The Jerusalem Post, July 13, 2004


by Michael Freund

In the past few weeks, a number of chilling anti-Semitic incidents have taken place on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the otherwise serene Canadian capital of Ottawa a synagogue was vandalized, with swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled on one of its walls shortly before a bar mitzva celebration was scheduled to begin. The town of Markham outside Toronto was also targeted when unknown perpetrators sprayed Nazi slogans on a number of homes, businesses and vehicles.

In Belgium two Jews were physically assaulted on the streets of Antwerp, including a cyclist who was attacked by a group of 15 people hurling stones and bottles.

And then, in Paris, came last Friday's attack on a commuter train against a young mother and her infant, mistaken by their assailants for Jews. According to the French police, the attackers drew three swastikas on the mother's stomach before overturning the stroller, with the baby inside, and fleeing the scene.

The natural response to these incidents is a mixture of revulsion and fear. How is it possible that the world has so quickly forgotten how it tormented us over the centuries? The rebirth of the age-old demon of anti-Semitism is taking place before our very eyes; the phantom we thought had been vanquished is now returning to haunt us.

The reality of the situation, however, is far more complex. Indeed, it is time that Israel and its supporters finally acknowledge the unpleasant, if somewhat awkward, truth: that there is a direct connection between the resurgence of anti-Semitism and Israel's policies in the territories.

On this point, at least, our critics are correct. What Israel does or does not do clearly has implications far beyond its borders. But as much as our detractors may be right about the existence of a connection between Israel's actions and global anti-Semitism, they are absolutely wrong when it comes to the underlying nature of that connection.

While they might believe it is Israel's alleged use of too much force that lies behind the renewal of Jew-hatred around the world, just the opposite is true. It is precisely because Israel has reacted to Palestinian terror with a slap on the wrist rather than an iron fist that haters of Jews worldwide have become so emboldened. To put it even more bluntly: It is Israel's perceived weakness that invites greater manifestations of anti-Semitism across the globe.

That's right -- it is not the construction of a security fence, or restrictions on Palestinian workers, or even the assassination of Hamas leaders that is fueling the fire of anti-Semitic hatred, but Israel's ongoing failure to crush Palestinian terror once and for all. Anti-Semites, like bullies everywhere, prey on those they perceive to be vulnerable and defenseless. A weak and conciliatory Jewish state is seen as representing Jews everywhere, no less than a strong and assertive Israel once did in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War.

WHEN PEOPLE see an Israel taking blow after blow from Palestinian terrorists over the past decade, and yet responding with proposals of retreat and surrender, the message is clear and unequivocal: Jews are feeble and fainthearted, so feel free to take your best shot at us, wherever we might be.

Indeed, by seeking to withdraw under fire from parts of the territories, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has transformed Israel and the Jewish people into the equivalent of a high-school wimp, one who wanders the hallways wearing a sign that reads, "Kick me."

The image this projects only serves to inspire contempt, prompting bigots everywhere to vent their hatred at the easiest and most readily available target -- the neighborhood Jew.

This is not to say the Jews are to blame for anti-Semitism. But if Israel is unable, or unwilling, to use the sovereign powers at its disposal to protect its own people against its foes, what is there to deter Jew-haters everywhere from picking on Jews?

Obviously, we must still be humane and never lose sight of our universal mission to spread morality and justice, even when confronting our foes.

But the best answer to anti-Semitism remains an infusion of Jewish pride and the application of Jewish power. The rescue at Entebbe in 1976, the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981, are two illustrations of how a proud and self-confident people was once able to set such an example, dazzling the rest of the world in the process.

Of course we must continue educating, protesting and petitioning against anti-Semitism. All that is important. But the bottom line is that if we want the world to respect us, rather than disparage us, we have to work a little harder at it.

A good place to begin would be to stand up for ourselves, and for our Land, and start fighting back against those who would destroy us.

The writer served as deputy director of communications & policy planning under prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.