January 24, 2009

"Something Very Ugly Indeed"

The appalling resurgence of open Jew-hatred brought to the public eye by the demonstrations against Israel's actions in Gaza, is not just a European phenomenon, although it clearly is more virulent and widespread there. Not even the most insistent users of the "criticizing Israel doesn't make you anti-Semitic" line would dare suggest that a gang attacking a 14-year old French schoolgirl while yelling "Jews must die" is no more than a statement of protest over Israeli government policy.

If such incidents were isolated and rare they would perhaps be more newsworthy and therefore have greater 'shock' value. Instead they are becoming more commonplace, and the official reaction to them has often been a call to Jews to stay off the streets, or to bar Jews from attending schools, rather than to take action to punish the perpetrators.

What I have tried to do below is round up some of the recent web commentary on the crossing of the line from legitimate criticism of Israel to the unapologetic expression of Jew-hatred, as well as how that hatred is at times ignored, tolerated or even abetted by government representatives.

Let's start with Jeff Jacoby - Yes It's Anti-Semitism

Criticizing Israel doesn't make you anti-Semitic: If it's been said once, it's been said a thousand times. Yet somehow that message doesn't seem to have reached the hundreds of anti-Israel demonstrators in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who turned out last week to protest Israel's military operation in Gaza. As their signs and chants made clear, it isn't only the Jewish state's policies they oppose. Their animus goes further.

Demonstrators chanted "Nuke, nuke Israel!" and carried placards accusing Israel of "ethnic cleansing" and bearing such messages as: "Did Israel take notes during the Holocaust? Happy Hanukkah." To the dozen or so supporters of Israel gathered across the street, one demonstrator shouted: "Murderers! Go back to the ovens! You need a big oven."

The Arab-Israeli conflict induces strong passions, and the line that separates legitimate disapproval of Israel from anti-Semitism may not always be obvious. But it's safe to assume the line has been crossed when you hear someone urging Jews "back to the ovens."

Melanie Phillips

In Britain, the war in Gaza has revealed the extent to which the media, intelligentsia and political class have simply crumbled in the face of the global jihad.

The U.K. is a major player in European and world politics and is America’s most significant strategic ally. Until now, it has been considered one of Israel’s firm supporters and a linchpin of the Western defense against the world-wide Islamist onslaught. With the reaction to Gaza, however, that reputation is no longer sustainable.

Years of demonizing Israel and appeasing Islamist extremism within Britain have now coalesced, as a result of the media misrepresentation of the Gaza war as an atrocity against civilians, in an unprecedented wave of hatred against Israel and a sharp rise in attacks on British Jews.

Richard L. Cravatts at American Thinker

What was particularly revealing, and chilling, about the Ft. Lauderdale demonstration was the virulence of the chants and messages on the placards, much of it seeming to suggest that more sinister hatreds and feelings-over and above concern for the current military operations-were simmering slightly below the surface. Several of the protestors, for instance, carried signs saying "Nuke Israel," a sentiment that was also shouted out to pro-Israel counter-demonstrators standing across the street.

Now the notion of using of a nuclear device to eliminate Israel and thereby attempting to kill its roughly 5 million Jews is not a unique one, since words to that effect are regularly uttered, among others, by Iran's raving president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who dreams of such apocalyptic final solutions. What is unique is the morally-defective logic that would enable someone to justify a second Holocaust, the mass murder of Jews, on the basis of Israel having defended itself from years of rocket attacks and having killed several hundred murderous terrorists in the process.

Mark Steyn - The Oldest Hatred

As the delegitimization of Israel has metastasized, we are assured that criticism of the Jewish state is not the same as anti-Semitism. We are further assured that anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism, which is a wee bit more of a stretch. Only Israel attracts an intellectually respectable movement querying its very existence. For the purposes of comparison, let’s take a state that came into existence at the exact same time as the Zionist Entity, and involved far bloodier population displacements. I happen to think the creation of Pakistan was the greatest failure of post-war British imperial policy. But the fact is that Pakistan exists, and if I were to launch a movement of anti-Pakism it would get pretty short shrift.

Daniel Schwammenthal in the WSJ

The rage against the Jews that is exploding in Europe has been carefully nurtured; it is not spontaneous sympathy for fellow Muslims in Gaza. How else to explain the silence when Muslims in other conflicts, from Darfur to Chechnya, are being killed?

The depth of anti-Semitic propaganda in Palestinian and other Muslim societies is one of the most underreported facts about the Middle East. It is this anti-Semitism that predisposes Muslims in Europe to attack Jews and fuels the Mideast conflict. The hatred predates Israel's creation. To illustrate this point: The Palestinian leader during World War II, Hajj Amin al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, conspired with Hitler to bring the Holocaust to Palestine. Luckily, the British stopped the German troops in Africa. The Mufti spent the war years in Berlin and was later indicted for war crimes but with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood escaped to Egypt. Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Soeren Kern at Brussels Journal

Many European newspaper commentators are saying that concerns about anti-Semitism in Europe are overblown. They argue that the Jew haters are a tiny minority on the extreme political right who are given far more attention than they deserve. They also say that those concerned about the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe are confusing legitimate criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism.

But myriad polling data show that all across Europe, the fine line between valid criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism has been dangerously blurred. An opinion poll in Germany, for example, shows that more than 50 percent of Germans equate Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians with Nazi treatment of the Jews. Sixty-eight percent of Germans say that Israel is waging a “war of extermination” against the Palestinian people. In terms of Europe as a whole, another poll shows that the majority of Europeans regard Israel as the greatest threat to world peace.

Opinions as grossly irrational as these imply that for many Europeans, anti-Israelism has become a convenient smokescreen for anti-Semitism. Taking this logic full-circle, the belief that Israel is the main force for evil in the world also acts to further legitimize anti-Semitism.

But how can Europeans, who famously pride themselves on being more sophisticated than everyone else, be so woefully ignorant about the reality of the situation in Israel? Much of the blame lies with Europe’s leftwing mass media establishment, which for many years has been systematically and unabashedly purveying the idea that to be anti-Israel (and anti-American and pro-pacifist) is to be sophisticated and politically correct.

Of course, the gatekeepers of European multiculturalism understand that it would be unsophisticated and politically incorrect to be openly anti-Semitic. But self-righteous criticism of Israel is another matter altogether. Thus European publics are being bombarded with round-the-clock, knee-jerk, anti-Israel political bigotry disguised as news coverage. By making such deception fashionable, European media are inciting anti-Semitism.

A. Millar, also writing at Brussels Journal, notes the reactions of Britain's political establishment to the Gazan conflict.

And Claudia Rosett wonders aloud if President Obama will act to protect Israel and the Jews from this resurgent prejudice, beginning perhaps by confronting the two world hubs of official anti-semitism, Iran and the United Nations.

In closing, more from Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail

It’s not enough to deliver mealy-mouthed and meaningless platitudes about the need for both sides to pull back in Gaza. It is certainly not enough to tolerate ‘anti-extremist’ Muslim advisers who issue veiled threats of violence unless Britain stops supporting Israel. In view of the rising violence and intimidation on the streets in general and towards Jews in particular, senior politicians have a duty now to speak out in defence of Israel against the lies that are inciting this hatred and to deplore the incendiary and false media coverage.

They have a duty to tell the British Muslim community publicly and in terms they understand that they have swallowed decades of lies and libels about Israel and the Jewish people and that that sits at the very core of the extremism that has taken them over. They have a duty to say that while free speech is precious, intimidation and thuggery will not be tolerated. And mean it.

For silence is complicity, as once gentle, decent, civilised Britain changes before our horrified eyes into something very ugly indeed.

Posted by dan at January 24, 2009 11:42 AM