The selectivity of the outrage against Israel would be nonsensical if it were really about human rights. But it’s not.
The recent war in Gaza spawned anti-Semitic riots across Europe, demonstrations in the United States, and the publication of malicious blood libels all over the world. There were civilian casualties to be sure, but the numbers reported by Hamas were inflated and included many terrorists falsely identified as noncombatants. Though the loss of civilian life is regrettable, it occurred in Gaza because of Hamas’s strategy of using human shields and launching rockets from schools, hospitals, mosques and residential neighborhoods.
As usually happens when Israel defends herself, she was falsely accused of human rights abuses and war crimes. Her detractors were mute, however, when Hamas deliberately targeted Israeli civilians and killed its own citizens. They were also silent as hundreds of thousands were being killed in Iraq and Syria, and have been restrained in their response to the wave of bloody jihad being waged across the Mideast by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (“ISIS”).
The selectivity of the outrage against Israel would be nonsensical if it were really about human rights. But it’s not. Israel is maligned instead for having the temerity to defend herself and, in a larger sense, the existential rights of Jews everywhere. Even in the twenty-first century, the world appears to prefer docile Jews who know their place over those who forcefully defend themselves, their values and their homeland.
The international community can accept suffering Jews, subservient Jews, assimilationist Jews, and dead Jews. What it cannot tolerate are confident Jews who protect themselves and their interests without compromise or apology.
It seems that many progressives feel the same way when they denounce Jewish assertiveness as chauvinistic and advocate dialogue with organizations and movements that seek to destroy Israel and her people. Regardless of whether such behavior arises from a ghetto mentality, Stockholm syndrome, self-loathing or simple ignorance, Jews who reflexively criticize Israel but rationalize Islamist terror and rejectionism are complicit in enabling the anti-Semitism that is sweeping the globe.
Multiple surveys have documented rising anti-Semitism in Europe and the United States, and the data are consistent with law enforcement statistics showing increased violence against Jews and their property. Anti-Semitism is apparent among those who disparage Jewish nationalism, call for boycotts of Israel, and make false accusations of apartheid to delegitimize the Jewish State. It is also common in Arab-Muslim society, where it is taught in schools, heard in sermons, and disseminated in false claims of Israeli atrocities and Jewish conspiracy theories that are reported as fact in newspapers from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and all points in between.
Progressive apologists artificially distinguish between disparagement of Israel and hatred of Jews, but it is a distinction without a difference. The United Nations Human Rights Council spends much of its time accusing Israel of heinous crimes without a scintilla of proof, but ignores actual atrocities that routinely occur everywhere else in the Mideast.
The UNHRC expresses little if any concern regarding the harassment and murder of Copts and other Christians, the repression of women, and the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities in Arab or Muslim countries, and has not addressed the slaughter of hundreds of thousands in Syria and Iraq nearly as much as it has condemned Israel. Though it entertains bogus claims of Israeli war crimes in Gaza, it does not chastise Hamas for starting the conflict in the first place, or for using human shields, executing its own people, and calling for jihad and genocide.
Only Israel is singled out for opprobrium, although she is the only free and open democracy in the Mideast – one in which citizens live where they want, speak and worship freely, vote, and serve in government, regardless of religion or ethnicity. The UNHRC’s anti-Israel agenda can only be explained by institutional Jew-hatred, which is enabled by a parent body that tolerates human rights violations by dictatorial and theocratic regimes and provides a bully pulpit for global anti-Semitism. A cynical observer might suspect the U.N. of actively promoting Jew-hatred based on the disproportionate number of resolutions against Israel for imagined offenses as compared to the organization’s silence regarding real crimes committed by countries that engage in ethnic cleansing and seek Israel’s destruction. The hypocrisy reached a crescendo when Israel was unfairly blamed for acting “disproportionately” in a war that was instigated by Hamas.
Hamas violated international law by using human shields, shooting rockets from residential areas and institutions, and targeting civilian populations. In contrast, Israel went to unprecedented lengths to minimize the risk to civilians. The IDF gave advanced warnings to Gaza residents via mass leaflets, texts, emails, and mechanized phone calls. Israel’s conduct was a far cry from that of coalition allies in Afghanistan, where carpet bombing killed or injured many noncombatants. Or of Great Britain, whose bombing of Dresden during World War II inflicted heavy civilian casualties.
Despite the humanity shown by Israel in the face of unprovoked aggression, and although Hamas started the war by firing rockets at Israeli civilians, supporters of Hamas and the Palestinians violently protested and attacked Jews wherever they were found. After the war began, Jewish men and women were beaten in France, England and Sweden; synagogues and Jewish institutions were attacked and vandalized across Europe; and Great Britain saw an astronomical increase in anti-Jewish agitation.
Moreover, protest rhetoric from Europe, the Mideast and the liberal entertainment industry was anti-Semitic in both tone and content. Although some vacuous celebrities who condemned Israel are now scurrying to deny they are anti-Semitic, the implication of nefarious stereotypes and blood lust imagery betrays the hollowness of their denials. Or their ignorance.
Apologists for Hamas continue to promote the fallacy that demonstrations against Jewish targets are understandable responses to supposed Israeli aggression. But how do violent assaults against Jews constitute political statements? How could attempts by Muslim mobs to force their way into synagogues in France and Switzerland be considered acceptable forms of protest? And how do cries of “death to the Jews” by hostile protestors or the publication of blood libels by Arab and left-wing media outlets constitute legitimate commentary?
Such acts are acceptable only if the target group is deemed deserving of abuse, and this has certainly been the case for Jews during their long years of exile in Europe and the Arab world. The Nazis may have mastered the art of genocide, but they did not create anti-Semitism. European hostility to the Jews was constant after the rise of Constantine, manifesting in massacres, canonical abuses, ghetto confinement, bloody crusades, pogroms, social isolation and economic exclusion.
Notwithstanding lip service paid to Jewish suffering after the Holocaust, an undercurrent of hatred persisted that continued to portray Jews as aliens even though many had lived on the continent longer than some of the peoples who came to be known as Europeans. There were pogroms in Poland after the Nazis were defeated and merciless persecution by the Soviets until the end of the Cold War.
Despite the myth of tolerance for “People of the Book,” Jews in Islamic lands have been subjugated, abused, confined and segregated, forcibly converted and massacred, and have seen their synagogues desecrated and property confiscated over the centuries. As a conquered people dispossessed of their birthright, moreover, they were treated derisively and denied the right to sovereignty in their homeland. A review of Maimonides’ Iggeret Teman (“Letter to the Jews of Yemen”), written in the twelfth century, shows how brutally Jews were treated during the Golden Age of Islam.
As hostile as Europeans have been to Jews historically, many of the recent anti-Semitic incidents in France, England and elsewhere have been linked to the Middle Eastern immigrant communities in those countries, often with approval and support from the radical left. Interestingly, the anti-immigration right-wing parties in Europe – particularly in France – have been more tolerant of Jews, who live by the law of the land, than of immigrants who believe in Sharia and seek to impose it on others.
Though anti-Semitism was never eradicated, its proliferation today is enabled by a mainstream media that demonizes Israel and fails to report war crimes and abuses committed by Hamas and other Islamist groups. The media employs moral equivalency to present terrorism as an understandable consequence of alleged Israeli crimes and western interventionism. The massacres of civilians in Syria and Iraq are reported, but not with the same urgency used to slander Israel and impugn her legitimacy. And until the beheading of American journalist James Foley, there was scant acknowledgment of the threat posed by ISIS in the Mideast and beyond. The mainstream press accepted President Obama’s dismissive characterization of ISIS as junior varsity last January, and until recently depicted those who warned of the threat and demanded a strategy for confronting it as alarmists.
Whereas the President certainly had incentive to misstate the nature of the ISIS menace because it undercut his assurances that global terrorism was on the wane, the media was obligated as the watchdog of government to parse and refute such statements. But it failed miserably to do so, which was not surprising given the lack of objectivity with which it covers the Obama administration and events in the Mideast in general. The media shows its partisan stripes whenever it misreports Israeli defensive actions as aggressive, or refuses to retract stories of Israeli attacks on civilian targets later shown to have been bombed by Hamas, or turns a blind eye to Hamas war crimes, or accepts inflated Palestinian casualty statistics without verification.
The media legitimizes Hamas by failing to characterize its actions honestly, and strengthens a cultural mindset that considers attacks on Jews to be understandable reactions to the Arab-Israeli conflict. There is a presumption that Israel is always at fault – regardless of who fires the first shot – and a tendency to sensationalize alleged Israeli transgressions without vetting sources or checking facts.
Mainstream outlets often repeat dubious claims as fact, such as whenTime Magazine recently ran a video report claiming, among other things, that the IDF was harvesting the internal organs of dead Arabs. The offending allegation was retracted and deleted last month after Honest Reporting exposed it, complaining that it constituted a blood libel.
The banalization of anti-Semitism is also facilitated by those who promote BDS efforts, support Hamas and Hezbollah as legitimate political parties, and express hatred for Israel using traditional anti-Jewish buzzwords. The situation is exacerbated by Jews on the left who defend anti-Semitic progressives by artificially distinguishing them as political anti-Zionists. Such distinctions are disingenuous, however, as both terms reflect the same hatred. To say that the Jews – unlike any other people on earth – have no indigenous right to sovereignty in their homeland is to treat them differently and deny their history. This is surely anti-Semitic.
Unfortunately, the tendency to excuse or ignore anti-Semitism is not limited to the hard left, but can be found among mainstream liberals who validate Palestinian claims that repudiate Jewish history, advocate dialogue with groups that have extremist ties, and continue to vouch for an administration that has been more hostile than any other to the Jewish State. This tendency was already apparent back in 2008, when Jewish Democrats refused to question Mr. Obama’s long-standing associations with anti-Semites and Israel-bashers, and belittled the concern of those Jews who did.
It is also apparent in the reluctance of some to acknowledge the possible influence of anti-Semitism in crimes committed against Jews. This may have been the case with the murder of Rabbi Joseph Raksin, who was shot and killed while walking to Shabbat services last month in Miami, Florida. Some were hesitant to suggest the murder was a hate crime, and the police were quick to deny any evidence of bias. However, the investigation is still open and no arrests have been made. It would thus seem peculiar to discount potential motives before all the facts are in, particularly when the synagogue to which Rabbi Raksin was walking had recently been defaced with anti-Jewish graffiti, other acts of targeted vandalism had been reported around that time, and a pro-Hamas rally had been held in the community a few weeks earlier.
If anti-Semitism in fact plays a role in such incidents, the reluctance to assess and identify it will not eliminate the problem. To the contrary, history suggests that timidity only invites further abuse, compromises the Jews’ standing in society, and paves the way for exclusion, dehumanization and genocide. Jewish survival has never been assured by avoiding confrontations or placating aggressors.
For the phrase “never again” to be more than an empty platitude, Jews need to confront their detractors, defend their values, and protect themselves without shame or embarrassment. Constructive audacity is as important for protecting the Diaspora community as it is for Israel. Lack of fortitude, however, could be disastrous for both.