Columns Opinion Your Views — 26 June 2014
My View: It's time to stand against 

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.

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(6) Readers Comments

  1. As the legendary Prof. Norman Davies states in a 1/7/14 article: In America, they created, the American style – the good war for democracy, freedom ... If you accept that scenario, you miss the biggest part of World War II, the Soviet Union. It was not a good democratic freedom-loving [country], but a mass-murdering dictatorship tyranny.” You have to exclusively [discuss] Nazi crimes. And please don’t mention anything else.”

  2. "Moral cowardice" is witnessing the brutal occupation of one country by another for half a century....and finding only the rare objections to it to be sinister. "Moral courage" is, in reality, what the Presbyterian Church exhibited. And as for arguments like "other countries are worse" -- those are exactly the kinds of arguments every tyrannical regime uses to justify its misdeeds.

  3. "Moral courage" is also manifested in allowing others the right to voice their dissent -- without demonizing them in an effort to discredit their dissent.

  4. Thank you Ms. Dunbar for this well reasoned opinion. The actions of the Presbyterian Church were troubling to me and difficult to understand until I read your view point. I found your analysis to be right on target and believe you displayed courage to "call things as you see them".

  5. It was churches and universities that started the divestment movement against South Africa that led to the eventual dismantling of the system of apartheid; divesting from Israeli companies is no different than that movement. It's not anti-Semitic to object to human rights abuses by Israel. The abuses are committed in the name of the state, not the name of Judaism. In addition, no one is questioning Israel's right to exist. Some are simply questioning Israel's methods of war. I'm sure the Presbyterians would divest from any publicly traded South Sudanese company if they could find one, and I'm pretty sure they would divest from Ukranian and Russian owned companies if they owned stocked in publicly traded companies that were wholly owned by, and headquartered in, those countries AND if the Presbyterian church actually owned stock in such companies. You can't divest if you didn't invest in the first place. Ms. Dunbar is crying anti-Semitism where there isn't any in order to deflect from the real problem, which is egregious human rights abuses by Israel in the Palestinian territories, enabled by billions of dollars in US aid - our tax dollars at work.

  6. Thank you. I agree with your take. History is repeating itself. I was dismayed to find that all of the Protestant churches take this stand against Israel. How come they never bring up Hamas? All throughout history the Jews have been blamed for everything under the sun. The Lutheran church had a leader whose anti-semitic comments encouraged Hitler. Are they supporting Israel? No. Enough. As someone else put it, is this anti-semitism disguised by the cloak of humanitarianism? Thank you for your bravery.

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