Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Iyar 5762 - May 2, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Charting a Course through the Antisemitism

by Mordecai Plaut

From a historical perspective it seems likely that the way the world has related to Jews in the past year is a return to "normalcy" and the relatively benign view of us that has dominated public discourse in the past half-century is the aberration.

We should be used to the suspicion and hatred of the world; we have endured it very steadily for more than two millennia. The venom that is directed our way in Durban or on the streets of Paris or Belgium recalls our experiences in Berlin of the 1930s, Poland of the 1640s or North Africa in the 1100s.

We had a pleasant break from it all, which perhaps helped foster the illusion that we were cured of the exile by the secular state. Now it is clear that it was only a temporary respite and that we have suffered a relapse.

France is perhaps the worst. A religious couple forced to spend a night in Paris due to the last minute cancellation of their flight was told that "it would be best" if they not walk the streets and simply spend the night in their hotel. It is not safe to walk the streets if one looks like a Jew.

The perpetrators are generally of Moslem origin, but the authorities merely look on and dismiss the incidents as "isolated" and not part of an antisemitic trend. It is for a lesser shirking of responsibility that Belgian authorities seek to try prime minister Sharon, while they ignore attacks and firebombs on their own Jewish citizens.

Even the New York Times has recognized the problem. In an editorial entitled "The Return of an Ancient Hatred" (April 20) it suggested that "some of the antisemitic actions in Europe in recent months cause us to wonder whether, six decades after the Holocaust, we are witnessing a resurgence of the virulent hatred that caused it."

The Times worries about Europe's failure to address this hate. "Its cultures are drenched in a history of antisemitism. The mixing of historic European antisemitism with the more modern version in the Muslim world is a dangerous cocktail."

The Times is writing to the world at large; but we are writing to ourselves and how we must respond to this new-old reality.

The classical approach is that taken by Yaakov Ovinu in preparing for his confrontation with Eisov described at the beginning of Vayishlach: Prayer, Presents and Protection. These three are our time-tested pillars in what we should do to survive encounters with hostile nations of the world.

Moreover, we must remember who we are and not forget who we are not. We are a small country and a small group in a big, powerful world. We must work and fight hard when necessary, but we should never brag and become arrogant.

This is true for the State of Israel and for Jews throughout the world. Caution must be our watchword. In recent years there have been some very strong demands for financial compensation for the wrongs of the Holocaust. As just as these demands may have been, it is clear that from now on they should be advanced only using quieter tactics than were used in the past. Shrill public announcements and declarations that run the risk of humiliating foreign peoples should be avoided. The use of high pressure ploys, especially those perceived as unfair such as threatening companies from the same country with boycotts or business restrictions, should be weighed even more carefully in view of the situation.

Most importantly, we must approach everything with the intense awareness that our fate does not depend only on our own resources but that our constant and steadfast ally is Ovinu shebashomayim and we rely on Him.

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