Seventy years on from the holocaust and the conviction that this must never happen again, Jewish people are suffering persecution and prejudice all over the globe. Often the hostility towards Jews is masked as a hostility towards the politics of Israel. Daniel Willis tells us why this is a dangerous attitude.
It has not yet been seventy years since the liberation of the European Jews from the catastrophe that was the Holocaust. Yet now, it would seem many countries in the West are witnessing (and promptly neglecting) the return of an overwhelming sickness of the mind; a new breed of Anti-Semitism for the twenty first century, and it bears an uncanny resemblance to the old one.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, a bigoted document of lies and conspiracy theory was published in Russia. This ramshackle document was “The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion”. Gradually dispersed through Europe, it poisoned the minds of many in a continent all too familiar with Anti-Semitic sentiment, thanks to the Catholic Church.
Inside this dogmatist text is the view that Jews worldwide are engaged in a plot to control the global economies, the press and a desire to sabotage the morals of the non-Jewish world. Despite being debunked by Philip Graves of The Times in 1921 as both a lie and a plagiarism of a previous work from Maurice Joly, the text was translated and lapped up by bigoted groups looking for a scapegoat.
The Nazi Party in Germany was one of them, and it used the fraudulent document as a legitimate justification for their actions against the Jews. Looking to the present, it does not take long to pick up the stench of Jewish conspiracy theory being pumped into society once more.
The attacks upon America in September of 2001 serve as a reminder to what fanatical, religiously directed hatred can accomplish. Yet there are those individuals who cheaply took the tragedy as an opportunity to spread false allegations that the towers were brought down by “controlled demolitions” in a so-called “false flag” operation by the Unites States Government. Another sinister theory was that four thousand Jews did not arrive to work in the towers on the day of the attack. Such deranged views made the explicit implication that Israel, or “Jews” in general, knew of the impending attacks. Could an individual hold such a view and still be considered respectable in civil society? Unfortunately, the answer appears to be yes.
Shaikh Raed Salah, who is currently awaiting deportation back to Israel from Britain after entering the country, despite an exclusion order, holds this view. In October of 2001 he wrote in the weekly newspaper “Sawt al-Haq w’al-Huriyya” (Voice of Justice and Freedom):
“A suitable way was found to warn the 4,000 Jews who work every day at the Twin Towers to be absent from their work on September 11, 2001, and this is really what happened! Were 4,000 Jewish clerks absent [from their jobs] by chance, or was there another reason? At the same time, no such warning reached the 2,000 Muslims who worked every day in the Twin Towers, and therefore there were hundreds of Muslim victims.”
Salah was charged with incitement to violence and racism by a Jerusalem court in 2008 over a speech in which he invoked what is known as the “blood libel”, accusing the Jewish people of using children’s blood to bake bread. And yet, he was invited to speak by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, a group of Left-wing Labour MPs and union leaders. On a side note, Saleh is still referred to by some as “The Gandhi of Palestine”; a sickly association that not only shows poor taste on the part of those who chose it, but a lack of knowledge about Gandhi from those who think of it as a compliment.
Unfortunately, the trend of anti-Jewish conspiracy looks as though it will persist for decades to come. Following the recent horrors in Norway, conspiracy theories suggesting that Anders Breivik was on the payroll of Mossad, or that the shooting was part of a pro-Zionist plot, were germinating before the body count had even been verified. Thankfully, these paranoid ramblings have been confined to the dark depths of the far-right and far-left Internet blogs, but for how long? Does the seemingly instant suspicion of the collective Jew signify an underlying anti-Semitism re-emerging in Europe? Surely the lessons of history have been learnt.
Surprisingly, a number of surveys between 2003 and 2009 have made disheartening reading. The European Commission’s survey in 2003 in particular caused great controversy. This survey proposed 59% of Europeans regard Israel as the greatest threat to world peace, 40% claimed Jews had a “particular relationship to money” with a further 35% believing Jews “should stop playing the victim because of the Holocaust and persecution of 50 years ago”. A poll conducted by an Italian newspaper in 2004 covering 3,353 people in eight European countries showed that over 46% of Europeans consider Jews to have “a different mentality” from the rest of society. A 2009 poll by the Anti-Defamation League echoed these sentiments, as it found that 31% of those surveyed in Europe blamed Jews in the financial industry for the current financial crisis, with 40% believing that Jews “have too much power in the business world”.
In political cartoons, some anti Semitic demonization has not only been published frequently with little controversy, but has been met with great enthusiasm. BADIL, a Palestinian rights NGO (given grants by well intentioned European governments) is a well-respected, well-established humanitarian organization that has led the way in the campaign to boycott Israel. Yet in May of 2010 it held a cartoon contest in which a highly anti-Semitic cartoon managed to win second place. The cartoon features a Jew in Hasidic dress crushing Palestinian children, clutching a bloody menorah-shaped pitchfork on one hand, with two large keys in the other. Written on the keys are “U.S.A.” and “U.K.”, further perpetuating the notion that some secret cabal of Jews pull the strings behind American and British policy. It took half a year of pressure from an accountability campaign by NGO monitor to influence the site’s contributors to remove the image from their website.
The vitriol aimed at Jews under the guise of “anti-Israel” commentary has been noted elsewhere in the media. In 2001, a Spanish cartoon depicted the then Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, with a hook nose and a Swastika inside a Star of David on his chest. The cartoon Sharon said, “From bad can come good. At least, Hitler taught me how to invade a country and destroy every living vermin”. In 2002 the Italian “La Stampa” Magazine, a respectable news outlet, ran a front page cartoon of an infant Jesus being approached by a tank with the Star of David on the side. The baby Jesus, staring at the tank, cries “Surely they don’t want to kill me again?!”. The connection between the Jews supposed murder of Jesus of Nazareth, and recent Israeli policies in Palestine, remains obscure to say the least.
Indeed, it would seem that in some circles, the distinction between criticism of Israel’s policies and the Israeli state (which is perfectly legitimate) has become marred by the application of anti-Semitic canards and conspiracy.The tragedy is that Israel has been in great need of criticism for its policies, particularly it’s past actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, a justifiable and respectable line of criticism, which has been required more than once in Israel’s case, has all too often decomposed not into a hatred of Israeli policy, but the Jews themselves. Contrastingly, some people apply the notion that any criticism of Israel at all is inherently anti-Semitic. The loose application of such a necessary phrase only serves to undermine what true anti-Semitism is.
The question is no longer about whether anti-Semitism exists or not. It always will, and it will never be safe to be a Jew or Jewish. However, whether or not we in Europe allow a toxic hatred from past centuries to become the status quo may still be up for debate, shamefully.
Anti-Semitism must not be regarded solely as a danger to the Jews. It is a threat to every person who believes in free society and civilization. This medieval hatred is the catalyst for corruption and fascism, as has been demonstrated numerous times in the past. While seemingly ineradicable, we should always strive to bring this sick mentality to the surface, no matter how camouflaged, to ensure the great evils of Europe’s past are never repeated.