Israel’s wars tend to bring anti-Semites out into the open, and the current one is no exception. What is interesting, however, is the degree to which anti-Semitism has migrated from its traditional haunts on the Right to the Left.
Sure one still finds traces the older Jew-hatred among Catholic traditionalists like actor Mel Gibson and pundit Pat Buchanan. But more fascinating is the social acceptability of anti-Semitic talk on the Left.
Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Bill Clinton, cites in the Wall Street Journal, an unappetizing sampler of comments posted on the websites supporting Ned Lamont over Senator Joseph Lieberman in last week’s Democratic primary in Connecticut. One blogger calls for Lamont to “define what it means to be an American who is NOT beholden to the Israeli Lobby.” Another adds, “As everybody knows, Jews care ONLY about other Jews,” and urges readers to ignore “Jewish propaganda about participating in the civil rights movement of the ‘60s.”
Still another made fun of Lieberman for not shaving during the Three Weeks, and suggested he dye his beard “blood red.” “Lieberman is a . . . religious bigot,” opined another Daily Kos reader; “Lieberman cannot escape the religious bond he represents. . . . [H]is wife’s name is Haggadah . . . or Diaspora or something you eat at Passover,” reads one post at Huffington Post. .
When it comes to vitriolic hatred of Jews and Israel, however, the American Left cannot compare to the European. Few European newspapers will ever again make the mistake of publishing a cartoon noting the fatal attraction of followers of Mohammed for suicide bombs. But cartoons equating Israelis to Nazis are commonplace.
Jostein Gaarder, one of Europe’s best-selling novelists, employed all the classical anti-Semitic tropes in a recent diatribe against Israel in the Norwegian daily Aftenposten. “To act as G-d’s Chosen People is not only stupid and arrogant, but a crime against humanity,” he writes. “We do not believe in divine promises as a justification for occupation and apartheid. We have left the Middle Ages behind. . . . We laugh at those who still believe that G-d has selected one people in particular as His favorite and given it silly, stone tablets, burning bushes, and a license to kill.”
If Gaarder is like most of his countrymen, he probably has not seen the inside of a church in decades, but that does not prevent him from singing the praises of Christianity over the beliefs of the Jews, with their taste for the “blood vengeance that comes with an ‘eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’” “Two thousand years have passed since [Yoska] humanized the old rhetoric of war. . . . For two thousand years, we have rehearsed the syllabus of humanism, but Israel doesn’t listen.”
The state of Israel no longer exists, Gaarden proclaims triumphantly. It is now without defense. In his Christian magnanimity, he calls for mercy on Israeli civilians as they prepare to enter yet another Diaspora.
Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, resorts to same slur about primitive Jewish bloodlust, by portraying Israeli bombing in Lebanon as motivated by nothing other than a desire for revenge, and not as part of an effort to protect Israeli civilians who have spent more than a month in bunkers under missile fire. “An eye for an eye – or more accurately in this case twenty eyes for an eye – may have been the morality of some more primitive moment,” Roth writes in condemnation of Israel.
Of course, anti-Semitism on the Left is not exactly a new phenomenon. Karl Marx himself was a master of anti-Semitic vitriol. And his follower Stalin was planning a major bloodletting of Jews at the time of his death. Yet there is something new in the hatred of Israel and Jews that needs explanation.
QUITE SIMPLY, ISRAEL AND THE WARS THAT IT MUST CONTINUALLY FIGHT against those who have vowed to wipe it off the map, prevent Western intellectuals from engaging in their favorite fantasy: the belief in a completely rational world, in which men of good will can iron out their differences over the conference table without resort to violence. It is a worldview that denies the existence of irreconcilable goals, and sees all conflict in terms of interests that can be compromised.
There is no place in this worldview for Islamic jihad bent on subjugation of the entire world under Islamic law. So the world denies the threat, just as it once denied the threat of Hitler. Europeans prefer to believe that the jihadists are motivated by grievances that can be assuaged, just as they once imagined that Hitler would be satisfied if German “grievances” were answered and the Sudetenland returned.
It is terrifying to contemplate a nuclear Iran following the impeccable religious logic of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, quoted in Iranian textbooks: “[I]f the [infidel powers] wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against their whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all of them. Either we will all become free or we will go to the greater freedom, which is martyrdom.” Doesn’t leave much room for deterrence through Mutual Assured Destruction does it?
And it is frightening to acknowledge that Islamic terrorism is not generated by any grievances, but because terrorizing the world gives Moslems power that they feel in no other sphere.
So the world prefers to ignore the source and nature of the threat. After Canadian police uncovered a plot to blow up Parliament and behead the Prime Minister, they reassuringly announced that the plotters were drawn from a broad cross-section of society – except, of course, for the fact that they were all named Mohammed or Ahmad. And similarly, Scotland Yard, after foiling a well-advanced plan to blow up ten planes over the Atlantic last week, described the plotters only as of southeastern Asian ancestry and English-born, while omitting their jihadi motivation.
It is far more comforting to imagine that Islamic anger is fueled solely by the Israeli “occupation” than to confront the worldwide scope of the jihadists’ ambitions and the non-negotiability of their demands. If only the historical mistake of creating Israel in the first place, and the “anachronism” of a state based on religious identity – or at least one based on Jewish identity – removed, then the rest of the world could simply sit down and discuss things rationally.
Israel’s crime is that it will not go along with the plan as peacefully as Czechoslovakia did.
Appeared in Mishpacha, August 15.