Today is Yom HaShoah, established by Israel in 1959 as a day of remembrance, commemorating one of the greatest tragedies in human history, the Shoah, (destruction) also known as the Holocaust.
This year marks 80 years since Nazi leaders gathered for the Wannsee Conference to discuss implementation of the “Final solution to the Jewish question,” a plan to systemically murder Europe’s remaining Jews. A couple of months later, the death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau—where more than one million Jews were horrifically murdered—was established.
We remember for the Future
An important lesson of Shoah remembrance for us today is to say “Never Again.” Too many were silent back then as Nazi Germany slid down the dark precipice of antisemitism. They began by exploiting cultural and political biases against, and spreading libels about the Jews; then came increased ostracization and marginalization, then expulsions, which led to the heinous wholesale slaughter of millions of beautiful people.
For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. Isaiah 62:1
Photographs of Shoah victims in Yad Vashem's Hall of Names
It’s extremely important to recognize this dangerous pattern of people ignoring or excusing the small instances of something destructive before it snowballs into something incredibly hideous and ghastly. At the time of the Shoah, it was unthinkable, in light of perceived human progress, that such barbaric things could take place in “civilized” Europe.
The struggle to define antisemitism
After the horrors of the Shoah, the world recognized the need to condemn many of the blatant expressions of antisemitism that had brought it about. Unfortunately, many of the prevailing definitions of antisemitism today are not comprehensive, and the most common expression of antisemitism today is often embraced, tolerated or not even seen as such. It is hatred of the Jewish nation, Israel.
Let’s examine a few examples of this modern antisemitism, which proponents claim is legitimate criticism of Israeli governmental policies, and not antisemitic. But first , let’s look at a couple of comprehensive definitions of antisemitism in order to judge positions toward Israel which claim to not be antisemitic.
Blogger Elder of Ziyon provides this simple, clear definition¹:
"Antisemitism is hostility towards, denigration of, malicious lies about, or discrimination against Jews as:
- individual Jews
- as a people
- as a religion
- as an ethnic group
- or as a nation (ie.Israel.)"
Another one is the “3D test,” created by Natan Sharanksy to differentiate between legitimate criticism of Israel and antisemitism:
- "Demonization. When the Jewish state is being demonized; when Israel's actions are blown out of all sensible proportion; when comparisons are made between Israelis and Nazis and between Palestinian refugee camps and Auschwitz…
- Double standards. When criticism of Israel is applied selectively…
- Delegitimization: when Israel's fundamental right to exist is denied—alone among all peoples in the world—this too is anti-Semitism…"
When we apply these definitions to the work of organizations like the BDS movement, or Students for Justice in Palestine, the shocking extent of their antisemitism becomes clear. Far from espousing fair criticism of Israel, organizations like these use malicious lies and demonization of the Jewish State as the very foundation of their arguments. They accuse Israel of apartheid and make false claims of Israeli aggression against Palestinians among other libels.
A gathering of antisemitism in Chicago. Note the signs about Israeli "apartheid" and "ethnic cleansing"
These enemies of Israel are relentless and well funded. And in this digital age of headlines and images they have found a lot of success in their mission of destruction. While Israel remains strong despite these boycott attempts and disinformation campaigns, these organizations have a long-term goal of continually poisoning people’s minds. Students of history ought to recognize the danger of allowing hatred like this to go on unchallenged.
Taking an effective stand
But I don’t want to merely frame our support of Israel as a response to evil. A more powerful motivator should be our love for what is good. When I see the light to the nations that Israel is, and when I see the dedication its people have to restoring their beautiful homeland, it inspires me to do all I can to see them succeed.
We definitely can’t let our response to antisemitism be indifference, or limit it to simply responding to lies with facts. Instead, our responsibility is to find opportunities and ways we can strengthen Israel, a nation that rose triumphant from the ashes. Among the voices of hate today, there can be reason for optimism when we learn from the mistakes of our forefathers and gain a vision for our place in blessing Israel!
You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to be gracious to her; the appointed time has come. Psalm 102:13
¹ Ziyon, E. O. (2022). A new, better definition of antisemitism. In Protocols: Exposing Modern Antisemitism (p. 8). EoZPress.