Standing up to contemporary anti-Semitism is no easy thing, as it means taking up arms in the war being fought over Israel’s legitimacy. This is a fight to the death against the mortal enemy of the Jewish people—one in which the casualties are all too real. It cannot be fought with pleasantries. Beautiful speeches notwithstanding, world leaders only truly join in this fight when they stand against the delegitimization of Israel.
U.S. President Donald Trump took a clear stand when he moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. His administration has openly stated that Israel’s presence in the disputed territories is legitimate. And it was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the help of Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, that was largely responsible for bringing about this shift in U.S. attitude.
Indeed, Netanyahu has been among the most stirring fighters in this war, fully understanding that anti-Semitism in the era of the Jewish state manifests in the attempt to destroy the Jews’ right to the land, to make it a negotiable and cast it as despicable, illegitimate, and unafraid to speak out strongly. To win the global war against anti-Semitism, such strong, clear voices are essential.
The politically correct “anti-Semitism” spoken of by the European Union and United Nations, bundled together as it is with all other forms of bigotry, is easy to declare oneself against. It’s easy to vow “never again” when you don’t have to confront Palestinian rejectionism and terrorism, or the criminalization of the Jewish state.
Political leaders and intellectuals have given hundreds of stirring speeches at international conferences and meetings, promising to better teach the history of Judaism, foster interreligious dialogue and preserve the memory of the Holocaust. All commendable and very much appreciated enterprises—but the core of contemporary anti-Semitism lies in the expression “illegal settlements,” and in Iran’s genocidal threats. And confronting these carries a high political cost, one many are not willing to pay.
I have already discussed in other articles how unrelenting bias against Israel, Zionism and thereby the Jewish people has become progressively interwoven with the concept of oppression as understood by modern “intersectional” movements. To all such movements, Israel is an oppressor and an enemy, and Judaism, from which Israel was born, a warmongering credo that must be stopped.
This is not a new phenomenon, however. It is the culmination of a process that began 45 years ago, in 1975, with the U.N. “Zionism is racism” resolution, and which has included a quantity of institutional decisions affirming the illegitimacy of the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and Israel. The United Nations and the European Union, together with all of their derivative agencies and bodies, have worked hard to create a firm political basis for the destruction of the Jewish state.
The sole motivation for all the resolutions condemning “illegal settlements,” the blacklists, the discriminatory labeling, the trade barriers, the repeated interventions with regard to construction in the disputed territories and indeed for the entire “two states for two peoples” paradigm has been to generate international support for the Palestinians and contempt for the Jews and Israel.
It is these efforts that have led to all the accusations of criminality, human rights violations, racism, ethnic cleansing and apartheid against Israel and in short, to the portrayal of Jews as evil. When U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and now U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders attack Israel, they are merely seeking dividends from this internationally institutionalized policy that denies the legitimacy of the State of Israel and criminalizes all Jews.
When world leaders repeat, as did former U.S. President Barack Obama, former E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and her successor Josep Borrell, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, the expression “illegal occupation,” they are forging international public opinion and fostering anti-Semitism. Just as Borrell did when he shook hands with the Iranians and said “we will have to live with” Tehran’s threats to destroy Israel and massacre the Jews.
Prime Minister Netanyahu saw clearly the anti-Semitic threat behind the terrible 2015 nuclear agreement between the P5+1 nations and Iran, behind the BDS movement and the E.U. efforts to label products from Judea and Samaria. That’s why he decided to fight them politically, by creating new alliances and agreements to fight the encirclement of the Jewish state.
These efforts have borne fruit, with the Visegrád Group rejecting E.U. labeling of Judea and Samaria goods in 2015, rejecting an attempt in 2018 to condemn the U.S. Embassy move and now blocking E.U. condemnation of the U.S. “Peace to Prosperity” plan. Germany and Austria, plus the Visegrád nations, have all rightly declared BDS to be anti-Semitic, while Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s attempt to bring about a United Nations Security Council resolution against the U.S. peace plan failed due to lack of consensus. And several Sunni Arab states are apparently not willing to jump on the anti-American, anti-Jewish bandwagon.
Indeed, if there has ever been an opportunity to strike a truly decisive blow against anti-Semitism, it’s now that Israel is strong, the United States is on its side and Iran is unmasked and weak—all of which are largely due to Netanyahu. The prime minister’s electoral victory on Monday is good news, as Israel will now remain the foremost combatant in the fight against global anti-Semitism.
Journalist Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies. She served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including “Israel Is Us” (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.