorities is, tragically, universal.

As we look increasingly to the post-COVID-19 world, there is a real opportunity to shift the way we behave. It is a rare chance to steer the world in a different, more positive direction. We have seen during the last few months, that the world really does share the same destiny. Consequently, the fight against anti-Semitism is everybody’s fight. For the sake of humanity, Jews and non-Jews alike must unite and take the necessary steps to remove the scourge of anti-Semitism.

Robert Singer is the chairman and CEO of Spero Impact Solutions, chairman of SASA Setton, chairman of Alumot Or and senior advisor to the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement.

Read The Original Article Here: https://bit.ly/36QVbB7

Category: Contributor Op-Eds