The new anti-Semitism

September 29, 2006|By Victor Davis Hanson

Hating Jews, on racial as well as religious grounds, is as old as the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Later in Europe, pogroms and the Holocaust were the natural devolution of that elemental venom.

Anti-Semitism after World War II often avoided the burning crosses and Nazi ranting. It often appeared as a more subtle animosity, fueled by envy of successful Jews in the West. "The good people, the nice people" often were the culprits, according to a character in the 1947 film Gentleman's Agreement, which dealt with the American aristocracy's social shunning of Jews.

A recent third type of anti-Jewish odium is something different. It is a strange mixture of violent hatred by radical Islamists and what amounts to more or less indifference to it by Westerners.

Those who randomly shoot Jews for being Jews - whether at a Jewish center in Seattle or at synagogues in Istanbul - are in large part Muslim zealots. Most in the West explain away the violence. They chalk it up to anger over the endless tit-for-tat in the Middle East. Yet, privately, they know that we do not see violent Jews shooting Muslims in the United States or Europe.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promises to wipe Israel "off the map." He seems eager for the requisite nuclear weapons to finish off what an Iranian mullah has called a "one-bomb state" - meaning Israel's destruction would require only one nuclear weapon. Iran's theocracy intends to turn the idea of a Jewish state on its head. Instead of Israel being a haven for Jews in their historical birthplace, the Iranians apparently find that concentration only too convenient for their own final nuclear solution.

In response, here at home, the Council on Foreign Relations rewards the Iranian president with an invitation to speak to its membership. At the podium of that hallowed chamber, Mr. Ahmadinejad, who questions whether the Holocaust ever took place, basically dismissed a firsthand witness of Dachau by asking whether he really could be that old.

The state-run, and thus government-authorized, newspapers of the Middle East slander Jews in barbaric fashion. Mein Kampf (translated, of course, as Jihadi) sells briskly in the region. Hamas and Hezbollah militias on parade emulate the style of brownshirts. In response, much of the Western public snoozes. Many Westerners are far more worried over whether a Danish cartoonist has caricatured Islam, or whether the pope has been rude to Muslims when quoting from an obscure, 600-year-old Byzantine dialogue.

In the last two decades, radical Islamic terrorists have bombed and murdered thousands inside Europe and the United States. Their state supporters in the Middle East have raked in billions in petro-windfall profits from energy-hungry Western economies. For many in Europe and the United States, supporting Israel - the Middle East's only stable democracy - or even its allies in the West has become viewed as dangerous and costly.

We're accustomed to associating hatred of Jews with the ridiculed Neanderthal right of those in sheets and jackboots. But this new venom, at least in its Western form, is mostly a left-wing, and often an academic, enterprise. It's also far more insidious, given the left's moral pretensions and its influence in the prestigious media and universities. We see the unfortunate results in frequent anti-Israeli demonstrations on campuses that conflate Israel with Nazis, while the media have published fraudulent pictures and slanted events in southern Lebanon.

The renewed hatred of Jews in the Middle East - and the indifference to it in the West - is a sort of "post-anti-Semitism." Islamic zealots supply the old venomous hatred, while affluent and timid Westerners provide the new necessary indifference - if punctuated by the occasional off-the-cuff "amen" in the manner of a Louis Farrakhan or Mel Gibson outburst.

The danger of this post-anti-Semitism is not just that Jews are shot in Europe and the United States - or that a drunken celebrity or demagogue mouths off. Instead, ever so insidiously, radical Islam's hatred of Jews is becoming normalized.

The result is that the world's politicians and media are talking seriously with those who do not merely want back the West Bank, but rather want an end to Israel altogether and everyone inside it.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His column appears in The Sun on Fridays. His e-mail is author@victorhanson.com.

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