We live in a world where there is an ongoing war against the Jews. For the first decades after Israel’s founding, this war was conventional in nature. The goal was straightforward: to use military force to overrun Israel. Well before the Berlin Wall came down, that approach had clearly failed.
Then came phase two: terrorism. Terrorists targeted Israelis both home and abroad – from the massacre of Israeli athletes at Munich to the second intifada.
The terrorists continue to target Jews across the world. But they have not succeeded in bringing down the Israeli government – and they have not weakened Israeli resolve.
Now the war has entered a new phase. This is the soft war that seeks to isolate Israel by delegitimizing it.
The battleground is everywhere: the media, multinational organizations, NGOs. In this war, the aim is to make Israel a pariah.
The result is the curious situation we have today: Israel becomes increasingly ostracized, while Iran – a nation that has made no secret of wishing Israel’s destruction – pursues nuclear weapons loudly, proudly, and without apparent fear of rebuke.
For me, this ongoing war is a fairly obvious fact of life. Every day, the citizens of the Jewish homeland defend themselves against armies of terrorists whose maps spell out the goal they have in mind: a Middle East without Israel. In Europe, Jewish populations increasingly find themselves targeted by people who share that goal. And in the United States, I fear that our foreign policy sometimes emboldens these extremists.
THERE ARE two things that worry me most. First is the disturbing new
home that anti-Semitism has found in polite society – especially in
Europe. Second is how violence and extremism are encouraged when the
world sees Israel’s greatest ally distancing itself from the Jewish
When Americans think of anti-Semitism, we tend to think of the vulgar
caricatures and attacks of the first part of the 20th century.
Today it seems that the most virulent strains come from the Left. Often
this new anti-Semitism dresses itself up as legitimate disagreement with
Back in 2002 the president of Harvard, Larry Summers, put it this way:
“Where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have
traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated rightwing
populists, profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support
in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people
are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect
if not their intent.”
Mr. Summers was speaking mostly about our university campuses. Like me,
however, he was also struck by alarming developments in Europe.
Far from being dismissed out of hand, anti-Semitism today enjoys support
at both the highest and lowest reaches of European society – from its
most elite politicians to its largely Muslim ghettoes. European Jews
find themselves caught in this pincer.
We saw a recent outbreak when a European Commissioner trade minister
declared that peace in the Middle East is impossible because of the
Jewish lobby in America. Here’s how he put it: “There is indeed a belief
– it’s difficult to describe it otherwise – among most Jews that they
are right. And it’s not so much whether these are religious Jews or not.
Lay Jews also share the same belief that they are right. So it is not
easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what
is actually happening in the Middle East.”
This minister did not suggest the problem was any specific Israeli
policy. The problem, as he defined it, is the nature of the Jews. Adding
to the absurdity, this man then responded to his critics this way:
Anti-Semitism, he asserted, “has no place in today’s world and is
fundamentally against our European values.”
Of course, he has kept his job.
Unfortunately, we see examples like this one all across Europe. Sweden,
for example, has long been a synonym for liberal tolerance. Yet in one
of Sweden’s largest cities, Malmo, Jews report increasing examples of
harassment. When an Israeli tennis team visited for a competition, it
was greeted with riots. So how did the mayor respond? By equating
Zionism with anti- Semitism – and suggesting that Swedish Jews would be
safer in his town if they distanced themselves from Israeli actions in
You don’t have to look far for other danger signs: The Norwegian
government forbids a Norwegianbased, German shipbuilder from using its
waters to test a submarine being built for the Israeli navy.
Britain and Spain are boycotting an OECD tourism meeting in Jerusalem.
In the Netherlands, police report a 50 percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents.
MAYBE WE shouldn’t be surprised by these things.
According to one infamous European poll a few years back, Europeans
listed Israel ahead of Iran and North Korea as the greatest threat to
In Europe today, some of the most egregious attacks on Jewish people,
Jewish symbols, and Jewish houses of worship have come from the Muslim
Unfortunately, far from making clear that such behavior will not be
tolerated, too often the official response is what we’ve seen from the
Swedish mayor – who suggested Jews and Israel were partly to blame
When Europe’s political leaders do not stand up to the thugs, they lend
credence to the idea that Israel is the source of all the world’s
problems – and they guarantee more ugliness. If that is not
anti-Semitism, I don’t know what is.
That brings me to my second point: the importance of good relations between Israel and the United States.
Some believe that if America wants to gain credibility in the Muslim
world and advance the cause of peace, Washington needs to put some
distance between itself and Israel. My view is the opposite. Far from
making peace more possible, we are making hostilities more certain. Far
from making things better for the Palestinian people, sour relations
between the United States and Israel guarantees that ordinary
Palestinians will continue to suffer.
The peace we all want will come when Israel feels secure – not when Washington feels distant.
Right now we have war. There are many people waging this war. Some blow
up cafes. Some fire rockets into civilian areas. Some are pursuing
nuclear arms. Some are fighting the soft war, through international
boycotts and resolutions condemning Israel. All these people are
watching the US-Israeli relationship closely.
In this regard, I was pleased to hear the State Department’s spokesman
clarify America’s position last week. He said that the United States
recognizes “the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for
the Jewish people.”
This is an important message to send to the Middle East. And when people
see a Jewish prime minister treated badly by an American president,
they see a more isolated Jewish state. That only encourages those who
favor the gun over those who favor negotiation.
Back in 1937, a man named Vladimir Jabotinsky urged Britain to open up
an escape route for Jews fleeing Europe. Only a Jewish homeland, he
said, could protect European Jews from the coming calamity.
In prophetic words, he described the problem this way: “It is not the
anti-Semitism of men,” he said. “It is, above all, the anti-Semitism of
things, the inherent xenophobia of the body social or the body economic
under which we suffer.”
The world of 2010 is not the world of the 1930s. The threats Jews face
today are different. But these threats are real. These threats are
soaked in an ugly language familiar to anyone old enough to remember
World War II. And these threats cannot be addressed until we see them
for what they are: part of an ongoing war against the Jews.Edited from a speech Rupert Murdoch gave in New York last Wednesday at an Anti-Defamation League dinner.
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