The New Anti-Semitism: Why does the international community hate Israel so much?
Not long ago, the Economist ran an unsigned editorial called the “Auschwitz Complex.” The unnamed author blamed serial Middle East tensions on both Israel’s unwarranted sense of victimhood, accrued from the Holocaust, and its unwillingness to “to give up its empire.” As far as Israel’s paranoid obsessions with the specter of a nuclear Iran, the author dismissed any real threat by announcing that “Iran makes an appealing enemy for Israelis,” and that “Israelis have psychologically displaced the source of their anxiety onto a more distant target: Iran.”
It is hard to fathom how a democracy of seven million people by any stretch of the imagination is an “empire.” Israel, after all, fought three existential wars over its 1947 borders, when the issue at hand was not manifest destiny, but the efforts of its many enemies to exterminate or deport its population. I would not otherwise know how to characterize the Arab promise of more than a half-century of “pushing the Jews into Mediterranean.”
While it is true that Israeli forces stayed put on neighboring lands after the 1967 war, subsequent governments eventually withdrew from the Sinai, southern Lebanon, and Gaza—areas from which attacks were and are still staged against it. The Economist’s choice of “appealing” is an odd modifying adjective of the noun “enemy,” particularly for Iran, which has both promised to wipe out Israel and is desperately attempting to find the nuclear means to reify that boast.
The Economist article is fairly representative of European anger at Israel, a country that is despised by most of the nations that make up the UN roster. Or as Nicky Larkin, an Irish documentary filmmaker and once vehement anti-Israel activist, recently confessed, “An Irish artist is supposed to sign boycotts, wear a PLO scarf, and remonstrate loudly about The Occupation. But it’s not just artists who are supposed to hate Israel. Being anti-Israel is supposed to be part of our Irish identity, the same way we are supposed to resent the English.”
What then are the sources for widespread hatred of Israel? Such venom cannot be explained just by political differences with its Arab and Islamic neighbors. After all, take any major issue of contention—occupied land, refugees, a divided Jerusalem, cross border incursions—and then ask why the world focuses disproportionately on Israel when similar such disputes are commonplace throughout the globe.
Over half a million Jews have been ethnically cleansed from Arab capitals since 1947.
Does the world much care about the principle of occupation? Not really. Consider land that has been “occupied” in the fashion of the West Bank since World War II. Russia won’t give up the southern Kurile Islands it took from Japan. Tibet ceased to exist as a sovereign country—well before the 1967 Middle East War—when it was absorbed by Communist China. Turkish forces since their 1974 invasion have occupied large swaths of Cyprus. East Prussia ceased to exist in 1945, after 13 million German refugees were displaced from ancestral homelands that dated back 500 years.
The 112-mile green line that runs through downtown Nicosia to divide Cyprus makes Jerusalem look united in comparison. Over 500,000 Jews have been ethnically-cleansed from Arab capitals since 1947, in waves of pogroms that come every few decades. Why are they not considered refugees the way the Palestinians are?
The point is not that the world community should not focus on Israel’s disputes with its neighbors, but that it singles Israel out for its purported transgressions in a fashion that it does not for nearly identical disagreements elsewhere. Over 75 percent of recent United Nations resolutions target Israel, which has been cited for human rights violations far more than the Sudan, Congo, or Rwanda, where millions have perished in little-noticed genocides. Why is the international community so anti-Israel?
A new sort of fashionable and socially acceptable anti-Semitism looms large. For much of the past two millennia in the West, hatred of the Jews was a crude prejudice, rich with state-sanctioned religious, economic, and social biases. By the same token, dissidents, leftists, and anti-establishmentarians once took up the cause of decrying anti-Semitism, an Enlightenment theme until well after World War II.
No more—with the establishment of Israel, anti-Semitism metamorphosized in two unforeseen ways. First, it became a near obsession of the modern Left, which associated the creation of the Jewish state with a sort of Western hegemonic impulse. That Israel was democratic and protected human rights in a way unlike its autocratic neighbors mattered nothing. To the international Left, Israel was a religious, imperialistic, and surrogate West in the Middle East.
The new anti-Semites are not crass and vulgar. They are sophisticated intellectuals.
After the 1967 war, when a once vulnerable Israel emerged victorious and apparently unstoppable, Jews lost any lingering sympathy from the horrors of World War II and Israel became a full-fledged Western over-dog, closely associated with its new patron, the much envied and hated United States. Not only were the new anti-Semites no longer just buffoonish skinheads, neo-Nazis, and Klansmen, but they were polished and sophisticated intellectuals. Deploring anti-Semitic illiterates in white sheets was rather easy; but countering Hamas cartoons of Jews as apes and pigs in West Bank newspapers was difficult when they were disseminated in the name of free speech at U.C. Berkeley…