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Unveiling a Perfect Storm: The Current Historical Moment and the Surge of Antisemitism


Frida Ghitis, a seasoned world affairs columnist, sheds light on a deeply troubling incident in Dagestan, Russia, where a violent mob, fueled by the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, targeted Jews arriving on a flight from Tel Aviv. The attackers, carrying Palestinian flags, subjected passengers to intimidation, demanding proof of their non-Jewish identity. This shocking event highlights a global surge in antisemitism, echoing the historical term "pogrom" associated with organized massacres of Jews in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The rise in antisemitic incidents became more pronounced following the infiltration of thousands of Hamas terrorists into Israel on October 7, resulting in the gruesome murder of over 1,400 individuals and the hostage-taking of hundreds more. As Israel initiated a military campaign to confront Hamas, scenes of suffering in Gaza fueled global protests. Some protesters call for a ceasefire, while others chant slogans rejecting the existence of Israel.

Ghitis emphasizes the alarming connection between the conflict's escalation and the surge in antisemitism, bringing attention to the disturbing incident in Dagestan as a poignant example of the broader challenges faced amid the ongoing crisis.

As Israel's military response intensified, the world's focus on Hamas's actions seemed to wane. The United Nations General Assembly called for a ceasefire but rejected a motion to condemn Hamas, contributing to a perfect storm for antisemitism. In the aftermath of recent events, the far right, where antisemitism is often overt, and the far and sometimes not-so-far left, where it takes on the guise of defending the underdog, have seen restraints erode. FBI Director Christopher Wray highlighted the historic threat faced by the Jewish community, targeted by terrorists across the spectrum, including domestic violent extremists and foreign groups.

Antisemitism has found a troubling haven in universities, with instances of threats and violence against Jewish students. Pro-Palestinian protests have been marred by antisemitic slogans, and some incidents have escalated into violence. The phenomenon is not exclusive to the far right, as left-wing antisemitism is also thriving. The reaction from ideological allies has left many disheartened, with calls for universal justice seemingly excluding Jews. The complex landscape of antisemitism, spanning both ends of the political spectrum, poses a significant and distressing challenge for Jewish communities in the US and beyond.

Historian Simon Sebag Montefiore criticizes the "decolonization narrative" used against Israel, pointing out parallels with past apologists for Stalin and Hitler. Antisemitic incidents have occurred globally, with Austria, South Africa, Nicaragua, Germany, and Venezuela experiencing attacks. While antisemitism is rampant, leaders worldwide, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the Biden administration in the US, have condemned these assaults. The recognition of the link between criticism of Israel and antisemitism is crucial, prompting calls to scrutinize curricula that distort history and perpetuate false analogies. While legitimate debate about Israel's actions exists, the distinction between being "anti-Zionist" and antisemitic is blurred for some, emphasizing the enduring nature of hatred. This moment serves as a stark reminder that pogroms are not relics of the past, with the Hamas-Israel conflict amplifying broader issues at play.

This crisis unfolds against the backdrop of a complex geopolitical landscape marked by the realignment of global blocs. Autocratic regimes, particularly Russia and China, seize upon the conflict as ammunition against the United States and its allies. The vulnerability of the main airport in the Muslim-majority Russian Republic of Dagestan, a region historically challenged by terrorism, raises questions, especially considering its former ties to the Boston Marathon bombers.

Notably, Russian President Vladimir Putin's attempt to shift blame onto the United States and Ukraine following the airport assault is met with condemnation from Washington. The attack underscores the broader challenges faced by Jewish communities, as seen in Russia where open threats against Jews and Israelis are tolerated. Meanwhile, China, despite tight control over social media, experiences a surge in antisemitic sentiments, with state media contributing to conspiracy theories and misinformation.

Jews worldwide, concerned about their safety and trust, closely scrutinize the words and actions of social and political leaders. In Dagestan, the local government condemns the attack, highlighting the crucial role of authorities in preventing potential massacres. The persistence of antisemitism, driven by both individual hatred and political machinations, reflects an unfortunate historical reality that, more than once, has spiraled out of control.

In conclusion, the current crisis emerges within a geopolitical landscape marked by global realignments and the exploitation of the Israel-Hamas conflict by autocratic regimes like Russia and China against the United States and its allies. The vulnerability of the airport in Dagestan, coupled with President Vladimir Putin's attempt to deflect blame, exemplifies the complex dynamics at play. Jewish communities globally face heightened threats, with Russia experiencing open hostility and China witnessing a surge in antisemitic sentiments.

The response from political and social leaders becomes pivotal, with condemnation from Washington and local authorities in Dagestan offering some reassurance. Yet, the challenge persists as antisemitism remains deeply entrenched, driven by individual hatred and political maneuvering. The experiences of Jews worldwide underscore the need for a vigilant examination of political rhetoric and actions, emphasizing the role of leadership in curbing the escalation of hatred and ensuring the safety of vulnerable communities. The crisis serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring and, at times, unpredictable nature of antisemitism throughout history.