By James Russell
Special to the TJP
Local leaders recently learned about the state of global anti-Semitism from representatives of the Anti-Defamation League.
The trends are alarming. The rise in worldwide populism, protectionism and nationalism has amplified anti-Semitic and xenophobic attitudes. The trends span from the British vote to leave the European Union, known as Brexit, to laws banning the sale of kosher meat as well as circumcision.
“Many countries are pursuing historic revisionism. A negative trend we’re seeing is this idea that ‘we were victims of the Holocaust, too,’” said Sharon Nazarian, ADL’s senior vice president of International Affairs. She is based in Los Angeles, but oversees a portfolio of programs and initiatives across the world and also oversees their Israel office.
The global perspective
Countries have doubled down on their anti-Semitic laws and rhetoric, she said, passing laws criminalizing any mention of the Holocaust and targeting minority communities. Poland, for instance, was once a hotbed of genocide and Holocaust research, but anti-Semitism and xenophobia have slowly been woven into the national dialogue.
The internet and technology have amplified hate, Nazarian noted, by giving people the access to anony-mously promote hate. Websites and social media platforms give white nationalists the chance to share memes blasting Hungarian billionaire and Holocaust survivor George Soros and coordinate social media campaigns targeting violence against Jews, Muslims, immigrants without ever leaving their living rooms. Unlike the legal and judicial systems, these networks lack the educational tools to combat extremism and hate.
“The Jerusalem office focuses on the betterment of Israel and all parts of civil society, including Muslims, Christians, LGBTQ people and any other vulnerable group because we believe as an organization in sup-porting all of Israel,” she said. Some recent work includes collaborating with a prominent soccer club in Jerusalem battling racism among its fan base. The club had increasingly attracted a right-wing following, boiling to the point that fans jeered when two Muslim players joined. After the longtime owner sold the team, the new ownership collaborated with the ADL to counteract the team’s racist image. The project is ongoing.
The Israel office also promotes Israel’s image around the world, with a focus on Israel’s rapid response to emergencies and generous humanitarian aid. “Israel as a country has shown itself to be a true member of the international community,” she said, noting the country has aided Iran, whose leadership has called for the eradication of Israel. “The vision of Israel is one of a country in never-ending conflict. But a new image of Israel has emerged as one known for dispatching first responders across the world,” she said.
Impact on North Texas
Nazarian also noted national efforts that have had an impact on the Dallas community.
“Dallas is an important case study because of the large Latino population,” she said. One project in 2018 came out of a dialogue about Mexican nationals feeling unsafe in the States. The 50 Mexican consulates in the country, including 13 in Texas, were overwhelmed with complaints of hate crimes and incidents of bias.
“The foreign minister reached out to our CEO for help. We trained consular staff about hate crimes, bigotry and bias,” she said. “Now we are collecting data, beginning an important relationship with the community.”
They were also able to engage with local Latino communities as well. Confronting that bias head on is an ongoing part of their work, which spans far beyond anti-Semitism.
“There is recognition that a rise in anti-Semitism is a litmus test for where a country is going,” she said. “If Jews are not protected –– a canary in the coal mine –– then no minority is safe.”