Mr. Chair, last month I had the privilege of participating in the first ever United Nations General Assembly forum in what I would characterize as a resurgence of an alarming global anti-Semitism. This meeting took place on the occasion of an important moment of remembrance and reminder. It took place on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the most brutal extermination camp of the 20th century, the site of horrors too terrible to be believed, but not too terrible to have happened.
There were 1.3 million people murdered at Auschwitz, 1.1 million of them were Jews. Let there be no mistake about it: Jews died at Auschwitz because of anti-Semitism, but anti-Semitism did not die. As we have learned tragically, and only too well, while it may begin with Jews, it does not end with Jews. Once again in France and elsewhere, Jews are the canary in the mineshaft of global evil.
This was tragically made clear by the recent attacks in France at the Hyper Cacher supermarket and the Jewish community centre in Nice, the attacks in Argentina and more recently, the shooting at a bar mitzvah in Copenhagen. These incidents are only the most recent manifestation of a more general rise in anti-Semitism in Europe and throughout the world.
I would like to share with the assembly this evening some thoughts, reflections and concerns on the Jewish condition and the human condition, about assaults on Jews and assaults on human rights, about the state of Jews in the world today and about the state of the world inhabited by Jews, of anti-Semitism as the paradigm of radical hate as the Holocaust is the paradigm of radical evil.
My underlying thesis this evening, simply put, and as I shared it at the UN General Assembly, is that we are witnessing a developing, somewhat incrementally, imperceptibly and often indulgently an old-new, escalating, global, sophisticated, virulent and even lethal anti-Semitism. We have been witnessing this now for 40 years. It is one now held to be reminiscent of some of the atmospherics of the 1930s and is without parallel or precedent in its global configuration since the end of the Second World War.
This new anti-Jewishness overlaps with classical anti-Semitism—the member for Ottawa Centre spoke about definitions and frameworks, and I will try to share some—but is distinguishable from it. It found early juridical, and even institutional, expression in the United Nations' “Zionism is Racism” resolution - which, as the late U.S. Senator Daniel Moynihan said, “gave the abomination of anti-Semitism the appearance of international legal sanction”, but has gone dramatically beyond it. This new anti-Semitism almost needs a new vocabulary to define it, but it can best be identified from an anti-discrimination, equality rights, and international law perspective.
In a word, classical or traditional anti-Semitism is the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon, the rights of Jews to live as equal members of whatever society they inhabit. The new anti-Semitism involves the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon, the right of the Jewish people to live as an equal member of the family of nations, or their right to even live, with Israel emerging as the targeted collective Jew among the nations.
Observing the intersections between old and new anti-Semitism and the impact of the new on the old, Per Ahlmark, the former deputy prime minister of Sweden, pithily, and one would say, presciently concluded some 15 years ago, given what has happened in the 21st century. He said:
Compared to most previous anti-Jewish outbreaks, this [new anti-Semitism] is often less directed against individual Jews. It attacks primarily the collective Jews, the State of Israel. And then such attacks start a chain reaction of assaults on individual Jews and Jewish institutions...In the past, the most dangerous anti-Semites were those who wanted to make the world Judenrein, 'free of Jews.' Today, the most dangerous anti-Semites might be those who want to make the world Judenstaatrein, 'free of a Jewish state.
May I summarize now some four indicators of this old-new anti-Jewishness. I have also written about some 10 indicators. For reasons of time, I will seek to summarize four.
The first indicator, and the most lethal manifestation of it, is what might be called genocidal anti-Semitism. These are not words that l would use lightly or easily. I am referring here to the Genocide Convention's prohibition against the direct and public incitement to genocide, which caused our Supreme Court of Canada to write, “The Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers - it began with words”.
In a more recent judgment, the Mugesera judgment, the court again said that incitement to genocide was a crime in and of itself, whether or not acts of genocide followed. Regrettably, we have seen four manifestations of this genocidal anti-Semitism, which reached a tipping point in the wake of the Hamas terrorist war against Israel this past summer.
The first is the state-sanctioned incitement to hate and genocide in Khamenei's Iran. I use to distinguish it from the people and public of Iran, who are otherwise the targets of massive domestic repression.
The second manifestation is the covenant and charters of such terrorist movements as Hamas, whose charter continues to call publicly for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews wherever they may be.
If this is known, perhaps the anti-Semitic tropes in the charter are not. The Hamas charter is replete with such anti-Semitic tropes as the Jews were responsible for the French Revolution, for the First World War, for the Second World War, for the League of Nations, for the United Nations, for the end of the Islamic Caliph. It concludes that no war has broken out anywhere without the fingerprints of Jews on it.
A third manifestation has been the religious fatwas, or genocidal calls by radical Imams. I distinguish this from mainstream Islam. I distinguish that from Islam. It is a kind of perversion of Islam. We saw this in various mosques in Berlin, Paris, in the U.K., and the like which publicly called themselves for the killing of Jews, where Jews and Judaism were characterized as perfidious enemies of Islam, where the Jews became, as it were, the Salman Rushdie of the nations.
Finally, there were hate-filled demonstrations in Europe this summer and since, which I personally witnessed, replete with genocidal chants of “Jews, Jews to the gas”, joined with or followed by the torching of synagogues, the attacks on Jewish community centres, attacks on Jewish identifiable people and places which caused the president of Germany's Central Council of Jews to say to me in Berlin when we met in November, “These are the worst times since the Nazi era. On the street, you heard things like, 'the Jews should be gassed, the Jews should be burned”.
As Roger Cukierman, the president of the Council of Jewish Institutions of France, put it, these were very frightening times, ”They are screaming ‘Death to the Jews'” in the streets. Eight synagogues were firebombed in four weeks in the last weeks of July, beginning of August alone. Similar statements were made to me by the chairman of the Jewish community in Belgium and elsewhere.
In a word, Israel is the only country and Jews the only people who are the standing targets of state-sanctioned incitement to hate and genocide, which finds expression in terrorist assaults as manifestations of it.
The second indicator is the globalizing indictment of Israel and the Jewish people as the embodiment of all evil, as being racists, imperialists, colonialists, ethnic-cleansing, child-killing, genocidal Nazi people and state, the embodiment of all the worst evils of the 20th century and constituted of all evils in the 21st century.
To sum up this second indicator and to close, it is not only that the Jewish people are the only people who are the standing targets of state-sanctioned incitement to hate and genocide, but they are the only people who are themselves accused of being genocidal. That is a kind of incitement that leads, and has led, to terrorist assaults upon them.