Grump Old Man: Who ya gonna call?

The Anti-Semite Busters might be on to something – but then again they might not.

Roger Waters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Roger Waters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Conspiracy theories can be interesting. One of my favorites is the Mossad shark from Sharm e-Sheikh. Less entertaining but just as wacky is Israel having been behind the ouster of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. (I can already hear army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi at his tribunal: The devil made me do it.) Not that I wish these allegations of all-encompassing power and ability were true, but it might be nice to come from a country that can do anything it wants and get away with it.
Where do people (among them a sitting prime minister of Turkey) come off believing such nonsense? Psychologists blame legitimate doubts augmented by a deep, even pathological need to have the unexplainable explained, most often through scenarios that reflect deep biases. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided to release Palestinian terrorists? It must’ve been his wife, Sara.
The goods for such beliefs are provided by conspiracy theorists, the ones who plant the seeds of suspicion and actively cultivate the doubts. They generally have an agenda or just want to become rich and famous by writing books and appearing on daytime talk shows.
They fancy themselves detectives.
If TV is any yardstick, detectives often obtain a few solid clues and then conjure up scenarios, plugging in gaps with conjecture until coming across a sealant that is so reasonably watertight it leads them either to the culprit or to further clues that will. Conspiracy theorists just plug in the gaps with conjecture until it sounds more or less right.
But it’s their audience that piques my interest most. These are people who’ve seen it all. They’re absolutely sure that anything is possible, whether it’s additional gunmen in Dallas, extraterrestrials on ice at Roswell or even a Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) that wanted Yitzhak Rabin out of the way. Feed them the right stuff and they go through life with an absolute certainty about what the rest of us can’t even begin to know.
They’re kind of like the Anti-Semite Busters.
SOME PEOPLE use the anti-Semite card as often as they breathe air. They’re absolutely certain that anything negative said about any Jew anywhere puts the one who says it within the admittedly large ranks of anti-Semites. Better yet, place the Jew in Israel. Best of all, turn the Jew into Israel itself.
Go prove they’re wrong. It’s like trying to ascertain beyond any doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, nothing extraterrestrial ever happened at Roswell and the Shin Bet did everything it possibly could to protect the slain prime minister. Even where there’s not one iota of outward anti- Semitism, you can’t quite do it – because some anti-Semites are so good at it you’d never know. It’s in their heart, not on their sleeve. But the Anti-Semite Busters “know.”
Most recently the culprit has been bassist Roger Waters.
Back when he was a rock idol, Waters fathered Pink Floyd’s iconic double album The Wall. When he came to Israel a couple of years ago – a moldy has-been tethered to his glorious past for life support – he went straight to Israel’s security barrier for a photo op. A wall! Take my picture! And quote me: Bring down this wall! Here’s a man who understands how music royalties work.
More recently, he published a letter calling on musicians and other artists to join the boycott of Israel. My belief is that while many advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement want only an end to Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank, just as many want more – and even an end to Israel.
It’s hard to know where Waters fits into this spectrum – which surely includes anti-Semites. But does this in and of itself make him, too, an anti-Semite? The Anti-Semite Busters think so. They think any criticism of Israel is a sure sign of anti-Semitism. But in Water’s case, they’ll also point to the Star of David on the giant floating pig he lets loose at the end of his shows. While he claims his concerts feature the symbols of other religions, including Christianity and Islam, as well as the logos of corporations and other entities that he believes are at the heart of the world’s problems, that Star of David sure is prominent. In fact, judging from photos and videos, it’s about the only symbol on the pig that is readily identifiable.
Waters might be anything, including an idiot. For sure, we can take some comfort in the fact that Israeli policies are not the only target for his hostility.
On a swing through South America in early 2012, according to the Guardian, he told an interviewer that the Falkland Islands, over which Britain went to war with Argentina in 1982, should be called Las Malvinas.
“By and large I’m as ashamed as I possibly could be of our colonial past. I take no pride in the fact that 150 years or so the sun never set on the British Empire, and that we were out raping and plundering and stealing as much we could from everybody all over the world as possible. That kind of imperialism is not something that as an Englishman I’m proud of.”
REAL ANTI-SEMITES make me angry. And there are so many it makes me boil. I want to smack them around, rough them up, tar and feather them and run them out of town astride a red-hot rail. And worse.
But first, we need a definition. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes anti-Semitism as “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic or racial group.”
The Anti-Semite Bashers don’t seem at all happy with this definition. They think it’s too narrow. Problem is, if you call every slight to Israel “anti-Semitism,” you might well be a conspiracy buff. No, not that you believe anti-Semitism is a conspiracy (although put two anti-Semites together and you can have one). But when one sees a deep-down, wistful hankering for the Führer and his death camps in even a legitimate critique of Israel, it’s pretty much the same: There’s only a sign or two on the surface but the imagination goes into overdrive, putting the bashers into the same league with the buffs.
The real problem is, we have come to use the anti-Semitism card as blithely and as often as we use our Mastercard, and when this happens the term loses its edge. It becomes diluted, meaningless, a cliché and – perhaps worst of all – a caricature.
When there is a case of actual anti-Semitism, fewer and fewer people will take heed. “Oh, it’s just those Anti-Semite Busters letting off steam again.”
Real anti-Semites usually leave little or no doubt as to their true sentiments.
Others are less overt, and some can hide it altogether. But other people are merely idiots and we must learn to tell the difference – if only so we can be taken seriously when calling out the real thing.