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The New/Old Anti-Semitism
Jonathan Rosenblum

The Holocaust Remembrance Day siren howled with particular poignancy this week. For the hatred that wiped out six million Jews and destroyed a 2,000-year-old civilization is no longer confined to the realm of "remembrance." Synagogues were recently torched in France; an acquaintance's son had his jaw broken when he inadvertently wandered too close to a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London.

Above all, Jew hatred has transmogrified into loathing of the only Jewish homeland in 2,000 years. As Norman Podhoretz has shrewdly observed, the application to Israel of a double standard - indeed a standard diametrically opposed to that employed with respect to any other country - is anti-Semitism.

If any other country in the world were hemorrhaging from terrorism at the rate Israel is, would there be any question of its right to defend itself? (The more than 100 Jewish civilians murdered by terrorists in March are the equivalent, in American terms, of two World Trade Centers.) To deny Israel's right to defend itself is to deny the right of the Jews to a state.

The world media has treated Israel's current anti-terrorism campaign as an extended human-interest story, told exclusively from the Palestinian point of view. Gone is all context. For instance, there is no mention of the fact that there would be not be a single Israeli soldier in any Palestinian city or any checkpoints were Jews not the daily targets of suicide bombings diabolically calculated to destroy any semblance of normal life.

Also unmentioned is the unbroken pattern of new Jewish victims after every relaxation of the closure on Palestinian territory.

Washington Post ombudsman Michael Gelber admitted this week that his paper has failed to convey what it is like for Israelis to raise children in a country where Jews are daily blown to smithereens around the Seder table, or while buying a pizza, or walking down the street. He could have been speaking for the whole media.

When Israeli military actions are detailed, but the precipitating terrorist outrages only mentioned in the fifth paragraph or deleted altogether, facts become lies. Similarly, when foiled suicide bombers and a Jewish mother shot in her car are subsumed under one headline: "Continuing violence in the Middle East claimed 4 Palestinians and 1 Israeli today."

And when The New York Times omits from the "text" of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's speech to the Knesset any mention of the concrete evidence of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's authorization of suicide bombers, the mistake is not innocent.

The world's obsession with the plight of the poor Palestinians is an obsession with Jews. Millions of others whose lives are far more miserable than the Palestinians and who have had far less hand in their own suffering are meanwhile ignored. Does anyone remember Syrian president Hafez Assad's killing of 20,000 of his own subjects and fellow Muslims in a single week?

The Palestinian hijacking of the UN Conference on Human Rights at Durban to put Israel on trial was the ultimate expression of this obsession with the Jews.

Western Jews, who have never experienced anything worse than an odd epithet, are shocked by the passion directed against Israel and increasingly against themselves. Not so those still rooted in the traditional faith.

"It is a known law: Esau hates Jacob," our Sages taught. Anti-Semitism may wax and wane, the Sages knew, but it will never disappear.

"Traditionally, Jews were not bewildered by [anti-Semitism]," writes Hillel Halkin. "[They] understood not only that it existed but must exist; that hatred of them was hatred of the G-d Who chose them... Anti-Semitism was sometimes devastating. It was never surprising or demoralizing..."

The rabbis would have laughed at the scholarly debate over whether the church's theological anti-Semitism and modern racial anti-Semitism are one phenomenon or two. They knew that Jew hatred predated the church - the Emperor Hadrian was no Christian - and would survive the loss of any deep Christian belief. That hatred is protean, ever lurking beneath the surface, waiting to explode in new forms.

For the rabbis, anti-Semitism could also play a positive role in the divine plan - the ultimate protection of the Jew's status as a nation living apart. In the midst of a long paean of praises to G-d for all his good in redeeming us from Egypt, Psalm 105 includes a discordant note: "He turned their hearts to hate his nation; to plot against his servants."

Why should the Egyptians' hatred of us be praiseworthy? The answer lies in a Midrash, which describes how, after the death of Joseph, the Jews in Egypt began to hide the sign of their circumcision, fearing that their separate identity would cause them to be hated. Yet only when they covered the most tangible sign of their distinctiveness, as a prelude to intermingling with the Egyptians, did the slavery begin. The hatred of the Egyptians thus protected them from assimilation.

An intriguing phenomenon, reminiscent of the ancient Midrash, may be observed today. Precisely in those circles in which Jews have mingled most freely is the antipathy to Israel most strongly expressed. The main bastions of the Left - academia and the media, in which Jews are greatly overrepresented - are hotbeds of Israel-bashing.

Stephen Pollard described recently in the Sunday Telegraph his shock to discover that close friends from university, comrades in every left-wing cause for nearly 20 years, make no distinction between Jews and Israelis, and are equally repulsed by both.

Meanwhile, the strongest support for Israel comes from precisely those parties with whom Jews are least comfortable. The bedrock of America's staunch support for Israel is not found in areas where denatured Jews, a la Seinfeld, are cultural icons, but in those states where there are the fewest Jews and the most biblical religious fervor, and where Jewish assimilation barely exists.

The ancient Midrash finds another echo today. World Jewry faces a defining moment. Never has the chasm between world opinion and that of the Jews of Israel been greater. Throughout the horrible month of March, the Jews of Israel felt themselves on the verge of another epochal catastrophe. The future of the Jewish state and the possibility of another Exile were subjects on everyone's heart. That is why 85% of Israel's Jews, despite their enormous need for the respect of the world, support the current campaign to uproot the terrorist infrastructure.

The world's Jews face a choice between their brothers in Israel, who are being robbed of any semblance of normal life, and their New York Times political correctness.

If they choose the latter, they are lost to the Jewish people.


 
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