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New Poll in European Union Sparks Outrage in Israel

Aired November 4, 2003 - 12:50   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A new poll in the European Union is sparking outrage in Israel and elsewhere. The poll indicates Israel is considered the biggest threat to world peace, followed by Iran, North Korea and the United States. EU officials now say the poll questions were misleading.
Joining us now to discuss this controversy is Abraham Foxman. He's the author of "Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti- Semitism." He's the national director of the Anti Defamation League. He's joining us from New York.

Thanks very much, Abe, for joining us. First of all, on this poll, what was the problem here, if there was a problem?

ABRAHAM FOXMAN, AUTHOR, "NEVER AGAIN?": There was no problem. It was a very simple question. A list of countries submitted to the viewers and to the poll participants throughout Europe, 7,500, a list of countries and a simple question: "Which country do you consider to be the greatest threat to world peace.?"

I don't understand what's so difficult about that. What's sad and shocking, but I guess not surprising, that number one, 59 percent of Europeans polled believe that not Iraq, not Iran, not Pakistan, not China, but Israel, Israel is the greatest threat to world peace.

Now, I guess I'm not surprised, because in the last several years, there has been such a barrage of criticism, of isolation of Israel in Europe. Every act done or not done, regardless whether the Palestinians said yes or no, is blamed on Sharon and Israel. In fact, Wolf, Israel has become the Jew of the nations, that which throughout history was not permitted for everybody else but the Jewish people.

Now every nation can defend itself, but not Israel. Every nation...

BLITZER: Let me interrupt, Abe, for a second. But a lot of Palestinians, a lot of critics of Israel, say you can be critical of Israel, you can condemn Israel for some of its policies, without necessarily being anti-Semitic.

FOXMAN: Absolutely. Israel probably is the most criticized country in the world from within. Per square kilometer, per square citizen of Israel, there is more criticism. It's a vibrant democracy. The criticism is within and without.

It's not a question of whether you can criticize. But anybody who says that Sharon is Hitler, that the Israelis act like Nazis, that Ramallah is Auschwitz, these are beyond the pale. And if you set a standard of behavior for Israel that do you not set for anybody else in the world, it's anti-Semitism.

One hundred and thirty-one nations recently voted to condemn Israel for building a fence. With all the atrocities out in the world, has anybody condemned any of the outrages? But no. Israel is singled out, as it was in (UNINTELLIGIBLE), as it has been in the United Nations and very frequently in the EU itself.

BLITZER: Is there any evidence under the ADL monitors the hate crimes here in the United States on an annual basis, that there is increased anti-Semitism in the United states?

FOXMAN: Wolf, the United States is not immune. I think it's a lot better. We polled -- we asked the same questions in Europe as we asked in the United States. Troubling, we find in the United States that one out of three Americans still believe the Jews are more loyal to Israel than they are to the United States.

In Europe, it's 60 and 70 percent. The Spaniards, the Germans, the French all believe the Jews are not loyal Frenchmen, Spanish, et cetera. That's classical anti-Semitism, and it exists in the United States as well. And again, as I said, we're not immune.

Recently though, more in Europe, more in the Middle East, there has been an increase because of the Internet, because of communications. One can now deliver a message of hatred, as we saw the prime minister of Malaysia. He spoke in Kuala Lumpur, and it played around the world. It played to 57 Islamic nations, representatives in Malaysia who stood and applauded.

In our lifetime, to hear a head of state spout anti-Semitism, a la Hitler, is something that I never thought I would live to see. And that's why...

BLITZER: All right. Let me read this email to you, Abe, and see what your thoughts on it are.

From M.E., "Not only are anti-Jewish attitudes on the rise, but anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-Democrat, and anything else that is not conservative white Anglo Christian. This says something very sad about where our country is headed."

What do you think of that email?

FOXMAN: Well, there is a greater tolerance for intolerance in this country. The more we become a global village on one hand, it's nice. On the other hand, people lose control of who they are, their identity, their future. And they look for scapegoats.

And as scapegoats, unfortunately, Jews have frequently been in the top of the hit parade. But the other, anybody who is other than the majority, becomes a scapegoat, becomes the blame for whatever are the ills of a society, which finds itself alienated. And Europeans, for example, have one currency. They no longer have an identity. They feel that they're losing who they are, and so they blame somebody. They blame the Jews. They blame the Arabs. They may blame Islam. So it's on the rise, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Abe Foxman, we have to leave it right there. Thanks very much for joining us. Abraham Foxman is the director of the ADL, the author of the new book "Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism."


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