By Natan Sharansky, Israel’s Likud Minister of Diaspora Affairs and Jerusalem.
Jerusalem Post, February 23, 2004.
This week I took part in a conference on anti-Semitism in Europe. Hosted by the
president of the European Commission Romano Prodi, the conference brought
together leaders from around the world determined to fight the new wave of
anti-Semitism that has engulfed Europe over the last few years.
The question is how the sincere intentions of the participants to combat this
evil can be translated into effective action. My experience has convinced me
that moral clarity is critical in taking a stand against evil. Evil cannot be
defeated if it cannot be recognized, and the only way to recognize evil is to
draw clear moral lines.
Evil thrives when those lines are blurred, when right and wrong is a
matter of opinion rather than objective truth.
That is what makes the battle against the so-called new anti-Semitism so
To the free world’s modern eyes, classical anti-Semitism is easily discernible. If
we watch films that show Jews draining the blood of Gentile children or
plotting to take over the world, most of us would immediately recognize it as
But the new anti-Semitism is far more subtle. Whereas classical anti-Semitism
was seen as being aimed at the Jewish religion or the Jewish people, the new
anti-Semitism is ostensibly directed against the Jewish state. Since this
anti-Semitism can hide behind the veneer of legitimate criticism of Israel, it is
much more difficult to expose.
In fact, over the past year, whenever we have criticized particularly
virulent anti-Israel statements as being rooted in anti-Semitism, the response
has invariably been that we are trying to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel by
deliberately labeling it anti-Semitism.
What emerged from this conference was an admission by European leaders
themselves that not all criticism of Israel is legitimate. This recognition was
evident in the remarks of President Romano Prodi, German Foreign Minister
Joschka Fischer and other officials.
If not all criticism is valid, how then do we define the boundary line? I propose
the following test for differentiating legitimate criticism of Israel from
anti-Semitism. The 3D test, as I call it, is not a new one. It merely applies to the
new anti-Semitism the same criteria that for centuries identified the different
dimensions of classical anti-Semitism.
The first D is the test of demonization.
Whether it came in the theological form of a collective accusation of
deicide or in the literary depiction of Shakespeare’s Shylock, Jews were
demonized for centuries as the embodiment of evil. Therefore, today we must
be wary of whether the Jewish state is being demonized by having its actions
blown out of all sensible proportion.
For example, the comparisons of Israelis to Nazis and of the Palestinian
refugee camps to Auschwitz – can only be considered anti-Semitic. Those who
draw such analogies either do not know anything about Nazi Germany or, more
plausibly, are deliberately trying to paint modern-day Israel as the embodiment
The second D is the test of double standards.
For thousands of years a clear sign of anti-Semitism was treating Jews
differently than other peoples, from the discriminatory laws many nations
enacted against them to the tendency to judge their behavior by a different
yardstick. Similarly, today we must ask whether criticism of Israel is being
In other words, do similar policies by other governments engender the
same criticism, or is there a double standard at work?
It is anti-Semitism – when Israel is singled out by the United Nations for human
rights abuses while tried and true abusers like China and Syria are ignored.
Likewise, it is anti-Semitism when Israel’s Magen David Adom, alone among the
world’s ambulance services, is denied admission to the International Red Cross.
The third D is the test of deligitimation.
In the past, anti-Semites tried to deny the legitimacy of the Jewish
religion, the Jewish people, or both. Today, they are trying to deny the
legitimacy of the Jewish state, presenting it, among other things, as the last
vestige of colonialism.
If other peoples have a right to live securely in their homelands, then the
Jewish people have a right to live securely in their homeland.
To remember the 3D test I suggest we recall those 3D movies we enjoyed as
children. Without those special glasses the movie was flat and blurred. But
when we put on our glasses the screen came alive, and we saw everything
with perfect clarity. In the same way, if we do not wear the right glasses, the
line between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism will be blurred and
we will not be able to recognize this ancient evil, much less fight it.
But if we wear the special glasses provided by the 3D test — if we check
whether Israel is being demonized or deligitimized, or whether a double
standard is being applied to it — we will always be able to see anti-Semitism
And with moral clarity, I have no doubt that our efforts to combat this evil will
prove far more effective.