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Last week, on Jan. 27, we commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day, honoring the six million Jews killed in the Nazi genocide, as well as the millions of other victims persecuted in that era. This remembrance will be meaningless, however, if we do not seriously consider the growing threat faced by world Jewry today. To understand the seriousness of this threat, consider how it measures under Genocide Watch founder Dr. Gregory Stanton’s canonical classification of the ten stages of genocide.

The first stage, classification, refers to the division of people into “us” versus “them.” This phenomenon is now widespread on American college campuses. Known to anti-Israel activists as “anti-normalization,” it can be seen, for example, in the 2018 pledge by more than 50 New York University student groups to boycott pro-Israel student groups on campus, as well as national pro-Israel organizations. The ongoing effort is aimed at pushing Jewish students “beyond the pale” unless they join forces with groups that make war against Jewish identity. To address this early-stage activity, we must strengthen institutions that can inculcate universalistic Western values, such as equal respect and civil discourse.


The second stage, symbolization, can be seen in Proud Boys’ apparel emblazoned with “6MWE,” which stands for “six million wasn’t enough.” It is also seen in alt-right use of parentheses, such as the triple parentheses used on neo-Nazi sites to indicate Jewish ancestry. On such sites, I have seen triple parentheses placed around my own head, suggesting something like a marksman’s bullseye. However, it is most often seen in swastikas used to communicate hate. It is high time for the US Education Department to address higher education’s massive under-reporting of swastikas under the Clery Act.

We see the third stage, discrimination when Jewish, pro-Israel students are forced out of student government positions. In recent years, the Brandeis Center has successfully defended Jewish students against such discrimination at Tufts University and the University of Southern California. Stronger civil-rights enforcement is needed, starting with the codification of the federal Executive Order on Combating Antisemitism.

The fourth stage, dehumanization, is seen when antisemites treat Jews as animals or as demons. In 2010, Egypt’s then-President Mohamed Morsi called Jews the “sons of apes and pigs.” Such dehumanizing insults are a common feature of Muslim antisemitism. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan exemplified this demonization when he called Judaism the “synagogue of Satan.” Dehumanization, in both forms, should be taken seriously and condemned vigorously.

The fifth stage, organization, can refer to the development of special army units or militias. Kyle Chapman, a founder of the Proud Boys’ “tactical defense arm,” promised to “confront the Zionist criminals who wish to destroy our civilization.” On Jan. 6, we saw that such far-right racist groups are capable of organizing for political violence. Federal officials should vigorously prosecute violent extremists, regardless of political orientation, whenever they engage in criminal activity.

The sixth state, polarization, was seen last weekend when the Denver area was hit with fliers claiming, “Every single aspect of the COVID agenda is Jewish.” This week, similar fliers blaming Jews for public-health failures were distributed in Colorado, Florida, Wisconsin, Texas, California, and Maryland. Such activity should trigger a revamping of public diversity, equity, and inclusion programs that either omit antisemitism or, worse, perpetuate stereotypes about Jewish power.

The seventh stage, preparation, refers to plans to exterminate a group, which we see on the international stage. In May 2020, then-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was calling for the genocide of Jews in propaganda that invoked a “final solution.” This is the context in which we must understand Iran’s rapid progress toward producing weapons-grade nuclear fuel. Such preparations should give urgency to concerns, reportedly expressed by American diplomatic officials of late, that the US negotiation posture with Iran is indefensibly weak.

The eighth stage, persecution, generally refers to forced displacement, ghettos, and concentration camps, although it may also include the street violence that Jewish Americans faced in several US cities last May. Internationally, this was seen after World War II, when Jewish communities faced forced displacement and property expropriation in various parts of the Arab world. This resulted in the complete eradication of a Jewish presence from some countries. The Abraham Accords have since turned the tide in Arab signatory states. Elsewhere in the Muslim world, however, Jews have only managed to avoid this fate because the lands have become virtually Judenfrei [German for “free of Jews”].

The ninth stage, extermination, refers to mass murder. Extermination was attempted at the Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018 when Robert Gregory Bowers allegedly murdered 11 Jewish worshippers during Shabbat services and wounded six others. It was also attempted at the Chabad of Poway in California one year later, when 19-year-old gunman John Timothy Earnest fatally shot a 60-year-old woman and injured three others, including the congregation’s rabbi. Such tragedy was averted earlier this month in Colleyville, Texas, when four Jewish hostages escaped from armed assailant Malik Faisal Akram, who last year said, “I want to kill Jews.” While wider efforts at extermination may not be conceivable to many Jews, they are sadly less inconceivable with each passing tragedy.

The last stage is denial, which is common among perpetrators of mass violence. Holocaust denial remains widespread, drawing upon an ideology that sees Jews as powerful, sinister, and conspiratorial enough to carry out an enormous hoax. On a lower level, we see antisemitism denial after nearly every anti-Jewish incident when the perpetrators insist their actions should not be described as antisemitic. Antisemitism denial is institutionalized by groups that resist the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, which is the single most important tool for identifying anti-Jewish behavior.

To say that recent antisemitic incidents have reached most, if not all, stages of genocide is not to say that we are now in 1941 Germany. Comparisons to the Holocaust are invariably hyperbolic and often indecent. Nevertheless, the occurrence of incidents at so many stages in this process should be a significant cause for more than just worry. It should be a call to action to ensure that genocide does not happen again.


{Reposted from the IsraelHayom site}


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Kenneth L. Marcus is president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. He previously held the Lillie and Nathan Ackerman Chair in Equality and Justice in America at the City University of New York’s Bernard M. Baruch College School of Public Affairs. Marcus also served as Staff Director at the United States Commission on Civil Rights.