Sunday, February 25, 2007

Any effort that weakens Israel is anti-Semitic

From the Winnipeg Free Press.

Any effort that weakens Israel is anti-Semitic
'New' anti-Semitism targets Isiael

Sat Feb 24 2007

How odd
Of God

To choose

The Jews.

-- Willam Norman Ewer

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The sentiment behind that bit of jolly British doggerel has probably on one occasion or another run through the minds of many more people than would admit to it publicly, even if they are not familiar with the specific verse. But it's not the exact words that matter. It's the thought that counts and the thought is one of the most pervasive and perverse in modern civilization. In honesty, I have to admit that the thought has crossed my mind -- why did the God of the Old Testament choose the Jews when he could have chosen, for example, the Icelanders?

With a little bit of research the answer becomes clear -- when God made his choice, there weren't any Icelanders around. And with a little more thought, one has to admit that, given the options available to him way back then, God made a pretty good choice, because the Jews were willing to share what they got, a generosity which led American businessman Cecil Browne to reply to Ewer's verse. Was it odd of God? Perhaps, it was,

But not so odd

As those who choose

A Jewish God

But spurn the Jews.

Trust an American businessman to get right to the point. And the point here is anti-Semitism, not as it is played out in clever rhymes, but as it has been practised and experienced for centuries. Browne's quatrain, however, does encapsulate one of the huge curiosities of history. The world's three great monotheistic religions -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- all have at their root a Jewish God, yet Christians and Muslims have been among the most virulent anti-Semites.

It is not just Christians and Muslims who are guilty, however. Anti-Semites pop up out of all of the great and popular heresies -- atheism, communism, fascism -- that sprang from the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. Say what you will about the persecutions of the Middle Ages or the pogroms of the 19th century, it took the intellectual sophistication of the 20th century for anti-Semitism to reach its high-water mark in Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union and among the Arab nationalists of the Middle East -- not to mention the more modest but nevertheless still anti-Semitic quota systems at Canadian universities and private clubs.
It took the particular philosophical confusion of our own age, however, to bring forth the latest wrinkle in anti-Semitism -- the anti-Semitic Jew. This phenomenon is part of a new movement popular among, although not confined to Western, left-wing intellectuals. It is rooted in self-loathing, a contempt for the values and beliefs that come out of Western civilization and sustain societies such as Israel. It is a kind of intellectual nihilism embraced by people who fear, perhaps, that all the best ideas have already been thought, so all that's left for them to do is to tear everything down. Add the antagonism towards Israel that is widely popular in the West today to this self-loathing intellectualism and the result is what has been called the new anti-Semitism. The attacks are no longer against Jews and their history. It is no longer the Holocaust that is denied. Rather it is Israel and its history -- a history perceived as a relentless series of crimes against the Palestinians. It is Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state that is denied.

Anti-Semitic? Who? Me? might be the motto of these people, particularly the anti-Israel Jewish groups that have sprung up around the world. They are not, they say, anti-Jewish; they are just anti-Israel. It is a defining distinction in their minds but one that is elusive to others and preposterous to anyone who looks at their prescriptions for the future of the Jewish state.

Being pro-Israel, in fact, is seen as a root cause of anti-Semitism -- defending Israel creates "Islamophobia".

The idea of the anti-Semitic Jew may seem like a paradox with this intellectual puzzle, but consider this comment: "Defenders of Israel often argue that Israel is forced to do what it does -- to destroy people's homes, to keep them under the boot of occupation, to seal them into walled ghettos, to brutalize them daily with military incursions and random checkpoints -- to protect its citizens from Palestinian violence" -- comments by a Jewish group made elsewhere on this page, a group that believes these are continuing crimes of Israeli history.

This line of thinking leads to the belief that Israel is a nation born in blood and bred on violence and so has no right to exist -- at least, it is intended to take you to that conclusion. If it were to come out of the mouth of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, there would be no doubt. He is a proud anti-Semite dedicated to the extermination of Jews, evangelical in his anti-Semitism. When it comes out of the mouths of Western intellectuals -- gentiles and Jews alike -- it is somehow not? Perhaps out of deference to their dislike for that term, we should call them anti-Israelites, but whatever we call them or they name themselves, I suspect that if you prick them, they will bleed pure anti-Semitism.

The real question here is whether it is possible to be anti-Israel, to argue that the Jewish state is an abomination in the eyes of the left, without being an anti-Semite. Perhaps it is, but I don't think so. The reason is simple enough. It is possible to oppose individual Israeli policies, deplore individual actions of the state of Israel -- indeed, to oppose most of its policies and actions -- and not be an anti-Semite. Many people, Jews among them, do exactly that. But if working toward the destruction of the Jewish state and its Jewish people -- however intellectually disingenuous your arguments are -- is not anti-Semitic, then God help the Jews, because no one else will.

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