Anti-Semitic Motifs in Anti-Israelism

, November 1, 2002

When earlier this year Portuguese Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago compared the situation in Ramallah to Auschwitz, he unwittingly staked his claim to become the archetype of the new anti-Semite. These defamers target the Jewish State rather than the religious or ethnic character of the Jews. In a single statement he utilized three classic anti-Semitic techniques: the dehumanization and demonization of Jews, the hijacking of Jewish symbols, and the use of such symbols against the Jews.

Auschwitz has rightly become the “absolute, certified, universal…symbol of evil.”1 Approximately 1.5 million women, children and men were deliberately transported to that extermination camp to be intentionally gassed. Nothing even remotely similar has ever happened in any Palestinian city. What would lead anyone to even consider such a comparison?

 

Following the Communist Tradition

In his verbal attacks Saramago, a communist, used methods communist leaders had previously used many decades ago. In 1971 international lawyer and Auschwitz survivor Samuel Pisar visited the Soviet Union as part of a high-powered American delegation, including General James Gavin, for an exchange of views at the Annual Dartmouth Conference, which was held that year in Kiev.

The Russian speeches contained an array of anti-Semitic remarks. Pisar recalls: “The United States was pictured as the agent of an unscrupulous Zionist plot designed to weaken the Soviet Union and whip up war hysteria in the West. References to the ‘Jewish Nazis of New York’ and the ‘Israeli Fascists of Tel Aviv’ cut through me like a knife.”2

Yet Saramago is far from alone in the world of literature. British poet Tom Paulin recently told an Egyptian newspaper that Jewish settlers in the West Bank are “Nazis and racists…[who] should be shot dead.”3 The anti-Semitic vileness of the South African poet Breyten Breytenbach, who accompanied Saramago to Ramallah and called the Israelis Herrenvolk, has been analyzed in some detail by Claude Lanzmann, the director of the movie Shoah.4

New Jersey poet laureate Amiri Baraka, in his poem about September 11, entitled “Somebody Blew up America,” repeated the slander about the Jews and Israel having foreknowledge of the World Trade Center assaults as well as the myth that 4,000 Israelis did not show up for work that day. In the same poem he made insinuations about those who elected George Bush president.5

 

Nazis, Communists and Islamic Fundamentalists

Demonization of the Jew has always been central to the anti-Semite’s verbal approach. Only an outrageous crime, deicide, could justify punishment of a group’s descendants forever. If one can believe that humans can murder a god, one can also believe that the indicted embody all evil. This accusation provides an ideological infrastructure which renders everything possible, from further verbal abuse of the victims – via desecration of their symbols – to social exclusion, murder, pogroms and genocide.

In his 1990 article on the origins of the demonization of the Jews, anti-Semitism scholar Robert S. Wistrich points out that the anti-Semitic legacy of Nazism lives on in “potentially cataclysmic” new forms:

These cannot be underestimated, in particular, in post-War Soviet communism, Arab nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism – secular and religious ideologies, which have exerted a major influence on the politics of the post-war world….’The Jewish question’ has assumed an important, sometimes even major, role in these aggressive expansionist ideologies, which have variously sought to dominate large areas of the world.6

His views are shared by Israeli Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer, who says that National Socialism, Marxist communist ideology and fundamentalist Islam consider the liberal West’s parliamentary democracy as its major enemy. The Jews are the typical expression of the latter.

In Bauer’s view, all three fundamentalisms are religious in essence: they advocate surrender to a transcendental force while trying to escape from an inconvenient reality. It makes little difference whether one calls this the God of nature, dialectical materialism or the Koran. Their key features are similar: “the desire for a global Utopia to be executed through violent means and which aims at global dominance. This is equally true for National Socialism, communism and radical Islam.”7

 

Demonization of Israel

Many attackers of Israel explicitly dissociate themselves from anti-Semitism. But even superficial analysis shows that their critique often recycles classic anti-Semitic themes in a slightly different guise. Since these arguments have developed in so many variants over the centuries, only a few examples can be given as illustrations of a widespread pattern.

Demonization of Israel is reflected in the disproportionately large number of United Nations resolutions condemning the Jewish state, including the equation of Zionism to racism. European states have often supported anti-Israel resolutions. The inner contradiction of this preoccupation with Israel is apparent in the United Nations’ simultaneous failure to prevent real ethnic mass murders in both Bosnia and Rwanda (to some extent it even facilitated them).8

The demonization of Israel and its leaders originates in many sources. The initiators of this global phenomenon range from the extreme right to the extreme left and also include many seemingly respectable middle-of-the-road figures. A few months ago, I visited the ancient Jewish cemetery of Venice on the island of Lido. On its wall there were huge graffiti in Italian: “Sharon is a pig” next to a swastika. Seeing the latter, I thought that it originated in neo-Nazi circles. My non-Jewish guide pointed out that I had overlooked the equal sign between Sharon and the swastika. Thus, the defacement most probably had leftist authors, as extreme rightists would see the equation with the swastika positively.

Lawrence Summers, President of Harvard University, mentioned similar attitudes in his much publicized “Address at Morning Prayers”:

At the same rallies where protesters, many of them university students, condemn the IMF and global capitalism and raise questions about globalization, it is becoming increasingly common to also lash out at Israel. Indeed, at the anti-IMF rallies last spring, chants were heard equating Hitler and Sharon.9

 

Mainstream Figures as New Anti-Semites

Demonization in Europe appears in mainstream political circles as well. A major debate took place in the German Liberal Party (FDP) in May. Its faction in the state parliament of North-Rhine Westphalia accepted a dissident “green” parliamentarian, Jamal Karsli, into its ranks. He had declared that the Israeli army was using Nazi methods and had warned against the power of the Zionist lobby in Germany.

Karsli’s welcome into the party, particularly by the state’s party leader, Jurgen Mollemann – then also vice president of the national FDP – led to a major discussion in the German media. Ultimately Karsli had to resign from the party and eventually leave its state parliamentary faction. In the discussions, Mollemann said that the German Jewish leaders, and in particular Michel Friedman, the vice president of the Central Council of German Jewry, was causing anti-Semitism by his reactions to the affair.10

The daily Suddeutsche Zeitung stated Mollemann used classic anti-Semitic motifs which, until then, had only been applied by extreme rightists in Germany:

The Jew is guilty. This sentence belongs to the obscene brown classics. Mollemann takes it from there. In interviews he blames Michel Friedman ‘with his intolerant and malicious behavior’ for the fact that the anti-Semites attract adherents in Germany. In other words, the Jew should keep his mouth shut, should not act so prominently, should not dare to constantly complain about anti-Semitism. Only an unnoticeable Jew is a good Jew.11

A few days before the September parliamentary election, Mollemann paid hundreds of thousands of Euro, from unknown sources, for a campaign publication in which he attacked both Sharon and Friedman. Friedman had said a few days before that “the murder of people starts with words like those of Jurgen Mollemann.”12 The FDP’s electoral performance fell substantially below the opinion polls’ predictions before Mollemann’s statements were published. Under pressure, Mollemann gave up his party functions.13

 

Destroying Israel and Jewish Symbols

In April 2002 Franco Cavalli spoke at a Swiss-Palestinian Society demonstration. He was then the parliamentary leader of the Social Democratic Party, which is part of the Swiss government coalition. There he publicly claimed that Israel “very purposefully massacres an entire people” and undertakes “the systematic extermination of the Palestinians.” This verbal demonization was accompanied by the burning of Israeli flags.14

There has also been an increase in the more classical forms of ritual desecration in their well-known forms. Painting swastikas on gravestones or their destruction are common events. Attempts to burn or defile synagogues have become regular occurrences in Europe, even outside France. At the end of April, for instance, the synagogue in Finsbury Park, London, was broken into, a swastika painted on the lectern, prayer shawls and skull caps thrown on the floor, and paint spattered on the Holy Ark. It was unclear whether the perpetrators were right-wing British whites or militant Muslims.15 In July another British synagogue was desecrated. A 300-year old Torah scroll in the Swansea synagogue was damaged, a swastika was drawn on its walls and arson was attempted.16

 

Inventing History

Holocaust denial is a major anti-Semitic motif of the post-war decades. One of its best-known perpetrators, British historian David Irving, said in 1991 that “more women had died in the back of Edward Kennedy’s car at Chappaquiddick than in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.”17

Falsifying history as a tool of anti-Semitism comes in various forms. In 1994 a book, The Hand that Signed the Paper, was published in Australia, by a young author, Helen Demidenko. The novel tells about Ukrainians who murdered Jews during the Holocaust, which it appears to justify. A bestseller, the book received the prominent Australian Miles Franklin and Australian/Vogel literary awards. The author declared in interviews that, “most family members of my Ukrainian father were murdered by Jewish functionaries of the Communist Party.”18 It later turned out that the author’s true name was Helen Darville and that her parents were immigrants from England.

These falsifications relate to events of decades ago. Regarding Israel, however, the inventions are being created merely days after their non-occurrence.

American Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt, who has studied Holocaust denial in great detail, says:

When one speaks about Israeli soldiers as Nazis, that is denial of what Israeli soldiers are and what Nazis were. This is a misuse of history for political purposes….Much of what we are seeing now in the criticism of Israel are expressions of anti-Semitism and denial. The talk about Israeli power, Israeli strength and Israeli ability is very similar to what one has seen for decades in the writings of the deniers and before that in those of Nazis and other anti-Semites.19

 

Jenin: Worse than Chechnya?

Major Western media reported the battle of Jenin as a massacre, without any evidence to support this. A later UN report found no proof for this.20 Their eagerness to paint such a picture is indicative of the murderous image of Israel they wish to convey to the world, irrespective of facts that may run counter to their opinions.

Several critics have focused on the British media’s false reports on the Jenin case. Sharon Sadeh contrasted the sensational attitude of the British dailies, the Independent, the Guardian, and the Times, with that of U.S papers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post.21 Martin Sieff of United Press International quoted Janine di Giovanni, The Times of London‘s correspondent in Jenin, as writing (April 16), “Rarely in more than a decade of war reporting from Bosnia, Chechnya, Sierra Leone and Kosovo have I seen such deliberate destruction, such disrespect for human life.”

Sieff’s comments regarding such “reporting” were trenchant:

Di Giovanni’s comparison also inevitably calls into question what she had actually seen in Chechnya, Bosnia and Sierra Leone if she really imagined that the death toll in Jenin was worse than any of them. At least 100,000 people are believed to have died in Russia’s two wars of 1994-96 and of 1999 to the present to crush Chechen separatists. As many as 250,000 people were killed in the 1991-95 Bosnia war and many mass graves of slaughtered entire towns and villages have been discovered and excavated. Scores of thousands died in the chaotic civil wars of Sierra Leone. Yet the documented death toll in Jenin was soon established as being literally one thousand times smaller than in Bosnia and Chechnya.22

Palestinians added accusations of massive rape against Israeli soldiers to this misreporting. Their statements should not be trivialized or considered as harmless political propaganda. In the Arab world, anti-Semitic attacks on Israel often go together with dehumanizing Jews: “Islamic fundamentalists frequently refer to Jews as either the sons or the grandsons of apes and monkeys. These sorts of descriptions can sometimes be heard in sermons at mosques in the Palestinian territories as well as from Saudi religious leaders.”23

Fox News published the following story about an interview transmitted by the Saudi-owned Arab Radio and Television Network (ART):

During a May 7 episode of Muslim Woman Magazine, anchorwoman Doaa Amer asks her special guest, a 3-year-old girl named Basmallah, a series of questions the youngster quickly and calmly answers. “Are you familiar with the Jews?” Amer asks. The girl says yes, and says she does not like them “because…they are apes and pigs.” “Who said so?” the anchor asks. “Our God,” the girl replies. “Allah says this in the Koran.”24

European newspapers use more sophisticated ways to feed anti-Semitic attacks on Israel into society, for instance, by publishing letters from readers recommending the destruction of Israel. The Swiss daily Tagesanzeiger recently printed such a letter:

The creation of Israel in 1948 was a historical mistake. For the last 50 years Israel has exercised military power against the civilian population of Palestine. The military intentionally targets children and women…My proposal: dismantling the State of Israel and the management of the territory by a United Nations administration.25

 

Islamist and Palestinian Anti-Semitism

Islamists have spread demonization of the Jews to Western communities. Last year the El Tawheed mosque in Amsterdam was forced to remove several statements from its website including: “The Jews possess the weapons industry and, on the other hand, they are the ones who make the wars.”26 The president of this mosque is also president of a Muslim elementary school.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations, both in the Islamic world and in the West, display banners equating the Star of David to the swastika, Zionism to Nazism and Sharon to Hitler. Again these potent images cover a major contradiction. During the Second World War the Moslem leader of Palestine, the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin El Husseini, publicly supported Hitler and was his associate.

Husseini openly praised the Germans for the Holocaust:

The Germans have never harmed any Muslim, and they are again fighting our common enemy….But most of all they have definitely solved the Jewish problem. These ties, and especially the last [the “Final Solution”], made our friendship with Germany not a provisional one, dependent on conditions, but a permanent and lasting friendship based on mutual interest.27

Haj Amin el-Husseini was the leader of the Palestinian extremists before the War of Independence; but the leader of the Palestinian “moderates” Ragheb bey el-Nashashibi, the mayor of Jerusalem, promoted genocide as well. After the 1929 riots in Mandatory Palestine, the non-Jewish French writer Albert Londres asked him why the Arabs had murdered the old pious Jews in Hebron and Safed, with whom they had no quarrel. The mayor answered: “In a war you behave like in a war. You don’t kill what you want. You kill what you find. Next time, they will all be killed, young and old.” Later on, Londres spoke again to the mayor and tested him ironically by saying: “You cannot kill all the Jews. There are 150,000 of them.” Nashashibi answered in a soft voice, “Oh no? It’ll take two days.”28

During the Nazi era, the demonization motif focused on the accusation that the Jewish race embodied all evil. Medieval Christendom saw the Jew as “a sorcerer, murderer, cannibal, poisoner, blasphemer, the devil’s disciple in all truth.”29 The Islamic anti-Semitic accusations against Israel today are often not much more sophisticated.

 

The Blood Libel and Poisoning Motifs

The false but dangerous accusation of ritual murder and the use of gentile blood (supposedly for preparing matzah) was first used against the Jews in the 12th century in England.30 It has not disappeared since. Marouf Al-Dawalibi, the Saudi delegate at the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, said at a conference on religious tolerance [sic] in 1984: “The Talmud says that if a Jew does not drink the blood of a non-Jew every year, he is damned for eternity.”31

Two years ago, in a full-page article in the leading Egyptian daily Al Ahram, it was suggested that Palestinian children disappeared and their bloodless corpses were found because the Jews had used their blood for matzot for Pesach.32 In March this year, after a formal complaint by the U.S. State Department to the Saudi government, the al-Riyadh daily sacked columnist Omayma al-Jalahma. This teacher at King Faisal University had asserted that “Jews use the blood of Christian or Muslim children in pastries for the Purim religious festival.”33

At a pro-Palestinian march at San Francisco State University, in April 2002, marchers distributed leaflets on campus depicting a can bearing a photograph of a mutilated baby, with the legend, “Palestinian Children Meat: Slaughtered According to Jewish Rites under American License.”34

Another recurrent motif accuses the Jews of poisoning non-Jews. One major example has been analyzed by Raphael Israeli:

In March 1983, a week before Pesach, in a high school in the town of Arrabeh in the Jenin area of the West Bank, Palestinian girls were sitting in several classrooms when they suddenly began to faint, one after the other. They were taken to hospital and checked, but no medical evidence was found for this finding.35

Foreign media, including the French Liberation and Le Monde dailies headlined articles alleging evidence for the Palestinian accusation that the Israelis had poisoned the girls. The investigation of the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta concluded that this was a case of mass hysteria. Hardly any newspaper abroad, however, retracted their prior accusations.36 Similarly, last year official Palestinian sources claimed that Israel was dropping poisoned chocolates over Palestinian cities and selling leather belts, subsidized by the Israel government, with magnetic elements in their metallic clasp to (somehow) cause extremely painful illnesses.37

A.N. Wilson, a senior columnist of the London Evening Standard, commented on a march by British Muslims in London to protest against Israel’s supposedly poisoning Muslim water supplies. His one-sided (and unsubstantiated) report implied that the Israelis had actually committed such a crime.38

 

The Scapegoat: From Stalin to the Mosque

After September 11, 2001, Sheik Muhammad Gemeaha, leader of an important mosque in upper Manhattan, suddenly left the U.S. Thereafter he gave an interview in Arabic on a website which usually carries articles by leading Muslim teachers, many of whom lecture at al-Azhar University in Cairo. He claimed there was proof that the Jews had carried out the September 11 attacks in the U.S. This rehashes another classic anti-Semitic motif – the scapegoat. One negates the true criminals, in this case Islamists, and instead blames the crime on Jews. A well-known historic example of this was the Dreyfus trial.

Gemeaha applied multiple anti-Semitic themes in one interview and added:

Muslims do not feel safe even going to the hospitals, because some Jewish doctors in one of the hospitals poisoned sick Muslim children, who then died….You see these people [the Jews] all the time, everywhere, disseminating corruption, heresy, homosexuality, alcoholism and drugs. [Because of them] there are strip clubs, homosexuals and lesbians everywhere. They do this to impose their hegemony and colonialism on the world….But Hitler annihilated them because they betrayed him and violated their contract with him.39

As in all anti-Semitic variants, key elements of previous anti-Semitic waves recur. In 1953 a trial based on fabricated evidence took place in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Nine doctors – of whom six were Jews – “were alleged to have caused the deaths of leading Soviet personages by wrong diagnoses and sabotage in treatment and were said to have planned further assassinations for the future.”40 This was the prelude to a Soviet defamation campaign against “cosmopolitanism and Zionism.”

 

Social Exclusion

Demonization prepares the ground for the next, not yet necessarily violent, anti-Semitic step: social exclusion. The Arab states aim to expel Israel from the society of nations. The Nazis began their systematic demonization of the Jews well before 1933. After they came to power, their legislation gradually expelled the Jews from German society. They were not alone in Europe. In Italy the first racial law was approved on September 5, 1938. “Overnight and without warning, Jewish teachers at all levels were denied their positions. Jewish children were prohibited from attending public elementary and secondary schools.”41

In pre-Second World War Poland, the home of nearly three and a half million Jews, the number of Jews who could enter large parts of the civil service and universities was limited. The numerus clausus tended toward a numerus nullus. A similar situation existed in many other Eastern European countries.

In 19th century Prussia and many other German states, Jews were barred from the civil service. In the Middle Ages, Jews in European countries were often excluded from most professions as they could not join the guilds. This social segregation motif had many manifestations in medieval Christian societies. Jews were often forced to wear distinctive clothing, for example. Thereafter, if they were not expelled, they were frequently confined to ghettos.

In contemporary society the exclusion theme has been extended to many areas. Arabs, often assisted by Western associates, have attempted to boycott Israel and Israelis in as many areas as possible. Arab countries have tried to have Israel expelled from FIFA, the world soccer organization, a body which has among its members several countries which actively promote terrorism. In May, the world’s National Olympic Committee’s General Assembly was held in Malaysia. The Israeli flag was not raised with other national flags. Before the meeting, the Iranian Olympic Committee sent a letter to IOC President Jacques Rogge insisting that Israel be expelled from the Olympic movement. It argued, “The Israelis are committing genocide. With genocide, it’s not possible to make peace.” The President rejected this demand, saying that politics should not interfere with sports.42

A further variant is promoted by some Western academics, who propose to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

During this year’s Eurovision song contest, local Belgian and Swedish TV presenters had reportedly advised viewers not to vote for Israel. Swedish Jews said that such an announcement had been aired on National TV1, claiming that Israel was not even meant to be participating in the event because of “what it is doing to the Palestinians.”43

Yet another variant concerns the boycott of Israeli goods, adopted by some Scandinavian trade unions and supermarket chains. This is supplemented by efforts to boycott Israeli artists. One recognizes the same core attitude displayed by boycotters standing outside Jewish shop doors in Nazi Germany to prevent customers from entering. Social exclusion is a step on the road to physical elimination.

The same applies to the Jewish state. Irwin Cotler, a civil rights lawyer and a member of the Canadian parliament, astutely notes that: “Anti-Semitism sought to prevent the Jews from living as equal partners in the world, while the new anti-Semitism wants to deny the Jewish state the right to be an equal partner in the community of nations.”44

 

Hijacking History

Another anti-Semitic motif is the hijacking of Jewish concepts. At the United Nations Anti-Racism conference in Durban in September 2001, national Jewish terms such as genocide, Holocaust, ethnic cleansing and even anti-Semitism were kidnapped by anti-Semitic defamers and have since been employed against the Jews, who were key victims of all these phenomena. Some historians term this process “usurpation.”

This appropriation phenomenon is evident in many environments and countries.

At the University of California-Berkeley, at a [pro-Palestinian] demonstration held on Holocaust Day, there were pamphlets handed out comparing the suffering of the Palestinians to the suffering of the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust, while the epithet “Nazi” is hurled around in various contexts relating to Israeli activities in the territories!45

This hijacking of Jewish values, history and symbols has a long and wide-ranging history. In communist Poland, when one visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, one would not have been aware (if one didn’t already know) that it was mainly Jews who were murdered there. In the second half of the 1980s, the Jews had to fight a long battle to have a Catholic convent removed from its grounds. In 1979 Pope John Paul II celebrated mass at Birkenau. Writes World Jewish Congress executive Laurence Weinbaum: “The irony of this – of a Catholic mass being celebrated on the grounds of the largest Jewish cemetery in the world, was not lost on anyone even if Jews were impotent to stop it.”46

Former Israeli ambassador Sergio Minerbi describes how, on that occasion, the pope “stood before the inscription in Polish and spoke about remembering the six million Poles who perished. The number six million rings a bell. It is another Jewish symbol expropriated.”47 This was stated by a pope who made a major effort to atone for Catholic sins toward the Jewish people over the last two millennia.

 

Reversal of Truth

Yet another anti-Semitic motif is the reversal of the truth. The Nazis persecuted the German Jews. When non-German Jews started to attack the Nazis because of this persecution, the latter argued that their war against the Jews was justified because the Jews were attacking them!

A few years after the war, French fascist and Holocaust denier Maurice Bardeche defended the Nazi policies. Deborah Lipstadt notes that:

His fundamental argument was not only that the Nazis were not guilty of atrocities, but that the true culprits were the Jews themselves. Jews, both those who died and those who survived, deserved no sympathy because they had helped to instigate the war by supporting the Treaty of Versailles.48

A different version of ‘the Jews are to blame themselves’ was resurrected recently by Giancarlo Chevellard, the European Union’s ambassador to Israel. In a lecture at Ben-Gurion University, he said that Europe is ‘demonized’ by Israelis. He failed to mention that Israel’s critique of Europe comes after a lengthy series of anti-Israel statements by European governments and the European Union.49

 

Jewish Anti-Semites

Yet another issue concerns Jewish anti-Semites, who also appear in almost unlimited diversity. Some Jews tend to identify with their oppressors. In the Middle Ages, converted Jews often became the main accusers of their former co-religionists. Jewish communists were sometimes among the harshest persecutors of Jews.

Jewish self-hate thus preceded, by many centuries, the Stockholm syndrome. In this incident during the 1970s, four people were held hostage in a Stockholm bank by two former convicts. The hostages actively resisted the government’s efforts to rescue them and developed warm feelings towards the captors who threatened their very lives.

A sick joke, told in Hitler’s days, concerned a Jew who supposedly attended a Goebbels harangue and began shouting: “Away with us!” Today the same core idea is manifested in many ways, some major, some minor. For example, I recently received an email from a well-known Israeli peace activist requesting me to ask an American tractor manufacturer to boycott Israel. More serious, several extremist Israeli and Diaspora Jews justify the actions of Israel’s enemies including anti-Semitic propaganda and suicide-bombings.

Sadly enough, even extreme examples of self-hate are not as far-fetched as they sound. A refugee who left Hitler’s Germany before the war relates:

My oldest sister and her husband twice received a permit to go to Palestine. Despite this, they did not emigrate. My brother-in-law was a fanatical German and said that they could not go to a country where there were so many Jews. He was an anti-Semite himself….[Both] died in Auschwitz.50

 

Nazi Motifs

The Holocaust has added themes which further enlarge anti-Semitism’s verbal repertoire. These include shouting “Treblinka” or making hissing sounds to imitate a gas chamber. In the Netherlands this has been tolerated in soccer stadiums for many years now. Recently pro-Palestinian slogans have been added. In Amsterdam, earlier this year, the police sent 750 supporters of the Utrecht football club back to their town, without seeing the game they came for, after they sang “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.”51

On May 7, 2002, Jewish students at San Francisco State University (SFSU) organized their first rally in support of Israel after a prolonged period of inactivity. The rally was countered by verbally abusive slogans changed by Palestinian sympathizers on campus. Dikla Tuchman, an expatriate Israeli who is now a leader of pro-Israeli activity on campus, recounts the episode: “We were assaulted with heckling, with slogans like ‘F– the Jews,’ ‘Jews, go back to Russia’ and even ‘Too bad Hitler didn’t finish the job.'”52

At the University of Colorado in Boulder, there was a wave of abusive graffiti daubed around the campus in Spring 2002, bearing the same message: Zionazis.”53

According to the Washington Times, a Greek pro-government paper carried a cartoon “in which two Israeli soldiers look like Nazis slaughtering innocents. ‘Don’t feel guilty brother’ one of them says. ‘We were not in Auschwitz and Dachau to suffer, but to learn.'”54

 

Double Standards

Besides its irrational character, anti-Semitism is characterized by its application of double standards. For example, a member of the Norwegian committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize, Hanna Kvanmo, a retired left-wing politician, said she wished that Peres’ peace prize could be revoked as he was a member of the Sharon government. Kvanmo didn’t think Arafat had forfeited his prize because “He had tried to carry out the Oslo accords and couldn’t be blamed for the violence since Israel had him under virtual house arrest.”55 The application of double standards can often be considerably more difficult to uncover and, therefore, more dangerous.

In the New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman recently castigated the hypocrisy of the professors and students who push divestiture:

How is it that Egypt imprisons the leading democracy advocate in the Arab world, after a phony trial, and not a single student group in America calls for divestiture from Egypt? (I’m not calling for it, but the silence is telling.) How is it that Syria occupies Lebanon for 25 years, chokes the life out of its democracy, and not a single student group calls for divestiture from Syria? How is that Saudi Arabia denies its women the most basic human rights, and bans any other religion from being practiced publicly on its soil, and not a single student group calls for divestiture from Saudi Arabia?56

In his view, any university which goes along with the divestiture campaign against Israel does not deserve the title of an institution of higher learning.

At Harvard University, President Summers had said:

Where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing 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.57

 

Criticism and Anti-Semitism: Where’s the Line?

Many of those who attack Israel’s policies point out that, like all other states, Israel is not above criticism. This leads to questions of where the border line between critique and anti-Semitism is. Israeli journalist Eliahu Salpeter writes: “Not all criticism leveled against the government of Israel is wanton anti-Semitism. Just as Jews in the Diaspora have the right to support Israel, so too do Muslim citizens have the right to support Palestinians. The key issue is the level of violence.”58

Former Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Per Ahlmark has a more sophisticated approach. He “characterized the new anti-Semitism by its targets: while classic anti-Semitism aimed at the individual Jew, the new anti-Semitism is aimed at the Jewish collective, embodied by the Jewish state.” Ahlmark adds: “Political criticism, even bitter criticism of Israel, is certainly not anti-Semitic….The line is crossed when people begin to use anti-Semitic terminology to describe Israel’s actions.”59

Thomas Friedman stressed a different aspect of anti-Israel anti-Semitism. He said that “criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction – out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East – is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest.”60

The Mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, told the Dutch media that he had asked himself, before a pro-Palestinian demonstration which turned violent, where this borderline was. He concluded that he would not accept racist slogans: “We accept anti-Israel slogans but not anti-Jewish ones. We also do not accept a banner proclaiming that the Swastika equals the Star of David. The swastika is so connected to racism that it is over the line.”61

The Paris authorities on the other hand did not engage in such soul-searching. At the end of April, 15,000 people marched in Paris in support of the Palestinians. The daily Liberation mentioned that there were several banners equating the Star of David with the swastika. The most oft-shouted slogan was “Bush, Sharon Murderers!”62 About 200 North African Arab youngsters, some of them masked, came to disrupt the protest. They shouted “Jews to the furnace.” They burned Stars of David, shouting “Death to Israel” and then “Death to the Jews.”63

Canadian scholar of Jewish studies Michael Brown writes “I have developed what I consider to be the fool-proof litmus test of anti-Semitism here in Canada and elsewhere. It is this: having one standard for Jews and a different one for the rest of the world.”

Brown gives a number of examples including:

Who would not agree that children should not be killed by soldiers in the West Bank or Gaza or anywhere else? But why do those same guardians of children’s welfare not care about the murder of Israeli children in indiscriminate bombings of buses and restaurants? And why are those voices not denouncing the teaching of hate in Palestinian schools, which results in children taunting armed soldiers?64

 

Society at Large

In the past, initially anti-Semitic perversities often spread from aiming at Jews to targeting society at large. Today those who oppose the Jewish state are also beginning to target other groups and nations. Another statement removed from the website of the Amsterdam mosque, mentioned previously, read: “The Jews, the Christians and the Communists…are working together to destroy the Islamic community.”65

A few weeks after September 11, 2001, the Imam’s sermon in the mosque in Hamburg, Germany included: “‘God, we implore You to destroy the United States of America.’ Not a soul flinched. The congregation recited in unison, ‘Amen.'”66

Anti-Semitism, in the long-run, is never dangerous for the Jews alone, but they mostly bear the brunt of the burden. It is therefore far more risky for Jews to ignore anti-Semitism in any of its manifestations. Holocaust psychologist Nathan Durst says that the Hitlerian experience renders anti-Semitism incomparable to negative attitudes leveled against other groups. Jews must thus be extremely wary whenever anti-Semitism re-emerges. Its complexity, and the speed with which it expands, oblige Jewish organizations to be more energetic and inventive in confronting it, before they can mobilize their allies in the combat.67

*     *     *

Notes

 

 

* The author is grateful to Dr. Joel Fishman, Larry Pfeffer, and Prof. Dan Segre for their comments.
1. Ian Buruma, “Our Modern-day Zolas,” The Guardian, April 16, 2002.
2. Samuel Pisar, Of Blood and Hope (Canada: Little, Brown, 1980).
3. Giles Foden and John Mullan, “When Authors Take Sides,” The Guardian, April 27, 2002.
4. Claude Lanzmann, “Les delires de la haine anti-israelienne,” Le Monde, May 9, 2002. [French]
5. Amiri Baraka “Somebody Blew Up America,” from www.adl.org. 2002.
6. Robert S. Wistrich, “The Origins of the Demonology of the Jew: Ideological Anti-Semitism in the Twentieth Century: The Nazi Soviet and Islamic Models,” Nativ (English ed.), Vol. I, No. 1, 1990, p. 33.
7. Interview with Yehuda Bauer to be published in Manfred Gerstenfeld’s Europe’s Crumbling Myths: Anti-Semitism’s Post-Holocaust Origins (forthcoming).
8. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Srebrenica: The Dutch Sabra and Shatilla,” Jerusalem Letter/Viewpoints No. 458, July 15, 2001.
9. Lawrence H. Summers, “Address at Morning Prayers,” www.ajc.org, September 17, 2002.
10. Reuters, “Mollemann: Karsli bleibt Fraktionsmitglied,” Suddeutsche Zeitung, May 24, 2002. [German]
11. Herbert Prantl, “Mollemanns braune Klassiker,” Suddeutsche Zeitung, May 17, 2002. [German]
12. Helmut Breuer, “Sein Rucktritt ware ein Geschenk des Himmels,” Die Welt, September 19, 2002. [German]
13. Arne Delfs, “Mollemann fugt sich und tritt als Parteivize zuruck,” Die Welt, September 24, 2002. [German]
14. Israel-Kritik, “Oder Antisemitismus?” Neue Zurcher Zeitung, April 26, 2002. [German]
15. Associated Press, “Swastika Painted on British Lectern,” April 30, 2002.
16. “Synagogue Desecrated in Racist Arson Attack,” The Guardian, July 13, 2002.
17. Neal Ascherson, “The Truth on Trial,” The Observer, March 5, 2000.
18. Laurence Weinbaum, “Eine Verfalschung der Geschichte vom funften Kontinent,” Deutsche Tagespost, May 7, 1996. [German]
19. Interview with Deborah Lipstadt to be published in Manfred Gerstenfeld’s Europe’s Crumbling Myths: Anti-Semitism’s Post-Holocaust Origins.
20. UN Report of the Secretary-General Prepared Pursuant to General Assembly Resolution ES10010
21. Sharon Sadeh, “How the Jenin Battle became a ‘Massacre,'” The Guardian, April 12, 2002. (Sadeh is the London correspondent of the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.)
22. Martin Sieff, from the international desk, United Press International, May 20, 2002.
23. Susan Sachs, “Anti-Semitism is Deepening Among Muslims,” New York Times, April 27, 2002.
24. Amy C. Sims, “Saudi Broadcasts Promote Anti-Semitism, Martyrdom,” Fox News, June 15, 2002.
25. Roland Zimmermann, “Israel auflosen” (letter to the editor), Tagesanzeiger, October 12, 2002. [German]
26. “De ongrijpbare islamitische school,” NRC Handelsblad, October 20, 2001. [Dutch]
27. As quoted in Robert S. Wistrich, Muslim Anti-Semitism: A Clear and Present Danger (New York: The American Jewish Committee, May 2002), p. 2.
28. Albert Londres, Le Juif Errant Est Arrive (Paris: Arlea, 1997), p. 209 [French].
29. Joshua Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jew and its Relation to Modern Antisemitism (Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1961), p. 159.
30. Trachtenberg, op. cit., p. 125.
31. “Les Juifs utilisent le sang des enfants palestiniens pour fabriquer la matsa de Pessah,” L’Arche, No. 523, September 2001. [French]
32. Abdel Hamuda, “Une matsa juive faite avec du sang arabe,” Al Ahram, October 28, 2000. Quoted in L’Arche op. cit. [French]
33. Brian Whitaker, “Saudi Paper Regrets Jewish Pastry Myth,” The Guardian, March 22, 2002.
34. Yair Sheleg, “American-born Haters of U.S. and Israel Spring up on Campus,” Ha’aretz, June 18, 2002.
35. Raphael Israeli, “Poison: The Use of Blood Libel in the War Against Israel,” Jerusalem Letter/Viewpoints, No. 476, April 15, 2002.
36. Ibid.
37. “Israel tente d’empoisonner les enfants palestiniens,” L’Arche, No. 523, September 2001. [French]
38. A.N. Wilson, “A Demo We Can’t Afford to Ignore,” London Evening Standard, April 15, 2002.
39. “New York Cleric’s Departure from Mosque Leaves Mystery,” New York Times, October 23, 2001.
40. Georg von Rauch, A History of Soviet Russia, 6th ed. (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1972), p. 424.
41. Susan Zucotti, “The Italian Racial Laws 1938-1945,” in The Fate of the European Jews, Studies in Contemporary Jewry, Vol. XIII (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 135.
42. Stephen Wilson, “IOC Rejects Call for Expulsion of Israel,” Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2002.
43. Peter Hirschberg, “Background/Eurovision Vote Fuels Israeli Siege Mentality,” Ha’aretz, May 26, 2002.
44. Yair Sheleg, “A Campaign of Hatred,” Ha’aretz, May 5, 2002.
45. Nathan Guttman, “A System That’s Intolerant of Intolerance,” Ha’aretz, April 24, 2002.
46. Laurence Weinbaum, “The Struggle for Memory in Poland: Auschwitz, Jedwabne and Beyond,” Institute of the World Jewish Congress, Policy Study No. 22, 2001.
47. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Israel’s New Future. Interviews. (Jerusalem: Rubin Mass Ltd., Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1994), p. 89.
48. Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (New York: Penguin Books, 1994), p. 50.
49. Bret Stephens, “E.U. Ambassador: We Expect More from Israel,” Jerusalem Post, May 13, 2002.
50. Gideon Greif, Colin McPherson, and Laurence Weinbaum, eds. Die Jeckes: Deutsche Juden aus Israel erzahlen, Interview with Bertl Hanauer (Cologne: Bohlau, 2000), p. 122. [German]
51. Jan’t Hart, Cohen, “Kanker-Utrecht is ook te ver,” de Volkskrant, April 23, 2002. [Dutch]
52. Yair Sheleg, “American-born Haters,” op. cit.
53. Ibid.
54. Suzanne Fields, “The Rising Tide of Anti-Semitism,” Washington Times, August 8, 2002.
55. “Nobel Peace Prize Often Causes Fury,” New York Times, April 22, 2002.
56. Thomas L. Friedman, “Campus Hypocrisy,” New York Times, October 16, 2002.
57. Lawrence H. Summers, “Address at Morning Prayers,” www.ajc.org, September 17, 2002.
58. Eliahu Salpeter, “Not All Criticism is Anti-Semitism,” Ha’aretz, April 10, 2002.
59. Yair Sheleg, “A Campaign of Hatred,” op. cit.
60. Thomas L. Friedman, “Campus Hypocrisy,” op. cit.
61. Jan’t Hart, “Cohen, Kanker-Utrecht,” op. cit.
62. Renaud LeCadre, “La Marche propalestinienne ne se deroule pas contre le FN,” Liberation, April 29, 2002. [French]
63. Karl Laske, “Des antisemites infiltrent la manif,” Liberation, April 29, 2002. [French]
64. Michael Brown, “Hypocrisy and Double Standards,” Canadian Jewish News, May 16, 2002.
65. “De ongrijpbare islamitische school,” NRC Handelsblad, October 20, 2001. [Dutch]
66. Associated Press, October 3, 2001.
67. Interview with Nathan Durst to be published in Manfred Gerstenfeld’s Europe’s Crumbling Myths: Anti-Semitism’s Post-Holocaust Origins.

*     *     *

 

Manfred Gerstenfeld, Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is an international consultant specializing in business and environmental strategy to the senior ranks of multi-national corporations, and an associate editor of the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, for which he co-chairs the Judaism Task Force. His books include Israel’s New Future: Interviews (JCPA and Rubin Mass, 1994); Environment and Confusion: Searching for a Balanced View (Second English Edition, Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies/Rubin Mass, 2002); Judaism, Environmentalism and the Environment (The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies/Rubin Mass, 1998). For more essays by the author see: www.manfred-gerstenfeld.net.

 

About Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is emeritus chairman (2000-2012) of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The author was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, and the International Leadership Award by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. His latest book is The War of a Million Cuts: The Struggle against the Delegitimization of Israel and the Jews, and the Growth of New Anti-Semitism (2015). His previous books include Europe’s Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today’s Anti-Semitism; Judging the Netherlands: The Renewed Holocaust Restitution Process, 1997-2000; and The Abuse of Holocaust Memory: Distortions and Responses.