Faster, Please!

Jeffrey Goldberg's Disinformation on Antisemitism

Yes, that Jeffrey Goldberg, the one who told us, a couple of years ago, that Israel was getting ready to bomb Iran.  Which may yet happen, but as forecasts go, that one was way off target.  Now he’s scrubbed the crystal ball and is asking whether the European Jews should pack their bags and get out of Europe (the answer is yes).

In order to reach his unhappy conclusion, Goldberg gives us a long disquisition in the Atlantic on French antisemitism, and a few little pastiches of the state of affairs elsewhere in the Old World:  Belgium, Germany, Holland, England, Sweden and Denmark.  Like most Americans who claim insight into “Europe,” Goldberg doesn’t give the Mediterranean countries much coverage (there’s one passing reference to some graffiti in Italy, nothing on Spain, nothing on Greece).

The focus on France, and to a lesser extent on Great Britain, is certainly legitimate, since they are the two largest Jewish communities on the other side of the Atlantic.  If there were massive Jewish emigration from those two countries, it would be an important phenomenon.  As French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has famously and melodramatically said, the departure of a hundred thousand Jews would be a major event, an historic failure of the French Republic.  Both French and British Jews tell pollsters they are frightened of the antisemites, and are thinking about leaving.  Moreover, greater numbers of French Jews actually are leaving, although the absolute numbers–seven thousand went to Israel last year, and some of those still work in France — do not bespeak a mass movement.  Nor is there reason to believe the British Jews are leaving en masse.

Goldberg thinks they should go, because of the growing strength of the “new antisemitism,” which he attributes to a blend of old-fashioned “fascist antisemitism” and the Islamist Jew-hatred that has certainly grown dramatically in recent years:

But what makes this new era of anti-Semitic violence in Europe different from previous ones is that traditional Western patterns of anti-Semitic thought have now merged with a potent strain of Muslim Judeophobia.

True enough, but something funny happened to “traditional Western patterns of anti-Semitic thought” in Goldberg’s account.  Its left side magically disappeared.  In Goldberg’s telling–and it’s quite a long telling, so he wasn’t under severe length restrictions–there are no leftist antisemites, only right-wing “fascists.”  Indeed, he argues that Muslim antisemitism wouldn’t be nearly as big a threat without the active involvement of the rightists:

…the new anti-Semitism flourishing in corners of the European Muslim community would be impoverished without the incorporation of European fascist tropes.

This remarkable claim flies in the face of a considerable literature about the abundant Jew haters on the left, and is even at odds with some of the material in Goldberg’s own article.  When he discusses the shameful Dutch pretense that the Anne Frank museum is not treated as a specific symbol of antisemitism (an official there tells Goldberg ““We want people to be interested in this issue, people from all walks of life. So we talk about the universal components of Anne Frank’s story as well. Our work is about tolerance and understanding”), and that it has never had a Jewish director, it’s obviously the result of political correctness, one of the left’s prime cultural weapons, or, to use Goldberg’s language, it’s a primary leftist trope.

Elsewhere, another of his sources–a French Jew whose family came from north Africa–tells Goldberg that he’s very frightened by antisemitism, and is even tempted to vote for the right-wing National Front.  He puts it: “I don’t count on the Socialists. I would count on the National Front before I count on the Socialists.”

Goldberg doesn’t ask him why he doesn’t trust the Socialists.  There’s a good reason for it:  leftists all over Europe have joined with radical jihadis to attack Israel and the Jews.  But Goldberg doesn’t seem to know that.  Or maybe he prefers not to go there for reasons of his own.

Predictably, Goldberg doesn’t much like the National Front, which has eliminated Holocaust denial from its rhetoric, and reached out to Israel.  Goldberg doesn’t buy it.  He is at pains to portray its leader, Marine Le Pen, as very tricky on the subject of antisemitism:

Marine Le Pen is positioning herself as something of a philo-Semite. She is not under the illusion that she will sway large numbers of Jews to her side; in any case, the Jewish vote in France is minuscule. But people who follow her rise say she understands that one pathway to mainstream acceptance runs through the Jews: if she could neutralize the perception that the National Front is a fascist party by winning some measure of Jewish acceptance, she could help smooth her way to the presidency.

Perhaps those “people who follow her rise” (one would have appreciated specific references) are right, and her condemnation of antisemitism is opportunistic.  But contemporary Europe has at least one other example of a political leader who took a neo-fascist party in a pro-Jewish and pro-Israel direction:  Italy’s Gianfranco Fini.  At the time he announced the change, “people who followed his rise” said the same things about him that those French critics to whom Goldberg refers are saying about her.  But he eliminated the antisemites and antizionists from the Italian MSI.  His conversion was genuine.  Perhaps hers is, too.  Only time will tell.

So, to be as generous as possible, the writ according to Jeffrey Goldberg is systematically incomplete, seeing no antisemites on the left, and no reformed right-wing Jew haters.  It doesn’t advance knowledge or understanding, and it doesn’t provide anything approaching a solid basis to answer his basic question:  is it time for the Jews to leave Europe?