The problem of the Jews today, the world over, is not anti-Semitism but a new branch of it: "Israelophobia." The most productive fight for world Jewry and its allies at the moment would be not against anti-Semitism, even though Israelophobia is a part of it, but against Israelopbia itself.
The observances that took place in Europe to commemorate Kristallnacht, which took place on November 9, 1938, were abundant: no Jew could be unhappy about the surrounding sympathy, the public proclamation of the need to remember, the absolute rejection of any anti-Semitism, and even more, the rejection of any genocidal fervor against the Jews. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of many resolute speakers, said that the Germans must show their "strength of character, and promise that anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in any form." It was a point of view echoed by all European leaders, and it was nice to hear.
Unfortunately, however, these words are only a cheap way to address the problem. They do not keep in check all the other promises -- those to destroy the Jewish world, starting with Israel. If the fight against anti-Semitism were actually to be fought from memory and history, many programs, such as Holocaust studies in schools, movies on TV, trips to Auschwitz, interfaith dialogue, and the historical shame of racial laws would have had a deeper resonance in the European soul.
Even Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Hosseini Khamenei, occasionally embraces some local Jew and explains that he has nothing against Jews. In the Islamic world the commitment to kill Jews has a special religious character, as can be seen from the Hamas Charter -- in which Jews are accused of having caused all wars, and promises are made to kill them all, one by one, down to the last Jew -- as well as other positions taken by Hamas's parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. In other countries, such as Turkey, the discourse is different: the death sentence is first on Israel, and only secondarily on Jews. Either way, hatred of Israel, or Israelophobia, seems a fundamental element of Islamic ideology today, but does not stop just at that.
The term Israelophobia seems to stem from a prejudice and irrational hatred of Israel. The word was used for the first time, as far as I know, by Richard Prasquier, President of CRIF (the umbrella organization of the Jewish communities in France), and was presumably the obverse of "Islamophobia," a term used to define a huge cultural prejudice with a racist character towards the religion of the Prophet, while armies of human rights defenders stand guard against any element of discrimination against people of the Islamic faith.
"Israelophobia," on the other hand, is steeped in centuries of anti-Semitic stereotypes, but it has now taken on an intense life of its own, often rich in contemporary fabrications -- for example, that historically Jews have never lived in Jerusalem; that IDF soldiers harvest the organs of Palestinians; that the "wall of separation," built to keep out terrorists, is a form of apartheid -- and through these falsehoods gushes forth a hatred for Jews. Israelophobia is a block of hatred crystallized around a piece of land, around an idea. Anti-Zionism today, from Malmö to Qom, arises and multiplies entirely from prejudice against Israel: many of its most vicious critics have never even set foot in the state.
These attacks on Israel are all too often made up of devastating classical anti-Semitic projections, lies and distortions to delegitimize Israel -- the blood libel that Jews kill non-Jewish children to use their blood to bake matzah; bottomless greed; indifference, and savage cruelty toward anyone who is not Jewish. Even legitimate geopolitical decisions -- such as the right to self-defense, or not being expected to hold territory in perpetuity until such time as one's sworn enemies might perhaps decide not to threaten annihilation, with no cost for the delay; or ignoring other countries accused of "occupation," such as Turkey in Cyprus, Pakistan in Kashmir or China in Tibet, while singling out only Israel for opprobrium. These accusations are often translated not just into judgments against Israel, but then go viral against any Jew.
Such falsehoods have not only had some success; they have become mainstream. There is no protest against them from political parties, with few exceptions, or most cultural groups. Moreover, countering these lies or honoring historical truths count for nothing: facts just disappear. Thus, while political correctness does not allow for outright anti-Semitism -- all the TV presenters are ready to say a kind word to the Jews as a "different religion," and that they are appreciated as a "minority" -- anti-Israelism is not only on the rise; it is fashionable and snobbish. To say "that shitty little country," as the French ambassador to London, Daniel Bernard, did, is commonplace.
As Daniel Schwammenthal has written in the Wall Street Journal, before there was anti-Semitism without Jews; now there is anti-Semitism without anti-Semites. No one -- not even most of the Jewish leadership -- will publicly ascribe anti-Semitism to anyone except possibly the occasional neo-Nazi group. While vows are always made to fight anti-Semitism, its existence is not even admitted where it is found in its most frequent and obvious forms: among university and media "intellectuals;" in certain NGOs; in international institutions such as the United Nations and its offshoots; within the European Union; in "liberal" associations ostensibly promoting human rights -- and both as a way of life, as well as to reinforce identity, in the Islamic world. Recently, during a dinner with a high level diplomat, while discussing the increasing anti-Semitism in Europe, he responded with absolute amazement. "I have never met an anti-Semite in my life," he and his wife assured me; "I am sure that many of my closest friends would say the same thing: these episodes are sporadic, done by extremist groups, especially on the far right." That is not, however, the case.
No one, either on the left or right, believes Israelophobia to be a violation of human rights, or defends the Jewish people from this all-encompassing prejudice that covers the history and character of the Jewish people with lies. An attack on Israel is seen, rather, as a legitimate critique of a sovereign country; the revival of anti-Semitism (which is what it is) against the Jewish people is therefore considered not important.
European Jews, and even a large number of American Jews -- possibly hoping to avoid being the target of such a chill, and possibly hoping to join the bandwagon to fit in better with their non-Jewish neighbors -- have sidestepped a position of total support for Israel, and instead appear reticent and opportunistic. At a meeting with the Italian Foreign Minister shortly after Italy's unilateral recognition of Palestine at the UN, none of the representatives at the meeting of international Jewish leaders, apart from this author, dared to ask for an account of that event.
Any obvious lie can be told about Israel; it will always find a huge echo of consent. Reality and facts are always removed. In his latest book, The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism, Daniel Goldhagen lists slanderous remarks that others have made about Israel, such as: Israel is a source of disorder for the neighboring countries; the cause of the dictatorships in the Middle East; the greatest threat to world peace; the Nazis of our time; it inspired the war against Iraq, it controls U.S. policy; it foments hatred toward the Americans and the West; it perpetrates genocide against the Palestinians; it wants to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque; it murders Palestinian children; it poisons wells and people, and so forth ...Israel's policy of sexual non-discrimination was called "pinkwashing," on the grounds that the attitude of respect toward gays, as opposed to the persecution of them in Muslim countries, is purely for propaganda purposes.
Much work has also been done to deconstruct the birthright of the Jews in Israel, claiming that their relationship to the land is non-existent, distant or inconstant. Another notion with which Israelophobia is packed is "illegal," often referring to the occupation of territories, but also to the very existence of a country that was never accepted by its neighbors, since day one, when five Arab armies attacked it in the hope of stamping it out before it could even start.
Of all the Asian or African democracies, according to Goldhagen, Israel is the most solid and the oldest; and, as the 57th member nation of the UN -- before Spain, Italy, Germany --- not a moment has passed without its existence being threatened by the terrorism and the religious and tribal hatred of the Muslim world, accompanied often by Europe.
In defending itself, Israel has lost 30,000 men, proportionally equivalent to 1.18 million Americans. It has lost 4,000 people to terrorism, the equivalent of 157,000 Americans. When, after yet another defensive war, Israel ended up pushing back Jordan and capturing the West Bank, which Jordan had occupied, it immediately offered to return the land -- only to have the offer rejected by the Arab League in the form of the three "Nos" of Khartoum: "No peace, no recognition, no negotiation."
When Israel made peace with Egypt, it had no problem returning the Sinai Peninsula, down to the last inch of land. But the responsibility for the difficulties of maintaining the peace with Egypt is always attributed only to Israel, which has never said or done anything that even vaguely resembles the aggression of its neighbors. It is nevertheless accused of the worst possible crimes and moral abjection -- charges which countries such as South Africa, for example, endorse without even bothering to verify whether or not they are true, claiming Israel is a country where apartheid is practiced, and forbidding government ministers to travel there. It does not matter if its democratic institutions and human rights record receive the highest ratings from Freedom House. It is mystifying that the UN recently condemned Israel for abuses in the Golan Heights, when in fact Israel accepts wounded Syrians and treats them freely in hospitals, while their own leader, Bashar Assad, tears them to pieces.
The consequence of Israelophobia is, not surprisingly, that anti-Semitism linked to Israel is on the increase. According to a study by the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation, 63% of Poles and 48% of Germans think "Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians." Meanwhile, 41% of the British and 42% of the Hungarians think the same thing, as well as 38% of Italians. In the survey, 55% percent of Poles and 36% of Germans responded: "Considering Israel's policy, I can understand why people do not like Israel." Respondents in other countries studied agree with this at percentages that range from 30-40%. According to a survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), 48% of European Jews interviewed have heard or read the accusation that "Israelis behave towards the Palestinians as the Nazis did to the Jews." In Italy, as in Belgium and France, 60% percent reported the same.
The mainstream "narrative," as it Is now called, although false, claims there was a "historic Palestine," which the perfidious Jewish "settlers" occupied, and from which they expelled the suffering population; yet this "narrative" is the basis of the hatred that leads to the toxic myths of the apartheid wall, the demolition of houses (would London allow houses built in Hyde Park; or Paris in the Bois de Bologne, or Berlin in the Tiergarten?); the persecution of the Palestinians and their children beaten and killed; the Zionist jailer locking Gaza in a cage; and, conversely, the glorification of terrorists, the widespread justification of attacks and missiles rained on Israel; the corrupt use of European public funds; the rejection of the very existence of a state for the Jewish people despite the acceptance of several self-declared Islamic "Republics," such as Pakistan and Iran; and Israel as considered an archeological remnant of colonialism, imperialism and a reincarnation of all evil forces, especially Nazism.
Daniel Schwammenthal also mentions Jack Straw, the former British Foreign Secretary, who last month in the House of Commons, said that AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby in America, "has made its unlimited funds one of the greatest obstacles to peace between Israelis and Palestinians" -- again a false statement; but, says Schwammenthal, the notion that that a large group of Americans can support Israel must be, to Straw, so incredible that consequences at once impossible and disastrous are ascribed to it. What actually does seem incredible that people such as the Greek composer Michael Theodorakis or José Saramago, a Portuguese writer who compared Israel's treatment of Palestinians to the Nazis' treatment of Jews at Auschwitz, and so many other intellectuals and notables, would be fully recruited for the Israelophobic battle.
In other incredible events, when, in Germany, on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, Badische Zeitung published a cartoon by Horst Haitzinger in which a snail with the head of a dove goes to the peace talks with Iran, in a classic case of anti-Semitic slurs in which Jews are cast as poisoners, saboteurs and warmongers, Israel's Prime Minister,Binyamin Netanyahu is shown on the phone saying, "I need poison for doves and snails."
There seem three main reasons why Israelophobia exists:
- The worldwide spread of a Muslim presence never before seen, including its globalization on the Internet, its proliferation of anti-Israel propaganda, and its power in institutions.
- The spread of the culture of "human rights," in which anyone who appears to be an underdog must be "good," and anyone who appears not to be an underdog or victim must therefore be "bad."
- The current government of the United States of America.
The current U.S. Administration has sincerely promoted a positive relationship between America and Islam that, in addition to being politically questionable, makes room in the world for the most brutal anti-Semitism. The decline of American influence has left a vacuum that has been filled by all kinds of alternatives to democracy - ideological and otherwise, from the al-Nusra Front to the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as to Russia, China and Afghanistan.
The current Administration probably did not foresee this disastrous side effect, but it seems clear is that in designing the policy that prohibited the use of the word "jihad" in official U.S. documents, no one stopped to think about how many times that term has been used to explain terrorism against, for example, Israel. That point apparently does not strike anyone there as relevant to the president's international policies. Hatred toward the Jewish state, even in its most extreme forms, was apparently not regarded as having any political significance, and therefore has not, in recent years, been subjected to any ideological or moral sanction.
As for the relationship with Iran, it is clear that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are leading the world towards acceptance of a military nuclear program for a country that has repeatedly spoken out in public about genocidal intentions. The U.S. negotiators seem to have easily swallowed a deal that destroyed any leverage for future negotiations; that had every benefit for Iran and effectively no benefits for the West; that assisted Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons instead of stopping enrichment, in accordance with six UN resolutions; that contained no improvements in human rights for Iran's citizens; and did not address Iran's threats, illegal under the UN Charter, to obliterate a fellow member-state, Israel.
Continual threats against Israel have also been coming from the Sunni world. In Egypt, Mohamed Badie, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, said, "We will continue to wave the flag of jihad against the Jews, our first and greatest enemies." Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi stated, "Allah has imposed upon the Jews a continuing punishment for their corruption. The last was led by Hitler. There is no dialogue with them other than the sword and the gun. We pray to Allah to kill every last one of them." New, is the complete lack of reaction to these positions.
Islamic cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, threatens Jews on his popular Al-Jazeera TV show. (Image source: memritv.org)
Past American presidents have always either hinted at, or made plain, a prohibition of the most racist and dangerous aspects of Islam regarding Israel, the Jews, and Christians. Not so with the current U.S. Administration. No one in it has ever said to Iran, with which it is about to sign an agreement, that it may not consider Israel "a rotten root that must be destroyed."
No one in it has ever told the Palestinians that it is "not helpful" to repeat every day, especially during negotiations, that Israel is a murderous, racist, genocidal country -- a charge most recently leveled by Sa'eb Erekat, the head negotiator of the Palestinian delegation.
In a word, by seeming to give Islam a free hand in exchange for nothing in return, the current U.S. Administration has allowed the most severe hostile messages, both Israelophobic and otherwise, to spread without caution. Without America standing guard, all non-Muslim countries become fresh prey for their detractors.
On human rights, ironically, the organizations purportedly supporting them have spared no weapons in attacking Israel, one of the countries most conscientious about enforcing human rights despite the almost impossible conditions of a tiny country finding itself under military, economic or diplomatic attack -- often all three -- virtually every day since its birth. The assault from human rights groups cannot have resulted from observing facts. If pure facts were observed, Israel should be at, or near, the top of any list of nations that embody human rights. Anti-Western nations, however, which form majority at the United Nations, began associating Zionism with racism in 1975 -- probably meaning "Western imperialism." The claims were then advanced, and financed, by anti-Semitic NGOs, culminating in the UN's Durban Conferences. At that point, human rights became distorted into being used as a shield behind which to escalate attacks against Israel, as well as to protect UN "peacekeepers" in Africa from the "food for sex" scandal, where they sexually abused the children they were charged to protect.
The systemic disease with respect to "anti-imperialism" arose in the history of a political wing that, at a time when communism proved to be totalitarianism, chose not to complain about it, but to fight at its side against capitalism, imperialism, and whatever else then seemed an "injustice."
The Jews, however, with their history of suffering and death, no longer correspond to the image that they, more than any other comfortable white person in the West, are ammunition for the war against "bourgeois," or middle class, society. The Marxist economic view of class warfare can be seen as "win-lose" -- meaning, if I "win," it must have been by exploiting someone else, who "lost". The capitalist economic view, on the other hand, can be seen as that of "win-win": if you win, everyone wins: the rising tide lifts all boats with it. It is this capitalist view that has catapulted societies to undreamed-of success. From the Marxist model of winners versus losers, however -- which was popular in the early 20th century until it was proven catastrophic in nations such as Russia and Cuba, where the only winners turned out to be the few men in charge -- arose the use of the issue of human rights, often as a tactical and political weapon against anyone who even looked well-off -- especially against Israel, probably as the embodiment of a nation of mostly white people who, despite so many ongoing efforts to stamp them out, were not even slowed down.
The 1960s ushered in "radical-chic" verbal aggression, still in use, whereby the world is suddenly filled with "fascists." Considered as such were Margaret Thatcher, George Bush, Silvio Berlusconi, and Ronald Reagan, followed by writers and singers -- simply because they were not communists. Thus Israel, a friend of America, but which allegedly caused suffering to the Palestinians (a poor Arab third-world Muslim population, that, although no one ever talks about it, is accustomed to fierce and authoritarian leadership toward its own people), became a "fascist," "imperialist" country: because it was not in the "correct" camp, that of the "people's democracies" -- all of them in fact dictatorships, then and now.
The lack of clear condemnation of European terrorism, rationalized in various ways -- for instance, as comrades who had made a few mistakes -- was accompanied by justifying international terrorism against Israel: from the attack at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, up to the glorification of the terrorists recently released by Israel, who received the red-carpet treatment from Mahmoud Abbas, and were rewarded by the Palestinian Authority with checks for $50,000 each, plus a monthly stipend. One of these recently released terrorists had killed a father who was driving with his little girl by his side; another had killed a survivor of the Holocaust with a pickax; and another attacked and dismembered a man who worked in Gaza in an office that provided aid to the Palestinians.
These events are a subsection of Israelophobia in a world that legislates to have a smoke-free environment, but not against child-marriages or honor killings or female circumcision, and that has never felt the need to deal with terrorism against Israel, or with the human rights to which the Israelis might be entitled.
A few months ago, Baroness Catherine Ashton fretted publicly about the state of a Palestinian prisoner who had chosen the path of a hunger strike, yet she took no position on the massacres in Syria, not even those of the Palestinians in the Yarmouk refugee camp, where many Palestinians were massacred by the Assad regime's air raids.
The Jews, meanwhile, know that by staying within the established boundary of "Never Again," they find sympathy, understanding, and protection. Israel, on the other hand, is terra incognita, where any criticism, it seems, is considered "legitimate."
But Israelophobia has nothing to do with legitimate criticism of the State of Israel: it is not based on any observation of reality. It is an obsession, the clearest expressions of which are the UN's "Zionism is Racism" resolution of 1975; the fury with which nine motions were recently passed against Israel at the UN General Assembly, which were commented on even by a translator accidentally speaking into an open microphone; and when the UN General Assembly pushed through a total of 23 similar resolutions, in all of which legitimate defense becomes the cruelty of a "racist" and murderous country.
There needs to be a strategy which considers the consequences of Israelophobia. It would encompass the history of Israel, its values, its actions, its right to defend itself -- and the verbal and physical abuse to which it is constantly subjected. It is also necessary to continue fighting anti-Semitism. Any other option will allow terrorism -- against both Jews and non-Jews -- to grow.