Spread of anti-Semitism felt near and far

By Josh Vizer

This weekend the Jewish community was faced with another episode in a series of worldwide tragedies. Jews praying in two synagogues in Istanbul were simultaneously attacked in bombings that together claimed the lives of 20 people and injured more than 300 others. In a country of 68 million with a population of 25,000 Jews, these attacks clearly represent more than a local threat; they represent a much more serious predicament for global Jewry.

Last year, a synagogue in Tunisia was blown apart, killing and injuring dozens more. Similarly, Jews in France saw a wave of anti-Semitism two years ago as literally dozens of synagogues were vandalized, burned, or bombed in a period of a few months. In Belgium, thugs beat up the chief rabbi, kicking him and calling him a dirty Jew.

Far from being assured by a composed and collected international community, one finds more statements of incitement and hatred. Just a few weeks ago the departing Malaysian Prime Minister called Jews the enemies of the world and claimed that they had invented terms like “human rights” and “democracy” in order to make it immoral to kill them. In Egypt, a 40-part series was shown over state controlled national television called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a virulently anti-Semitic film depicting, as a central theme, Jews conspiring for world domination.

Anti-Semitism occurs as well in our own institution, and other academic institutions where the stigma of the Holocaust has begun to wear off and criticism of Jews by some has again become fashionable. Last year a prominent U of C professor alleged in an article in the Chicago Tribune that U.S. foreign policy is directed by a small group of Jews with dual loyalties to the U.S. and the Likud Party in Israel.

Our campus is not exceptional; several weeks ago swastikas were spray painted on the Hillel house and outside the Jewish fraternity house at Rutgers University. Just last week, hoodlums spray painted a swastika at the entrance to a conference held at Northwestern University for Jewish high school students. Finally, just this year, the Hillel at Concordia University was expelled from the school by student government. That marked the first time a Jewish student group had been banned anywhere in the world since Austria in 1939.

I wish all of these events were just a bunch of propaganda, but they’re not. They represent a serious and legitimate predicament for Jews worldwide. Of course, criticism of Israel is legitimate and indeed necessary as that government makes provocative and controversial actions, but condemnation of Jews for going about their daily way of life is completely reprehensible.