By Denise Dunbar
Horrible events in history, like the Holocaust, don’t happen all at once.
They’re the culmination of years of gradual change, of shifts so subtle that most are unaware anything significant is happening. Occasionally, the change is blatant, but occurs in an environment that makes it difficult to take a moral stand against the encroaching evil.
In the 1930s, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime found it convenient to scapegoat Jews for Germany’s economic difficulties. Anti-Semitism, present in Europe for centuries, became government-sanctioned. First Jews were humiliated, then barred from holding government jobs and prohibited from owning property. Ultimately, they were murdered in the millions.
What began as humiliation and economic discrimination culminated in the gas chamber.
I am horrified that history may be repeating itself. Not in exactly the same way, but with new, 21st century twists. Skeptical? Then consider the following:
In Europe, freedom of speech has been chiseled away at in recent years. “Hate speech” is a crime punishable by jail terms in many countries. Yet French comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala mocks the Holocaust as an exaggeration. And, according to the Washington Post, his routine has included a joke that bemoans the lack of gas chambers today.
This so-called funny man not only remains out of jail, but he performs to packed houses. He claims his routine is not anti-Semitic, just anti-establishment, even though Jews number about 500,000 in France, or less than 1 percent of the population. They are not that country’s establishment.
According to the Post, a whopping 37 percent of the French, or about 24 million people, are openly anti-Semitic. Who knows how many more are quietly bigoted?
Unsurprisingly, violence against Jews — and bullying — is on the rise in France. Dieudonne has helped spread a neo-Nazi salute that is showing up in graffiti throughout France and has spread to the Internet.
As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Allied offensive in Normandy, I can’t help but marvel at the irony.
But that’s Europe. Anti-Semitism isn’t pervasive in America, right?
Then why is the politically correct crowd so vehemently anti-Israel? Reasonable people can differ on who is right in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but one thing is clear: This is not the worst or most oppressive situation in the world.
That struggle does not rank with the Sudanese government’s attacks on South Sudan, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to annex Ukraine or any number of conflicts around the world.
And yet last week, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to divest holdings in three companies that do business in Israel to protest that country’s policies. I know of no similar protest votes against Russian, Syrian, Sudanese or other countries’ policies.
If this was not an anti-Semitic action, then why did the Presbyterian Church single out Israel among all of the world’s countries? Why are Presbyterians, in Alexandria and around the country, not loudly denouncing this discriminatory action by their church leaders?
Humiliation of and economic discrimination against Jews are in full flower, 21st-century-style. Terrifyingly, the gas chamber equivalent comes closer to reality daily in the form of an Iranian nuclear weapon. If Iran obtains the bomb, it is reasonable to think it will attempt to use it on Israel.
Now is the time for moral courage — and action. Political, community and religious leaders in France, America and elsewhere need to speak out against, and halt, discrimination against Jews. Somehow, we need to keep Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon.
If we remain passive in the face of rising anti-Semitism, if by our inaction we allow Iran to obtain a nuclear arsenal, and if that weapon is used against Israel, then every single one of us will be culpable.
The writer is publisher of the Alexandria Times and a former CIA intelligence analyst.