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Hundreds of people came out Jan.18 to the Wilshire Boulevard Temple to listen to professor Deborah Lipstadt speak on anti-Semitism in Europe.
The event was organized in partnership with the Wilshire Boulevard Temple and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as part of their annual Linda and Tony Rubin Lecture series titled, “The Longest Hatred: Confronting the Rise of Antisemitism in Europe.” This is the sixth annual event.
Continuing to talk about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism is important for several reasons, according to Linda and Tony Rubin, who sponsor the annual events.
“The last remaining Holocaust survivors are dying … and this is also important because history is important to the future,” Linda Rubin said.
Lipstadt is a Dorot professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University, as well as a published author. Some of her books include “History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier” and “The Eichmann Trial (Jewish Encounters)”. She has also contributed to several publications, including the New York Times and the Jewish Journal, offering commentary on anti-Semitism and Jewish history.
During the evening program, Lipstadt focused primarily on the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe but also spoke on what she described as ambivalent and suspect collective behavior and attitude toward anti-Semitism in the U.S.
She traced the historical roots of anti-Semitism, as having different stages, beginning with the rise of Christianity within the 4th century and Rome’s adoption of Christianity as its official religion.
“Initially, most anti-Semitism is religious in nature. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t impact the Jew as a person, but it’s a way of Christianity positioning itself as a dominant religion,” Lipstadt said.
The second stage of anti-Semitism came in less religious overtones and more for social and political reasons, she said. Overall, this type of anti-Semitism took on a more secular perspective.
“This is of course what the Nazis would pick up on,” she said.
This stage of anti-Semitism leads to discrimination in housing, jobs and other things, Lipstadt said. She went on to add that this second stage of anti-Semitism motivated Marxism, communism and both the far right and left.
The third stage, she said, is more of an amalgamation of both religious and secular stages, but also with a newer characteristic which is evident in Islamic extremism. However, Lipstadt cautioned that it is wrong to say that this new form of anti-Semitism is Muslim in nature.
“You have to call it by its name. You can’t solve the problem until you identify it. And this is Islamic extremism. It’s not Muslim extremism. Certainly not all Muslims, it’s not the majority of Muslims. God forbid you should ever say that. That would be a prejudicial attack,” Lipstadt said. “The people who are doing this are being motivated by an extreme encroach to Islam. I am qualifying it, and I am stressing my qualification, because I think we have to be very careful about generalizing. Jews cannot fall into the trap of giving to another people what’s been done to us. It’s wrong. That’s the main reason not to do it. But if you want to forget that it’s wrong, it’s also not strategic. Much, much, much lesser importance, but it’s not a wise way. If you’ve been stereotyped and then [you’re] stereotyping [the victim], it’s not good to turn around and do that to someone else.”
Lipstadt addressed the most recent killings of the Paris satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo journalists and others nearby, including a Muslim police officer, on Jan. 7, and the killing of hostages in a kosher food supermarket in Paris on Jan. 9. At least two of the victims at the Charlie Hebdo office shooting were Jewish. All four victims in the kosher food supermarket were Jewish.
Although hostility toward Jewish people is still a reality faced by many people the world over, Lipstadt was cautious about false comparisons with the tragic events of the 1930s and 1940s of fascist Germany and Europe. It is not 1939 all over again — it’s not the same thing, she said.
According to a 2012 FBI report on hate crimes in the U.S., there were 674 reported incidents and 696 offenses, leaving 836 victims, all from events characterized as “anti-Jewish.” Compared with the five categories of hate crimes reported by the FBI — race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin and disability — race is the top category for hate crimes with sexual orientation immediately following. Hate crimes based on religion are third in number of incidents, offenses and victims.
According to the Anti-Defamation League’s 2013 annual Audit on Anti-Semitic Incidents, there was a total of 751 incidents in the U.S. — a 19 percent decrease from the 927 incidents in 2012, which differs from FBI reports. However, despite a national decline in anti-Semitic incidents, California still ranked as one of the top states with the highest amount of anti-Semitic incidents, totaling 143. Of the 143 incidents, 98 were reported as being harassments, threats and events; 42 were vandalism; and three were assault.
During her talk, Lipstadt
Several people, over the years, have criticized the state of Israel as a way to hide their anti-Semitism and make it appear less obvious, Lipstadt said. However, despite the fact that anti-Israeli opinion has been used by certain anti-Semites, Lipstadt said that the two are not interchangeable.
“They’re not always interchangeable. Not all attacks on Israel — and I’m not saying not to be critical — Israelis are critical on Israeli policy, but sometimes those attacks smack of anti-Semitism,” she said.
Throughout the discussion, Lipstadt spoke repeatedly on the need for solidarity between different communities to support anti-prejudicial work with one another — especially with the Jewish community. People that are active in anti-racist organizing must stand with activists and the Jewish community in battling anti-Semitism, Lipstadt said.
“It’s not just the ‘Jews problem.’ Racism is not just black [people’s] problem. It’s everybody. If you value the kind of society we value, then it’s going to be something that is a joint problem. If there’s one message to take away from tonight, that would be it,” she said.
The next speaking engagement, titled, “Just Following Orders? How Ordinary People Become Perpetrators”, will feature author and professor Christopher Browning and Holocaust historian Edna Friedberg. It will be held on Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Stephen S. Wise Temple located at 15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive in Los Angeles.
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