eve of the Jewish New Year is an excellent occasion for what Jewish
tradition calls Kheshbon Nefesh, or soul-searching on so-called
"anti-semitism", which has now become the single most important
element of Jewish identity. Jews may believe in God or not, eat
pork or not, live in Israel or not, but they are all united by
their unlimited belief in anti-semitism.
a Palestinian kills innocent Israeli civilians, it's anti-semitism.
When Palestinians attack soldiers of Israel's occupation army
in their own village, it's anti-semitism. When the UN General
Assembly votes 133 to 4 condemning Israel's decision to murder
the elected Palestinian leader, it means that except for the US,
Micronesia and Marshal Islands, all other countries on the globe
are anti-semitic. Even when a pregnant Palestinian woman is stopped
at an Israeli check-point and gives birth in open field, the only
lesson to be learnt is that Ha'aretz journalist Gideon
Levy who reported two such cases in the past two weeks, one
in which the baby died is an anti-semite.
is an all-encompassing explanation. Anything unpleasant to anti-Palestinian
ears is just another instance
of anti-semitism. Jewish consciousness focused on anti-semitism
has taken the shape of anti-semitic conspiracy theories, like
that of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion: whereas
the anti-semitic classic relates every calamity to Jewish conspiracy,
Jews relate to anti-semitic conspiracy every criticism of Israel.
As we shall see, this is not the only similarity between anti-Palestinianism
is high time to say it out loud: in the entire course of Jewish
history, since the Babylonian Exile in the 6th century
BC, there has never been an era blessed with less anti-semitism
than ours. There has never been a better time for Jews to live
in than our own.
to just two generations ago, anti-semitism was a legitimate political
and cultural attitude in most of the world's leading powers. Anti-semitism
was something you could express openly, even be proud of. Disliking
Jews was as natural then as detesting cockroaches is today. Nowadays,
anti-semitism is a taboo and a criminal offence in every developed
country on earth. Even truly anti-semitic groups deny their anti-semitic
character, knowing it is politically unacceptable. Unlike earlier
centuries, where anti-semitism stood in direct proportion to the
number of Jews in the pertinent country and thus constituted a
real threat to them, the countries where anti-semitism is still
thriving today mostly poor Muslim countries are virtually
empty of Jews, so that the actual danger to Jews there is minimal;
representatives of Muslim communities in the West have to give
up their anti-semitism as a precondition for entering the political
a few generations ago the Holocaust aside for now Jews were
treated as second-class citizens in all major Jewish concentrations.
They were denied civic and religious rights almost universally.
There were limits on access of Jews to universities and many professions,
to public service and to any position of power; sometimes even
marrying and making children was dependent on quotas and licences.
Such institutionalised discrimination and oppression is not only
totally extinct today: it is utterly unimaginable. With one revealing
exception (Israel, where non-orthodox religious Jews are discriminated
against), Jews enjoy full religious freedom wherever they are.
They have full citizenship wherever they live, with full political,
civic and human rights like every other citizen. This may sound
trivial, but it was not so just a few generations ago and throughout
the entire first and second millennia. Repressive regimes have
either collapsed, or their Jewish population has left them.
an orthodox Jew can run for the most powerful office on earth,
the president of the United States (I personally hope he doesn't
win). A Jew can be the mayor of Amsterdam in "anti-semitic" Holland,
a minister in "anti-semitic" Britain, a leading intellectual in
"anti-semitic" France, a president of "anti-semitic" Switzerland,
editor-in-chief of a major daily in "anti-semitic" Denmark, or
an industrial tycoon in "anti-semitic" Russia. None of this was
imaginable a century ago. Jews have free and unlimited access
to every institution in every country they live in; Ironically,
a converted Jew is even mentioned as a possible successor to the
Holy See. At the same time, "anti-semitic" Germany (home to the
world's fastest-growing Jewish community) gives Israel three military
submarines for free, "anti-semitic" France has proliferated to
Israel the nuclear technology for its weapons of mass destruction,
and "anti-semitic" Europe has welcomed Israel as a single non-European
country to everything from football and basketball leagues to
the Eurovision Song Contest, and has granted Israeli universities
a special status for scientific fund-raising.
Holocaust has been the greatest catastrophe in Jewish history
and among the greatest crimes in human history but the very
fact that these words sound so obvious is a great victory on anti-semitism.
The term genocide, coined by a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust
(R. Lemkin) and modelled on the genocide of the Jews, has found
its way to international legislation and been affirmed as a crime
by almost all the countries on earth, including eventually (with
a shamefully long delay) the US. The Holocaust has (justly!) become
the prototype of genocide, a synonym for Crime against Humanity.
There were several other genocides in the 20th century
enough to mention the Armenian genocide by Turks (which preceded
and inspired the Holocaust) or the Tutsi genocide by Hutu in Rwanda
(which was even more "efficient" than the Holocaust). However,
while other genocides are still struggling even to be acknowledged,
the Holocaust is the only genocide which is considered unquestionable
to the extent that its denial is in some countries a criminal
offence. No other genocide even comes close to the 250 memorial
museums and research institutes dedicated to the Holocaust around
the world, and no other genocide survivors have been financially
compensated like the persecuted Jews. In such a world, whoever
cries "anti-semitism" twice a day has an extremely heavy burden
of proof to shoulder.
State of Israel has always been cynically exploiting allegations
of anti-semitism, condemning purported and cooperating with actual
anti-semites at will. Last week, to quote just a minor example,
when the world was outraged by Italy's monarch Berlusconi's claim
that his fascist predecessor Mussolini "had not killed anybody
but just sent people to holidays in exile" which comes fairly
close to Holocaust denial the only official Israeli reaction
was that of an unnamed spokesman for the 2nd Minister
in the Ministry of Finance, who mumbled that "If the words have
been said (!), one can not agree with them, since History speaks
for itself" (Ha'aretz 14.9, p.12 bottom). The reason for
this ear-deafening outcry is simple: Berlusconi, like most right-wing
extremists, has taken a decisive pro-Israel stand in Europe. So
let him even deny the Holocaust if he likes, Israel will show
understanding. After all, Israel was a closest ally of the most
racist regime in the post-WWII era, South Africa's Apartheid:
moral considerations have never played any role whatsoever in
Israel's politics and diplomacy.
a state level, some may excuse it as Realpolitik. The institutionalised
pro-Israel lobby has compromised its integrity to such an extent,
that I won't be surprised if, say, the Anti-Defamation League,
which cries anti-semitic wolf on a daily basis, now hails the
fascist apologist Berlusconi as a distinguished statesman; Actually,
this world-record of hypocricy has taken place this very week.
Much more disturbing is the intensive resorting to "anti-semitism"
claims by Jewish individuals and institutions who do try to maintain
a look of integrity.Such claims take many creative forms: for
example, some Jews have a morally repulsive pastime of looking
for worst cases of oppression Russian atrocities in Chechnya
(whose veterans, by the
way, join the Israeli army), Chinese in Tibet which supposedly
"prove" that the media focus on Israel is anti-semitically motivated.
As if it were not outrageous enough to be on the shortlist of
evil-doers, as if only the gold medal in this satanic competition,
but not bronze or silver, is worthy of protest. And I wonder how
many of those arm-chair pro-Israel Tibet specialists ever bothered
to actually do something to free Tibet, except for exploiting
its suffering to distract from Israel's atrocities.
abuse of alleged anti-semitism is morally despicable. It took
hundreds of years and millions of victims to turn anti-semitism
a specific case of racism which led historically to genocide
into a taboo. People abusing this taboo in order to support
Israel's racist and genocidal policy towards the Palestinians
do nothing less than desecrate the memory of those Jewish victims,
whose death, from a humanistic perspective, is meaningful only
inasmuch as it serves as an eternal warning to the human kind
against all kinds of discrimination, racism, and genocide.
portraying the victimisers as victims a standard characteristic
of anti-Palestinian propaganda is precisely what anti-semitism
has always done: in blood-libels which portrayed defenceless Jewish
victims as victimisers of Christian children, or in the ultimate
accusation of Christ killing, which abused the persecution of
early Christians to legitimate the persecution of Jews once the
balance of power changed. Thus, evoking Jewish victims of the
past to defend Jewish victimisers of the present remember that
Israel has one of the mightiest armies on earth is a moral fault
on a par with, and embarrassingly similar to, anti-semitism itself.
New Year 5764.
1200 Hamilton Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Contribute Via our Secure Server
Credit Card Donation Form
contributions are now tax-deductible