Resisting the Obvious

In much of my recent work — books and articles — I have addressed the issue of antisemitism in the contemporary world. That the beast is once again slouching, not only towards Bethlehem as in the Yeats poem, but towards Oslo, Paris, London, Stockholm, Malmo, Copenhagen, Vienna, Berlin, Warsaw, Washington, Toronto, Sydney, Caracas, Brussels, Amsterdam, and many other cities and regions around the globe, should come as no surprise. From biblical times to the present moment, in their own homeland or "scattered among the peoples," Jews have never been safe. This is precisely what distinguishes the Jewish people from the rest of humanity, the specific nature of their “chosenness.” Wherever they may find themselves they are always at risk, whether actively or potentially, targeted for slander, exclusion, or extinction.

In developing this argument in such books as The Big Lie (2007) and Hear, O Israel! (2009), I have been condemned by a number of my critics, who accuse me of exaggeration, self-pity, or a sort of obsolescence, as if my gaze were fixed on the past at the expense of a more amenable or complex present. The fact that many of these detractors are themselves Jewish is only to be expected, for Jews have a long history of wilfully ignoring the signs and rejecting the self-evident. It is not only the JINOs (Jews in Name Only), the “non-Jewish Jews” flagged by Isaac Deutscher, or the apikorsim (“wicked sons” of Jewish public life) enamored of their enemies who are blind to the historical fatwa against them. It is also those whom I refer to as the “good Jews” and whom author and Sun Media columnist Ezra Levant calls the "official Jews" — that is, a significant number of Jewish communicants, as well as their secular counterparts — who refuse to read the writing on the wall even when it is in their own language, inscribed in block letters, and blazoned on every street corner.

These Jewish critics — I have in mind people like Richard Just, editor of The New Republic, éminence grise Clifford Orwin of the Hoover Institution, and Canadian poet Harold Heft, among others who share their inveterate myopia — assailed my analysis as, variously, hyper-inflated, unfair to Islam, scare-mongering, one-dimensional, and so on, as if I refused to align my perspective with the mores of the enlightened and democratic West.

But the enlightened and democratic West is no longer what it very intermittently was — or rather, it is certainly not what it presents itself as being. The legacy media, academia, the political class, and an alarming proportion of the public have made common cause with the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish campaign of the growing Islamic hegemony in the realms of ideology and practice. This is especially true of Europe whose Jewish population is increasingly under threat. As French philosopher Guy Milliere observes in his new manuscript Dissident: Why Europe Is Dead and What It Means for America and the World (not yet published), “Almost everywhere in Europe, it is now dangerous for a practicing Jew to wear a yarmulke,” a development that he regards as a visible and repellant symptom “of a wider and more disquieting decay.” There is no doubt, he continues, “that there is something rotten in today’s Europe.”

Millier’s France, the land of liberty, equality, and fraternity — whose 600,000 Jews are outnumbered by approximately ten times as many Muslims — is a case in point. A French Jew has circulated an email detailing anti-Jewish acts of terror and vandalism in French society rarely reported in the media: “In Lyon, a car was rammed into a synagogue and set on fire. In Montpellier, the Jewish religious center was firebombed; so were synagogues in Strasbourg and Marseilles; so was a Jewish school in Creteil — all recently. A Jewish sports club in Toulouse was attacked with Molotov cocktails, and on the statue of Alfred Dreyfus in Paris, the words ‘Dirty Jew’ were painted. In Bondy, 15 men beat up members of a Jewish football team with sticks and metal bars. The bus that takes Jewish children to school in Aubervilliers has been attacked three times in the last 14 months. According to the Police, metropolitan Paris has seen 10 to 12 anti-Jewish incidents PER DAY in the past 30 days. Walls in Jewish neighborhoods have been defaced with slogans proclaiming ‘Jews to the gas chambers’ and ‘Death to the Jews.’ A gunman opened fire on a kosher butcher’s shop (and, of course, the butcher) in Toulouse; a Jewish couple in their 20′s were beaten up by five men in Villeurbanne…. [A] Jewish school was broken into and vandalized in Sarcelles. This was just in the past week.” We recall that it was France TV-2 that marketed the al-Dura hoax. Its Jerusalem bureau chief Charles Enderlin, profoundly implicated in furthering the scandal, received the Prix Gondecourt for his self-serving and dissembling screed Un Enfant est Mort (A Child is Dead). Agence France-Presse is little better, taking every opportunity to misrepresent and vilify Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, as indeed has French president Nicolas Sarkozy who, inadvertently speaking into an open mic, famously branded Netanyahu a "liar."

France may be leading the way but antisemitic incidents and/or anti-Israeli sentiment are on the rise in Italy, Germany, Austria, Ireland, Spain, Hungary, the UK, Sweden, Holland, Poland, and, of course, Norway. The hour of the European beast, to paraphrase Yeats, has come round once again.

It would be a serious mistake, however, to assume that America is exempt from the phenomenon. The “Representing the People” website, which is promoting a “Holocaust II” program, should not be dismissed as a fringe insanity. It is a symptom of the plague that is spreading. “REMOVE ONE JEW A DAY,” it solicits in caps. “If every American would remove only one Jew from the face of the earth, the entire problem would be solved. Can we count on you?” On the 73rd anniversary of Kristallnacht, vandals set cars aflame and painted Nazi graffiti in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn. As a recent survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) indicates, antisemitic attitudes now hover at 15% of the population and climbing. (Other polls suggest that support for Israel is rising, but this does not impact a hardcore sediment of anti-Jewish feeling.) And why is it, asks Ashley Rindsberg in The Jerusalem Post, that so vindictive and calumnious a book as Gilad Atzmon’s anti-Jewish excretion The Wandering Who? is openly sold on Amazon and Barnes & Noble when “a book of equivalent hatred (for any other group)” would surely be proscribed or quickly removed from the shelves?

It is no secret that antisemitism tends to flourish in times of political instability and economic tribulation, as at the present historical juncture when people ignorantly seek a scapegoat on which to project their confusion and resentment. But the truth is that it remains always latent even in halcyon periods. The sense of security that Jews have urgently sought and too often take for granted is a psychological delusion that works against an indispensable vigilance, a temptation that weakens the sine qua non of self-preservation. Jews who believe that assimilation provides asylum from the world’s "longest hatred" — no less, for that matter, than those Israelis who believe that accommodation with the Islamic adversary will lead to lasting peace — are living in a fool’s paradise.