Anti-Semitism and the "New Jews"
March 21, 2006
By Bernard Weiner, The
while surfing the web, I clicked onto an essay by a widely-circulated
internet author that was linked-to at a number of alternative-press
I couldn't believe what I was reading: the essay was a long diatribe
aimed, it seemed, at an amorphous Jewish conspiracy that according
to the author is at the heart of what ails America and its policies.
Maybe I misunderstood, I thought - since the precise word "Jews"
was not used - so I googled the author's name and read another essay
by him. This one pulled no punches; it was a defense of Holocaust
denial and a scabrous attack on "the Jews" as the evil villains
of contemporary society.
I have nothing against the right of anyone to print anything;
it's the glory of free speech, and I think it reprehensible for
Austria to throw David Irving into prison for his expressing similar
Holocaust-denial thoughts in his writings. (If right-wingers can
be jailed for expressing their opinions, at some point it surely
will happen to left-wingers. Free speech should always be defended
for one and all, the exception being actual incitements to violence
- "shouting fire in a crowded theater," for example.)
But I wondered whether the editors of the alternative-press websites
had carefully read what this author was writing in his article,
or whether they simply read the first paragraph or two and decided
to publish or link to it because he had established a reputation
questioning the Bush Administration's Iraq war policies and its
The other possibility, which I didn't really want to consider,
was that the editors had read his article carefully and agreed with
this kind of racist garbage. Anti-Semitism is universal and, though
more prevalent on the Right, also exists on the Left. (Note: I'm
not talking about anti-Zionism, i.e., articles opposed to Israeli
policy and even to the existence of Israel, about which reasonable
minds can agree or disagree. No, I'm referring to out-and-out raging
rants about "the Jews," as a people.)
ANTI-SEMITISM FROM THE LEFT
Anti-Semitism on the Left is generally not spoken about, but it's
real and appears to be growing. For those so inclined, it's easy
to slip from denunciations' of Israeli policy - many on the Left,
including yours truly, are quite vocal on occasion in opposing Israeli
policies and actions - to out-and-out anti-Semitism.
It's often difficult to locate that fine line. Jew-haters often
can hide their true feelings and arguments inside broadsides against
Israeli policy, but those opposed vehemently to certain Israeli
policies (and I count myself as one of that breed) are definitely
not anti-Jewish in this context. So how to tell the difference?
Certainly, AIPAC (the powerful American Israel Public Affairs
Committee) has no problem: anybody writing anything in opposition
to Israeli policies is all too-often smeared with the "anti-Semitic"
or "Jew-hater" brush; if they happen to be Jewish, AIPAC types often
throw the phrase "self-hating Jew" into the denunciation.
In my experience, in order to judge articles about Israelis and
Jews somewhat accurately, you sort of have to follow a pundit's
writings over time, and discern where the arguments are coming from
and where they are going.
REACTIONS TO ISRAELI POLICIES
Most liberals and leftists, including those who have grave disagreements
with Israeli policy and U.S. policy toward Israel, abhor generalized
statements about any subgroup of people, be they Jews, Arabs, Muslims,
African-Americans, gays, women, et al.
But because U.S.-supported Israeli policies are at the heart of
much of the conflict in the Middle East, and thus are connected
in some degree to Islamist terrorism around the world, anti-Jewish
feelings get stirred up more than usual in these current times.
The anti-Semitism-on-the-Left issue cries out for more in-depth
examination as to motive and intent. Perhaps in time, I will be
able to delve deeper into this topic. Suffice it to say that elements
of anti-Semitism are alive and well not only in the usual hate and
neo-Nazi sites on the internet but also can be found where most
of us live in alternative, progressive and even mainstream circles.
Maybe I'm exaggerating. I would love to believe that, but I don't
really think so. I'd love to hear others' opinions on this development,
which might help expand the thesis.
THERE IS NO VACCINE AGAINST HATE
Anti-Semitism is like a dormant virus, relatively quiet most of
the time in respectable society and discourse, but which bursts
out into the open now and again, usually in times of economic and
psychological crisis. The resulting social rash can be deadly. And
there is no vaccine, other than shining the light of truth on ignorance,
with which to combat the disease of hate. (In America, overt racism
against blacks similarly is a virus that tends to lie dormant until
suddenly bursting out in tense times.)
Since the Israel/Palestine situation goes unresolved decade after
decade, and since the explosive region there is so much at the heart
of U.S. policy and thus of resistance to that policy, it should
not surprise anyone that the virus of anti-Semitism is erupting
once again, and in so many areas.
Just a few examples:
- We get more than the usual number of anti-Semitic letters
these days here at The Crisis Papers, mostly disguised but more
often recently out-and-out Nazi-type screeds directed at "the
Jews." For the most part, we don't print them, but every so
often we do so to reveal to our readers the level of what passes
for intelligent debate from some on the Right. (And how far
are the incendiary comments about "liberals" by the likes of
Coulter, Horowitz, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and Savage from crossing
the line into incitement-speech?)
- In earlier years, world leaders would not speak openly in
anti-Semitic terms; but recently, for example, officials from
Malaysia and Iran in public speeches have stoked the fires of
anti-Jewish suspicion and hatred. And just a few years ago,
Egyptian TV broadcast a documentary filled with anti-Jewish
propaganda, based largely on the long-discredited forgery called
"The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," about an alleged Jewish
plot to rule the world. Schools in many Muslim countries (including
states allied with the U.S.) continue to teach their young students
to hate Jews, likewise using the phony "Protocols of the Elders
of Zion" as their starting point.
- The fact that there are a number of well-known Jews at the
heart of the neo-conservative movement in America - most notably
Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith - has engendered a good many rants about
how "the Jews" control U.S. foreign policy and have taken America
to war in Iraq for reasons having more to do with protecting
Israel than America. (Ignored in these screeds are the majority
of non-Jews involved in the neo-con and Hard Right movements,
and the influence of Christian Zionists and the military/industrial/Big
Oil complex on American foreign policy.)
- The Left was somewhat split over last weekend's anti-war
demonstrations. Many liberals chose not to participate in the
large marches organized by one of the main national anti-war
groups, A.N.S.W.E.R. ("Act Now to Stop War & End Racism"), because
that outfit's emphasis on Palestinian statehood at the expense
of Israel's existence - thus implying that Jews need to be eliminated
from the region - is both offensive and ill-advised; the group
also is much criticized for co-opting rallies organized by other
anti-war groups and bringing a whole host of domestic and foreign
issues into marches supposedly devoted to getting the U.S. out
of Iraq. Those not choosing to march with A.N.S.W.E.R. avoided
Saturday's rallies or made other arrangements; many are gearing
up for the April 29 nationwide demos being organized by United
for Peace and Justice, which concentrates less on side issues
and mostly on ending the war in Iraq.
Well, one could go on and on with such a listing. The point is
that scapegoats are required in any time of crisis. Often those
scapegoats are "the Jews," but at other times and at other places,
the focus of hate is directed at "the Arabs," "the blacks," "the
gays," "the liberals," "the Serbs," and so on.
"KILLING EACH OTHER, OF COURSE"
I recall my travels in Yugoslavia when Tito was holding that artificially-constructed,
multi-ethnic country together by force of his charisma and his Communist
police-state. I asked the academics and students I ran into what
would happen when their leader died. It didn't matter whether these
reasonable intellectual types were Serbs or Croats, Christian or
Muslim, the answer was always the same: "When Tito dies? We'll go
back to killing each other, of course."
But, I protested, you've lived together in peace for decades now,
you are often good friends and colleagues, you even intermarry;
why would you revert back to such brutal ways of dealing with each
other, to a kind of vicious tribalism? The answer I got was heartbreaking
in its scapegoat simplicity: "Because you can't trust the [insert
name of ethnic or religious group], they're all liars and thieves."
When, decades later, the Serbs and Croats began slaughtering each
other, I was appalled but not surprised. Ancient rivers run deep.
And Jews are, in some ways, as ancient as they come, and therefore
are handy scapegoats when an outlet is needed for blame and resentment.
(I realize I come at this topic from an insider's extra-sensitivity,
having been raised Jewish and with many members of my parents' families
having perished in the Holocaust.)
THE "NEW JEWS"
But there are Jews and there are those who might be considered
the "new Jews," who take their lumps as well: homosexuals,
Chinese in Southeast Asia, Palestinians and other Arabs in Israel
and the U.S. (and often in Arab nations as well), African-Americans
in the South and in the inner cities, Mexican immigrants, whoever.
It's the same process of stereotyping and repression, which often
leads to discrimination and violence, even when the group being
Again, this topic of anti-Semitism is enormous, and I only want
to raise it here as a warning flag for the progressive Left, something
we need to examine and deal with and expand out in thinking about
how others are treated.
For obvious reasons, anti-Jewish expression on the Left mostly
does not make its way into liberal discourse. But if you want a
good starting-point for thinking about the issue, I'd suggest a
2003 article that transcribes a rare forum on the topic: Jamie Glazov's
Anti-Semitism - the New Call of the Left" at FrontPage Magazine.
Perhaps what is called for is a national forum on religious/ethnic/sexual-preference
scapegoating that includes representatives from all discriminated
groups. The participants might then become aware of the commonality
of their persecution (and often of their persecutors), and develop
a coordinated way of defending themselves and going after those
that wish them ill.
Bernard Weiner has taught at various universities, worked as
a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently
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