Abraham H. Foxman
National Director of the Anti-Defamation League
This article originally appeared in South Florida Sun-Sentinel on January 29, 2009
Israel's operation to defend its people from Hamas rockets is having an impact far beyond Gaza and Israel's besieged southern cities. Its repercussions are being felt by Jewish communities around the world, particularly the Jews of Western Europe and Latin America.
Assaults against Jews are on the rise. In Europe, Jews have been beaten on the street and synagogues have been firebombed. "Jews to the gas chambers" has been chanted at anti-Israel demonstrations in Europe and similar calls for death to Jews have been heard across the Arab and Muslim world. Sadly, such hatred still hasn't been fully shamed into silence in our country. At a Dec. 30 anti-Israel demonstration in Fort Lauderdale , a woman was heard shouting, "Go back to the oven, you need a big oven! That's what you need!"
The terrorists of Hamas and the leader of their main supporter, Iran, endorse such incitement. One of the top Hamas leaders, Mahmoud Zahar, recently called for Jewish children to be attacked around the world, and Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran said he would confer the status of "martyr" on "anyone who dies in this holy struggle against World Zionism," by which he means Jews anywhere.
Even with a cease-fire in place, attacks against Israeli soldiers continued this week along the Gaza-Israel border. One soldier on patrol on the Israeli side of the border was killed by an explosive device near a crossing point into Gaza, showing once again that Hamas has no intention of stopping the bloodshed or honoring the cease-fire.
A loud voice must be heard from political, religious and community leaders that attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions have no justification, no excuse, and will not be tolerated, whether in Belgium, Greece, Turkey, Uruguay, Chile or Venezuela.
America, obviously, is different, but not unaffected. Nazi imagery and Holocaust comparisons have surfaced at anti-Israel demonstrations and are now appearing on campuses across the country. While the protests so far have been largely nonviolent, there have been attacks against Jewish institutions, such as the vandalism of Jewish community institutions in Chicago.
Leaders, abroad and at home, must speak out against anti-Semitism and make clear that it cannot be justified and is unacceptable. If they allow the violence, the threats, the hate speech, and the bigotry to go unchallenged, they will have failed an important political and moral test.