“criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international censure–out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East–is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest.”
I open with Thomas Friedman with reason and purpose, as backdrop to that posted recently by our go to Religious Leftist Mike at Waving or Drowning who isn’t happy and I apparently had something to do with it:
With the posting* I’ve been doing about our time in the West Bank, I knew it was only a matter of time before it happened. And as you might imagine, I’ve got a few things to say about being labeled an anti-Semite.
This perfect, protected, closed system exists, and to even suggest the existence of the system itself is to be labeled an anti-Semite. We all know the saying about absolute power, and so it seems to me we’re not doing anyone a favour by granting a group absolute power without any accountability. The unspeakable injustices Jews suffered during the Holocaust make a moral demand on those who stood idly by as it happened, but it does not demand that we turn a blind eye when injustices are perpetrated against Palestinians. The greatest way to respond to the injustices done against Jews is to stand against injustices committed against anyone, anywhere.
As I’ve already stated I am very sympathetic to how the haunting memory of the Holocaust has become imprinted in the identity of Jews everywhere. I don’t expect that to change. What I am hoping to accomplish here is simply to reopen the issue of blind support for Israel from the western church. If we believe that God is a God of justice, then we must be willing to consider all issues in that light. The alternative is to state clearly that God’s concern for justice applies to every people group on the planet except the Palestinians. We simply cannot have it both ways.
Can we have that conversation?
I tried to opine at Mike’s place but it was deleted. Par for the course. So he wants to have that conversation but only with those of his choosing. I’m not one of the chosen. Fine. Maybe he can have a conversation with some of these folks.
As Gabriel Schoenfeld documents in his forthcoming book “The Return of Anti-Semitism” (Encounter Books), the anti-Israeli backlash has often taken the form of physical attacks on Jews, including beatings of Jewish children in schools, assaults on Jews wearing religious garb in the streets, and vandalism against Jewish cemeteries and synagogues. But there is also the question of what Schoenfeld and many others regard as a more “genteel” anti-Semitic bias perpetrated by progressive intellectuals.
More genteel anti-semitism. That seems to fit Mike a little better… he is certainly genteel in that passive aggressive sort of way. Perhaps I should go back and amend my offensive remarks.
Or perhaps I should continue this conversation, through others (naturally), with Mike.
Let’s go to Jack R. Fischel:
The Left, which included both Communists and Socialists (but not Labor Zionists), argued that the solution to centuries of anti-Semitism was not the creation of a future Israel, but for humankind to confront bigotry and eliminate the evils of prejudice, which included not only anti-Semitism in particular, but racism in general.
The divide between Zionists and “universalists” did not vanish with the formation of Israel. Subsequently, many on the left continued their opposition to Israel, calling instead for the creation of a democratic Palestinian state consisting of Arabs and Jews but shorn of its Jewish identity. At the same time, a coterie of hostile opponents, which included the Arab world, right-wing extremists, such as neo-Nazis, and Holocaust deniers, as well as traditional anti-Semites, rejected the very legitimacy of Israel and, as remains the case with Palestinian extremist groups, such as Hamas and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, called for the destruction of the Jewish state. As Alan Dershowitz points out in his The Case for Israel, ever since its founding, Israel has had to defend its legitimacy in ways not required by the immigrants who settled Australia, or those who came to the United States and displaced the native American population. Dershowitz labels this double standard anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Zionism.
What is new about the “new” anti-Semitism, according to a spate of recent books, including Dershowitz’s, is that the hatred of Jews has been cloaked behind a virulent anti-Zionism which holds the Jewish people everywhere responsible for the policies of the Israeli government in its conflict with the Palestinians. Phyllis Chesler, in her book The New Anti-Semitism, finds this especially prominent on the left, especially among her comrades in the feminist movement, where the new anti-Semitism masquerades as antiracism and anticolonialism. She concludes that inasmuch as anti-Jewish violence is justified by opposition to Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, it has become politically and psychologically acceptable to be anti-Semitic, despite increasing reports of the burning of synagogues and the vandalizing of cemeteries in Europe. Added to this situation is the silence of leftist intellectuals in response to suicide bombings in Israel, which reached endemic proportions during the past decade.
That seems to fit Mike (and more particularly, the many who think like him) to a ‘T”. Virulent opposition to Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, silence in response to Palestinian (and radical muslim) atrocities against freedom loving peoples, most especially Israelis.
Let’s now go to Ralf Dahrendorf:
The more worrisome source of anti-Semitism is different and justifies speaking of a new anti-Semitism. It has to do with Israel. To be sure, America is the first name in anti-Western resentment. But its second name is Israel, the only successful modern country in the Middle East, which is also highly militarized, an occupying power, and ruthless in defense of its interests.
It is difficult to exaggerate the strange sentiment in the West which one might call Palestine romanticism. Intellectuals like the late Edward Said gave voice to it, but it has many followers in the United States and Europe. Palestine romanticism glorifies the Palestinians as the victims of Israel’s rule, points to the treatment of Israeli Palestinians as at best second-class citizens, and cites the many incidents of oppression in the occupied territories, including the effects of Israel’s “security fence.” Implicitly or explicitly, people take the side of the victims, contribute by
sending money to them, declare even suicide bombers legitimate, and move ever further away from support for and defense of Israel.
Of course, it is true that in theory one can oppose Israel’s policies without being anti-Semitic. After all, there are enough critics of Israel’s policies among Israelis. Yet the distinction has become more and more difficult to maintain. Jews outside Israel feel that they have to defend – right or wrong – the country that, after all, is their ultimate hope of security. This makes their friends hesitate to speak up for fear of being painted into not just an anti-Israel, but also an anti-Semitic corner. The defensiveness of Jews and the uneasy silence of their friends mean that the stage of public debate is open for those who actually are anti-Semitic, though they confine themselves to anti-Israel language.
Anti-Semitism is disgusting in whatever form it arises. This is true also for other kinds of group hatred, but the Holocaust makes anti-Semitism unique, because it is an emotion complicit in the near annihilation of an entire people.
The new anti-Semitism, however, cannot be fought successfully by education and argument in the rest of the world alone. It is linked to Israel. If one belongs to a generation that regarded Israel as one of the great achievements of the twentieth century, and admired the way in which the country provided a proud home for the persecuted and downtrodden, one is particularly concerned that it may now be at risk.
Mike’s attempt to downplay his anti-semitism is no surprise. Downplaying his perspective is what he does best. Hell, isn’t that the Leftist way? Downplaying your ideology to make it more palatable to the ignorant so that they’ll buy into your way of thinking? Sadly, it works. Doesn’t say much about the dumb masses out there who gullibly sign on.
I close this piece, much longer than I had intended it to be, with the following. I think it to be poignantly wise and a beautiful summary:
“If Israel’s enemies dropped their weapons, there would be peace; if Israel dropped its weapons, there would be genocide.”
Might all anti-semites, genteel or otherwise, take those words to heart… assuming they freakin’ have one.
Crossposted at Brutally Honest.
UPDATE: Philaver sends this along in email and it makes me wonder… if you approve, are you or are you not anti-semitic (genteel or otherwise):
This dispatch concerns recent anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic incidents in Europe and in north and south America. (Anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism are increasingly becoming indistinguishable in many cases.)
Prominent anti-Israel demonstrations are continuing on a regular basis in France. The one in the video below, from two weeks ago, is against the fashion chain H&M, because they opened stores last month in Tel Aviv’s Azrieli mall and in the Malcha mall in west Jerusalem. But the boycotters wrongly claim they have opened a store “in East Jerusalem on land stolen from the Palestinians.”
If you listen to the ugly chants, this is one of the more disturbing “boycott” videos I have posted over the years, and the lies contained in it amount to a virtual incitement on the streets of Paris to murder Israelis.