Last week, the Simon Wiesenthal Center released its 2012 list of top ten list of anti-Semitic/anti-Israel slurs at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles wrote the following in response to annual list.
Three parties and two governments. For the observer of anti-Semitism, the presence on the list of those who wield serious and sustained power is a frightening fact. These are not vagrant and outcast individuals, spewing hate in the hope of inflaming some renegade cadre of followers. Anti-Semitism is institutionalized in some of the major governments of the Middle East and Europe.
This list is a stark reminder that anti-Semitism is a protean hatred. It ranges across the globe and across the political spectrum from right to left. The themes of money, power, conspiracy and control alongside vampiric images recur; denial of history is a constant undercurrent; but in the end, like all deep, enduring hatreds, it transcends not only reason but reasons. It has its origin in the dark and twisted regions of the human psyche where evil breeds.
Those who attribute the hatred to Israel are fooling themselves. First, the greatest catastrophe in Jewish history, the Holocaust, predated the founding of the state. Second, even if you believe that Israel has acted terribly toward its neighbors (a proposition I by no means concede) you have to wonder why the same global anathema did not arise against, say, the French in Algeria or the Belgians because of Congo or any of countless other nations who have behaved abominably. The worst atrocities of nations never evoked the kind of global, bloodthirsty, awful images and tropes that are regularly leveled against Israel. And of course contemporary images and motifs borrow from those that existed for centuries before the modern state of Israel.
In the Ukraine, in Greece, in nations that have awful records of murderous actions toward the Jews who lived in their midst, past shame proves no vaccination against renewed hatred. And what are we to say of the continued presence on the public stage of Louis Farrakhan in our own country? Can we imagine a man who would speak about African Americans in public with the venom Farrakhan reserves for Jews still retaining any sort of platform? Of course not. He would long since have been shunted from the public stage. Yet this brand of lunatic hatred finds a considerable audience in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Looking at this list, this dispiriting annual list, what can one conclude? First that holding haters to account is an unpleasant but indispensable service. Second, that the two primary offenders on the list are governments with the power to profoundly affect matters in the Middle East.
And finally, understanding anti-Semitism must analyze the haters, not the hated. Whatever Mohamed Morsi and Farrakhan and English soccer fans share, it is not a dispassionate consideration of Jewish behavior. Sympathy to Israel may rise or fall with its actions, but anti-Semitism is a strain of loathing resistant to melioration by its victim. Some things can be soothed, some ignored, and others must simply be confronted and fought. The Wiesenthal list reminds us, if any had forgotten, that the fight against hatred of Jews must, sadly, remain alive and well.