A capacity audience in Toronto listened intently as Irwin Cotler, just returned from the founding conference of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA) in London, sounded the alarm loud and clear, on the dangerous escalation of anti-Semitism in the world.
The former Canadian Minister of Justice, McGill professor of law and currently Liberal MP, Cotler was legal counsel for Andre Sakharov, Natan Sharansky and Nelson Mandela. He has been at the forefront in the struggle for international human rights and justice for years. Intense and eloquent, he spoke with passionate sincerity and conveyed the need for immediate action to combat the convergence of anti-Semitism and anti Israelism that characterizes the new antisemitsm.
“What we are witnessing today,” he said, “is a new sophisticated, globalizing, virulent and even lethal anti-Semitism, reminiscent of the atmospherics of the 30’s, and without parallel or precedent since the end of The Second World War.”
He traces the new version of the old Jew hatred to the United Nations’ “Zionism is Racism resolution”, which the late US Senator Daniel Moynihan said “gave the abomination of anti-Semitism the appearance of international legal sanction” but has gone far beyond it.
This new antisemitism is less against individual Jews; it attacks the collective Jews, the State of Israel. This starts a reaction of assaults on individual Jews and Jewish institutions. Quoting Per Ahlmark, former leader of the Swedish Liberal Party and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden from the ICCA conference, he said, “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’.”
The most lethal type of the new anti-Semitism has genocidal intent such as the state sanctioned, nuclear, genocidal anti-Semitism of Ahmadinejad’s Iran, which threatens to “wipe Israel off the map”, calling it “a cancerous tumour to be excised” and the Jewish people, “evil incarnate”.
Genocidal also are the charters, and policies of such terrorist movements as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda, that call for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews anywhere.
Religiously sanctioned genocidal anti-Semitism is manifested in the “incendiary and inflammatory metaphors heard in mosques and media, where Jews and Judaism are characterized as ‘defilers of Islam, cancerous tumours, bacteria – so commonplace, and (heard with) no outrage.
“Where there is incitement to genocide, there is an obligation to act,” he says, and invokes the Genocide Convention of 1948.
Ideological antisemitism disguises itself under the cover of anti-racism and human rights, and is cloaked in the authority of international law. “Israel is delegitimized –if not demonized- by the indictments of racism, nazism and apartheid, the embodimentof all evil. This triple racism warrants the dismantling of Israel as a moral obligation. This characterization allows for terrorist ‘resistance’ to be deemed justifiable.”
“Legalized antisemitsm is even more sophisticated and insidious. Under the banner of human rights, operating under the protective cover of the UN, the singling out of Israel and the Jewish people for differential and discriminatory treatment in the international arena is ‘legalized’.”
For over 35 years the UN Commission on Human Rights consistently began its annual session with Israel being the only country singled out for indictment, even before the hearings commenced, he explained. Even after the Commission was replaced in 20006 by the UN Human Rights Council, they continued to condemn Israel in 80 per cent of the resolutions, while the main human rights violators of our time continued to enjoy immunity.
Cotler noted that he was speaking on the 60th anniversary of the Genocide Convention and the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, “both violated again and again.”
Summing up, Cotler stated, “Israel is the only state in the world today, and the Jews the only people in the world today, that are the object of a standing set of threats by governmental, religious and terrorist bodies seeking their destruction. The London Declaration (the ICCA) recognizes that ‘where there is incitement of genocide signatories (to the Genocide convention) automatically have an obligation to act.’ “ And the time has come not just to sound the alarm but to act,” he told the galvanized audience.
He urges all Canadians to join forces and create coalitions. “This is not just a Jewish cause, it is a just cause. It deserves the support of all who seek a just cause.”
March 8, 2009
Doris Strub Epstein is a journalist based in Toronto.