Modern age, classic hatred

In a post-Holocaust world, it is Israel, symbolizing the collective Jew among the nations that has become the legitimate target for centuries-old hatreds and accusations.

September 28, 2011 00:49
Modern age, classic hatred

anti-semitic cartoon 298. (photo credit: Courtesy)

“Congress, the White House, Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. They put their money where their mouth is”.

These were the words of veteran White House Correspondent, Helen Thomas in December 2010. In an interview with Al-Jazeera radio in November 2005, George Galloway, who at the time was a sitting member of the House of Commons, declared: “The British government, the newspapers and news media are controlled by Zionism.”

Note that neither statement referred to the Jews directly, yet the classic slander of the global Jewish conspiracy was unmistakable. 

The use of euphemisms to disguise anti-Semitic intent is not without precedent. German society in the 1940s was no more comfortable with the idea of carrying out mass murder than the civilized world will accept blatant Jew-hatred today. So the Nazis used devices of language and psychological disassociation. The murder of the Jews was described as “liquidation” or “special actions”. Today in using Zionism and Israel to attack the Jews, the Nazi successors of anti-Semitism are perpetrating the same whitewashed, cheap semantic gimmick to conceal their purpose; and once again, these actions are continuing entirely undetected and unpunished. 

The extreme left wing has become particularly successful in adopting this tactic. The Jews occupy the unique position of being the only people despised in equal measure by the far left and far right. But while the far Right is comfortable to express anti-Semitism without the use of guises, the Left must be more subtle so as to preserve its position as the champion of equality and human dignity.

In the Jewish State and within Zionism - the national movement of the Jewish people, the far Left has found a popular target to express its contempt for a people who have long been associated with everything it despises – money, power and capitalism. And by cloaking its hatred in the language of politics and intellectualism, it stands entirely beyond reproach.

It is not only the political fringes which have taken to attacking the Jews through Israel and Zionism. Consider for example a story which appeared in a mainstream Swedish newspaper in August 2009: The article alleged that Israeli soldiers were abducting and murdering Palestinian youths and harvesting their organs. There was something eerily familiar about the accusation. It was classic blood libel. It cynically tapped into European fears, instilled since the middle ages, which suspected the Jews of murdering Christian children to use their blood in Passover rituals. The slander was outrageous but the subtle shift of blame from the Jew to the Jewish State ensured that the article could be distributed without serious scrutiny or condemnation.

Anti-Semitic attacks under the ruse of fair criticism of Israel are rarely this blatant and covert means are often far more effective. The assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh—a top Hamas commander who masterminded the weapons smuggling operation into Gaza—received extensive press coverage. However, it was not the demise of a prominent terrorist or the release of his taped confession to the kidnap and murder of two Israeli soldiers that attracted attention. Rather, the international media was only concerned with the allegation that the Mossad had used forged passports to enter the UAE to carry out the hit.

In the ultimate insult to the Jewish people, Israel is frequently likened to Nazi Germany. Through comparing conditions in Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto or accusing Israel of genocide, a disturbing attempt to trivialize the Holocaust and to rewrite history for political advantage emerges. This is but another manipulative display of reverse psychology. By siding with the victims of the victims (in this case the Palestinians), states and individuals are able to escape their own war-crime guilt. After all, if the Jews are ghettoizing and ethnically cleansing the Palestinians, why should we feel bad for having treated the Jews in the same way?

The demonization of the Zionist movement is another veiled attack on the Jewish people. Zionism has been derided and mischaracterized to the point that it has almost become a curse word. Yet it is no more than the national movement of the Jewish people; predicated on a desire to unify the nation in an ancestral home just like the national movements of every other people. But it was the Jewish national movement which the UN General Assembly deemed “a form of racism and racial discrimination". The significance of this cannot be understated. By having their national movement denied, the Jews are shown that they will only be tolerated as a scattered, stateless people with no rights of self-determination - something which the Holocaust demonstrated can never be accepted again.

The popular Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel is further evidence that Israel is used as a vehicle to express traditional anti-Semitism. At a rally in Amsterdam during Operation Cast Lead, pro-Palestinian activists were heard to chant, “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas” - a succinct example of the integration of anti-Semitic slurs into the anti-Israeli political discourse. And while the movement to boycott Israeli businesses, academics and even cultural programs purports to protest against policies of the Israeli government, in effect the boycotts do nothing more than attack any Jew who maintains even tenuous links to the Jewish State.

Not only does this revive the seemingly discredited “don’t buy from the Jews” campaign, it also sends the message that Jews will only be tolerated if they are willing to denounce their ancestry and nation.

Today’s anti-Semites bask in the immunity bestowed upon them by a free press and the pretence of political debate. They hide behind euphemisms and tricks of language and attack the Jewish people all over the globe by proxy – by condemning their State and their national movement. But we must ask - could one oppose the existence of any other state, deny its people the right to statehood, monitor and report it’s every failing with a gleeful zeal and still be considered to be favorably disposed to its people?

In the end, it is merely semantics which separates the modern campaign against the Jews from those of eras past. Still they attack Jewish businesses; still they deny the Jews the fundamental human rights of peoplehood and statehood; still the Jews suffer from a malicious and obsessive media; and still the anti-Semites prey on the ancient fears and perceptions embedded in the human psyche – the Jew as conspirer, ritual murderer and profiteer.

The writer is a London based lawyer and founder of The Jewish Thinker ( a non-profit organization promoting debate and contribution to matters affecting Jewish thought and life.

Related Content

Cookie Settings