Pictured: World leaders and foreign ministers gathered in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. (Image source: Getty Images/Pool)
The ceremony held in Jerusalem on January 23 for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp created the opportunity to remind the world about the Holocaust. The commemoration of the only attempt totally to exterminate an entire people by industrial means, which was among the worst crimes in history, offered the international leaders who attended the opportunity to reaffirm the need to fight anti-Jewish hatred at a time when, throughout the world, it is rapidly gaining ground.
"The industrial mass murder of six million Jews, the worst crime in the history of humanity, was committed by my countrymen", German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier humbly said.
One nevertheless feels the need to ask whether those international leaders who attended are actually ready to align their actions with their words.
Almost all the speeches there defined anti-Semitism in a vague way, and when the words became more specific, they pointed only at National Socialism (Nazism) and the "far right".
People nostalgic for Nationalist Socialism still exist, as well as far-right political movements, of course; so the world, it seems, does need to remain vigilant. Today, however, in the West, political parties that openly supporting National Socialism, or right-wing movements that promote antisemitic ideas, do not, bluntly, exist. Since the end of World War II, there have been no anti-Semitic murders committed in Europe by people from the "right."
In the US, those who perpetrated the antisemitic attacks in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 27, 2017 and April 30, 2019 in Poway, California, could be defined as "white supremacists", but they did not belong to right-wing political movements. Both men acted alone and appear to have mixed anti-Semitic ideas with weird assertions.
The murderer in Pittsburgh, Robert Bowers, quoted the Gospel of John to say that "Jews are the children of Satan" and wrote that the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a not-for-profit organization that provides humanitarian aid and assistance to immigrants, "bring[s] invaders in that kill our people".
The murderer in Poway, John Timothy Earnest, posted an open letter blaming Jews for a "genocide of the European race" and cited Martin Luther, Adolf Hitler, Ludwig van Beethoven, Saint Paul, Pink Guy and Jesus Christ.
David Anderson and Francine Graham, who murdered people at a kosher market in Jersey City on December 10, 2019, had ties to a Black Hebrew Israelite group.
In Europe, virtually all recent anti-Semitic attacks, threats and murders of Jews have, sadly, been carried out by Muslims. Malmö, the third largest city in Sweden, where the Jewish community had lived peacefully for over a century, has seen much of its Jewish population flee after Muslim immigrants arrived and acts of anti-Jewish harassment became widespread.
For 1,400 years, anti-Jewish incitement has been pervasive in much of the Muslim world. In 2002, the late scholar of antisemitism, Robert Wistrich, published "Muslim Anti-Semitism: A Clear and Present Danger". "Anti-Semitism in the Arab world's press and governments," he wrote, "has taken root in the body politic of Islam to an unprecedented degree". Later studies disclosed that in the last two decades, the situation has not improved. In a text published in 2019, "Rethinking the Role of Religion in Arab Antisemitic Discourses", Esther Webman, Senior Fellow at the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Antisemitism and Racism, provides chilling examples. Manfred Gerstenfeld, of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, noted that "The massive, non-selective immigration of Muslims into Western Europe has had a profound impact on European Jewry", and that "for Jews, the consequences of this influx are almost entirely adverse."
At the recent commemoration in Jerusalem, Muslim anti-Semitism was not mentioned.
"Anti-Zionism" -- the radical hostility to the existence of Israel, supported by leftists, all over the Western world, which has often led to anti-Semitic demonstrations where people shouted "Death to the Jews" as in Paris on July 13, 2014, or "You Zionist only death will come to you", as in London on November 13, 2019, was not mentioned either.
That the "anti-Zionist" Jeremy Corbyn appeared to be at the gates of power in the United Kingdom before its December 12 elections -- and that the British Jewish community was so anxious that the UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis denounced the "poison" which "has taken root" in the Labour Party – already seemed totally forgotten.
At the ceremony in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested that the world unite to confront Iran, the mullah regime he rightly described as "the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet", but his mention that "there will not be another Holocaust", seemed to fall on deaf ears. The only person who showed support was US Vice-President Mike Pence. All the other leaders at the ceremonies stayed silent or avoided the subject.
French President Emmanuel Macron, after looking at Netanyahu and Pence, said: "The Holocaust cannot be a story that we could manipulate or use". Macron also spoke of "the crazy story of people who thought that their future would be built in the negation of another", thus implying, falsely, that Israel and Israel's Jews have denied the existence of another people. In fact it has been the other way around: many Arabs, now called Palestinians, have denied the continual 3,000-year existence of the Jews on the biblical land.
Macron, by the way, a few hours before his speech, had paid a friendly visit to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah, thereby apparently ignoring Abbas's 1982 doctoral dissertation, "The Other Face: The Secret Connections Between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement". The dissertation, based on the work of Adolf Eichmann, falsely alleged that the Zionists had collaborated with the Nazis to encourage more Jewish immigration to Palestine.
Britain's Prince Charles, who also visited Abbas, expressed "heartbrokenness" at "Palestinians' suffering" -- without pointing out that much of it has been caused not by Israel but by the Palestinians' own leaders who are feckless and corrupt.
Also ignored were several other issues: how the Palestinian Authority has never ceased to incite anti-Jewish hatred and how it still persists in financing and supporting terrorism against Jews; how every year Israeli Jews are murdered in Palestinian terrorist attacks and are victims of what the Italian journalist Giulio Meotti has called a "slow motion Shoah [Holocaust] "; how most of the Jews murdered in recent years have been killed by Palestinian terrorists, and how Palestinian, Iranian, and other religious extremists are the main architects of anti-Jewish hatred today.
Before World War II, anti-Semitism was not only pervasive throughout the Western world -- but widely tolerated. Germany's Nazi regime could unleash anti-Semitic persecution that led both to the Holocaust and general indifference. At the Evian Conference in July 1938, no country would agree to welcome German Jews seeking refuge. Two months later, British Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier met the German Führer Adolf Hitler in Munich -- and did not even mention the Jews. Kristallnacht, on November 9-10, 1938 although described worldwide in newspapers, did not cause even one official finger to be lifted. The idea of the Allied armies destroying the railways that led to Auschwitz and the other death camps was also totally dismissed.
After the fall of the Nazi regime in 1945, anti-Semitism, for a while at least, became shameful in the West. The Holocaust, however, was largely overlooked. When Primo Levi published If This Is a Man in 1947, only about a thousand copies were sold. In 1958, eleven years later, Elie Wiesel's Night suffered the same fate.
Holocaust remembrance emerged mainly in the late 1970s, when the American television series Holocaust was aired, and even more in 1985 when Claude Lanzmann's documentary film, Shoah, arrived. In Western countries, ceremonies in memory of the Holocaust were organized; Western political leaders spoke of a "duty to remember" and museums and monuments dedicated to the Holocaust were built. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opened in 1993. The Shoah Memorial in Paris and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin were inaugurated as late as 2005, the same year as the United Nations instituted an International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Since then, the anti-Semitism of the neo-Nazi and the far-right variety has been denounced, but other types of anti-Semitism have gained ground. Just as in the 1930s, National Socialist anti-Semitism and far-right antisemitism -- and their consequences for the Jews -- were of no interest to anyone, the anti-Semitism growing today seems of no interest to anyone.
Although the ceremonies in January were held in the capital of Israel, Jerusalem, none of the countries represented there, except the United States, appeared interested in current threats to Israel or the genocidal intentions of its enemies.
If, seven decades ago, the existence of the new State of Israel had depended on the countries represented this year in Jerusalem, the Jewish State would have been crushed in a huge massacre only three years after the fall of the Nazi regime in Germany; the war would effectively have been a second Holocaust.
On November 29, 1947 a majority of countries at the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of the Partition Plan for Palestine but also supported the creation of an independent Jewish State. When, however, Israel proclaimed its independence on May 14, 1948 and five Arab countries launched a war to destroy the newborn country as well as its Jewish population of fewer than 800,000 people, no country would support it. Israel's Jews had to rely only on themselves. Only lightly armed, they fought heroically. Nearly 6,400 Jews were killed in that war.
The January ceremony to keep memory of the Holocaust alive signaled to the world that Israel will still defend itself. Nonetheless, by failing to denounce the most dangerous and deadly forms of current anti-Semitism, the words spoken at the commemoration will have absolutely no effect on the present worldwide rise of anti-Semitism. They most likely will not even translate into increased support for the Jewish state.
On January 28, 2020, US President Donald J. Trump presented what British journalist Melanie Phillips has described as the first peace plan that "puts the security of Israel first and foremost" and that "unequivocally supports Israel's future existence and sweeps aside the appeasement of evil". The French government reacted politely but negatively, saying that France still supports "the two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state in internationally recognized borders", meaning the indefensible armistice lines of 1949.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, similarly, that Germany supports "a two-state solution based on the internationally agreed parameters for Israeli-Palestinian peace".
Josep Borrell, the new EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, announced on February 4 that the EU was "distancing" itself from the US peace plan and that if Israel were to apply it, "it could not pass unchallenged." Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that Borrell's choice to use "threatening language towards Israel" was "regrettable" and emphasized that Borrell had made his remarks shortly after a friendly meeting with the leaders of Iran.
"Much said but little will follow", wrote the journalist Nurit Greenger a few days after the event. "Reality has proven that all too often, world leaders' statements about fighting anti-Semitism are hollow".
So, there it is. Seventy-five years after Auschwitz, anti-Semitism is alive and well -- and most of the Western world remains indifferent to the fate of the Jews.
Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.