By Vic Rosenthal (apologies to W. Churchill)
Suddenly it’s 1938…or perhaps 69 CE.
In Europe (or better, Eurabia), antisemitic incidents have been rising sharply as the increasing Muslim population asserts itself. Although many Jews are deciding that they don’t have a future in Europe (again), this is a sideshow next to the major centers of Jewish population, Israel and the US.
The Jewish people living in Israel and the US are facing a challenge to their continued survival that has few precedents. As everyone knows, Israel faces a concrete physical threat from the oil-fattened, pathologically antisemitic Muslim world, spearheaded by a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran. They have been joined by non-ideological forces connected to the oil industry, and together have mounted a successful world-wide propaganda campaign to turn history upside down, delegitimize the State of Israel, and damage her diplomatically and economically. This campaign, often couched in terms of liberal values, has added many new enemies from the Left to the already large collection of antisemites of the extreme Right. Meanwhile the Palestinians and Hezbollah wear Israel down through unending military struggle.
In the US, an attack is presently being mounted against Jewish influence on foreign policy, in order to weaken US support of Israel. The Mearsheimer-Walt paper provides a thin veneer of academic respectability to multiple slanders, and Jimmy Carter’s recent bad book popularizes the idea that Israel is illegitimate and that the ‘Jewish lobby’ doesn’t permit discussion of this. Meanwhile, the FBI sting against AIPAC employees represents a shot across the bow (well, more than just across the bow) warning AIPAC that they had better stop supporting such things as the Saudi Arabia Accountability Act – and indeed, they did.
Is it too paranoid to wonder if the same forces that gave birth to the Baker-Hamilton report’s scheme to trade Israeli security for an (illusory) easy exit from Iraq were also responsible for the attempt to defang AIPAC? Not when you consider that James Baker is paid to represent Saudi Arabia.
Although it’s possible to say that this bears only on Israel, there is a decidedly antisemitic cast to the Mearsheimer-Walt paper, which is happily cited again and again by the usual rabid antisemites. And it’s quite common to find ‘Jewish neo-cons’ accused of getting the US into Iraq; almost any anti-Iraq war demonstration has its obligatory anti-Israel and often antisemitic placards.
While antisemitism is still looked down upon in much of American society, it often seems that it’s the only type of prejudice that is acceptable on many college campuses. Left-wing anti-Zionism slides quickly into antisemitism, especially in places where so many of the authority figures seem to be competing to produce the most outrageous forms of anti-Israel expression. The campus today, of course, is a highly reliable indicator of where the society as a whole will be tomorrow.
In the US, Jews are experiencing a golden age, having reached unprecedented levels of success in many professions (and even in politics) compared to their numbers. The antisemites are in fact correct about the disproportionate number of Jews in the media and the arts (although they are almost all secular and left-wing, and many are anti-Zionist). Jewish history shows, however, that until now such periods have invariably been followed by persecutions, expulsions, or even mass murder. Americans in general seem to believe that they are unique in history and immune to trends, but all it will take to trigger antisemitic behavior is a sharp economic downturn.
How are Jews in Israel and the US confronting this historic moment? In a word, badly.
Israel does not have a consistent political or military policy for dealing with Palestinian terrorism, and seems unable to stop Hamas from firing rockets into Negev cities and from smuggling arms, explosives, and operatives across the Egyptian border; nor is there a plan to deal with the increased radicalization of Israeli Arabs, who more and more identify with elements hostile to the Jewish state. The recent war in Lebanon was a disaster with Israel able to produce only a draw on the ground, while Hezbollah managed to achieve a propaganda coup by (falsely) presenting Israel’s response as ‘disproportionate’. Hezbollah is now rearming under UN protection, and the kidnapped soldiers have not been returned. There’s been loss of confidence in the political leadership and even in the army.
Regardless of the lateness of the hour, there is still the absurdity of left-wing Israelis, particularly in the academic world, the media and even the legal system who are at the forefront of the anti-Zionist movement. The result is the schizophrenic behavior of Israel in the face of destruction.
In the US, Jews are sharply divided. It’s a pity how entangled attitudes on Israel have become with the liberal-conservative divide. The traditional left-wing orientation of Jews has resulted in many of them adopting some of the anti-Zionism of the Left, while the Zionism of others has caused them to make common cause with conservatives whose economic and social points of view would have been anathema to them in the past. The oxymoronic Jewish antisemite is alive and well.
Although Israel’s peril is more immediate, there’s no question in my mind that the loss of Israel would soon bring about a catastrophe in the US and other diasporas. Whether or not this can be avoided is unclear, but it’s certain that preventing it will require precisely what we don’t have today – worldwide Jewish unity.