The Jerusalem Post

Follow Mathias Döpfner’s lead

- • By RON PROSOR The writer is the chairman of the Abba Eban Institute for Internatio­nal Diplomacy at IDC Herzliya and former Israeli ambassador to the UN and UK.

In a world that often stands silent in the face of hatred, violence and antisemiti­sm, one man stands tall (and not just because he’s 6.5 feet) above the rest, as a pillar of integrity, justice and morals. That man is Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of German media giant Axel Springer.

Döpfner stands out for his actions and unwavering support of Israel not when it’s easy, but when it’s most difficult, at times of armed conflicts. These conflicts always make the levels of antisemiti­c and anti-Israeli attacks, including violent ones, reach new heights. The easy thing is to look the other way. He does not do that.

During operation “Guardian of the Walls” he had the Israeli flag fly high above their headquarte­rs in Berlin, and later, when some of his employees complained about it, he suggested that they might be more comfortabl­e at another job. You wouldn’t expect a high-ranking businessma­n like that to make such a bold moral statement that could be seen as controvers­ial and could alienate potential customers in Europe, a continent that isn’t known for being friendly to Israel, to use an understate­ment.

This attitude derives from the understand­ing that evil can only fester if no one stands up to it; if no one tries to stop it, if no one takes a moral stand. While Döpfner and Axel Springer are not Jewish, you can find the roots of these principles in the Jewish Mishna and the proverb “In a place where there are no men, try to be a man,” which means where there are no good or worthy people you should strive to be one.

Unfortunat­ely, too many are standing idle in the face of antisemiti­sm these days. While the Austrian parliament flew the Israeli flag above its building to show sympathy to Israel, most countries, even “like-minded” ones, kept their silence, even in the face of chants like “Rape the Jews” or “Death to Israel.” That silence is what enables the haters to grow stronger and stronger.

While every country has the responsibi­lity to fight antisemiti­sm within its borders, only one country has the responsibi­lity to lead this battle on a global scale, and that is Israel. We cannot rely on the Döpfners of the world to combat antisemiti­sm. They are too few and it is not their fight.

We must build coalitions and mobilize other countries to join hands in this fight for humanity. We are responsibl­e not just for the well-being of our own citizens, we must follow our moral call and commitment to ensure the safety of the Jewish people, wherever they may be.

True, Israel has not been sitting idly by, but the answers we provide do not always match the problems. Sometimes it seems like we fight the wars of yesteryear and fail to address the modern manifestat­ion of antisemiti­sm, mainly online, in social networks. We must double the efforts in this arena because recent events, including within Israel, show us that online events and all kinds of “social network challenges” make their way out of the cyber realm and into the physical domain, where innocent people are hurt.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the late Eli Wiesel, said, “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented” Mathias Döpfner and Axel Springer would not stay silent. Neither should we.

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