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The Scarlet “A”

An Israeli ambassador physically attacks an art display in a Stockholm exhibit linked to an international conference on genocide—a display created by an Israeli artist, incidentally—and Sharon and his ilk denounce the exhibit as anti-Semitic. (Dror Feiler, the artist, opposes the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.) Alicia Colon, a New York Sun columnist, writes that while Christians enjoyed the festive New Year season with good cheer, Jewish communities were being inundated with vicious anti-Semitic vandalism. New York magazine runs a cover story about the return of anti-Semitism, and announces that hating Jews has become politically correct in many places. Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, calls the threat to the safety of the Jewish people “as great, if not greater, than what we faced in the thirties.” Arnold Beichman, writing in the Washington Times, asks if there will never be peace between Jews and the rest of the world. Finally, Israel Singer, chairman of the World Jewish Congress, levels charges against the European Union for recent decisions he has deemed anti-Semitic. What in heaven’s name is going on here? It is an easy question to answer. The defamatory accusation of anti-Semitism is the equivalent of a ninth-inning bases-loaded home run when down 3-0 against those who charge that Israel is out of control and point out its misdeeds. If Ariel Sharon can claim anti-Semitism against a peace-loving Israeli artist living in Sweden, what is so surprising when American Jews accuse anyone criticizing Israel with the same charge? Alas, my co-editor Pat Buchanan and I are used to these labels. As are Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Chronicles, and the Dartmouth Review, just to name a few.

What is really going on is that the state of Israel has always exploited allegations of anti-Semitism, never more than when its policies against the Palestinians raise the eyebrows (nothing more would be tolerated) of fair-minded people and governments throughout the world. The line is as follows: no matter what Israel does—withdraws from the occupied territories, dismantles the settlements, and recognizes the rights of the Palestinians—the Arabs will never be satisfied until they drive the Jews into the sea. Well, it’s a good line, but it’s a big lie, as big as the one used by individuals like David Frum when he calls conservatives who did not support the war against Iraq purveyors of treason. In fact, if Israel gives up the illegal settlements and the occupied territories, it will still be despised by many Arabs, but it will not only hold the high ground, it will enjoy the support and admiration of every democracy.

Neoconservatives, or neo-Jacobins, as Claes G. Ryn correctly identified them in these pages, are as much to blame for abusing “anti-Semitism” as are Israeli hardliners like Sharon, Netanyahu, and American-born settlers. Nothing will satisfy these people until they’ve driven the Palestinians into Jordan. As journalist Ran HaCohen has written, “When a Palestinian kills innocent Israeli civilians, it’s anti-Semitism. When Palestinians attack soldiers of Israel’s occupation army in their own village, it’s anti-Semitism. When the UN General Assembly votes 133 to 4 condemning Israel’s decision to murder the elected Palestinian leader, it means that except for the U.S., Micronesia and Marshall Islands, all other countries on the globe are anti-Semitic. Even when a pregnant Palestinian woman is stopped at an Israeli checkpoint and gives birth in an open field, the only lesson to be learned is that Ha’aretz journalist Gideon Levy—who reported two such cases [recently], one in which the baby died—is an anti-Semite.”

As I wrote in my last column, much has been made by professional wolf-criers of European anti-Semitism. Jews across Europe are reported to be afraid for the first time since the Holocaust. Yes, if a Jew wearing a yarmulke walks in St. Denis, a Paris working-class suburb where the fuzz fears to tread because of militant Islamists, he will be attacked by unemployed Arab youths, perhaps even murdered. The truth, however, is that if I walk there wearing my cross, I, too, will be attacked, perhaps even murdered. And Greece is not occupying any Arab lands, nor does it have any illegal settlements. Does this make the French anti-Semites? Of course not, but you’d never know it by reading the “patriotic” press. Are the Dutch, for the comments of a European Bank chairman’s wife, or the Norwegians, for the words of a Marxist former government minister? It ain’t necessarily so. As Thomas Friedman wrote, “The Jewish state is in peril … the withdrawal should be done unilaterally. This can’t happen too soon, and the United States should be forcing it.” Instead, the neocons are charging true friends of peace in the Middle East with anti-Semitism.

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