Religious prejudice is always an ugly thing, and the president and others have rightly expressed concern about the possibility of discrimination and violence directed at Muslims. However, the focus on anti-Islamic bigotry should not obscure recognition of the disturbing trend of anti-Semitism that is developing both at home and abroad.
In the wake of January’s deadly Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack that in part targeted Jewish businesses, journalist Zvika Klein wandered the streets of Paris wearing a traditional Jewish yarmulke and knotted ritual tassels. Hidden cameras show Klein enduring a number of insults and threats, including being spat upon and called a “dog.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanytahu has gone on record as saying Europe is no longer a safe place for Jews. But the problem isn’t confined just to Europe. The Anti-Defamation League has conducted a poll of public attitudes in 100 countries and found that “deeply entrenched” anti-Semitic sentiment can be found in more than 25 percent of the world’s population.
Unfortunately, there are places here in America that aren’t much better.
A recent study conducted by Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., found that of 1,157 Jewish college students sampled, 54 percent say they have encountered anti-Semitism during their college experience. At the University of California at Davis, swastikas were spray-painted on a Jewish fraternity house. Yet while even a hint of anti-Islamic sentiment is enough to generate headlines, anti-Semitic activity like this is all but ignored by the culture at large.
Thankfully, the U.S. Senate has taken notice. A bipartisan Senate resolution with 53 co-sponsors was recently introduced for debate; it calls for increased recognition of the problem and additional measures to combat anti-Semitic incidents and attacks. The resolution also urges America to work closely with our European allies and other international organizations to identify specific remedies to thwart anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond.
“We look forward to the Senate’s passage of this resolution and hope that leaders across Europe will heed this call and agree to come together and work with the United States to push back against the rising tide of anti-Semitism,” said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “By doing so, they will show the world that violence and hatred will not be tolerated.”
We agree wholeheartedly. At the same time, we recognize that bigotry does not vanish as a result of legislation. There are sadly still too many people who refuse to learn the lessons of history. That such ancient hatred continues to grow and thrive even in the 21st century is inexcusable, and it needs to be addressed at every level of society.