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Sandy Shindleman and Alvin Rosenfeld
Credit: Joan Ste-Marie

Catherine Chatterley and Alvin Rosenfeld
Credit: Joan Ste-Marie

Alvin Rosenfeld At CISA's Shindleman Lecture : 2014 One of The Worst Years for Antisemitic Activity-How Do We Counter the Lies?

By Rhonda Spivak, May 15, 2015

Distinguished Judaic Studies Professor, Alvin Rosenfeld, from the University of Indiana, gave a wide-ranging and enlightening talk detailing the resurgence of antisemitism globally, noting that 2014 was one of the "worst years" for antisemitic activity in recent memory.


The Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (CISA) brought Rosenfeld to Winnipeg as this year's speaker for the Shindleman Family Lecture held at the Fort Garry Hotel.  


"I don't think it is possible to eliminate it (antisemitism). It goes in waves.  We are living in a time when the waves are up. I don't think we'll see it tapering off anytime soon, unless alliances are formed by people of good will to make sure it's contained." 


He began his talk to the packed ballroom by reviewing some statistics showing the number of synagogues attacked in Europe and the number of memorial sites and cemeteries defaced, and said that the overall feeling among Jews in Europe and certain south American countries is that they "are living in an intensifying anti-Jewish environment."


He pointed out that Atlantic Magazine recently had a feature article titled "Is it time for the Jews to leave Europe?”


"That question would not have been on anyone's mind ten years ago," Rosenfeld said, adding, "Jewish life is under a cloud in some European countries." He has friends in France who no longer keep a mezuzah on their door or wear kippot in public for fear of being targeted.  In Germany, a Jewish newspaper in Berlin has said it will deliver copies to subscribers in blank envelopes as a response to recent anti-Semitic attacks across Europe.  The measure hides the publication’s name. Rosenfeld noted that this is a sign of the uneasiness Jews in Europe are feeling.


Later, when asked if Israel’s behavior during the 2014 Hamas-Israel war can be considered the cause of increased antisemitic attacks in Europe, Rosenfeld said, “Israel isn't the cause of antisemitism,” pointing out that European antisemites aren't attacking Israeli embassies. “They are targeting Jewish schools and cemeteries. They are targeting Jews.”  Demonstrators in Europe have shouted “Back to the Ovens” and “Jews to the Gas.”  Rosenfeld added that when a person shouts out openly. “Kill the Jews,” it is because “he expects someone will do it.”


Rosenfeld also reviewed several incidents in the United States where Jews were shot inside the building of the Jewish Federation of Seattle, outside a Jewish community center in Kansas, in a bookstore café at Wesleyan University, and a security guard killed at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington.


He said that the onset of a "new antisemitism" dates back to the year 2000, with the collapse of the Camp David Peace talks and the Second Intifada. It escalated with the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US in 2001, "for which Jews were widely if absurdly blamed." In 2003, President Bush’s few Jewish advisors were blamed for the US decision to go to war in Iraq.


In 2009, Israel’s battle against Hamas, as well as the global financial crisis, was deployed against the Jewish people in antisemitic rhetoric. Rosenfeld cited surveys by Pew and the Anti-Defamation League that show that many old antisemitic canards still resonate with large sections of the public, including the belief that Jews have too much power in the business world, and that Jews talk too much about the Holocaust. He noted further that 22% of Europeans still blame Jews for the death of Jesus.


“Jew hatred has been globalized,” Rosenfeld stated, “and the number of websites that are antisemitic only increases, making the problem worse.”


"Anti-Zionism is a forum for much of today's antisemitism," Rosenfeld added, noting that many Muslims do not believe in Israel's right to exist at all. Muslim extremists believe that the land belongs exclusively and eternally to Muslims, and that jihad is "a duty." He quoted a sermon recently delivered in a mosque and broadcast over Palestinian Authority television inciting all Muslims to be jihadists and imploring Muslims to “fight the Jews and kill them.”  


Rosenfeld admits “there are more moderate voices” in the Muslim world, people such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who lives under armed guard protection), Bassam Tibi, and Canadian Tarek Fatah, but “they have a tough time competing with militant radical Islam.”


"Israel has lost favor in European eyes," Rosenfeld also stated. This has occurred for several reasons, including the fact that at a time when Western European elites have become more "cosmopolitan," Israel "stands out as a strong nation state." When "many in the European Union have abandoned religion and are living in a post Christian era," Israel is regarded as giving religion too large a place in its body politic. Additionally, at a time when the European Union "favors soft powe

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.