Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of January 26, 2000


By David Bar-Illan

The Middle East is not the only region where governments - not gangs or demagogues - propagate antisemitism

Today's grandiose international gathering in Stockholm commemorating the Holocaust and dedicated to fighting antisemitism is the latest European act of retrospective atonement.

Largely due to efforts of the World Jewish Congress, there seems to be a sudden recognition of the European role in the Holocaust. Almost every government on the continent has been involved in one kind of reparation agreement or another. The massive robbery of Jewish real estate, bank accounts, gold, and works of art have become a subject of negotiations.

Industrial firms have agreed to compensate slave laborers. Insurance companies are admitting they never paid Jewish beneficiaries. Even those who doubt the genuineness of this latter- day mea culpa must think "better late than never." And the effort is certainly commendable. The few Holocaust survivors still living will benefit, and the many good men and women who have devoted time and energy to this effort will feel justly proud of their achievement.

But it is impossible to escape the impression that this belated awakening is more an effort to finally settle accounts with the Jewish people than an investment in new understanding. Particularly worrisome is that it coincides with increasing, unrelenting pressure on Israel to risk its future. It is as if an old slate is cleared even as a new one is readied.

For the target of the star-studded Stockholm conference is Western antisemitism, which does not now threaten the existence of the Jewish people. Neither the European political parties that pander to xenophobia and camouflaged antisemitism, nor the organizations of Hitler- worshipping skin heads, nor the sporadic assaults on Jews and the desecration of synagogues and cemeteries; not even the growing industry of Holocaust denial can today threaten the Jewish people.

THE reason is that since the fall of the Soviet empire, no European government abets anti-Jewish incitement. Some governments have even imposed limits on freedom of speech to prevent Holocaust denial and antisemitic propaganda.

But fighting European antisemitism is like building the Maginot Line after trench war had become obsolete. Today's war against the Jews is being waged not in Europe but in the Middle East, the only region in the world where governments - not gangs, demagogues, fake scholars and demented fanatics, but the regimes themselves - propagate antisemitism and advocate the destruction of the Jewish nation.

It is in Arab schools - Syrian, Palestinian, Egyptian, Saudi, Jordanian and others - that children learn that Jews have no right to exist. It is in Syria, whose leaders are now warmly embraced by the whole civilized world for making "a strategic decision for peace," that first-graders read in their first primer "The Jews are criminal villains."

It is in every following grade and almost every subject in Arab schools that Jews are depicted as enemies of humanity. Even an arithmetic drill contains a question such as: "Nine soldiers fled from a Jewish company. How many Jewish soldiers did we kill if the number of soldiers in the company was 17?" The inspiration for such a curriculum is unmistakable to anyone who has perused Third Reich textbooks and seen the Nazi film The Eternal Jew.

Fostered by Arab governments, antisemitism has become a ubiquitous phenomenon in the Arab world: in the media, literature, films, plays, religious sermons, and intellectual discourse. Contrary to all expectations, it has grown enormously since the signing of the first peace treaty with Egypt two decades ago. This is why Mossad head Ephraim Halevy asserted this week that there can be no normalization between the Arab regimes and Israel in the foreseeable future.

The Syrians make no secret of it. They have demanded that in the American "peace treaty draft" submitted to both sides at Shepherdstown no reference be made to "normalization," a code for friendly relations, economic cooperation, tourism, and trade. They got it changed to "normal relations," a euphemism for nonbelligerency. As Halevy put it, the Arab regimes consider peace accords with Israel nothing more than armistice agreements.

It can be taken for granted that this real, current threat against Jews will not intrude on the Stockholm proceedings. The good leaders of the West will condemn the Nazis and their collaborators, discuss educational programs and museums, and perhaps even talk about compensation for survivors.

But no one, least of all the Swedish host, will dare mention that even as they speak, a Nuremberg-type law that makes the sale of land to Jews punishable by death is being enforced by the Palestinian Authority.

(c) Jerusalem Post 2000.

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