Homegrown hatred

Homegrown hatred

On Monday, the president of Iran used an international platform in Geneva to brand Israel as a racist state.
On Tuesday, a retired coal miner in Wheeling, W.Va., thoughtlessly discussed with a couple he didn’t know was Jewish, the idea of “Jewing down” a salesman.
Here’s the question: Which brand of anti-Semitism is worse?
To many of you, it may seem like a no brainer. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who spoke at the opening of the United Nations’ Durban II conference on race, had global media attention and support of many Third World nations as he hijacked a conference to undermine the Jewish state. His words reached millions, probably billions, of people and made it much harder for Israel to make its case to the same audience.
Several Western nations, including the United States, boycotted the conference. Several more walked out as Ahmadinejad began his speech.
The walkout, by the way, had little impact, as conference delegates rushed Tuesday to ratify a document that reaffirmed the 2001 Durban document, which singles out Israel, brands it a racist country and cites the Palestinians as victims of racism.
But back to that Wheeling coal miner, whom we say is just as dangerous as the president of Iran. Why? He is a homegrown anti-Semite, which means we here in Pittsburgh and West Virginia are more directly affected.
But it’s also culturally ingrained anti-Semitism, so deeply ingrained that the coal miner, who met the Jewish couple at a breakfast diner and casually struck up a conversation, didn’t even know he was disparaging an
entire people (so he claimed).
So how do you fight anti-Semitism, when the people who are keeping it alive don’t even know they’re doing it?
That’s what makes the miner just as dangerous as Ahmadinejad. He flies under our radar, but he spreads hatred all the same.
There’s really no good counter measure to him except to vigilantly teach the next generation the results of unbridled hatred. Frequently, though, the resources aren’t there. Elsewhere in this week’s Chronicle you’ll read about how the West Virginia Commission on Holocaust Education is struggling for adequate funding.
Yom Hashoa reminds us of the responsibility we, as Jews, have to combat hatred — all kinds of hatred. Men like Ahmadinejad and this coal miner remind us how far we have to go.