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Rabbi Sacks on Antisemitism…

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Throughout his life, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks zt”l was a powerful and passionate advocate in the fight against antisemitism. His eloquence and ability to frame the arguments made him one of the world’s leading and most impactful speakers on the subject.

As we continue to see a worrying rise in levels of antisemitism and antisemitic incidences in the UK, United States, across Europe, and around the world, we’ve compiled a selection of content from Rabbi Sacks’ speeches, writings, interviews and videos.

Please read, use and quote this material freely in our continued collective fight against the world’s oldest hatred. It is our hope that this material can be used by others to highlight the dangers of antisemitism, not just for Jews, but for society as a whole.

Speeches:

“The Mutating Virus” – Keynote address to the European Parliament (September 2016)  

“What is Antisemitism?” – Speech upon accepting the Moment Magazine Creativity Award (April 2015) 

Whiteboard Animation Videos:

The Mutation of Antisemitism (5 mins with transcript available)

The Connection Between Antisemitism, Anti-Zionism, Judaism and Israel (6 mins with transcript available)

Short Video Clips:

Antisemitism (2 mins with transcript available)

Combatting Antisemitism (3 mins with transcript available)

The Origins of Antisemitism (3.5 mins with transcript available)

The Historical Evolution of Antisemitism (5 mins with transcript available)

BBC ‘Thought for the Day’ Radio Broadcasts:

29th November 2019 (3 mins with transcript available)

20th April 2018 (3 mins with transcript available)

House of Lords:

“A society, or for that matter a political party, that tolerates antisemitism, that tolerates any hate, has forfeited all moral credibility” – 20th June 2019 (4 mins with transcript available)

“Antisemitism, or any hate, become dangerous when three things happen” – 13th September 2018 (2.5 mins with transcript)

Television Interview:

BBC Newsnight on 1st June 2016

Articles:

The key to understanding American antisemitism – and fighting back – published in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on 2nd January 2020

Anti-Zionism is the new antisemitism – published in Newsweek on 4th April 2016

The Return of Antisemitism – published in The Wall Street Journal on 30th January 2015

Europe’s Alarming New Antisemitism – published in The Wall Street Journal on 2nd October 2014

Selected Quotes:

“The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. That is what I want us to understand today. It wasn’t Jews alone who suffered under Hitler. It wasn’t Jews alone who suffered under Stalin. It isn’t Jews alone who suffer under ISIS or Al Qaeda or Islamic Jihad. We make a great mistake if we think antisemitism is a threat only to Jews. It is a threat, first and foremost, to Europe and to the freedoms it took centuries to achieve.”

“Antisemitism means denying the right of Jews to exist as Jews with the same rights as everyone else. The form this takes today is anti-Zionism. Of course, there is a difference between Zionism and Judaism, and between Jews and Israelis, but this difference does not exist for the new antisemites themselves. It was Jews not Israelis who were murdered in terrorist attacks in Toulouse, Paris, Brussels and Copenhagen. Anti-Zionism is the antisemitism of our time.”

“Historically, antisemitism has been hard to define, because it expresses itself in such contradictory ways. Before the Holocaust, Jews were hated because they were poor and because they were rich; because they were communists and because they were capitalists; because they kept to themselves and because they infiltrated everywhere; because they clung to ancient religious beliefs and because they were rootless cosmopolitans who believed nothing.”

“What is antisemitism? Let’s be clear – not liking people because they’re different isn’t antisemitism. It’s xenophobia. Criticizing Israel isn’t antisemitism: it’s part of the democratic process, and Israel is a democracy. Antisemitism is something much more dangerous – it means persecuting Jews and denying them the right to exist collectively as Jews with the same rights as everyone else.”

“Antisemitism is a prejudice that like a virus, has survived over time by mutating. So in the Middle Ages, Jews were persecuted because of their religion. In the 19th and 20th centuries they were reviled because of their race. Today, Jews are attacked because of the existence of their nation state, Israel. Denying Israel’s right to exist is the new antisemitism. And just as antisemitism has mutated, so has its legitimization. Each time, as the persecution descended into barbarity, the persecutors reached for the highest form of justification available. In the Middle Ages, it was religion. In post-Enlightenment Europe it was science: the so called scientific study of race. Today it is human rights. Whenever you hear human rights invoked to deny Israel’s right to exist, you are hearing the new antisemitism.”

“When bad things happen to a group, its members can ask one of two questions: “What did we do wrong?” or “Who did this to us?” The entire fate of the group will depend on which it chooses. If it asks, “What did we do wrong?” it has begun the process of healing the harm. If instead it asks, “Who did this to us?” it has defined itself as a victim. It will then seek a scapegoat to blame for all its problems. Classically this has been the Jews, because for a thousand years they were the most conspicuous non-Christian minority in Europe and today because Israel is the most conspicuous non-Muslim country in the Middle East.”

“Antisemitism is the world’s most reliable early warning sign of a major threat to freedom, humanity and the dignity of difference. It matters to all of us. Which is why we must fight it together.”

“Antisemitism, or any hate, become dangerous when three things happen. First: when it moves from the fringes of politics to a mainstream party and its leadership. Second: when the party sees that its popularity with the general public is not harmed thereby. And three: when those who stand up and protest are vilified and abused for doing so.”

“A society, or for that matter a political party, that tolerates antisemitism, that tolerates any hate, has forfeited all moral credibility. You cannot build a future on malign myths of the past, you cannot sustain freedom on the basis of hostility and hate.”