New York, NY, February 12, 2009 … Israel's operation to defend itself from Hamas rocket attacks "opened the floodgates" of anti-Semitism, with Jewish communities in Europe and Latin America feeling especially vulnerable, the head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in an address last week.
No one imagined that the war in Gaza "would so explode in an epidemic, a pandemic of anti-Semitism," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, who described global fallout from the Gaza crisis as the biggest threat to the safety and well-being of Diaspora Jewry in decades.
"This is the worst, the most intense, the most global that it's been in most of our memories," Mr. Foxman said, "and the effort to get the good people to stand up is not easy. All of a sudden, as if the floodgates had been opened, within days an open season had been declared on world Jewry. "I challenge you to find a country in the world from Austria to Zimbabwe that is immune, that is not experiencing this recurring, returning, more virulent, more vicious, more violent virus called anti-Semitism," Mr. Foxman said.
His remarks capped a series of presentations on global anti-Semitism and Israel, bringing together leaders from across the country for ADL's National Executive Committee Meeting, February 5-7 in Palm Beach, Florida.
Mr. Foxman said the incidents that took place globally during the three weeks of fighting in Gaza included synagogue firebombings, anti-Semitic banners and graffiti, and cartoons and articles in Arab newspapers accusing Israelis and Jews of committing a "Holocaust" and comparing Jews to Nazis.
"In every country, in every community, I can read the names of cities that should conjure up in your mind art, literature, history," Mr. Foxman said. "Every city on the globe has seen these epithets of 'Israelis and Jews are Nazis' are forthright. The Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz have become epithets. For what? Israel exercising its right to defend its children, its women, its citizens."
At the ADL meeting, Richard Prasquier, President of CRIF, the umbrella body of French Jewish organizations, described the demonstrations, violence and anti-Semitic attacks that broke out across France after Israel launched its Gaza operation December 27. ADL leaders also heard a report on the situation facing Argentinean Jews from Aldo Donzis, President of the DAIA, the central organization of Argentinean Jews.
Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, described Israel's efforts to mitigate civilian casualties in Gaza while taking action against Hamas operation centers, smuggling tunnels and rocket factories. "Before the Gaza operation, terrorist groups fired rockets at Israeli civilians and Israel restrained itself," Ambassador Shalev said. "Hamas embedded themselves into the civilian population believing that this would grant them protection. It did not, and it cannot."
EDITORS NOTE: Mr. Foxman's speech may be viewed on League's Web site at www.adl.org/speech in video format, or accessed as a downloadable Podcast.
Full transcripts are also available for: