From time immemorial, the Jew has been the hated “other.” Though the term anti-Semitism was probably first coined in 1860, the phenomenon has existed since Jews first became a people in Egypt. Pagan Greeks and Romans singled out Jews because of their stubborn refusal to work on Shabbat or because they “defaced” their body with circumcision. With the rise of Christianity and Islam, Diaspora Jews were hated for rejecting Jesus and Muhammad. In its most murderous mutation, anti-Semitism was fueled by racism. For a time, Hitler, history’s most conscientious anti-Semite, gave Jew-hatred a bad name. In the aftermath of the Shoah, anti-Semitism waned. But that inexplicable, ageless phenomenon is enjoying a new heyday.

The Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University, in a new report released in cooperation with the European Jewish Congress, establishes that 2009 was a record year for anti-Semitism. “The year in the wake of Operation Cast Lead was the worst since monitoring of anti-Semitic manifestations began two decades ago in terms of both major anti-Semitic violence and the hostile atmosphere generated worldwide by the mass demonstrations and verbal and visual expressions against Israel and the Jews,” note the institute’s scholars.

The total number of “violent anti-Semitic incidents” was 1,129, compared to 559 in 2008. That does not include threats, insults, graffiti signs, slogans, “and demonstrations featuring virulently anti-Semitic content.”

What’s more, the institute documents only cases that show “clear anti-Semitic content and intention.” Also, many Jews, fearful of reprisal or skeptical about the outcome, prefer not to file complaints.

“Thus, the number of incidents, both violent and verbal, might actually be far higher than the figures presented here,” write the researchers.

It is no coincidence that the present spate of anti-Semitism was triggered by Operation Cast Lead. Nor is it a surprise that the most violent incidents – where identification was possible – were perpetrated by Arabs or by Muslims and that these attacks took place in western Europe, the bastion of multiculturalism.

The Roth Institute report is one more worrying reminder that anti-Semitism, the congenital disease afflicting the Jewish people, has metastasized. This new strain is particularly conducive to the currently dominant multicultural environment, especially in western Europe.

IN THE past, in Christian society, the Jew was ostracized for rejecting Christ the savior (and when he converted, he was singled out as a “new Jew”). In the feudal age of courageous manliness and chivalry on the battlefield, the Jew was ridiculed for being, as historian Daniel Boyarin put it, “a sissy scholar” (even if it was suicidal for a tiny, segregated minority to attempt to use force to defend itself). And in the 19th century, when nationalism was the rage, the Jew was derided for engaging in luftgesheft instead of working the soil (even though Jews were forbidden to own land). In short, the Jew was the perennial “hated other.”

But what is a conscientious anti-Semite to do in an age of multiculturalism, when “otherness” is in? Singling out a Jew for being different, ridiculing his exotic traditions – in short, acting like an anti-Semite – is not just unpopular, it is downright unacceptable in the age of political correctness.

The indefatigable anti-Semite will not be deterred, however. If he can no longer attack the Jew for keeping kosher, for wearing distinctive dress, for adhering to Shabbat, a different tack must be taken. The Jew must now be coopted to the evil establishment. He is the rapacious capitalist, the smug acquisitionist; he is part of the neocon Cabal directing US foreign policy in Iraq.

But more than anything, the Jew is the warmongering Israeli. Once derided for his weakness and rootlessness, the Jew, who hoped to put an end to anti-Semitism by establishing his own state, is now singled out for being too aggressive, too militant.

That’s why in January 2009, the month Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, there was a sharp spike in anti-Semitic attacks, as the Roth institute study shows.

There is nothing the Jew can do to put an end to anti-Semitism. God knows, he’s tried. Yet the Jew of the 21st century should be optimistic. The same rabid hatred that has caused so much suffering for Jews throughout the ages was one of the central factors in the timing of the revival of the Jews’ sovereign state. Unlike in the past, when it relied on the kindness of others for protection, today the Jewish people has control of its destiny.

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