Today, the Biden administration is trying to encourage communities around the world to protect the safety of their Jewish citizens, while working more broadly to contain the fallout from the Hamas attack and Israeli retaliation.
State Department envoy Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt is a decorated expert on anti-Semitism throughout history. She won her case against Holocaust denier David Irving in a trial that lasted several years in the British courts. But even she said she was taken aback by the vitriol that erupted after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which the Israeli government called the largest single-day massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.
“I find myself stunned, stunned. And I’m not easily stunned. You can’t be a Holocaust scholar and be surprised by things,” Lipstadt said. “And yet, even I struggle. I don’t want to say incomprehension, because I can understand, but I have difficulty processing everything that is happening.
Lipstadt was in Italy at the time of the attack, has traveled to Switzerland and France and plans to travel to Germany on Saturday, making Europe, home to large Jewish communities, the main focus for now of his efforts to encourage leaders to try to calm anti-Jewish sentiments. (Her work as ambassador does not extend to incidents of anti-Semitism in the United States, although she said she was present at a recent Department of Education meeting in which American Jewish leaders spoke about the rise in incidents of anti-Semitism in the United States. university campuses Across the country.)
The attacks on Jews since October 7 are “not only quantitatively but qualitatively different,” Lipstadt said. The French Interior Ministry says there have been more than 800 anti-Semitic attacks in its country since the day of the Hamas attack, more than the tally for all of 2022. On a “day of anger” in France last week, 85 percent of Parents of young people attending Jewish schools kept their children at home, Lipstadt told French authorities.
“There’s something quite different going on here,” she said. “It’s strange.”
Some people involved in attacks against Jews have cited Israel’s aggressive campaign in Gaza as a motivation. Lipstadt said this makes no sense, given that a Jewish citizen of France or Sweden has no control or responsibility over the actions of the Israeli government.
She said she hopes to use the power of her office to call attention to the problem and push other governments to remain vigilant about protecting their Jewish populations.
“We take this seriously,” Lipstadt said. “Jews may not seem to present themselves as other victims of religious, ethnic and racial bigotry, but it must be taken seriously. So I think that’s one of the messages that I’m sending, that the United States government, this administration and previous administrations, on both sides of Congress, rarely use the word bipartisan concern, you know, but certainly on this issue there is bipartisan concern.
Anti-Semitism has a long-standing historical connection to broader challenges to the health of liberal democracies, Lipstadt said. “It’s the amber light that gets really bright right before the traffic light turns really bright red,” she said. “This hatred certainly poses a threat to democracy and a threat to governmental stability. No country I know of that tolerates widespread anti-Semitism remains a democracy.