Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center have a chilling piece in the Chicago Sun-Times on how widespread anti-Semitism is going unchallenged throughout Europe. They mention a hideous exhibit at the Anne Frank House of all places, in which the idea that Sharon and Hitler is given credence. Not only is this idea horrendously inaccurate, but it plays on one of the oldest and most disgusting slurs – that the plight of the Jews was the fault of the Jews. It is as disgusting as using the Anne Frank House as a forum for Holocaust deniers. As Cooper and Brackman note:
As any visitor to the Wiesenthal’s Museum of Tolerance knows, we are not afraid to take on bigots, past and present, head-on, and to challenge visitors to examine their own beliefs — indeed, confront their own prejudices. However, to educate you must provide guidelines and context, which is precisely what the Anne Frank House fails to do in the case of its ”Hitler-Sharon” exhibit.
Just as Anne Frank’s family learned that there was no permanent sanctuary from the closing grip of Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, the Anne Frank House has to recognize that it also cannot escape from confronting the rising tide of anti-Semitism, often posing as ”anti-Zionism,” in contemporary Europe including Holland. It isn’t enough just to invoke, mechanically, pieties about balancing free speech and minority rights.
What the Anne Frank House needs to do is to challenge the beliefs — and the prejudices — of today’s Dutch at a time when pro-Palestinian demonstrators regularly jolt Amsterdam with violent demonstrations, not just reviling Sharon and Israel, but chanting: ”Hamas, Hamas, all Jews to the gas.”
If the Anne Frank House wants to teach ”contemporary issues,” by all means, they should do so, but only in a way that will challenge the visitors’ prejudices, not reinforce them.
Of course just as direct anti-Semitism was all the rage fifty years ago, the more subtle but just as disgusting spectre of anti-Zionism has stepped in its place. Anti-Zionism puts a polite and politically correct face on one of the oldest hatreds on the planet. The old blood libels, the accusations that Jews secretly run the world (or an least the Jewish “neoconservatives” run the US), the accusations of Jewish “greed”, and the sympathy for tyrants all are there, just given a 21st Century façade. Yet the root of these sentiments remain the same: that Jews somehow deserve disparate treatment from all others. Certainly not all anti-Zionists are closeted anti-Semites, but not all Germans were ardent Nazis either. All it takes is for those who should know better to remain silent, which is exactly the problem in Europe. Until the EU stops arguing that support for Hamas and parallels between Hitler and Sharon is not anti-Semitic hate speech, the problem of anti-Semitism in Europe will not go away.