Professor Cotler on the New Antisemitism

Professor Irwin Cotler gave the Annual Gandel Oration earlier tonight (21st July) in Sydney. 

In the introduction to his superb talk,  Prof Cotler stated that he was particularly pleased to be in Sydney , the home of the late Professor Julius Stone, who  was one of his legal mentors, and a giant in the field of international law.

While traditional or classical anti-Semitism (AS) denied rights of Jews to live normal lives in their community, the new form of AS is a global, virulent and potential lethal attempt to deny the Jewish people the right to live as an equal member of the nations.  While new AS is initially directed more at groups than the individual Jew,  it will, however, also lead to attacks on the individual.

In 2002, Eli Weisel  identified the urgent danger that AS posed, in a way that he had not felt since 1945.  But it never disappeared, and Jean Paul Sartre said that if the Jew did not exist, antisemites would have to invent him.  Cotler further noted that AS cannot be fought or won by Jews alone.

As he focused on the new AS, Cotler noted that there are not yet good indicators and measures, in contrast to those available for classical or traditional AS.  Cotler identified 6 indices drawn from international law and able to be understood in academic terms, not just viscerally.

Genocidal antisemitism – this is the most lethal – a toxic convergence of AS with state sanctioned incitement to genocide.

This is exemplified by Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric and underpinned by the Iranian pursuit of the atom bomb.  The goal of wiping Israel off the map is buttressed by support such as “As the Imam says” , descriptions of Israel as a cancerous tumour, and denial of the Holocaust with an attempt to create a new one.   Hamas and Hezbollah also have genocidal objectives, supported by religious fatwas akin to Salman Rushdie.  The sanctions are against Jews, and an execution writ against a people; the Jewish nation being the only one to which the threat of genocide is directed.

Political antisemitism

This denies Israel right to exist to start with, a denial of self determination that is accorded to other nations.

Ideological or Racialist antisemitism

Laundered under the protective cover of the struggle against racism , this form of AS is pernicious. Durban 1 was a horrific and Orwellian example of this approach where Israel is seen as the new antiChrist

Many like Cotler who attended Durban 1 in 2001 were psychologically scarred by the aggression they witnessed, including the cries that the” struggle against racism in the 21st century is to dismantle the Jewish state, which is  apartheid and Nazi.”  What hypocrisy!  And what an insult to those who indeed helped dismantle apartheid in South Africa!   This ideologic approach posits that Israel is a crime against humanity and that there is a moral responsibility to destroy it.

Legalised antisemitism

AS is conducted under protective cover of the UN, with decision making in the Human Rights Council being a mockery;  of the first 33 resolutions, 26 were against Israel, and not one against Sudan, Iran.   Since there is a permanent agenda against Israel (item 7) for every meeting of this council, Israel is indicted using this “lawfare” even before the meeting begins.

Globalisation of Boycotts

It began in the UK, and has spread to include academics and trade unions.  In practice, it singles out Israel and its supporters for demonization.  On student campuses, Israel is often seen as “the poster child for the poisoner of the wells.”  For students who want to identify with campus culture, it is often anti-Israel, and building a coalition with other groups can be difficult. Cotler powerfully asked –  who are the real racists?  It is up to academics to see that free speech is not just reserved  for the haters, but also to prevent intimidation of Jews and other supporters of Israel.

Old- new Protocols of the Elders of Zion

While it has been well established that the original Protocols was a Tsarist forgery, the idea  has been reenergized, with Jews accused of being responsible for all things evil – the Danish cartoons, the Popes criticism of Islam, Darfur,  Sept 11th, spreading AIDS and Swine Flu among Palestinians.  The Swedish journalist accusation of Israelis stealing organs is just one example of a lie with long legs

In concluding, Cotler suggested that a new template needs to be developed to combat the new AS. He provided several legal approaches to combat the new AS.  He noted that Genocide occurred not because of the machinery but because of state sanctioned culture of hate. To combat that, there is an annual commemoration of the Holocaust in Canada parliament, teaching people to be custodians of memory.  He encouraged Australia to join an International task force on education related to the Holocaust. 

Cotler acknowledged the Holocaust survivors who showed the moral capacity to move forward despite the evil they had witnessed.  Just as we can’t afford to be silent about Darfur, we need to point out that the new antisemitism is also  an assault against the values that we care about.  

Cotler is truly a giant on the world stage in the identification of, and fight against the new Antisemitism. 


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3 thoughts on “Professor Cotler on the New Antisemitism

  1. No event in human history has been studied more thoroughly and carefully than the Holocaust. Thousands of thesis and dissertations papers have poured over mountains of data, from physical evidence and anecdotal testimony to captured German war documents. Virtually everyone with a PhD in History will stake their career on the fact that millions of Jews were systematically exterminated by Nazi Germany. One can no more “revise” this fact than one can revise the existence of gravity. Wannsee Conference records prove that Nazis planned the extermination of Jews as, “The Final Solution.” German concentration camp records prove that it was carried out.

    Whenever we stand up to those who deny or minimize genocide we send a critical message to the world. As we continue to live in an age of genocide and ethnic cleansing, we must repel the broken ethics of our ancestors, or risk a dreadful repeat of past transgressions.

    Holocaust deniers ply their mendacious poison everywhere, especially with young people on the Internet. Deniers seek to distort the truth in a way that promotes antagonism against the object of their hatred, or to deny the culpability of their ancestors and heroes. If we ignore them, they will twist the minds of countless young people, creating a new generation of those who deny the facts of the worst episode of genocide in history. Freedom of speech and the press is a symbol of a healthy society. Yet, since no crime in history is as heinous as the Holocaust, its memory must be accurately preserved, to protect our children and grandchildren.

    Museums and mandatory public education are tools to dispel bigotry, especially racial and ethnic hatred. Books, plays, films and presentations can reinforce the veracity of past and present genocides. They help to tell the true story of the perpetrators of genocide; and they reveal the abject terror, humiliation and degradation resulting from blind prejudice. It is therefore essential that we disclose the factual brutality and horror of genocide, combating the deniers’ virulent, inaccurate historical revision. We must protect vulnerable future generations from making the same mistakes.

    A world that continues to allow genocide requires ethical remediation. We must insist that religious, racial, ethnic, gender and orientation persecution is wrong; and that tolerance is our progeny’s only hope. Only through such efforts can we reveal the true horror of genocide and promote the triumphant spirit of humankind.

    Charles Weinblatt
    Author, “Jacob’s Courage”

  2. Thanks for your summary of Professor Cotlers talk. I also went to hear him; he was excellent. I wanted to mention two points.
    Firstly,although Cotler was compelling in his description of the New Antisemitism – and I agree with him – the anti people have put up resistance, with the “antiZionism not antiSemitism” mantra, and accusations of trying to close free speech. While Wikipedia is by no means a good reference, they do explore the arguments quite well here
    Secondly, although the internet has certainly allowed hate to flourish, as was said during Cotler’s talk, it has also been brilliant in allowing the punters to demolish the arguments and expose the lies of the leftists/campus intellectuals and their publications.
    Just 2 examples; during the recent Lebanon war, when there were accusations that the IDF had deliberately hit the bullseye of a Lebanese ambulance, you probably remember that Little Green Footballs blog showed that the hole in the ambulance was in fact the ventilation square. Alexander Downer stood tall then and took the Aussie media to task for their anti-Israel falsehoods. Then just recently with the Gaza flotilla, it was the internet that exposed the violent attacks of the Turkish activists – you certainly wouldn’t have seen that volunteered by the SMH, Age or ABC. The satire spoof also exposed the whole thing to ridicule, with the SMH vainly trying to indignantly bluster its way around the satire.
    Also, it’s great to read what others have to say in blogs like the ones you link to… and how they poke holes in some of the anti-Israel arguments. And when hate is on the internet, it is not hidden.. you may not like it, but you certainly know about it.

  3. Alan, your comment about the fake missile in the Red Cross Ambulance reminds me of the Sherlock Holmes short story “The Norwood Builder”, where the crook tried too hard and overdid his effort to incriminate his victim. Little Green Footballs was Sherlock Holmes.
    And just today, I read that a blog caught the hapless, feckless BP in the act of photoshopping pictures to make BP look more busy than they actually were. e.g – The ridicule is now flying; would “nebish” be the correct expression for BP!