Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Only Israel and the Jews

Norman Geras has a post today with the above title in which he follows up on a particularly nasty article by Max Hastings in the Guardian from last week in which Heir Max blamed the rise in anti-semitism on Israel. I've heard that ugly tune before so many times now, I tend to ignore it....which is horrible. But shockingly, at least to me, the Guardian printed an article in response today by Stephen Byers, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee Against Anti-Semitism, which Norman quotes at some length. It is very good.
"Acts of anti-semitism are justified by an increasing number of "respectable" commentators, who accuse Jews of being the cause of their own suffering. This logic borders on apology of hatred; worse, it is a veiled threat that if Jews fail to oblige, nobody will stand by them in the hour of need. Instead of sympathising with the victims, anti-semites exploit the Palestinian cause to side with the perpetrators. Around the world, only Israel and the Jews earn such contemptuous treatment.

When it comes to Israel, Jews are held collectively responsible. Their sin is not deicide any more, nor are they are accused of possessing sinister racial traits. In the modern world, the methods of the anti-semite are far more subtle. It is no longer the jack-booted Nazi; instead, it is anti-semitism with a social conscience, often based on human rights and the demand of a homeland for the Palestinian people. Today's Jewish "collective crime" is Israel.

Nothing is more dishonest and prejudiced than shrugging off responsibility for hatred by saying the victims deserved it. Muslims do not merit Islamophobia because of Osama bin Laden, but Jews are somehow blamed for anti-semitism on account of their alleged uncritical support for Israel. This is an attempt to rationalise anti-semitism. It is a warning sent to Jews not by people who care about them, but by bigots seeking to condone their prejudice.
The calumny that Jews falsely manipulate the memory of the Holocaust to defend Israel is its most recent malignant manifestation. No Jew has ever said that I do not have the right to criticise Israeli policies because of the suffering of the Jews during the Holocaust. It is not the Jews who abuse the memory of the Holocaust to shield Israel from criticism. It is the anti-semites who defile its memory by demonising Israel through baleful comparisons which are grotesque distortions of the truth and whose aim is Holocaust denial.
The reason for the resurgence of an old hatred is simple. Anti-semites feel emboldened again. Their prejudice, suppressed out of guilt but lingering on in the past 50 years, is finding its way back to the mainstream. This cannot be ignored. Anti-racists everywhere have a responsibility to challenge and expose anti-semitism wherever it occurs.

Read it all.

But while I agree completely with what Byers and Geras write, I can't help but think that Israel and the Jews may not be alone....at least for much longer. America and Americans are experiencing some of the same causal attributions. For isn't the logic de jur that it is we and our cabalistic, imperialistic, imbecile, cowboy, oil-grubbing, jew-influenced president and his policies to blame for everything wrong in the world today, creating thousands of bin Ladens and really being the cause of the death in Madrid? We have brought it upon ourselves, the logic goes...and so when there are attacks, it is our fault. One wonders how far this infestation of appeasiastic logic will progress.

Our Man Hitchens tears this logic apart quite easily today. The attacks by al Qaeda in Morroco and Turkey, countries neutral or detrimental to our efforts in Iraq, can't be explained by the logic used in Madrid. It is amazing how conflicting data is so easily discarded by those who want to make a point.

But this age of reason is really nothing new. I looked back at that famous and wonderful piece of garbage written by editors at LeMonde on September 12, 2001, when they empathetically declared 'we are all Americans.' It is worth taking another look at it, since it foretells much of the common thought today, so tragically evidenced by the polls in Spain the other day. Though the LeMonde article starts with appropriate outrage and recognition of the depravity of this nihilistic movement embraced by the terrorists, it quickly comes to the root cause of it all:
"The reality is more certainly that of a world with no counterbalance, physically destabilized, and thus more dangerous since there is no multipolar balance. And America, in the solitude of its power, in its status as the sole superpower, now in the absence of a Soviet counter-model, has ceased to draw other nations to itself; or more precisely, in certain parts of the globe, it seems to draw nothing but hate. In the regulated world of the Cold War, where the various kinds of terrorism were more or less aided by Moscow, a certain degree of control was still possible, and the dialogue between Moscow and Washington never stopped. In today’s monopolistic world, it is a new barbarism, apparently with no control, which seems to want to set itself up as a counter-power. Perhaps, even in Europe, from the Gulf War to the use of F-16s by the Israeli army against the Palestinians, we have underestimated the intensity of the hate, which, from the outskirts of Jakarta to those of Durban, among the rejoicing crowds in Nablus and Cairo, is focused against the United States.

But the reality is perhaps also that of an America whose own cynicism has caught up with. If Bin Laden, as the American authorities seem to think, really is the one who ordered the Sept. 11 attacks, how can we fail to recall that he was in fact trained by the CIA and that he was an element of a policy, directed against the Soviets, that the Americans considered to be wise? Might it not then have been America itself that created this demon?

Be that as it may, ...."

I love that "be that as it may"....it's just so casual; it is simply a given that we had it coming. Whether it is our policies or our support of Israel or the Cold War compromises we made or whatever, we had it coming. It implies quite clearly that terrorism can be controlled by good policy and good leadership. And who is going to provide that leadership? You guessed it.... and it ain't us. And why is that leadership so important? That they leave for the last paragraph.
"This situation requires our leaders to rise to the occasion. They must act so that the peoples whom these warmongers are seeking to win over and are counting on will not fall in step behind them in their suicidal logic. This we can say with some dread: Modern technology allows them to go even further. [Emphasis added] Madness, even under the pretext of despair, is never a force that can regenerate the world. That is why today we are all Americans."

This reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode where aliens came with a book entitled "How to Serve Man"; everyone thought it was a book on helping humans...it turned out to be a cook book. We are All Americans may mean solidarity. But it is not solidarity from the heart but rather from necessity: people might get killed because of us stupid Americans. We are all Americans because these fascists will deem us so, and we Europeans may get killed because of the destructive power of modern technology. So we'd better provide some stability to the world before it is too late. America must be counterbalanced, lest we really all become Americans.

And they mean it, too.


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