Please read the following sentence slowly: Relatively, there are more hate incidents against Arabs in Israel than hate incidents against Jews in France.
One has to read this sentence twice in order to understand its shocking meaning. And even then, the natural tendency is to question the data, to repress, to ignore. The dissonance is too heavy. Especially for us, the sons and daughters of a nation which was the victim of the most horrible phenomenon of hatred in human history.
The meaning of the comparative figures is hard to digest, but denial is more dangerous.
A total of 554 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded around the world in 2013, according to a comprehensive report
prepared by the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University. The figures point to a certain drop compared to the previous year, but anti-Semitism has not only failed to step down from the stage of history, but in some places it is even a key player. Maybe not a lead actor, but definitely a character actor. Ever present, existing, above and below the surface.
But can we condemn anti-Semitism firmly, clearly, unequivocally – as it deserves – without turning our heads towards what is taking place in our own backyard?
Nineteen incidents of hatred against Arabs were recorded in Israel in 2013. The first took place in Jerusalem in January, when the Nabi Daud Mosque was desecrated with malicious graffiti, and the last one took place on the final day of the year in the village of Dura al-Qara. Three vehicles were torched, and the malicious graffiti left no room for doubt: Price tag.
When one examines these numbers courageously, the earth starts moving. Nearly eight million residents live in Israel. On average, we are talking about one anti-Semitic incident per 400,000 people.
Russia, for example, which has 142 million residents, recorded 15 anti-Semitic incidents that year, one incident per 9.5 million residents. Germany, which has 81 million people, recorded 36 incidents, one per two million people. Even France, which had the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2013, recorded 116 incidents. With its 66 million residents, we are talking about once incident per 600,000 people.
Where do we take this disgrace? That's a good question. We must not get dragged into the overly familiar political dispute. It's not a matter of left and right, nor is it a matter of routine political haggling. Something important has happened in Israel.
The Jewish tradition has many faces. Those trying to find support for racist perceptions in it will probably be able to do that, but those seeking to derive a moral-humanistic purpose from it will almost always have the upper hand.
When Hillel the Elder was asked to define the one rule the entire Torah is based on, he said: "That which you wouldn't want done to you, don't do to your friend." Hillel gave us a comprehensive, cross-generation rule of thumb for every ethical and legal, private and public indecision.
Ant-Semitism is anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism. It is similar in its motives and pathology in every language. The natural expectation from every person is to feel internal, literally physical, rebellion when he encounters it – all the more so if he is Jewish.
Yes, Jews have an extra duty when it comes to racism. The claws of racism have engraved this duty into our arms. We must all feel great shame in light of these hate crimes taking place almost every day recently by veiled and heartless thugs, who wish to celebrate the superiority of the Jewish people in its fatherland by degrading and humiliating the other.
Only if we spew this abomination from within us we will be able to hold up a mirror to the world with integrity.
Attorney Yizhar Hess is the CEO of the Masorti Movement in Israel, which is a member of the Tag Meir ("Spreading the Light") forum.