On Thursday, 23 November 2023 Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan participated in the Rome-Jerusalem Emergency Summit on Global Antisemitism, an initiative organized by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs at the initiative of Senator Giuliomaria Terzu di Sant’Agata, President of the European Union Policies Commission of the Senate of the Republic (Italy).
The Summit included a variety of panels addressing the exponential rise in global antisemistim. Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan offered introductory remarks and his insights on the exploding epidemic of global antisemitism:
"I arrived in New York during August of 2016 to serve as Consul General of the State of Israel in New York and thought that antisemitism will be relatively low on my agenda. After all, since the end of the Holocaust I naively believed that antisemitism was mainly a thing of the past. During my four-year term in New York, 15 Jews were murdered in the United States. Murdered, not attacked. In synagogues, in kosher groceries, and in Hanukkah celebrations. Therefore, the reality really slapped me in my face. But now, during the last weeks, we are witnessing a completely different kind of antisemitism. We are witnessing what many have coined "new" antisemitism, which disguises itself as anti-Zionism, but is in reality the same old, ancient and most deadly form of hatred, pure and ugly antisemitism. And it is global. It spans from the airports of Dagestan in the Russian Federation where antisemites hunt Jews in order to kill them to one of the most important modern cultural icons of the world today, the great opera house in Sydney, where at the stairs of it we heard the chant, gas the Jews to applause by the mob. It traverses from Cornell University, where a professor said that he was exhilarated by the massacre of Jews in southern Israel, to Rome, where we saw the Pietre d'inciampo burned, vandalized. There is no denying or doubting what their intentions are.
My friends, when my good friend Dr. Dan Diker, mentioned the words, "Never Again", I must admit that I, in a small way, smirk. Each time a world leader comes to Yad Vashem, be it a president, a prime minister, an ambassador or a minister of foreign affairs, and says those words, "Never Again", I ask myself, is he or she sincere? Does he or she really mean "Never Again"? Or is it just a shallow cliché, the right thing to say at the right location, but with no real meaning. I have developed a litmus test to gauge their sincerity. If that leader, his country, his government or his institution has an implementable action plan to combat antisemitism their proclamation of "Never Again" is indeed sincere. If they do not, then it is hypocritical to come to Yad Vashem to pledge never again.
When I refer to an implementable and comprehensive plan, it should address all forms of antisemitism, not only the traditional, Nazi-like forms of antisemitism but include new expressions and iterations of antisemitism that calls for the annihilation of the Jewish state. Ideas like Iranian calls to wipe Tel Aviv off the map, are not simply referring to the architecture of Tel Aviv, these statements target the Jews of Tel Aviv for destruction. When Hamas and Hezbollah make similar statements, they also refer to the Jews of Israel as well as Jews wherever they might be in the world.
I just returned from a tour of several American universities in the New York region, including some Ivy League universities. What I saw in the US is all too similar to what is also happening unfortunately in Europe as well. I want to focus on one issue that I think that is probably the most important and sometimes overlooked. I'm not talking about the students that chant in the campuses of the world that genocidal phrase that became a kind of hymn for the destruction of Israel, to the genocide of the Jewish people, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free." I understand that there are those who try to minimize the significance of that phrase. But ladies and gentleman, they know what they mean when they chant these statements and moreover we all know what they mean when they mean and this includes the university administrators and politicians too. But I want to talk about the professors, and my friends I am going to say something that is harsh. I believe that in the last years especially in the last month this hatred didn't start it has just received a significant boost in the last weeks and days. There are professors, not all but a significant number of scholars at some of the most prestigious universities who are building stone by stone, piece by piece, a pseudo-academic, pseudo-scientific, pseudo-intellectual theory justifying the annihilation of the Jewish state at worst and the demonization and the destruction of Jewish life in Israel at best, in their minds. Buzzwords like 'genocide by Israel', 'apartheid', 'decolonization of Palestine' and ‘settler colonialist state’ are aimed at justifying and moralizing the elimination of the State of Israel.
The university presidents I met with now tell me that this is freedom of speech and academic freedom, but this is not true. If a professor would dare to build an academic theory to ostracize LGBTQ persons, they would be fired immediately and blacklisted. Yet a professor that builds a theory that Israel should not exist, that the Jews are not entitled to an independent state, is eligible for promotion. Therefore, I see that as one of the most important issues we should tackle.
I will conclude by saying something that I didn't imagine two months ago, or even a little over a month and a half ago, that I will ever say but, my friends, we have been here before. We have seen how Heidelberg University a prestigious university, no less respected than Harvard or the London School of Economics gave academic backing to the most despicable, the most racist, the most exterminatory, the most genocidal theories. If it happened in the cradle of European culture in the 20th century, it can happen anywhere in the 21st century, and we have to put all our efforts now in order to prevent that from repeating. I will say that "Never Again is NOW."