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February 12, 2016  RSS feed
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Despite rise in anti-Semitism, 2nd Holocaust unlikely: Goldberg

BOB FRYER Jewish Press

Rochelle Walk, president of the Tampa JCC & Federation, with President’s Dinner guest speaker Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for “The Atlantic.” Rochelle Walk, president of the Tampa JCC & Federation, with President’s Dinner guest speaker Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for “The Atlantic.” Standing before a crowd of more than 700 at the Tampa Jewish Federation’s annual President’s Dinner, keynote speaker Jeffery Goldberg spoke about what an impressive affair the dinner has become. Then he offered a suggestion for making next year’s better: Everyone should come dressed in pirate costumes.

“You won’t believe how much this hotel has changed in the last 18 hours,” he quipped in reference to his arrival at the Hilton Downtown Tampa the day before amid the Gasparilla festivities.

Goldberg, national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine and an expert on the Middle East, said he likes to interject a little humor when giving speeches, because there is not much joy to be found in most of his topics.

At the dinner, held Sunday, Jan. 31, he was asked to speak chiefly on how Jews are faring in Europe, and particularly in France, in the wake of terrorist attacks there, and what the future may hold for European Jews.

Goldberg noted that anti-Semitism in Europe has a long history, giving the world quite a vocabulary of unpleasant words – inquisition, pogrom and ghetto, to name a few. After the Holocaust, Goldberg said, there was a great amount of regret in Europe and in some areas, Jewish communities came back to life, “But the sad thing is, Hitler to a large part, did achieve one of his goals. There were 9.2 million Jews in Europe in 1939 and today there are 1.2 million.”

During the period of regret, there was “a period of goodness for Jews” in Europe, Goldberg said, but he noted that the “inoculation against anti-Semitism” began wearing off.

A sure sign of that was three years ago when a Muslim radical killed a rabbi and his 3- and 6-year old sons during an attack on students and parents at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, and then killed an 8-year-old girl as her father looked on. Others in the attack were wounded. The fact that this happened in France and not the Middle East shocked many Jews, but Goldberg said it did not seem to cause an adequate governmental response.

Since the Toulouse school attack, there was an attack on a Jewish market in Brussels, Belgium. Those were followed by attacks in France – the Charlie Hebdo office attack last year that also included killings at a kosher supermarket, an attack at a Bar Mitzvah party, then the recent attacks in the streets of Paris, including a concert hall where scores were slain.

The latter attack, he noted, was not aimed particularly at Jews, but is part of a lasting, tough problem to solve – increased jihadist terrorism in Europe as retribution for the support of nations participating in a coalition against ISIS and other terrorist groups in the Middle East.

Had France and Belgium and other nations paid more attention to the killing of Jews in the earlier attacks, Europe may have been better prepared to respond to the extreme terrorism it is seeing now, he said.

All of the attacks are against a backdrop of increased anti-Semitism throughout Europe, Goldberg said. “The antibodies of the Holocaust are wearing off, and as this inoculation wears off we are seeing a rise in three forms of anti- Semitism,” Goldberg said.

The first, he said, is the old-style, historical hatred that has existed for centuries, rooted in the belief that Jews should be treated as aliens who do not belong and are trying to dominate the economy.

The second form of anti-Semitism is coming from far left factions that are anti-Zionist, believing Jews should not have a homeland, he said.

The third form of rising anti- Semitism is the force of violence by Islamic jihadists. “They feel that Islam gives a path to heaven for those killing Jews,” Goldberg said, noting the large number of terrorist groups, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, and other groups bent on the destruction of Jews and Israel.

Defeating these groups will not be easy or come swiftly, he said.

“I think we are in the epilogue of the European Jewish story,” Goldberg said. “I was open to the idea that Europe could change, but I do not think that anymore.”

As for the future, Goldberg said Jews in American have an obligation to help Jews in distress, wherever they are. “The question is, do we help them get out of Europe or support them there. I think we have a responsibility to help those who want to leave, but also a responsibility to let European nations know we are watching and judging” when anti-Semitic behavior happens there.

In spite of the situation in Europe, Goldberg offered a big silver lining to the current state of affairs in Europe. “This is the best time in Jewish history for Jews to be Jews. This is because 40 percent of the world Jewish population lives in the United States, where they are not regarded as guests, but at an integral part of U.S. society … and another 40 percent of the world Jewish population lives in the state of Israel. That makes up 80 percent of world Jewry.”

Because of those numbers, he said, “It isn’t the 1930s again,” so another Holocaust is not what he foresees. Many European leaders have awakened to the problem of anti-Semitism, though the problem is not under control, he said. “This time there is somewhere to go, either Israel or the United States … It is depressing that Europe may be inhospitable for Jews, but there is someplace to go … The worst case scenario is that they might have to leave certain areas of Europe.”

Goldberg said, “Nobody looks after Jews but Jews” and urged continued support for Jews in distress anywhere.

Following his speech, Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen took the stage and posed questions to Goldberg on a variety of topics:

Future of U.S.-Israel relations: “The Israel that a lot of us think we know, we don’t,” he said. “Israel has become more Middle Eastern, more right wing.” He said the reason America supports Israel is because it is a like-minded democracy, but Israel is changing and if it becomes less of what it is, America may no longer support it. … Somewhere down the road, something has to give.” He added that democracies tend to be “self-correcting” and that when you think about Israel springing to life after thousands of years, it is quite remarkable, so there is hope for self-correction.

College campus BDS movements: “There is a very vocal minority demonizing Israel … those Jewish students who can handle the complexity of issues on campus are those rooted in Jewish life.”

ISIS and the war in Syria: “You can not get rid of the ISIS problem without getting rid of the Assad problem,” he said, adding that both are going to be tough problems to solve. When pressed, he said the priority is ISIS but he sees no fix for the problems in the Middle East – only that perhaps they can be managed.

Presidential campaigns: He said nobody has offered good solutions for Middle East problems. He added that some are exploiting anxiety but they cannot deliver solutions. “What we need in government are people who know how government works.”

Rapid advances in technology: Expect tensions because, “We are entering a period in human existence in which upper body strength is no longer a key to success” and that will leave some left behind and alienated.

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