The ‘Devil’ we know

For global anti-Semites, Jews have become synonymous with Israel.

Soccer fans hold up Nazi swastika flag 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Soccer fans hold up Nazi swastika flag 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Anti-Semitism has transformed itself over the past two decades into a global scourge, as a resurgent movement of lethal Jew-hatred has led to murders in Europe and elsewhere. According to Daniel J. Goldhagen’s important and timely book The Devil That Never Dies, global anti-Semitism is alive and kicking – and gaining in strength.
Goldhagen cites the March 2012 murders that Mohammed Merah perpetrated in France. These anti-Semitic killings resulted in the deaths of four French Jews, including three young children in Toulouse. Merah linked his Jew-hatred to Israel, saying, “I kill Jews in France as these are the same Jews who kill innocents in Palestine.”
For global anti-Semites, Jews have become synonymous with Israel. Put simply, Israel has become the collective Jew among the nations, as the late French historian and anti-Semitism expert Léon Poliakov said about the rise of politically animated anti-Semitism.
Goldhagen explains in meticulous detail that this global “political orientation” and its relentless obsession, fueled in part by the Internet, intends to divest Israel of its existence. In short, he debunks the idea that the intense bashing of Israel is merely attributed to detached, objective criticism, arguing instead that “it is anti-semitism that produces anti-Israelism.”
His exhaustive research shows the key role that anti-Semitic rhetoric, trumpeted ad nauseam in the Islamic world and in European Muslim communities today, plays in activating anti-Semitic movements and killings.
MERAH’S BROTHER Abdelkader explains in the book what informed his brother’s outlook: “My mother always said, ‘We, the Arabs, we were born to hate Jews.’ This speech, I heard it all throughout my childhood.”
The flavor of hate these young men hear in the home is best described by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who – as the Lebanese Islamic terrorist organization actively seeks the destruction of Israel – features as an important case study in Goldhagen’s book.
In 1997, Nasrallah set out the foundation for his organization’s murderous anti-Semitism: “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak, and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology, and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli.”
Just months after the Toulouse murders, Hezbollah blew up a bus full of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, killing five Israelis and their Bulgarian driver. However, a feeble Europe seems more interested in managing anti- Semitism’s growth than in aggressively combating it. The US and Canada long ago banned Hezbollah, but the European Union merely outlawed its so-called “military wing,” and that occurred only this past July. The Shi’ite group’s “political wing” continues to work openly across Europe.
To explain the diverse anti-Jewish global forces at work, Goldhagen uses the concept of the “foundational antisemitic paradigm.”
This paradigm, he writes, “holds Jews to be in their essence different from non-Jews and noxious.”
Demarcating Jews as “Christ-killers” (Christian anti-Semitism), or racially alien (Nazi-based anti-Semitism), or the deadly adversary of the Prophet Muhammad (Islamic anti-Semitism) is one of the expressions of global anti-Semitism. The anti-Israel variety is, one could persuasively argue, the dominant form of the hybrid global anti-Semitisms.
Europe typifies the spread of globalized modern anti-Semitism; surveys show 40 percent to 50% of Europeans equate Israel with Nazi Germany. In a bitter irony, the oft-quoted phrase “the Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz” has been transformed into a pan-European disorder focused on Israel.
The toxic mix of this crude European response to the Holocaust and the large Muslim-European communities that hold widespread anti-Semitic views helps fan the flames of interconnected anti-Semitisms spreading across countries and continents.
Goldhagen’s clear prose shines a light on the interplays and amalgams among the various forms of anti-Semitism, making for a work immediately intelligible to non-academics.
A Harvard-trained political scientist, he was catapulted into academic and international stardom with his groundbreaking 1996 book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners. In it, he showed the ubiquitous presence of “eliminationist anti-Semitism” that enabled ordinary German men and women to carry out the Holocaust.
His new cause is exploring that same eliminatory anti-Semitism on a global scale, and his book delves deep into the inner workings of anti-Semitisms’ (he invokes the plural) global reach. It is a scathing indictment of governments, the UN, major human rights organizations, and civil society groups that demonstrate a cynical indifference to, and minimization of, contemporary loathing toward Jews.
“Global anti-Semitism is something radically new and is something deeply rooted in past anti-Semitisms,” writes the author, adding that its chief feature – the desire to eliminate – makes it “immensely more dangerous than at any time since the Nazi period.”
He uses every tool in his analytical and statistical kit to prove that anti-Semitism has grown to obscene proportions.
“From 1989 to 2012,” he writes, “the annual number of major violent antisemitic incidents against Jews living outside Israel and Palestinian areas soared almost 800 percent.”
He stresses, however, that anti-Semitic attacks are severely underreported, largely because they must meet an extraordinarily high bar of proof. This helps explain why many European Jews hide their Jewish identities – because of justified fear of violent assaults.
Contrasted with Europe, the “United States is a virtual paradise” for Jews because of comparatively low levels of anti-Semitism and threats of violence, he writes.
Despite the public countervailing forces against the spread of anti-Semitism in the US, Goldhagen takes Columbia University and its president Lee Bollinger to task for “affording the world’s leading anti-Semite [Iran’s then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] a prominent public platform that would never be given to a country’s leader who spread equivalent racist things about African Americans, such as [that] American slavery never existed, or threatened the extinction of a country other than Israel.”
Columbia University invited Ahmadinejad to speak in 2007. The Iranian leader had called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and repeatedly denied the first Holocaust while allegedly planning a second Holocaust, this time aimed at Israel, through his country’s nuclear weapons program.
For Goldhagen, the “world has become so inured to antisemitism that Columbia honors… a man who does and would emulate Hitler.”
The author also takes time to address media outlets complicit in inciting violence against Jews. He cites the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera for “its purposeful and systematic antisemitic agitation and demonization of Israel.” Al Jazeera launched its US operation in August, and the star of its programming is Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who said Hitler “managed to put them [Jews] in their place,” and justified the Holocaust as “divine punishment.”
Goldhagen tirelessly refutes the claim that Jews and Israel trigger anti-Semitism.
While those who blame the victim still carry great weight in public discourse, it cannot be emphasized enough that the real blame is rooted in the disturbed thought processes, actions and inactions of anti- Semites around the world.
In the book’s ominous title, the author attempts to capture the metamorphosis of the Devil – in his view, anti-Semitism itself.
The dangers he outlines in this brilliant work should sound a clarion call for governmental and societal intervention. The oft-repeated warning that anti-Semitism first targets Jews and then spreads its fatal destructiveness to non-Jews has been largely ignored.
The increasing sympathy for this Devil does not bode well for humanity.The writer is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. On Twitter: @BenWeinthal.