The attack at the Jewish museum in Belgium highlights what?

Following the arrest of Mehdi Nemmouche, a French citizen who is suspected of killing four people at a Jewish museum in Belgium two weeks, the “big eye-opener … is that he had recently returned from Syria,” writes Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com.

Seemingly, the oft-repeated predictions that Western Muslims, radicalized in Syria, are destined to come home and terrorize their fellow citizens, are coming true.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

French President François Hollande confirmed that a suspect had been arrested and repeated his country’s determination to do all it could to stop radicalized youths from carrying out attacks.

French media reports said Nemmouche was also suspected of having stayed with jihadist groups last year while in Syria, where Islamist insurgents have been playing a major part in the three-year uprising against President Bashar Assad.

Muhammad Merah, the Franco- Algerian who died in a police shootout in Toulouse in March 2012 after killing three soldiers and four Jews, three of them children, also had links with Islamist insurgents. His sister, Souad, has since disappeared and is believed to be in Syria with a companion and her four children.

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen said that “there must be a lot of Merahs coming back [to France] from Syria.”

According to intelligence specialists, the largest number of European jihadists is in Belgium, a country with a sizable number of North African Arab immigrants.

It’s disturbing that the perspective of some members of the antiwar movement, the Western political mainstream, and the anti-immigrant European far right have come into such close alignment.

But buried in the Jerusalem Post report is a detail that should have garnered more attention: Nemmouche’s own attorney’s explanation about the radicalization of his client.

Salifa Badaoui said that Nemmouche “was not frequenting the mosque [and] was not talking about religion at all….He became radical only in jail, after falling into minor criminality during his adolescence.” Nemmouche served time in prison in 2009 and 2012.

In other words, if we are to understand the process of radicalization that may have led to the murders in Brussels, we should be giving as much if not more attention to Nemmouche’s experiences in France rather than those in Syria.

Last year, Reuters reported:

In France, the path to radical Islam often begins with a minor offence that throws a young man into an overcrowded, violent jail and produces a hardened convert ready for jihad.

With the country on heightened security alert since January when French troops began fighting al Qaeda-linked Islamists in Mali, authorities are increasingly worried about home-grown militants emerging from France’s own jails.

But despite government efforts to tackle the problem, conditions behind bars are still turning young Muslims into easy prey for jhadist recruiters, according to guards, prison directors, ex-inmates, chaplains and crime experts interviewed over the last few months by Reuters.

“I have parents who come to me and say: ‘My son went in a dealer and came out a fundamentalist’,” said Hassen Chalghoumi, imam of the mosque in Drancy, a gritty suburb north of Paris.

As petty criminals become radicalized in jail, the society to which they return is inclined to reinforce their experience of alienation and solidify their ideological conclusions.
In 2012, France 24 reported:

French Muslims have become the target of a marked increase in Islamophobic violence and actions, as well as incendiary statements by politicians, over the last two years, according to a report by a leading anti-racism observatory.

The number of racist acts against Muslims in France is increasing “alarmingly”, according to the country’s National Observatory of Islamophobia, whose president has called for overt Islamophobia to be taken as seriously as anti-Semitism, which is a criminal offence in France.

According to a report by the Observatory, which claims to fight “all forms of racism and xenophobia”, “in 2011 the number [of anti-Muslim attacks] was up 34% on the previous year … but what is happening in 2012 is alarming. Between January and the end of October there were 175 reported Islamophobic acts, a 42% increase compared with the same period in 2011.”

The report highlighted the occupation of a building site of a new mosque in Poitiers, near Paris, by 74 members of the extreme-right splinter group “Generation Identity”, who chanted hostile “warlike” slogans against Islam and Muslims.

The Observatory’s President Abdallah Zekri told FRANCE 24 that the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in France could be partly explained by “the tense socio-political atmosphere in France being driven by a resurgence of the far right”.

The huge success of Le Pen’s National Front in this May’s elections suggests that European leaders have less reason to highlight the threat posed by jihadists returning from Syria than they should fear the huge wave of xenophobia now sweeping the continent.

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Israel pushes West Bank toward economic disaster

A recent survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League found that the highest levels of anti-Semitism in the Middle East exist in the West Bank and Gaza.

These are some of the views cited as evidence of anti-Semitism among Palestinians:

Jews have too much power in the business world.
Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind.
Jews think they are better than other people.
People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave.

If you’re living in territory that is held under military control by Jews, and you’re frequently abused by Jews operating military checkpoints, and your economy is being strangled by a Jewish-controlled government, is it anti-Semitic to fail to recognize that the Israelis you encounter every day and who are the representatives of the Jewish state, happen not to be representative of the Jewish people as a whole?

If the ADL or anyone else really wants to effectively combat anti-Semitism, they should perhaps pay less attention to the prejudices of non-Jews and focus more on what has become the engine fueling contemporary anti-Semitism: the actions and policies of the State of Israel.

Akiva Eldar writes: One should not put too much diplomatic stock into the threats of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sever ties with the Palestinian Authority (PA), in reaction to the inclusion of Hamas in the new Palestinian government. Even when Hamas was a pariah in Ramallah, the nine months of negotiations did not generate anything near a permanent arrangement.

The diplomatic damage will be nothing compared to the economic implications of severing contact with the PA. Turning the West Bank into an economic twin of the Gaza Strip will result in a similar situation in terms of security, as well. Initial signs of this are already evident in a new-old phenomenon of attacking Israeli journalists covering the occupied territories.

To enable Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to take part in the “process,” taxpayers in the donor countries Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) have transferred some $2 billion of their finest money into the PA’s coffers. Absent even a semblance of negotiations on a solution of the conflict, the management of the conflict will become a mission impossible.

The Republican majority in the US Congress will take advantage of the alliance with Hamas to reduce or even completely void the line item of aid to the PA, which in any case is not a particular favorite with the conservatives. The heads of the EU states will have a hard time justifying to their voters continued support for the defunct peace process.

Cutting off diplomatic ties, which will damage and perhaps put an end to the security coordination, is expected to deter the handful of foreign businessmen who are considering investments in research and development in the West Bank.

An official death certificate of the September 1993 diplomatic agreement known as the “Oslo Accord” will also ring the death knell, in theory and in practice, for its economic appendix known as the Paris Protocol, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary these days. The agreement included joint taxation by Israel and the PA; its legal significance is a lack of economic boundaries between the two partners, whereas its practical significance is continued dependence of the Palestinian economy on the Israeli one. The agreement also anchored the total Palestinian dependence on Israel in everything relating to trade with the world. Implementing the “closure and blockade” method that Israel applies against the Hamas Gaza government, also on the Fatah-Hamas government in the West Bank, will turn all of the occupied territories into one big slum.

Nothing symbolizes this dependence and the implications of severing ties more than the danger of cutting off electricity. [Continue reading...]

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Anti-Semitism should not be waved around like a propaganda tool

Donna Nevel and Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark write: This week the Anti-Defamation League – an organization with a long history of trying to silence and intimidate those who don’t share their unwavering support for Israel and its policies – published a survey ringing the alarm about anti-Semitism. Rather than advance our understanding of this serious issue, the survey seems predictably designed to stir up fear that Jew-hatred is a growing global phenomenon that puts the world’s Jews universally at risk, and that the biggest culprits are Muslims and Arabs, particularly Palestinians.

While some responses to the survey may well be of legitimate concern, many of its questions are pointedly designed to skew the results because they have little to do with revealing actual anti-Semitism, as defined, for example, by the US Holocaust Museum. For example, one question asked whether Jews think more highly of themselves than of other groups, and answering yes tallies points in the anti-Semitic column. But common sense suggests that almost anyone in the world would likely answer affirmatively about any other ethnic or religious community.

The most striking example of a leading question undergirds the ADL’s claim that the highest percentage of anti-Semitism is among Palestinians who live in the occupied territories. The ADL asked a group of people for whom the movement of goods, money and labor is controlled by Israel, “Do Jews have too much power in the business world?”. Were they really to be expected to answer anything but “yes”? [Continue reading...]

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Russian TV anchor: Jews brought Holocaust on themselves

n13-iconJTA reports: A television news anchor on a state-owned Russian television network said the Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves.

Evelina Zakamskaya of the Rossiya 24 channel made the statement earlier this week during an interview with writer Aleksandr Prokhanov on the Ukraine crisis. The interview was first made public by Americablog.

Prokhanov said that supporters of Ukraine were bringing about “a second Holocaust.”

He added that it is “strange that Jewish organizations, the European and our own Russian organizations, support the Maidan [protests]. What are they doing? Do they not understand that they are bringing about a second Holocaust with their own hands? This is monstrous.”

Zakamskaya replied that the Jews “brought about the first [Holocaust] similarly.”

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Whose Holocaust?

FeatureThe genocidal policies of the Nazis resulted in the deaths of about as many Polish Gentiles as Polish Jews, thus making them co-victims in a Forgotten Holocaust. This Holocaust has been largely ignored because historians who have written on the subject of the Holocaust have chosen to interpret the tragedy in exclusivistic terms — namely, as the most tragic period in the history of the Jewish Diaspora. To them, the Holocaust was unique to the Jews, and they therefore have had little or nothing to say about the nine million Gentiles, including three million Poles, who also perished in the greatest tragedy the world has ever known. — Richard C. Lukas, preface to The Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles under German Occupation 1939-1944

We are surrounded today by fictions about the past, contrary to common sense and to an elementary perception of good and evil. As The Los Angeles Times recently stated, the number of books in various languages which deny that the Holocaust ever took place, that it was invented by Jewish propaganda, has exceeded one hundred. If such an insanity is possible, is a complete loss of memory as a permanent state of mind improbable? And would it not present a danger more grave than genetic engineering or poisoning of the natural environment?

For the poet of the “other Europe” the events embraced by the name of the Holocaust are a reality, so close in time that he cannot hope to liberate himself from their remembrance unless, perhaps, by translating the Psalms of David. He feels anxiety, though, when the meaning of the word Holocaust undergoes gradual modifications, so that the word begins to belong to the history of the Jews exclusively, as if among the victims there were not also millions of Poles, Russians, Ukrainians and prisoners of other nationalities. He feels anxiety, for he senses in this a foreboding of a not distant future when history will be reduced to what appears on television, while the truth, as it is too complicated, will be buried in the archives, if not totally annihilated. — Czeslaw Milosz, 1980

The Polish-American poet John Guzlowski writes: My mother wasn’t an educated woman. She had no college, no high school even. She couldn’t read the books that argue about who was and who was not in the Holocaust.

When I was growing up, she never said she was in the Holocaust. She wasn’t a talker, but she talked a little about what happened to her family. Her mother and sister and the sister’s baby were killed by German Soldiers and Ukrainian neighbors. She had two aunts who died in Auschwitz with their Jewish husbands. My mother spent a couple years in a slave labor camp in Germany. There were Jews and non-Jews in her camp; people suffered and died there. She didn’t talk about any of this much, and when she did she didn’t use the word “Holocaust.”

This changed as she got older. Toward the end of the 1990s, she started talking about how she was in the Holocaust. I think part of this might have come from the fact that people in general, not historians or academics but “just plain folks,” were using the term more often. They had seen Schindler’s List and Life is Beautiful and Holocaust and other films about the Holocaust. I heard her using this word and saying that she was in the Holocaust. She said this to Christians (she was Catholic) and Jews alike. Maybe it was a sort of short hand for her. She was getting older and it was harder for her, I think, to try to explain to people that Polish Catholics also were in death camps and slave labor camps like their Jewish neighbors.

Was my mother right to use this word “Holocaust”? Did she have a right to use this word?

I think she had a right. When my father tried to talk about what happened to my mother during the war, he couldn’t say much. Sometimes, he would start crying, and all he could say then was, “She suffered so much.”

I have an education, and I’ve read about the debate concerning the word “Holocaust.” I think I can lay out some of the arguments from each side in a rudimentary sort of way given the complexity of everything that happened in World War II. One side feels that the Holocaust is what happened to the Jews alone. This side feels that the Nazis and their anti-Semitic allies in all countries worked to eliminate the Jews, and that what happened to the Jews was unique. The other side of the argument has it that Non-Jews by the millions from all of Europe suffered and died alongside the Jews, and that the term Holocaust should apply to all of those who suffered and died in the camps.

So, you ask, what do I think about using the word “Holocaust.” First, I’d have to say that I would never have told my mother that she wasn’t in the Holocaust. I think she had a right to describe her experiences in any way that she saw fit. She was there, she suffered. If she felt she was in the Holocaust, I wouldn’t argue with her.

Second, let me say, that I believe that what happened to Jews was different from what happened to non-Jews. Jews were singled out for immediate destruction. They suffered, they starved, they waited, they died, they waited, they died. Non-Jews who were considered non-Aryan (the Poles, the Italians, the Russians, the Rumanians, the Czechs, and others) were not singled out for immediate destruction. They suffered, they lingered, they starved, they waited, they died, they waited. My father used to talk about the difference between the death camps that the Jews were in and the slave labor camps he was in this way: The Jews, he would say, were in the death camps; he was in the slow-death camps.

To me, it doesn’t seem necessary to spend time discussing the word “Holocaust” and whether it’s applicable to what happened to my parents and other non-Jews.

I think about the Jewish dead and I think about the non-Jewish dead. They are dead.

What I know of hell comes to me primarily from my reading of Dante’s Inferno. In his hell, no one is untouched by pain. Everyone suffers. Some suffer more. Some suffer most. What I know of pain and suffering teaches me that I cannot judge the suffering and pain another feels. I can try to ease that pain and suffering. That is pretty much all I can do.

Let me also say this, I think that all of us who talk about what happened in those dark years of Hitler’s ascendancy and power and the Holocaust and suffering he helped to bring about finally cannot fully understand what happened or what it felt like or what it was like. In this respect, all of us, despite our very best efforts, cannot know what the Holocaust was. We are finally tourists in the kingdom of the Holocaust. We look, we wonder, we cry, we look, we turn away, we look again.

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Hitler’s underestimated charisma

Volker Ullrich, author of a new biography of Hitler, says that although the Holocaust — “this last, radical extreme of the political utopian vision of a racially homogeneous society” — was supported by “very many Germans,” it would have been “unimaginable without Hitler.”

Would another Holocaust be imaginable without another Hitler?

In terms of the scale of his destructive impact, Hitler was not unique. Stalin is widely viewed as having been responsible for 10 million or more deaths, yet rarely does one hear the phrase “another Stalin.”

Among genocidal dictators Hitler is singled out as exceptional. But those who warn of the danger of another Jewish Holocaust seem to imply that Hitler was the expression of an undercurrent of evil which could at any time give rise to another and equally dangerous manifestation — another Hitler.

The problem with this treatment of Hitler as a timeless embodiment of antisemitism is that it separates a principle of evil from an individual and the historical context in which he gained power.

While it’s certainly possible that there will be another genocidal dictator who turns out to be just as destructive as Hitler, there won’t be another Hitler. There might be another Holocaust, yet there seems just as much if not more risk that its victims turn out to be Muslims rather than Jews.

Volker Ullrich: [Hitler's] great talent was for the games of politics. It’s easy to underestimate the exceptional qualities and abilities he brought to bear in order to succeed in this field. In the space of just three years, he rose from an unknown veteran to the king of Munich, filling the city’s largest halls week after week.

SPIEGEL: Hitler was a lone wolf. He didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, and eventually became a vegetarian. How does such an eccentric become a magnet for the masses?

Ullrich: Munich around 1920 was an ideal environment for a right-wing agitator, especially one who could give speeches as fiery as Hitler’s. But he was also a skilled tactician, outmaneuvering his competition step by step. He surrounded himself with followers who looked up to him devoutly. And he secured the support of influential patrons, especially the Bruckmanns, a well-respected couple in the publishing world; the Bechstein family, who made pianos; and of course the Wagners in Bayreuth, who soon came to treat him like one of the family.

SPIEGEL: Even the earliest reports of Hitler as a speaker note the exchange of energy between him and his listeners. “I had a peculiar sensation,” one eyewitness wrote in June 1919, “as if their excitement was his doing and at the same time also gave him voice in return.”

Ullrich: To understand Hitler’s power as a speaker, we must consider that he was not just the bellowing tavern demagogue we always picture, but in fact constructed his speeches very deliberately. He began very calmly, tentatively, almost as if he were feeling his way forward and trying to sense to what degree he had a hold of the audience so far. Not until he was certain of their approval did he escalate his word choice and gestures, becoming more aggressive. He continued this for two or three hours until he reached the climax, an intoxicating peak that left many listeners with tears running down their faces. When we watch clips of his speeches now, we’re generally seeing only the conclusion.

SPIEGEL: The writer Klaus Mann, who observed Hitler devouring a strawberry tart at Munich’s Carlton Tea Room in 1932, afterward wrote, “You want to be dictator, with that nose? Don’t make me laugh.” Did it require a certain sort of disposition to be fascinated by Hitler?

Ullrich: Klaus Mann had an instinctive, aesthetically motivated repulsion from the outset. But there are also reports of people who held a very negative view of Hitler at first, yet still got swept up and carried away when they experienced him. Among the effects of Rudolf Hess, who served as Hitler’s private secretary starting in 1925, I found letters in which he described to his fiancée their agitation tours around Germany. In one letter, he describes a gathering of business leaders in the city of Essen in April 1927. When Hitler entered the room, he was met with frosty silence, complete rejection. After two hours, it was thunderous applause. “An atmosphere such as at (Munich’s) Circus Krone,” Hess wrote.

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The Holocaust just got more shocking

The New York Times reports: Thirteen years ago, researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum began the grim task of documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe.

What they have found so far has shocked even scholars steeped in the history of the Holocaust.

The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, during Hitler’s reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945.

The figure is so staggering that even fellow Holocaust scholars had to make sure they had heard it correctly when the lead researchers previewed their findings at an academic forum in late January at the German Historical Institute in Washington.

“The numbers are so much higher than what we originally thought,” Hartmut Berghoff, director of the institute, said in an interview after learning of the new data.

“We knew before how horrible life in the camps and ghettos was,” he said, “but the numbers are unbelievable.”

The documented camps include not only “killing centers” but also thousands of forced labor camps, where prisoners manufactured war supplies; prisoner-of-war camps; sites euphemistically named “care” centers, where pregnant women were forced to have abortions or their babies were killed after birth; and brothels, where women were coerced into having sex with German military personnel.

Auschwitz and a handful of other concentration camps have come to symbolize the Nazi killing machine in the public consciousness. Likewise, the Nazi system for imprisoning Jewish families in hometown ghettos has become associated with a single site — the Warsaw Ghetto, famous for the 1943 uprising. But these sites, infamous though they are, represent only a minuscule fraction of the entire German network, the new research makes painfully clear. [Continue reading...]

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The anti-Semitism that goes unreported

Amira Hass writes: Here’s a statistic that you won’t see in research on anti-Semitism, no matter how meticulous the study is. In the first six months of the year, 154 anti-Semitic assaults have been recorded, 45 of them around one village alone. Some fear that last year’s record high of 411 attacks – significantly more than the 312 attacks in 2010 and 168 in 2009 – could be broken this year.

Fifty-eight incidents were recorded in June alone, including stone-throwing targeting farmers and shepherds, shattered windows, arson, damaged water pipes and water-storage facilities, uprooted fruit trees and one damaged house of worship. The assailants are sometimes masked, sometimes not; sometimes they attack surreptitiously, sometimes in the light of day.

There were two violent attacks a day, in separate venues, on July 13, 14 and 15. The words “death” and “revenge” have been scrawled in various areas; a more original message promises that “We will yet slaughter.”

It’s no accident that the diligent anti-Semitism researchers have left out this data. That’s because they don’t see it as relevant, since the Semites who were attacked live in villages with names like Jalud, Mughayer and At-Tuwani, Yanun and Beitilu. The daily dose of terrorizing (otherwise known as terrorism ) that is inflicted on these Semites isn’t compiled into a neat statistical report, nor is it noticed by most of the Jewish population in Israel and around the world – even though the incidents resemble the stories told by our grandparents.

The day our grandparents feared was Sunday, the Christian Sabbath; the Semites, who are not of interest to the researchers monitoring anti-Semitism, fear Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. Our grandparents knew that the order-enforcement authorities wouldn’t intervene to help a Jewish family under attack; we know that the Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Police, the Civil Administration, the Border Police and the courts all stand on the sidelines, closing their eyes, softballing investigations, ignoring evidence, downplaying the severity of the acts, protecting the attackers, and giving a boost to those progromtchiks.The hands behind these attacks belong to Israeli Jews who violate international law by living in the West Bank. But the aims and goals behind the attacks are the flesh and blood of the Israeli non-occupation. This systemic violence is part of the existing order. It complements and facilitates the violence of the regime, and what the representatives – the brigade commanders, the battalion commanders, the generals and the Civil Administration officers – are doing while “bearing the burden” of military service.

They are grabbing as much land as possible, using pretexts and tricks made kosher by the High Court of Justice; they are confining the natives to densely populated reservations. That is the essence of the tremendous success known as Area C: a deliberate thinning of the Palestinian population in about 62 percent of the West Bank, as preparation for formal annexation.

Day after day, tens of thousands of people live in the shadow of terror. Will there be an attack today on the homes at the edge of the village? Will we be able to get to the well, to the orchard, to the wheat field? Will our children get to school okay, or make it to their cousins’ house unharmed? How many olive trees were damaged overnight?

In exceptional cases, when there is luck to be had, a video camera operated by B’Tselem volunteers documents an incident and pierces the armor of willful ignorance donned by the citizens of the only democracy in the Middle East. When there is no camera, the matter is of negligible importance, because after all, you can’t believe the Palestinians. But this routine of escalating violence is very real, even if it is underreported.

For the human rights organization Al-Haq, the escalation is reminiscent of what happened in 1993-1994, when they warned that the increasing violence, combined with the authorities’ failure to take action, would lead to mass casualties. And then Dr. Baruch Goldstein of Kiryat Arba came along and gunned down 29 Muslim worshipers at the Ibrahim Mosque. The massacre set the stage for a consistent Israeli policy of emptying the Old City of Hebron of its Palestinian residents, with the assistance of Israeli Jewish pogromtchiks. Is there someone among the country’s decision-makers and decision-implementers who is hoping for a second round?

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The more Germans know about the Mideast, the more they root for the Palestinians

Akiva Eldar writes: Official Jerusalem hasn’t been caught saying a bad word about the Muslim Brotherhood victory in the Egyptian elections and probably won’t have any slips of the tongue regarding the president-elect, Mohammed Morsi. All these years we’ve been saying that a secure peace is made with democratic regimes. And a democratic regime is what Egyptian democracy has managed to produce as a result of the protests in Tahrir Square.

The problems will start when people from the lunatic right decide the time has come to take over a few more houses in Silwan in East Jerusalem, or to refurbish some gate on the Temple Mount, Haram al-Sharif to the Arabs. Then we will hear that the worsening of relations with Egypt has nothing to do with the flourishing of the settlements or the withering of the peace process. That is when they will explain to us that it all starts from the anti-Semitism, rooted deep in the religion of Islam. Just like the European criticism of the government stems from Christian anti-Semitism.

Last year I wrote here about the book “Muslim Attitudes to Jews and Israel,” edited by Prof. Moshe Ma’oz (“How can Israel change Muslim extremists’ attitude toward Israel?” March 29, 2011 ). The book questions the common perception that Islam is anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. According to the Middle East scholar from Jerusalem, most researchers of Islam agree that along with periods of oppression and persecution, the Jewish communities in the Islamic countries enjoyed long eras of coexistence and tolerance. Ma’oz stresses that most of the regimes in the Arab and Muslim world, and most leading Muslim clerics, have adapted pragmatic attitudes toward Israel and the Jews. He pointed out the close connection between the occupation in the territories, the dispute regarding the Jerusalem sites that are sacred to Islam and the strengthening of the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel tendencies in the Muslim world.

A new study conducted recently in Germany also knocks the ground out from under the assertion that most of Israel’s critics in Europe are anti-Semitic. In presenting the findings of his research at a conference held last month in Istanbul, political psychologist Wilhelm Kempf related that both Muslim and Jewish colleagues initially voiced the suspicion that he was aiming to label criticism of Israel in the context of the conflict with the Palestinians as anti-Semitism. The findings were far more complex; 45 percent of the Germans who participated in the study interpreted the conflict in terms of the value of peace. One-third of them showed pro-Palestinian tendencies and 12 percent expressed pro-Israeli opinions. [Continue reading...]

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Anti-Semitism today

Never forget, has been the admonition from those who rightly insist that the world should never forget the horror of the Holocaust. Strange then that the term which describes the hatred that gave rise to the Holocaust should have been turned into a cheap political weapon whose primary purpose is to stifle criticism of Israel. It seems that those who say we should never forget, have themselves forgotten the meaning of anti-Semitism.

One of the most compelling illustrations of this fact is Yoav Shamir’s brilliant documentary, Defamation, currently viewable on YouTube (though it has a habit of periodically getting pulled down) and if not watched there, also now available for instant viewing at Netflix.

Glenn Greenwald writes about the latest ruckus kicked up by the Israel lobby and the efforts of former AIPAC spokesmen Josh Block, to silence those who dare criticize Israel or even question the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. (And note, as I pointed out earlier, Block — like many others — treats “nuclear program” and “nuclear weapons program” as synonyms.

Look at what Josh Block told Politico about what makes someone an anti-Semite:

As a progressive Democrat, I am convinced that on issues as important as the US-Israel alliance and the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, there is no room for uncivil discourse or name calling, like ‘Israel Firster or ‘Likudnik’, and policy or political rhetoric that is hostile to Israel, or suggests that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, has no place in the mainstream Democratic party discourse. I also believe that when it occurs, progressive institutions, have a responsibility not to tolerate such speech or arguments.

So according to Block, you are not allowed (unless you want to be found guilty of anti-Semitism) to use “policy rhetoric that is hostile to Israel” or — more amazingly — even to “suggest that Iran has no nuclear weapons program.” Those ideas are strictly off limits, declares the former AIPAC spokesman. Apparently, then, America’s National Intelligence Estimates of 2007 and 2010 are both anti-Semitic, since they both concluded that Iran ceased work on developing a nuclear weapon back in 2003 and that there is no conclusive evidence demonstrating it resumed; to cite those reports and to embrace their conclusions makes you an anti-Semite, since you’re not allowed to “suggest that Iran has no nuclear weapons program.” Israel’s government is also evidently suffused with anti-Semites, given that Haaretz reported this week that “the Israeli view is that while Iran continues to improve its nuclear capabilities, it has not yet decided whether to translate these capabilities into a nuclear weapon.” Make certain, though, not to mention that because, according to Block, that expression of anti-semitism “has no place in the mainstream Democratic party discourse.” To avoid being an anti-Semite, you must quietly and gratefully accept the most extreme claims about the state of Iran’s nuclear weapons program: it is not permissible to debate it.

Then there’s Jason Issacson of the American Jewish Congress, who told The Jerusalem Post that “references to Israeli ‘apartheid’ . . . are so false and hateful they reveal an ugly bias no serious policy center can countenance.” Make sure to write that down: unless you want to stand revealed as an anti-Semite, you’re not allowed to point out the stark and tragic similarities between South African bantustans and the way in which residents of the West Bank are walled off into tiny enclaves and Gazans are forcibly confined to ghettos. Those guilty of anti-Semitism on this ground not only include the President of Turkey, the Foreign Minister of Finland, and a former American President – all of whom have made that comparison – but also the publisher of Haaretz, who last year repeatedly compared Israeli treatment of the Palestinians to South African apartheid; the Israeli writer Yitzhak Loar, who has argued that the situation in the occupied territories is actually worse than South African apartheid in material ways; and also, once again, Israel’s own Defense Minister (and former Prime Minister), who last year warned that the only alternative to peace is apartheid: “If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.

But the most revealing decree comes from Abe Foxman’s Anti-Defamation League, which said this when arguing that these anti-Semitism smears against CAP and MM are warranted:

Most of their blogs come from a perspective of blaming Israel for the lack of progress in Israeli-Palestinian affairs and minimizing or rationalizing the Iranian threat.

So Israel has been brutally occupying Palestinian land for 45 years, and continues to aggressively expand settlements that all but foreclose any possibility of a two-state resolution. But as an American taxpayer — contributing to the billions of dollars of annual aid sent to Israel and affected in all sorts of ways by this conflict — you are not allowed to opine that Israel is primarily at fault for the lack of a peace agreement. If you do so opine, you’re not merely wrong, but you’ve exposed yourself as an anti-Semite. That opinion regarding the assignment of fault in the Israel-Palestinian conflict is strictly off limits.

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Disentangling criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism

Pragmatic Middle East writes: If you’ve only read Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post and Eli Lake in the Weekly Standard over the past couple of weeks, you’d have to conclude that there was one thing that New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, Time magazine columnist Joe Klein, US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman, Secretary of Defense Panetta, Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama had in common: they’re all anti-Semites!

Never mind the fact that some of the members of this esteemed club are Jewish. But all of them made the mistake of criticizing the policies of the state of Israel or highlighting the very real power that the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has on American foreign policy.

It’s high time to disentangle anti-Semitism from criticism of Israeli government policy or AIPAC.

Gutman made the mistake of saying that some manifestations of anti-Semitism are “born of and reflecting the tension between Israel, the Palestinian Territories and neighboring Arab states in the Middle East over the continuing Israeli-Palestinian problem.” His statement was largely vilified and misrepresented in Israeli media and on the US GOP primary trail.

Popular Israeli columnist Glick, in an article in the Jerusalem Post, says that Gutman “effectively denied the existence of anti-Semitism in Europe” and that he, Obama, Clinton and Panetta all engage in “classical anti-Semitic behavior.” Never mind that the Obama Administration backed Israel at the United Nation and has given billions of dollars in unconditional annual aid to the Israeli military. Glick concludes by saying that the United States under Obama is an ally of Israel no more, yet the Israeli Defense Forces don’t seem to be in a hurry to return the money.

Friedman was harangued for the following quote in his December 13th column, “Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir”:

“I sure hope that Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”

Never mind that Friedman is Jewish, an unabashed supporter of the Jewish state and a donor to pro-Israel causes. As MJ Rosenberg said in subsequent article, “If Tom Friedman is an anti-Semite, there is no such thing; the charge has simply lost its meaning.”

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Canada clamps down on criticism of Israel

Al Jazeera reports:

Nearly two years after the first hearings were held in Ottawa, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition fto Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) released a detailed report [PDF] on July 7 that found that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Canada, especially on university campuses.

While the CPCCA’s final report does contain some cases of real anti-Semitism, the committee has provided little evidence that anti-Semitism has actually increased in Canada in recent years. Instead, it has focused a disproportionate amount of effort and resources on what it calls a so-called “new anti-Semitism”: criticism of Israel.

Indeed, the real purpose of the CPCCA coalition seems to be to stifle critiques of Israeli policy and disrupt pro-Palestinian solidarity organizing in Canada, including, most notably, Israeli Apartheid Week events. Many of the CPCCA’s findings, therefore, must be rejected as both an attack on freedom of speech and freedom of protest, and as recklessly undermining the fight against real instances of anti-Semitism.

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Amateur hour at DHS as anti-Semitism is raised as possible motive in Giffords’ shooting

“Gabrielle Gifford [sic] is the first Jewish female elected to such a high position in the US government.”

This comes from a Department of Homeland Security internal memo obtained by Fox News. Whether no name is attached to the memo or whether Fox wanted to save the author some embarrassment isn’t clear.

Memo to the DHS: Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are both Jewish US senators and they took office before Gabrielle Giffords had even decided she was Jewish (after visiting Israel in 2001), let alone sought high office.

The DHS memo also links Giffords’ assailant, Jared Lee Loughner, to a rightwing group called American Renaissance. “The group’s ideology is anti government, anti immigration, anti ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti Semitic.”

American Renaissance refutes the accusation: “AR is not anti-government, anti-Semitic, or anti-ZOG, as is clear from the 20 years of back issues that are posted on our website. The expression “ZOG” has never appeared in the pages of AR, and we have has always welcomed Jewish participation in our work. Many of the speakers at American Renaissance conferences have been Jewish.”

The organization’s own testimony might seem less than persuasive but a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center adds some weight this claim. Referring to Jared Taylor, who edits American Renaissance, the report says:

One issue that has proven problematic for Taylor and his foundation [the New Century Foundation] has been anti-Semitism. Taylor, unlike many on the radical right, is known for his lack of anti-Semitism and for including racist Jews in his events. He told MSNBC-TV interviewer Phil Donahue in 2003 that Jews “are fine by me” and “look white to me.” At one point, he even banned discussion of the so-called “Jewish question” from American Renaissance venues, and, by 1997, he had kicked Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis off his E-mail list. Despite these efforts, Taylor also has continued to allow people like Don Black, the former Klan leader who runs the neo-Nazi Stormfront.org web forum, and Jamie Kelso, a Stormfront moderator, to attend his biannual American Renaissance Conferences. The problem for Taylor is that many of the most active participants at the American Renaissance Conferences and the most committed members of the American radical right are openly and passionately anti-Semitic. To ban them would devastate Taylor’s efforts to make his journal and conferences flagship institutions of American radical right.

However prevalent anti-Semitism might be in the organization Loughner is being linked to, this doesn’t tell us that much about his own views. Even so, when someone attempts to assassinate a Jewish member of Congress one might expect that anti-Semitism would rank high among the possible motives.

Thus far the Anti-Defamation League has resisted suggesting this might be the gunman’s motive, and neither does anti-Semitism seem to have figured much in the vigorous wider debate the shootings have provoked. Is this because anti-Semitism has so frequently been linked to criticism of Israel that if Israel doesn’t enter the picture then neither does anti-Semitism?

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Glenn Beck: inspired by Iran or Lyndon LaRouche?

George Soros is a Jewish tycoon and mastermind of ultra-modern colonialism. He is also a thug who is deployed as an economic hitman for the British empire.

The first claim comes from a video produced by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence which has depicted Soros operating out of the Situation Room in the White House, while the second comes from Hector A Rivas Jr at LaRouchePAC, serving longtime presidential aspirant Lyndon LaRouche.

Now comes Glenn Beck, asking ominously about President Obama’s channels of communication: “Have you ever wondered who is at the other end of a BlackBerry?”

Who else but Obama’s puppet master, the omnipotent George Soros.

Soros the macro-managing controller of global events is also the micro-manager of Obama’s daily agenda. He really has taken multi-tasking to a supernatural level as he steers the global financial markets, runs his empire of 501(c)3s, and tells Obama what to do!

Even with his show’s title and images of Soros pulling puppet strings and with puppets dangling from the studio ceiling, Beck still didn’t seem completely confident with his puppet-master metaphor and so needed to make it more literal, the Blackberry supposedly providing the tangible evidence that on a minute-by-minute basis, George Soros has the power and ability to control all of Obama’s actions. But as Beck himself says in his comprehensive disclaimer: “if you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.”

Thus we are presented with the distinctive blend of fear and farce from a man who clearly doesn’t take himself seriously yet who surely lives in a state of constant amazement that his own antics have made him so rich and influential.

In the last year, Glenn Beck’s estimated earnings were $33 million, putting him in second place after Rush Limbaugh ($58.7 million) in Newsweek‘s “Power 50” list which ranks the highest earning political figures in 2010. Bundle the Fox News triumvirate of Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly together and they rank #1 with combined earnings of $75 million. Following the same career trajectory as Beck, Lou Dobbs has just joined Fox, a year after his departure from CNN.

Are Beck and his cohorts now themselves the puppet masters of American politics? Emma Mustich shows how the five-point formula Beck ascribes to Soros just as accurately represents Beck and Fox News‘ methods for gathering and exerting enormous political power.

Meanwhile, Michelle Goldberg writes:

Soros, a billionaire financier and patron of liberal causes, has long been an object of hatred on the right. But Beck went beyond demonizing him; he cast him as the protagonist in an updated Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He described Soros as the most powerful man on earth, the creator of a “shadow government” that manipulates regimes and currencies for its own enrichment. Obama is his “puppet,” Beck says. Soros has even “infiltrated the churches.” He foments social unrest and economic distress so he can bring down governments, all for his own financial gain. “Four times before,” Beck warned. “We’ll be number five.”

It’s true, of course, that Soros has had a hand in bringing down governments—communist, authoritarian governments. Beck seems to be assuming a colossal level of ignorance on the part of his viewers when he informs them, “Along with currencies, Soros also collapses regimes. With his Open Society Fund… Soros has helped fund the Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic, the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, the Rose Revolution in Georgia. He also helped to engineer coups in Slovakia, Croatia, and Yugoslavia. So what is his target now? Us. America.”

Beck’s implication is that there was something sinister in Soros’ support for anti-communist civil society organizations in the former Soviet Union. Further, he sees such support as evidence that Soros will engineer a communist coup here in the United States. This kind of thinking only makes sense within the conspiratorial mind-set of classic anti-Semitism, in which Jews threaten all governments equally. And as a wealthy Jew with a distinct Eastern European accent, Soros is a perfect target for such theories.

And in an indication that for the American Jewish community, Beck has indeed crossed a line with his slanderous attack, suggesting that the 14-year-old Soros was a Nazi collaborator, Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, called Beck’s comments “horrific” and “totally off limits and over the top.” Whether Beck’s antipathy for Soros makes him an anti-Semite, is nevertheless questionable.

For Beck, fear is a commodity in which he has deeply invested in futures — an investment whose value he works on inflating every day. But the fear he trades in is not something he invented. It has long resided in the heart of that predominantly white America which is a nation of islanders, challenged by the inconvenient truth that America is not an island.

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Shimon Peres — king of bombast

“You write history — I have to make history,” Shimon Peres says at the end of an interview with the Israeli historian Benny Morris.

At times in the interview the Israeli president almost sounds deranged.

The main reason for war was that people earned their livelihood from land. People wanted either to defend their land or conquer more land. From the moment people live from science, force can’t do [anything]. An army can’t overcome science. All these borders will be blurred. The main reason for classic wars has disappeared. What will remain are fanatical religious groups, irrational groups, dangerous to the whole world. They will be destroyed in the end, out of self-defense. There won’t be wars. There will be great rivalry. Football will be more important than war, and science more important than football. There will be a contest to develop nature’s riches. What importance is there today to land?

So I guess Israel, with its fuzzy borders and expanding settlements, is not as it appears to many of us on the outside, a state engaged in old-fashioned colonization, but rather it heralds a future in which land is no longer of any importance.

And what’s Peres’ transcendental perspective on the most contested piece of territory, Jerusalem?

Original Jerusalem, the Sacred Basin, is all told one square kilometer — the Old City, the Temple Mount, that’s the whole story. It’s small, but it’s not territory; it’s a flame, and it is difficult to divide fire, to fence in flames. What can be done? Let’s set aside [the idea of] national sovereignty and let’s look at religious sovereignty. Give each religion responsibility for its own holy sites.

So Israel’s ready to relinquish its claim of national sovereignty with an undivided Jerusalem as its capital and return to the UN’s original proposal for the holy city, internationalization?

All that will do is perpetuate the conflict, but with the involvement of more parties.

Leaving Jerusalem aflame, let’s turn to what for me was the most entertaining part of the interview — where Peres vents some good old Anglophobia (at least there’s one thing Israelis and Iranians see eye-to-eye on) and then reveals that he only watches TV broadcast from Mars.

How do you explain the rise in the delegitimization of Israel in the world in recent years? Do you agree that this is happening?

Let me give you a contrary picture: Israel is the most popular country in the world. [Peres’s media aide giggles. “Benny, you won’t leave here depressed,” she says.] For 2,000 years there was friction between the Vatican and the Jews. There are, what is it, 1.3 billion Christians? Now we have excellent relations with the Vatican. This is no small thing. And we have good relations with India, also hit by Muslim terrorists. And that’s together 3 billion. And [we now have] excellent relations with China.

Right. But why the delegitimization, especially in the West?

Firstly, there is a problem in the Scandinavian countries. They always want to appear like yefei nefesh [the Hebraism roughly translates as “bleeding hearts,” with an undertone of hypocrisy]. And I don’t expect them to understand us. Sweden doesn’t understand why we are at war. For 150 years they have not had a war. There were even Hitler and Stalin, but they kept out of the picture. As did Switzerland. So, they don’t understand why we are “for war,” as if we really like wars. It’s like Marie Antoinette didn’t understand why the people didn’t bake cakes. The same logic.

But it goes a bit beyond [Sweden and Switzerland]?

Our next big problem is England. There are several million Muslim voters. And for many members of parliament, that’s the difference between getting elected and not getting elected. And in England there has always been something deeply pro-Arab, of course, not among all Englishmen, and anti-Israeli, in the establishment. They abstained in the [pro-Zionist] 1947 U.N. Partition Resolution, despite [issuing the pro-Zionist] Balfour Declaration [in 1917]. They maintained an arms embargo against us [in the 1950s]; they had a defense treaty with Jordan; they always worked against us.

But England changed after the 1940s and 1950s. They supported us in 1967, there was Harold Brown [sic -- presumably Harold Wilson or Harold Macmillan, both of whom secretly and illegally assisted Israel's nuclear program] and Mrs. Thatcher [who were pro-Israeli].

There is also support for Israel today [on the British right].

But in Labor there was always a deep pro-Israeli current.

But [the late 1940s prime minister and Labor leader Clement] Attlee was [anti-Israel].

Anyway, this [pro-Israeli current] vanished because they think the Palestinians are the underdog. In their eyes the Arabs are the underdog. Even though this is irrational. Take the Gaza Strip. We unilaterally evacuated the Gaza Strip [in 2005]. We evacuated 8,000 settlers and it was very difficult, after mobilizing 47,000 policemen [and soldiers]. It cost us $2.5 billion in compensation. We left the Gaza Strip completely. Why did they fire rockets at us, for years they fired rockets at us. Why?

Maybe because they don’t like us?

You fire rockets at everyone you don’t like? For eight years they fired and we refrained from retaliating. When they fired at us, the British didn’t say a word.

Maybe it is anti-Semitism?

Yes, there is also anti-Semitism. There is in England a saying that an anti-Semite is someone who hates the Jews more than is necessary. But with Germany relations are pretty good, as with Italy and France.

But there is erosion of public pro-Israel sentiment — at the universities, in the press. I’m not talking about the governments.

I’ll tell you why. On television there is an asymmetry that can’t be corrected. What the terrorists do is never broadcast.

So there you have it, from the man who believes Israel is the most popular country in the world and claims that acts of terrorism directed at Israel never appear on TV. What can one say?

As an Englishman, I naturally take an interest in expressions of suspicion or hostility directed towards the British, but there is one point Peres makes that cannot pass without comment: his reference to Muslim voters in Britain. This is where Peres’ racism seeps out since he cannot bring himself to refer to this political constituency as British Muslims. They are for Peres, Muslims with the power to vote — not Britons who practice Islam.

As for the general tone of the interview as it deals with the British current, I’m reminded of similar, if somewhat more forcefully expressed sentiments coming from an American writer who sees Peter Beinart as a victim of the malevolent British influence.

After Beinart wrote his widely acclaimed piece in the New York Review of Books, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” Jim Sleeper was sure he knew how Beinart’s mind had been corrupted:

Political decay, impotence and bitterness slither out of people in peculiar ways, and, for too many Brits, who have so much more to regret and apologize for and so much bottomless hypocrisy to plumb than Israel ever will, the anguish of decline slithers out against the Jews in eerily disembodied, oddly passionless ways:

“How odd of God to Choose the Jews,” runs a characteristically disdainful verse by the 20th Century British journalist William Norman Ewer. (To which my own riposte is, “Moses, Jesus, Spinoza; Marx, Einstein, and Freud; no wonder the gentiles are annoyed.”)

Well, there are lots of annoying people and things in the world, but British Jews who swallowed Ewer’s hook on some playground or classroom in their early years seem condemned to writhe with it, much as American blacks who’ve internalized a standard of idealized whiteness turn it against blacks who are darker-skinned than themselves, and much as German Jews who’d internalized an idealized German kultur loathed the embarrassing Ostjuden from… Russia and Eastern Europe. Here — and let us not mince words — we are talking about self-hatred, a cold, fine-spun, exacting usurper of sound judgment.

Beinart’s ancestors came from Lithuania, but before World War I they migrated, with a sizable contingent of other Litvaks, to South Africa. In the interwar years of Wilsonian nationalist awakening In Lithuania and all over Europe, many more Lithuanian Jews saw what was rising around them in their home of 500 years and opted for Zionism, transforming their ancestral, liturgical Hebrew into an old/new language and migrating to Palestine in the 1920s and 30s. Still others opted for the more universal promise of Communism in Europe and Russia, and others for capitalist opportunity in America. Those who stayed put were slaughtered — more than 135,000 of them in the woods and fields around their towns and were buried in mass trenches by the Nazi Einsatzgruppen and their Lithuanian recruits in the summer of 1941.

Some Lithuanian-Jewish Communists had fled not to the USSR but to South Africa as well as to America, among them Joseph Slovo, a founder of the African National Congress. A few of the next generation of South African Jews were ANC sympathizers, like the young Ian Shapiro, now a political scientist at Yale. And some of these leftists later became neo-conservatives or bureaucratic apparatchiks in the manner I’ve mentioned, grafting an old mental morphology onto Established Power rather than onto a revolutionary pursuit of Power.

Beinart’s family and most other South African Jews weren’t leftists. They came seeking freedom from persecution and bourgeois. But in South Africa they internalized the idealized British standards I’ve mentioned, and few were immune to internalizing the “odd” but unrelenting British discomfort and pretended bemusement about Jews.

All this prompts many a British Jew’s own efforts at expiation and projection. Even young Beinart, although he grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts and attended the Buckingham Brown and Nichols School and then Yale, where he was influenced by the Jewish nationalist political theorist Steven Smith, eventually spent a year at Oxford reckoning with whatever aspirations and insecurities the Brits of South Africa had implanted in his parents and, through them, in him.

This is a recipe for the unsavory mix of aspirations and fears we encountered in his writings and his trajectory as I sketch them briefly in bookforum. Although I don’t share their positions, Chait and Goldberg have a point: Beinart, like the estimable Tony Judt, himself a British Jew, is right in principle about Israel’s worst apologists, but he overstates his case for reasons having more to do with swift, dark currents in history and himself than with the complicated realities in Israel and Palestine.

Maybe I need to place a prominent warning on this site, alerting readers about the dangerous influence of the evil country where I grew up.

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The transformation of ‘anti-Semitism’

In recent years, right-wing Israeli political leaders and their supporters have warned of the rise of a “new anti-Semitism”, rife across Europe and in left-wing political circles. The new anti-Semites are critics of Israel. They don’t target Jews; they target the Jewish state. (I say “they” but of course I should say “we” because I too would surely be branded as being among the ranks of this hateful group.)

Still, this term “new anti-Semitism” hasn’t really caught on. Instead, something much more significant has happened: the term “anti-Semitic” has taken on new meaning not because it actually has a new meaning but because what it signals has become more important than what it targets.

Glenn Greenwald warns that those who so freely scream “anti-Semite” are “cheapening and trivializing ‘anti-semitism’ to the point of irrelevance.”

Joe Klein has called on his friend Leon Wieseltier to apologize to Andrew Sullivan for suggesting that the latter had shown “venomous hostility toward Israel and Jews.” Wieseltier didn’t use the word anti-Semite, but the insinuation was transparent.

A shift has indeed taken place and it is not merely that the charge of anti-Semitism has become so overused that it is losing its meaning, it is this:

The new anti-Semitism does not identify expanding ranks of Jew-haters; it signals a new class of hysterical and hateful Jews.

Anti-Semitism no longer points at its intended target; it points at itself.

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