Those who lament a recent incident in which a kippa-wearing Jewish boy in Turin, Italy was told by his classmates that, in an earlier era, he would have been burned, are no doubt kindhearted people. They are almost certainly supporters of the great religion of our time: Human rights. They are opposed to antisemitism because they oppose any kind of discrimination. Along with this, they support equality for the Third World, LGBT people and women. They probably strongly support free speech as well.
But it is also very likely that the parents of the boys who told their Jewish classmate he would have been burned were, for the most part, also adherents of the religion of human rights. They probably taught their children nothing but human rights. These were not children raised or educated to be Nazis.
Nonetheless, these children are antisemitic because the broader culture of our time is antisemitic. We see it everywhere—at demonstrations, in universities, in U.N. declarations, in mosques, in schools and on TV and social media. So, we hear it from children as well.
This new antisemitism announces itself through hatred of Israel, comparing it to the Nazis and declaring it guilty of the worst of human acts: apartheid, genocide, colonialism, infanticide, occupation and so on.
Contemporary society is saturated with this antisemitism, so that in the American “Woke” movement, the Jews are now considered as bad or, indeed, much worse than all the other “white supremacists” and “oppressors.”
The situation in Italy is no different. Throughout the country, Israel’s counterterror operations are defamed as wanton massacres and attributed to mere cruelty and racism, effectively regurgitating Palestinian propaganda.
This is the origin of the antisemitic attack on that Jewish child in Turin. Don’t look for it elsewhere. It is in the atmosphere of contempt for Israel that one breathes everywhere from the media to dinner parties.
It is the hate that explains why tens of thousands of Jews have left Europe in recent years. In Nice, France, for example, the Jewish community has dropped from 20,000 to 7,000 and this trend is ongoing across the continent. Jews no longer wear kippas in public and every 80 seconds an antisemitic post appears on social media. Elderly Jewish women are hurled out of Paris windows and Jewish children are murdered in front of their schools.
Following the Holocaust, the old, Nazi-style antisemitic mythology was taken up by Soviet propaganda, which gave antisemitism a powerful renewed form, with its tropes of colonialist, warmongering Jews and innocent aboriginal Palestinians.
Because it was supported by America, Israel was declared an “imperialist” power, condemned by an automatic majority at the U.N., and buzzwords like “occupation” came to be applied to the entirety of Israel and all its Jews, fundamentally delegitimizing the Jewish state.
At the same time, the Palestinians were given total legitimacy, even as they made terrorism the most terrible weapon of our time, an example for terrorists all over the world, and even as they slaughtered innocents, persecuted their own people and consistently refused offers of peace.
All of this has corrupted the very idea of human rights, whose adherents have become outright antisemites—the worst human rights violators of all. They believe they are protecting human rights by attacking the Jews. Instead, they are enabling the rise of the cultural evil of antisemitism by wrapping it in the mantle of good.
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 and is the author of Jewish Lives Matter.
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