Only six decades ago, the world gasped in horror at the grim handiwork of man's inhumanity to man with the liberation of Auschwitz.
Every January 27 since, several European countries, including Sweden, Denmark, England, Italy and Germany, have called up memories of death and destruction to remember. With tears and public discussion of the cruelty reckoned as unique, they try to understand something that cannot be understood. For most of these 60 years, the civilized world took consolation in the certain belief that "never again."
The representatives of the European nations gathered once more to mark Jan. 27, but this year with a difference. For the first time, the Israeli government designated the anniversary as a "National Day to Combat Anti-Semitism." Something new had invaded discussions of the Holocaust - a not-so-new anti-Semitism, revived and rampant, that trivializes the Holocaust and hides hatred of Jews in the conflict between Arabs and Israel.
An Italian newspaper poll of nine European nations on the eve of the anniversary found that 46 percent of those interviewed across the continent say that Jews are "different," 9 percent do not "like or trust Jews," and 15 percent wish that Israel didn't exist.
What the Israeli designation of the anniversary recognizes is that anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment are hatreds joined at the heart. Many of the Europeans who want Israel to go away don't even know why they do. Nearly a third of those interviewed concede they have no idea what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is all about. It's enough to know that Israelis are Jews.
Bigotry thrives, as always, in the mouth of the ignorant.
Sometimes the ignorant are among the most educated. The Alexandria Library in Egypt, funded by the Egyptian and Italian governments with support of the United Nations, includes a manuscript room where the holiest books of the three Abrahamic faiths - the Torah of the Jews, the Bible of the Christians and the Koran of the Muslims - are displayed in places of honor.
Not long ago, the director of the museum placed next to the Torah a copy of the "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," an infamous forgery that sets out an outlandish Jewish plot to take over the world. None but the most credulous anti-Semites have ever taken the book as serious work, but it has taken on new life with the Islamist resurgence in the Muslim world.
The director of the Alexandria Library described "The Protocols" to an Egyptian newspaper as a sacred book of the Jews, who misrepresent their victimhood by exaggerating the number murdered in the Holocaust. It wasn't 6 million, "only" 1 million. This "scholarship" went unrebuked by the scholar's colleagues.
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