New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was for a long time a particularly harsh critic of Israel. The criticism had a special edge, a sneer, to it. The Israelis were such idiots he almost couldn’t believe it.
As in a November 2009 column where Friedman asserted:
Right now [America] want[s] [peace] more than the parties…. Today, the Arabs, Israel and the Palestinians are clearly not feeling enough pain to do anything hard for peace with each other…. [T]hen I say, let them enjoy it. I just don’t want to subsidize it or anesthetize it anymore. We need to fix America. If and when they get serious, they’ll find us. And when they do, we should put a detailed U.S. plan for a two-state solution, with borders, on the table….
Full disclosure: Israelis don’t like this sort of thing. We don’t like being derided by a comfortable American Jew like Thomas Friedman for “not feeling enough pain,” not wanting peace. We don’t like being told that we and our rather peace- and democracy-challenged neighbors are on the same peace-refusing page, and a “detailed U.S. plan” is all it would take for flowers of harmony to sprout.
Then there was the March 2010 dust-up when Vice President Biden was here, and the Israeli Interior Ministry committed the terrific faux pas of announcing plans for apartments—for Jews, no less—in a Jerusalem neighborhood. Biden, Friedman wrote,
should have… flown home and left the following scribbled note behind: “Message from America to the Israeli government: Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. And right now, you’re driving drunk. You think you can embarrass your only true ally in the world, to satisfy some domestic political need, with no consequences? You have lost total contact with reality. Call us when you’re serious….”
Again, those damn idiot Israelis. If one were to veer into the psychological, one would note that in these outbursts Friedman himself is suffering embarrassment over what he sees as his boorish country cousins, and contrasting this rather emphatically with his American allegiance.
And there were other instances, as when, writing from Tahrir Square, Cairo, in February 2011, Friedman celebrated what he called a “Facebook-driven, youth-led democracy uprising” and jeered at Israel’s leadership—after all, what did these country rubes know about the region they lived in?—for being so “out-of-touch, in-bred, unimaginative and cliché-driven” as to think that the fall of Hosni Mubarak would usher in the Muslim Brotherhood.
All this, again, was especially nasty criticism, but not antisemitism. But if there’s one thing you learn from looking into antisemitism in today’s world, it’s that the severe and persistent Israel-critics have a larger Jewish problem.
If you oppose Israel’s existence, and especially if you work for its destruction, you’re an antisemite—even if you don’t say things like “Jews are always out for your money,” “Jews control all the world’s governments and banks,” “Jews drink blood at Passover,” etc.
Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, and about half the world’s Jews live in it. If you devote yourself to its dissolution, you’re anti-Jewish—antisemitic—just as someone devoted to America’s dissolution would, of course, be anti-American.
Ali Abunimah, an American of Palestinian descent who runs the Electronic Intifada website, has been called “the leading American proponent of a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” “One-state solution” is code for Israel’s demise, to be replaced by a country of mixed Arab and Jewish population that would, however, extend the “right of return” to millions of descendants of (purported) Palestinian Arabs.
In other words, there would no longer be any Jewish state anywhere in the world, but there would be yet another Arab state in the Middle East, one where Jews would be a minority. For an idea of how that would work out, one can consider the current situation of Christians in the Arab Middle East.
Indeed, Ali Abunimah himself has acknowledged that, under a “one-state solution”:
You can never have an absolute guarantee about what the future will be like….You cannot guarantee that if there was a one-state solution it wouldn’t, it would be…the best scenario is if it’s more in the direction of South Africa and Northern Ireland than Zimbabwe. But we couldn’t rule out, you know, some disastrous situation, like Zimbabwe.
Not only couldn’t we rule it out, we could be sure of it, and almost all Israeli Jews know it. But for Abunimah and so many like him, the current tally of at least two Palestinian states, twenty-three Arab states, and forty-nine Muslim states isn’t enough; the one Jewish state has got to go.
This Wednesday evening and Thursday mark the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat (the name refers to the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat). Also known as the New Year of Trees and as Israeli Arbor Day, it’s a minor, nonbiblical holiday, its source in the Talmud. But quite a to-do is made about it in Israel.
The Talmud specified Tu Bishvat as the day on which the annual agricultural cycle begins. Considering that the holiday falls in January or, at best, February, this—the middle of winter—may seem a strange time for agricultural rebirth. It is, though, the time in the Land of Israel when—amid the cold and damp, but with sunnier intervals—you start to see the first white and pink almond blossoms.
You also see packages of dried fruits (dates, figs, apricots, pineapple) and nuts, especially almonds, everywhere. In the Diaspora, Tu Bishvat was marked by eating fruits of the Land of Israel. In the European Diaspora with its cold winters, that meant dried fruits. Now, back in the Land of Israel, they’re ubiquitous at this time of year.
But on a deeper, more ideological level, Israeli Tu Bishvat has become a day of massive tree planting. The custom began in 1890, in the early days of Zionist settlement. A bit later—about a century ago—it was adopted by the Jewish National Fund, which made Tu Bishvat a day to fight malaria by planting swamp-draining eucalyptus trees.
By now the Jewish National Fund has planted over 240 million trees in Israel, adding 12,500 acres of new forest every year. On each Tu Bishvat it holds tree-planting events in forests; about a million Israelis take part in them including large numbers of schoolchildren.
Mark Twain, touring the Land of Israel in 1867, not long before Zionist settlement began, described it this way:
…[a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds—a silent mournful expanse…. A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action…. We never saw a human being on the whole route….There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere….
He wouldn’t recognize it today.
A few months ago Ron Paul touched off a media flap by agreeing to give the keynote address, on September 11, to a conference of the Fatima Center in Niagara Falls, Canada. The American Jewish Committee said it was “appalled” and “dismayed” and called on Paul to reconsider. Of course, he did not take the advice.
The Fatima Center is a Catholic fringe group whose leader, Father Nicholas Gruner, was suspended by the Vatican in 1996.
As a Huffington Post blogger noted at the time, the center,
has in the past published writing suggesting that Jews should be stripped of certain civil rights…. Gruner [and other leaders] have for over two decades promoted claims that a global conspiracy of wealthy “apostate Jews” and Freemasons—who are alleged to have financed Hitler and the Nazis and hold a “Hitler-like doctrine of exterminating the gentile races and repopulating the Earth with their own kind”—is plotting to institute a “New World Order” global government under the command of the anti-Christ.
…Also…at the event will be speakers who have promoted Holocaust denial and portrayed global warming as a hoax that will be used to justify a Jewish and Israeli-led genocide of most of the Earth’s population, and who reject the long-established scientific fact that the Earth orbits the Sun.
Gruner himself is a blatant Holocaust denier, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has called the Fatima Center “perhaps the single largest group of hard-core anti-Semites in North America.”
What, then, was the longtime congressman and three-time presidential aspirant doing—on September 11, of all days—addressing such a gathering?
The answer is that he fit right in.
Here’s Pat Buchanan in 1990, not long before the First Iraq War:
There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East—the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States.
Here he is in 2004:
[N]eoconservatives…Perle and Wolfowitz and Wurmser and the others, working with Netanyahu, had an agenda for war with Iraq that was going nowhere.
9/11 happens, and they put this agenda before a president, who in my judgment was untutored, as his father was not. Reagan would not have done this. I don’t think his father would have done this.
They captured Rumsfeld, and they captured Cheney, and I think they captured the president….
Also in 2004:
Who would benefit from these endless wars in a region that holds nothing vital to America—save oil? … Who would benefit from a “war of civilizations” with Islam? Who other than these neoconservatives and Ariel Sharon?
Israel and its Fifth Column in this city seek to stampede us into a war with Iran….
And here he is on December 11, 2013:
One wonders if Netanyahu and his amen corner in Congress have considered the backlash worldwide should they succeed in scuttling Geneva and putting this nation on the fast track to another Mideast war Israel and Saudi Arabia may want but America does not.
In psychological terms, this is called obsession. In ideological terms, it’s called antisemitism. It casts Jews as a uniquely powerful, malign, manipulative group.
Sprinkled through Buchanan’s writings one can find derisive references to the non-Israelis and non-Jews who were hawks on Iraq in the 1990s, or on Iraq in the 2000s, or are hawks on Iran today—Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Cheney, George W. Bush, William Bennett, the Wall Street Journal, James Woolsey, John Bolton, Lindsey Graham, and Trent Franks are a few.
In Buchanan’s telling they are all in thrall to Israel, the source of all evil and the only threat to America emanating from the Middle East. No one, not even a president, a defense secretary, can think for himself; anyone who has ever been a hawk on any of those three issues has never had a valid argument but has instead been corralled by the Jewish lust for war.
Nothing has ever made Buchanan think otherwise. Not 9/11; not Iran’s 2011 attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in a Washington restaurant; not its ongoing record of anti-American terror; not its whole parliament joining in “Death to America” chants on November 3, 2013; not its continuing work on ICBMs; not dire warnings on its nuclear progress by groups like the IAEA and the ISIS (in the Jews’ pocket?); not statements by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei like “our people say ‘Death to America,’ and this is like saying ‘I seek God’s refuge from the accursed Satan….’”
Not the fact that the U.S.-led coalition for the First Iraq War included Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Oman, the UAR, Qatar, Pakistan…all members of the “amen corner”? Not the fact that American Jews are mostly left-liberal doves and 70 percent of them opposed the Second Iraq War. Not the fact that Ariel Sharon advised George Bush against that war.
But Pat Buchanan’s type of antisemitism has never been trumped by facts.
No top ten of American hate would be complete without David Duke, the ex-Louisiana state representative who has made a career out of white supremacism and slandering African Americans, gays, and most of all Jews. The reason I put Duke no higher than number seven on my list is that, despite his fervent efforts, he has been kept—just barely—out of the mainstream. More mainstream, presentable figures—who are not hate-mongers per se—are more effective purveyors of antisemitism.
The Anti-Defamation League has called Duke “perhaps America’s most well-known racist and anti-Semite.” His greatest triumph, if one can call it that, was being elected in 1989 to the Louisiana State Legislature, where he served until 1992. Duke has also run unsuccessfully for governor of Louisiana and for U.S. senator (twice), representative, and even president. His first bid for the Senate and his bid for the governorship, however, won a majority of white Louisiana voters.
Meanwhile Duke has carried on with the show, tirelessly spreading hate through books, articles, his newsletter, his website, and leadership of racist organizations from the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s to, at present, his European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO). More recently Duke has been taking the show on the road, further inflaming Jew-hatred in places—including parts of Eastern Europe and, particularly, the Middle East—where it is already strong. And lately Duke has been starring on Iranian TV.
Up until 2006 John Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, was a scholarly exponent of the realist school, which holds that foreign policy is driven by interests and not by domestic politics.
That year, however, Mearsheimer, with coauthor and fellow realist Stephen Walt of Harvard, published—both on the website of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and in the London Review of Books—a paper called “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.” It argued that America’s Middle East policy was totally in thrall to “the Israel Lobby,” which was responsible for getting America bogged down in Iraq and making it a target of Islamic terrorists.
Suddenly the two professors, who until then had worked within the academic world, found themselves the focus of a much wider polemical ruckus. Their paper drew praise from some—including, to put it mildly, a problematic figure like white-supremacist David Duke, who called it “a modern American Declaration of Independence.” And it drew bitter criticism from others.
Cohen noted that, whereas Walt and Mearsheimer claimed that “Osama bin Laden’s grievance with the United States begins with Israel,” actually the terror leader’s 1998 fatwa declaring war against America began by condemning its supposed sins in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
And if the war in Iraq “stemmed from The Lobby’s conception of Israel’s interest” as Walt and Mearsheimer charged, it was odd that “the war attracted the support of anti-Israel intellectuals such as Christopher Hitchens and mainstream publications such as The Economist.” (It was also revealed a year later that in 2003, then-Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon had actually advised President George W. Bush against invading Iraq.)
“Inept, even kooky academic work,” wrote Cohen, “but is it anti-Semitic?” In reply to his own question, he wrote:
If by anti-Semitism one means obsessive and irrationally hostile beliefs about Jews; if one accuses them of disloyalty, subversion or treachery, of having occult powers and of participating in secret combinations that manipulate institutions and governments…why, yes, this paper is anti-Semitic.
Undoubtedly taking note of the fireworks, Farrar, Straus & Giroux gave the two profs an advance of over $700,000 for a book based on their controversial paper. The book was published in 2007 and made it to the New York Times bestseller list.
If Satan himself, with all of his super-human genius and diabolical ingenuity at his command, had tried to create a permanent disintegration and force for the destruction of the nations, he could have done no better than to invent the Jews.
Those words were written back in 1966 by Willis Carto, whom the Anti-Defamation League calls “one of the most influential American anti-Semitic propagandists of the past 50 years.”
Carto, born in 1926, is still going strong at 87, having devoted most of his adult life to hatred of Jews. It seems to have started sometime after Carto’s service in the U.S. Army during World War II, when he encountered a crank named Francis Parker Yockey.
Yockey, too, had served in the U.S. Army, but was medically discharged with a diagnosis of “dementia praecox, paranoid type.” In 1946 Yockey served as an assistant to the prosecution at the War Crimes Tribunal in Wiesbaden, but soon quit because he thought the Nazi defendants weren’t being treated fairly.
A couple of years later Yockey finished his magnum opus, a 600-page, racist and fascist, nearly-unintelligible treatise called Imperium: The Philosophy of History and Politics. Willis Carto, however, read it and was profoundly impressed, and later had his own publishing house reprint it.
In June 1960, Carto visited his mentor in a San Francisco jail where Yockey was being held for passport fraud. The visit didn’t seem to boost Yockey’s morale; a week later he swallowed cyanide and was done for.
Compared to Europe, where antisemitism and attacks on Jews are sharply on the rise, and 40 percent or more of populations view Israel as a country committing genocide, America shines. Polls find levels of antisemitism to be much lower, and the latest Gallup poll in February found sympathy for Israel tying a previous all-time high of 64% (with only 12% supporting the Palestinians).
That is not to say, though, the problem does not exist. The FBI’s recently released Hate Crime Statistics report for 2012 found Jews by far the number 1 target of hate crimes in the country; 62.4 percent of reported anti-religious hate crimes were against Jews (compared to 11.6 percent against Muslims).
This was, of course, before the rise of the “knockout game” that victimizes Jews and others. The Anti-Defamation League also criticized the FBI’s report as “seriously flawed” because one-fourth of the country’s law-enforcement agencies did not turn in their numbers.
The ADL’s own recently released poll finds that 12 percent of Americans “harbor deeply entrenched anti-Semitic attitudes,” down from 15 percent in 2011 and 29 percent in 1964. The ADL found antisemitism to be most prevalent among African Americans and Hispanics, and noted:
• Hispanics born outside of the U.S. are significantly more likely than Hispanics born in the U.S. to hold anti-Semitic views.
• Anti-Semitic propensities within the African-American population continue to be higher than the general population, but are in decline.
• The steady growth of the U.S. Hispanic population—now at 15 percent of the adult population—means that Hispanics, combined with African Americans (12 percent), now comprise 27 percent of the American population, a number that is sure to grow in the coming years. This population increase of the most anti-Semitic cohorts also means that it will be an ongoing challenge to reduce overall anti-Semitic propensities.
Those who remain intent on spreading antisemitism in America most often make claims of excessive Jewish (and Israeli) power that are rooted in classic antisemitism. Some are fringe characters, cranks, who nevertheless reach considerable audiences; others are more mainstream figures. This series will consider both types, eventually focusing more on the latter category since their social prominence and acceptability make them the more significant hate purveyors.
Israel is the sinister, unclean, rabid dog of the region…. The Zionist regime is doomed to oblivion…. [The] leaders of the Zionist regime… look like beasts and…cannot be called human.
Those words were spoken on November 20 by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of Iran, to a huge gathering of militiamen. They didn’t stop the P5+1 countries—the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China, plus Germany—from signing a nuclear deal with Khamenei’s representatives three days later in Geneva.
Undoubtedly, such words from Iranian leaders are hardly something new. (You can find lengthy backlogs here and here.) The destruction of Israel is an official, explicit goal of the Iranian regime, and has been since it rose to power in 1979.
The then-leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, portrayed Israel in his book Velayat-e faqih (also known as Islamic Government) as a mortal threat to Islam, the latest incarnation of a Jewish campaign against Islam dating back to the time of Muhammad. “This regime occupying Jerusalem,” he proclaimed, “must vanish from the page of time.”
The Iranian regime’s Jew-hatred has deep roots in Shiite Islam, which regards Jews as ritually unclean. In Iranian (Persian) history Jews were at various times forced to wear badges (centuries before the Nazis instituted that practice), expelled from cities, forced to convert to Islam, and so on. In the mid-19th century, the historian and traveler J. J. Benjamin wrote about Persian Jews:
…they are obliged to live in a separate part of town…; for they are considered as unclean creatures…. Under the pretext of their being unclean, they are treated with the greatest severity and should they enter a street, inhabited by Mussulmans, they are pelted by the boys and mobs with stones and dirt…. For the same reason, they are prohibited to go out when it rains; for it is said the rain would wash dirt off them, which would sully the feet of the Mussulmans…. Sometimes the Persians intrude into the dwellings of the Jews and take possession of whatever please them. Should the owner make the least opposition in defense of his property, he incurs the danger of atoning for it with his life…. (quoted in Bernard Lewis’s The Jews of Islam)
For the current regime in Tehran, Israel is the unclean “Jew” of the Middle East, and the only fitting treatment is to excise it. A little over a year ago Khamenei called Israel a “cancerous tumor” and the Muslim world’s gravest problem.
This is, of course, of concern to Israel, if not to heads of the world’s leading democracies.
Chanukah, the eight-day Festival of Lights, starts this year on Wednesday evening, the only time it has ever just about coincided with Thanksgiving.
Chanukah, which celebrates the triumph of the few over the many, of light over darkness, goes back over two millennia to a time when Judea was under the rule of the Seleucid Empire. In 198 BCE the Seleucid King Antiochus III ousted the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy V from Judea. Antiochus III was a tolerant ruler who wanted the Jews to practice their religion as they saw fit.
His son and successor Antiochus IV, however, was a different story. In 168 BCE, under his reign, the Second Temple in Jerusalem—the focal point of Jewish worship—was looted, Jews were massacred, and Judaism was outlawed. In 167 BCE, Antiochus IV had an altar to Zeus built in the Temple, banned circumcision, and ordered pigs to be sacrificed at the Temple’s altar.
It was what one might call a cultural genocide. Not an attempt at the wholesale destruction of the people themselves, but of their values, beliefs, and identity. According to Jewish tradition, it may have succeeded—without the revolt.
The revolt against Antiochus IV began that same year, 167 BCE, in the Judean foothills and was led by Mattathias, a Jewish priest, and his five sons John, Simon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah. The next year Mattathias died and his place was taken by Judah—Judah the Maccabee (“Hammer”). By 165 BCE the revolt had succeeded; the Maccabees and their followers had ousted the monarchy, liberated the Temple, and rededicated it to their God.
It was during this process that, according to the Talmud, the miracle of Chanukah occurred. The Maccabees discovered that almost all the ritual olive oil in the Temple had been contaminated; they found only one container with enough pure oil to keep the Temple’s menorah (candelabrum) lit for one day. But when they used it, it burned for eight days—enough to prepare more of the kosher oil. Jews have been lighting a menorah—or chanukiah as it’s now called in Israel—on Chanukah ever since.
Oh Allah. Take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people…do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one.
So said Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi in a sermon on Al-Jazeera TV in January 2009. As the Anti-Defamation League notes in a helpful overview of Qaradawi’s life and dubious achievements, he has a “long record of inciting violence against Jews and Israel”—and, one should add, against others as well.
Yusuf al-Qaradawi was born in Egypt in 1926 and joined the Muslim Brotherhood as a student in 1942. He graduated from Al-Azhar University in 1953. From 1949 to 1961 he was arrested several times for his activities in the Brotherhood, and in 1961 he moved to Qatar where he lives to this day.
By now Qaradawi is one of the most influential theologians of the Sunni Muslim world. His weekly sermon on Al-Jazeera, “Sharia and Life,” has a worldwide audience of about 60 million. In 1999 he founded the website IslamOnline, which, as the ADL describes it, “contains articles and religious rulings which support violence against non-Muslims, as well as anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and anti-American content.” And Qaradawi’s more than 40 books have been translated into many languages and disseminated throughout the world.
Qaradawi also has a vast institutional empire. Despite having been banned from the U.S. since 1999, he is chairman—in absentia—of the Michigan-based Islamic American University; founder and president of the Qatar-based International Association of Muslim Scholars; chairman and president of the Dublin-based European Council for Fatwa and Research; and president of the Saudi-based Union of Good, a “charity” organization that funnels money to Hamas and has been on the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations since 2008.
That Qaradawi, a relentless rabble-rouser and inciter to mass murder, has amassed so much honor, prestige, and influence is not, to put it mildly, encouraging.
The Palestinian Authority was created by the Israeli Labor Party in 1994. The Labor Party believed that, with the breakup of the Soviet Union and America’s ringing defeat of Iraq in the Gulf War, radicalism had essentially become a losing proposition and the Palestinians knew they had no choice but to work out peaceful coexistence with Israel.
Since then the idea of Israeli-Palestinian peace has been an obsessive theme of international politics. For a time it also sharply divided Israel into two camps of believers and nonbelievers; today, after two decades of terrorism and rocket fire, all polls show that the nonbelievers are by far the dominant camp.
For those who bother to inform themselves about the Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza—their education, culture, politics, religion—the ongoing insistence of U.S. and European establishments that Israeli-Palestinian peace is the order of the day, with Israel as the party that stymies it, is surreal almost beyond belief.
Palestinian schools, media, and mosques entirely negate Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state, and systematically deny any Jewish connection to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem. They also honor and glorify Palestinian terrorists in every possible way, from stipends and ceremonies for living ones to the naming of streets, public squares, sporting events, and children’s camps after deceased terrorists. Glorification is especially lavished on those who killed large numbers of Israelis in mass attacks.
For about six years, what used to be the unitary Palestinian Authority has been divided into what are essentially two entities—the remaining Palestinian Authority on the West Bank and Hamas-run Gaza. The latter is an Islamist statelet openly sworn to Israel’s destruction; the U.S. and even the European Union officially outlaw Hamas as a terrorist organization.
The Palestinian Authority, however, with its relatively secular Fatah leadership, continues to be regarded as a force for peace. The problem with that view is that it is an inversion of the truth.
Back in 2002 the journalist Douglas Davis, in an article originally published in the UK’s The Spectator, explained why he had stopped accepting interview requests for BBC TV. It was because “September 11 changed all that”:
Even as the Twin Towers came crashing down, the BBC was rushing in the first of a stream of studio analysts to solemnly intone, one after another, that it was racist to assume that Arabs or even Muslims were responsible. More likely, they chorused, it was the Mossad because such an event “played into Israeli hands.”
Blaming the Mossad for the attack belongs, of course, to the outermost fringe of the loony. But the BBC’s “profound anti-Israel bias,” Davis wrote—which “reaches into virtually every British living room”—had “become ingrained in the BBC’s corporate culture.” To the point that, “wittingly or not, the BBC has become the principal agent for re-infecting British society with the virus of anti-Semitism.”
Over a decade later, has the situation changed? Not much. A year ago Adam Levick, indefatigable proprietor of the Cif Watch site, which monitors “antisemitism and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy in The Guardian,” launched BBC Watch. The BBC’s “coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Levick noted, “is often extremely misleading and egregiously biased.”
While the BBC may not be as virulent and obsessive an attacker of Israel and Jews as The Guardian, it has even greater reach. As Levick points out, “97% of the UK population—and roughly 225 million more people worldwide—watch and listen to BBC broadcasts every week….” And the BBC’s main web portal (bbc.co.uk) gets an Alexa ranking as about the 50th most trafficked site in the world.
Denying the sanctity of Jewish life, subjecting Israel to unique, discriminatory treatment, and providing a steady platform for an outright antisemite are some of the BBC’s recent exploits.
Britain’s far-left newspaper/website the Guardian with its media group (which also includes the Observer) has been called “more hostile to Israel” than any “mainstream media outfit in the Western world.” That description was offered by The Commentator, the site run by Robin Shepherd, author of A State Beyond the Pale.
British media expert Tom Gross, noting that the Guardian has “acknowledged (or at least partly acknowledged) that [it] ha[s] a problem with anti-Semitism,” cites
the paper’s long track record of being at or near the forefront of efforts to demonize the Jewish state: its decades’ long policy of greatly exaggerating any wrongdoing by Israel while ignoring, downplaying or even romanticizing attacks on her.
That has included headlines such as “‘Netanyahu turns to Nazi language’ (July 10, 2009) or ‘Israel simply has no right to exist’ (Jan. 3, 2001),” as well as the term “‘proto-fascist’ (Feb. 12, 2009) to describe the Israeli cabinet….”
In its report on “Antisemitic Discourse in Britain in 2011,” the Community Security Trust (CST), which advises the UK Jewish community on security and antisemitism, devoted a whole section to the Guardian. “In 2011,” CST noted, “the Guardian faced more accusations of antisemitism than any other mainstream UK newspaper.”
The CiF Watch site does an excellent daily job of “monitoring and combating antisemitism, and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy, at the Guardian and its blog, ‘Comment is Free.’”
The Guardian, with about 50 million unique visitors per month and about twelve times that many page views per month, has immense reach. It is one of the significant reasons that so many people in the West view Israel as an evil country. Claiming Israel should not exist, praising its terrorist attackers, and defaming its people and ethos are some of the Guardian’s contributions over the years.
I think now is the time to tally up how many people of Jewish ancestry there are here, and especially in the Hungarian parliament and the Hungarian government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk for Hungary.
Those words were spoken in the Hungarian parliament on November 27, 2012, by Márton Gyöngyösi, an MP of the neo-Nazi Jobbik Party.
As The Economist noted at the time:
Lists have a terrible resonance for Hungary’s Jews. When the Nazis invaded in March 1944 they used the lists of members of the Jewish community to organise one of the swiftest and most efficient episodes of the Holocaust. With the ready assistance of Hungarian officials and the Gendarmerie 430,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz in a few weeks, most to their deaths. On some days the gas chambers and crematoria processed more than 1,000 people an hour.
Yet the government of the ruling conservative Fidesz Party only gave what The Economist called a “lacklustre response.” True, Gyöngyösi’s words sparked a protest demonstration in front of parliament on December 2 with speeches from politicians across the spectrum. Yet it took Fidesz prime minister Viktor Orbán until December 3 to finally say in parliament that Gyöngyösi’s statement was “unworthy of Hungary”—hardly a stinging condemnation.
And the reason for such gingerness is that Jobbik—now Hungary’s third largest party, having won 17 percent of the vote in the 2010 elections—is too popular. Politicians, particularly on the conservative side of the spectrum, compete for its votes and don’t want to denounce it too sharply.
As for Gyöngyösi, he gave a partial retraction, saying that “only” those Jews with dual Hungarian-Israeli citizenship should be put on his list of security threats and that he “apologise[d] to my Jewish compatriots for my equivocal statement.”
Yet last May Gyöngyösi was back in form, saying Hungary had become “subjugated to Zionism…a target of colonisation while we, the indigenous people, can play only the role of extras.”
The 35-year-old Gyöngyösi is “a far cry from the stereotype of the ultra-right skinhead or boot-boy. He is well-dressed, articulate, speaks fluent English and is the son of a diplomat….”
Check out the previous installments in this ongoing series:
#10: David Irving
#9: Roger Waters
The good news is that since September 28 the Greek government has been cracking down on Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi movement that won almost 7 percent of the popular vote in spring 2012 and, ending up with 18 parliamentary seats, became Greece’s third strongest party.
On September 17, an antifascist rapper named Pavlos Fissas (aka Killah P.) was stabbed to death in Athens, allegedly by a Golden Dawn activist. Earlier attacks, including at least one fatal one on an immigrant, were also ascribed to Golden Dawn.
On September 28, Greek police arrested Golden Dawn’s leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, and other top party members on charges of running a criminal organization. Michaloliakos and two other deputies are now in jail awaiting trial. Meanwhile the Greek parliament has voted to strip six more Golden Dawn MPs of their immunity.
While the Greek constitution doesn’t allow political parties to be banned, the parliament also appears set to cut Golden Dawn’s state funding.
So much for the good news.
The bad news is that, first, Golden Dawn remains popular. It was scoring as high as 14 percent in opinion polls before the rapper’s stabbing, and since then has gone back down to about 7 percent. Whether or not that’s just a temporary dip is not yet known.
And second, as long claimed and as Financial Times confirms, one of Golden Dawn’s strongholds in the country is none other than the police:
[Golden Dawn] has penetrated the country’s police force, set up caches of heavy weapons in remote locations and trained its recruits to carry out brutal attacks against immigrants and political opponents, according to the country’s top security official.
Nikos Dendias, minister of public order and civil protection…has assigned the police antiterrorism unit to probe the party’s allegedly criminal activities…. But another reason for taking the investigation away from the regular police force is that it has been infiltrated by Golden Dawn. Some police officers in districts with sizeable immigrant populations have gone beyond colluding with local neo-Nazis to set up political cells within their units, Mr. Dendias said.
…The move to crack down on Golden Dawn follows an escalation of violent incidents in recent months. Analysts say attacks became more frequent because of police foot-dragging over making arrests of Golden Dawn sympathisers and reluctance by politicians to take a strong stand against it.
Indeed, the bad news.
Check out the previous installments in this ongoing series:
#10: David Irving
#9: Roger Waters
Back on June 10, 2005, in New York, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accepted an award from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of Turkish diplomats who had saved Jews during World War II. Erdoğan had been elected two years earlier as head of the Islamist AKP Party, at a time when the Turkish-Israeli strategic alliance and trade relations were thriving.
Although antisemitism ran deep in the AKP and in the Turkish Islamist camp generally, Erdoğan’s words at the award ceremony sounded reassuring. “Anti-Semitism has no place in Turkey,” he said.
It is alien to our culture.
The Turkish nation has been living for centuries with the Jewish people and will continue its close and friendly relations with them in the future.… Our consistent policy towards anti-Semitic diatribes can be nothing short of zero tolerance.
Erdoğan went so far as to call antisemitism “a criminal disease of mind.”
Just a month earlier Erdoğan had visited Israel with a large group of businessmen, held talks with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, and said Iran’s nuclear program was a threat not just to Israel but to the whole world.
Today Erdoğan is still in office, having been reelected twice. And yet, while unofficial trade relations continue, Turkish-Israeli strategic and military ties are in shambles. The small Turkish Jewish community of about 20,000 (some put the figure lower) has been subjected to terror attacks and vilification and largely lives in fear. The same ADL has denounced Erdoğan’s “vitriolic condemnation of Israel and unqualified embrace of Hamas.” Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg has called him “a semi-unhinged bigot.”
What went wrong?
Legendary English rocker Roger Waters, born in 1943, cofounded the iconic group Pink Floyd in 1965 and stayed in it until 1985. Since then, while sometimes reuniting with other Pink Floyd members, he’s mainly pursued a solo career.
Waters is a pop star on a gigantic scale. Pink Floyd, for which he was the main songwriter, has sold over 250 million albums across the globe. Waters’s worldwide tour The Wall Live, which he began in 2010, sold over 1.4 million tickets in the first half of 2012, making it the international leader for all categories of concerts.
Like many pop stars, Waters has taken up causes. In 2009 he called the Israeli security fence in the West Bank an “obscenity” that “should be torn down.” He never got around to criticizing the waves of Palestinian suicide bombings and other terror attacks, which killed 1500 Israelis and wounded many thousands more, that prompted the building of the fence in the first place.
In 2011 Waters announced he had joined the anti-Israeli Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Consisting of Palestinian NGOs and leftist supporters, BDS favors a “one-state solution” whereby Israel would cease to exist.
Waters has been quite active in BDS. In a November 2012 speech to the UN he accused Israel—a member of the exclusively democrat OECD and rated a “Free” country by Freedom House—of “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid,” and “international crimes.” Last August he published an open letter calling on other musicians to “declare a cultural boycott on Israel,” citing Stevie Wonder’s cancellation of a concert in Israel as a success story.
Waters, it goes without saying, does not call for a boycott of any other country on the globe. He has recently played concerts in human rights beacons like Russia, China, and Turkey without raising a peep of protest. Does all this—not least the scurrilous claim of “apartheid”—qualify him as an antisemite? In general, the Jewish world gave him the benefit of the doubt and refrained from making that charge.
That is, until an incident last July.
Anyone who may have thought that, after the Holocaust, antisemitism would be passé is revealed in retrospect as naïve.
Sixty-eight years after the genocide, antisemitism remains rampant in the Arab world and much of the Muslim world. It’s back with a vengeance in Europe, largely—but not solely—Israel-focused. Today the world’s only country to be subjected to a global delegitimization and BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaign is the Jewish one.
A study released last spring by Tel Aviv University found that worldwide antisemitism rose 30 percent in 2012 compared to the previous year. That particularly involved “violent acts against Jews,” with “273 attacks on persons of all ages; in addition, 190 synagogues, cemeteries and monuments were desecrated, and over 200 private and public properties damaged.” Most of the attacks occurred in countries having the largest Jewish communities outside Israel—in descending order of attacks, France, the U.S., the UK, Canada, and Australia.
The report also “noted the rise of anti-Semitic parties on the far right in Greece, Hungary and the Ukraine” and observed that in those countries,
vociferous representatives of these parties openly incite in parliament against local Jewish communities. Blatant anti-Semitic and anti-Israel expressions appeared to ignite violent activity in Hungary, and a significant rise in desecration of cemeteries and Holocaust memorials was recorded in Poland.
This series, counting down from 10 to 1, will profile ten of the worst purveyors of antisemitism—whether individuals or groups—in the world at large; an ensuing series will focus on U.S. antisemitism. In our era, antisemitism is most endemic in the Arab and Muslim sphere; outside of that domain, it tends to be most concentrated on the far right (both religious and political) and far left. All the categories will be “represented” in the series.
After the seven days of Sukkot, the early-autumn harvest festival that also commemorates the long trek to the Promised Land, falls the holiday of Simchat Torah. Also called Shemini Atzeret, it lasts for one day in Israel and two in the Diaspora.
Simchat Torah, which starts this year at sundown on Wednesday, September 25, means “rejoicing in the Torah” (and Shemini Atzeret means “assembly of the eighth day”). The holiday marks the end of one year’s cycle of readings of the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, and the start of the next year’s cycle. It can fall anytime from late September to late October.
Like Sukkot but with a somewhat different focus, Simchat Torah is a jubilant holiday. Torah scrolls get carried around synagogues in hakafot (circuits) amid singing and dancing.
The year is a cycle and the Torah itself is a cycle: it ends with Moses’ death and begins with God’s creation of the world. So Simchat Torah is renewal and rededication; it harvests the learning of the year just ended, and embarks on a new year of study.
Back in the days of the Soviet Union, when Jews were denied the right to emigrate and incurred personal risk by studying the Hebrew language and their heritage generally, Simchat Torah became a defiant assertion of identity. As reported, for instance, on October 22, 1976:
Thousands of Soviet Jews celebrated the Sukkot and Simchat Torah holidays last week in full view of agents of the KGB…. 20,000 Jews sang and danced in joyous celebration of Simchat Torah in front of the Moscow Synagogue.
For the KGB this was suspicious and threatening, warranting surveillance.
She announced that, at the foot of the Temple Mount, the team had found a large gold medallion, “remarkably well kept and glittering,” with reliefs of a seven-branched menorah, a shofar, and a Torah—timeless fundaments of Judaism well familiar in Israel and much of the Jewish world today.
The medallion was in a fabric bag; along with it was another fabric bag containing 36 gold coins and other artifacts.
Mazar assessed that the medallion and coins were abandoned in 614 CE, the year of the Persian conquest of Jerusalem. She added:
The position of the items…indicates that one bundle was carefully hidden underground, while the second bundle was apparently abandoned in haste and scattered across the floor. …
[T]he most likely explanation is that the findings were earmarked as a contribution toward the building of a new synagogue at a location that is near the Temple Mount. …
What is certain is that their mission, whatever it was, was unsuccessful, and its owners couldn’t return to collect it.
Mazar believes the medallion was an ornament for a Torah scroll, which would make it “the earliest such archeological find in history.” As for the coins, an Israeli expert said they “can be dated to the reigns of different Byzantine emperors, ranging from the middle of the 4th century CE to the early 7th century CE.”
Also this year Mazar’s team discovered the oldest known inscription in Jerusalem—from around 1000 BCE at the time of King David, a period of Jewish sovereignty in Israel. The medallion, however, comes from almost half a millennium after the loss of Jewish sovereignty and attests to the ongoing attachment to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
An attachment that continued up to the astounding restoration of Israel in our era.
Fifteen days after the stocktaking of Rosh Hashanah, and five days after the more rigorous stocktaking of Yom Kippur, falls the weeklong holiday of Sukkot—one of the most joyous and pleasant Jewish holidays. It began this year at sundown on Wednesday, September 18.
In ancient Israel, Sukkot was (along with Passover and Shavuot) one of three pilgrimage festivals in which Jews from throughout the land made their way to the Temple in Jerusalem. In its oldest origins Sukkot was an autumn harvest festival. Exodus 23:16 calls it:
the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.
But in the next biblical book, Leviticus, God confers on Sukkot a more specific significance as he tells (Lev. 23:42-43) the Israelites:
Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths:
That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt….
The reference is to the Israelites’ dwelling in rough, temporary structures during their 40-year desert-trek to the Promised Land. Hence the “booths”—sukkot in Hebrew—that observant Jews (and in Israel, some not-so-observant Jews) build, decorate, eat meals in, and even sleep in during Sukkot.
Hence also the holiday’s English name, the Feast of Tabernacles.
Indeed, some historians make a highly plausible case that the holiday of Thanksgiving has its origins in Sukkot.
It’s reported that since Syria’s civil war erupted two and a half years ago, over 120 Syrians have come to Israeli hospitals for medical treatment. They appear to come mainly to Ziv Hospital in Safed, in the upper Galilee, and to the Western Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, also in upper Galilee on the Mediterranean coast.
The Syrians are described as “very badly hurt, with gunshot wounds and blast injuries, and receiving life-saving treatment.” They somehow make it to the Israeli border, from where the Israeli army transports them to the hospitals. Although predominantly civilians, often women and children, one report cites a Syrian patient who appears to be a “rebel fighter”—meaning he could well belong to a jihadi group that wants Israel destroyed.
Syria as a whole is decidedly hostile to Israel, having been in a state of war with it since Israel was established in 1948. If the situation was reversed—if Israelis were savagely killing each other en masse, which has never happened and never will—there is scant chance Syrian hospitals would accept wounded Israelis, even less that Syrian soldiers would bring them there for treatment.
Nevertheless, Dr. Calin Shapira, deputy head of Ziv Hospital, told Agence France-Presse that no wounded Syrians who come to Ziv are turned away:
It doesn’t matter where they’re from…. It’s important to give medical aid regardless—this is a principle of the medical profession.
Syrian wounded who come to Israel are in desperate need. A Syrian woman told French NGO Médecins Sans Frontières that in her country “there are no medicines, nowhere to go, no hospitals. Medicine has become a rare commodity.” Fifty-seven percent of Syria’s hospitals have been damaged in the fighting—some most likely deliberately targeted by one side or the other—and 36 percent have stopped functioning.