by Natan Sharansky
Mr. Sharansky wrote this article after taking part in a
conference on anti-Semitism in Europe. Hosted by the president of the
European Commission Romano Prodi, the conference brought together leaders
from around the world determined to fight the new wave of anti-Semitism that
has engulfed Europe over the last few years. Mr Sharansky stated, “The
question is how the sincere intentions of the participants to combat this
evil can be translated into effective action.”
My experience has convinced me that moral clarity is
critical in taking a stand against evil. Evil cannot be defeated if it
cannot be recognized, and the only way to recognize evil is to draw clear
moral lines. Evil thrives when those lines are blurred, when right and wrong
is a matter of opinion rather than objective truth.
That is what makes the battle against the so-called new
anti-Semitism so difficult. To the free world’s modern eyes, classical
anti-Semitism is easily discernible. If we watch films that show Jews
draining the blood of Gentile children or plotting to take over the world,
most of us would immediately recognize it as anti-Semitism.
Such movies, produced recently by the government-controlled
media in Egypt and Syria and broadcast via satellite to hundreds of millions
of Muslims around the world, including millions of Muslim immigrants in
Western Europe, employ motifs and canards that are familiar to us.
But the new anti-Semitism is far more subtle. Whereas
classical anti-Semitism was seen as being aimed at the Jewish religion or
the Jewish people, the new anti-Semitism is ostensibly directed against the
Jewish state. Since this anti-Semitism can hide behind the veneer of
legitimate criticism of Israel, it is much more difficult to expose.
In fact, over the past year, whenever we have criticized
particularly virulent anti-Israel statements as being rooted in
anti-Semitism, the response has invariably been that we are trying to stifle
legitimate criticism of Israel by deliberately labeling it anti-Semitism.
What emerged from this conference was an admission by
European leaders themselves that not all criticism of Israel is legitimate.
This recognition was evident in the remarks of President Romano Prodi,
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and other officials.
If not all criticism is valid, how then do we define the
I propose the following test for differentiating legitimate
criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism. The 3D test, as I call it, is not a
new one. It merely applies to the new anti-Semitism the same criteria that
for centuries identified the different dimensions of classical
The first D is the test of demonization.
Whether it came in the theological form of a collective
accusation of deicide or in the literary depiction of Shakespeare’s Shylock,
Jews were demonized for centuries as the embodiment of evil. Therefore,
today we must be wary of whether the Jewish state is being demonized by
having its actions blown out of all sensible proportion.
For example, the comparisons of Israelis to Nazis and of the
Palestinian refugee camps to Auschwitz – comparisons heard practically every
day within the “enlightened” quarters of Europe – can only be considered
anti-Semitic. Those who draw such analogies either do not know anything
about Nazi Germany or, more plausibly, are deliberately trying to paint
modern-day Israel as the embodiment of evil.
The second D is the test of double standards.
For thousands of years a clear sign of anti-Semitism was
treating Jews differently than other peoples, from the discriminatory laws
many nations enacted against them to the tendency to judge their behavior by
a different yardstick.
Similarly, today we must ask whether criticism of Israel is
being applied selectively. In other words, do similar policies by other
governments engender the same criticism, or is there a double standard at
It is anti-Semitism, for instance, when Israel is singled
out by the United Nations for human rights abuses while tried and true
abusers like China, Iran, Cuba, and Syria are ignored.
Likewise, it is anti-Semitism when Israel’s Magen David Adom,
alone among the world’s ambulance services, is denied admission to the
International Red Cross.
The third D is the test of deligitimation.
In the past, anti-Semites tried to deny the legitimacy of
the Jewish religion, the Jewish people, or both. Today, they are trying to
deny the legitimacy of the Jewish state, presenting it, among other things,
as the last vestige of colonialism.
While criticism of an Israeli policy may not be
anti-Semitic, the denial of Israel’s right to exist is always anti-Semitic.
If other peoples have a right to live securely in their homelands, then the
Jewish people have a right to live securely in their homeland.
To remember the 3D test I suggest we recall those 3D movies
we enjoyed as children. Without those special glasses the movie was flat and
blurred. But when we put on our glasses the screen came alive, and we saw
everything with perfect clarity.
In the same way, if we do not wear the right glasses, the
line between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism will be
blurred and we will not be able to recognize this ancient evil, much less
But if we wear the special glasses provided by the 3D test –
if we check whether Israel is being demonized or deligitimized, or whether a
double standard is being applied to it – we will always be able to see
And with moral clarity, I have no doubt that our efforts to
combat this evil will prove far more effective.
The writer is Israel’s
Minister of Diaspora Affairs and Jerusalem.