The rules of the game regarding anti-Semitic expression have changed. Here is a cartoon chosen by the editors of the Los Angeles Times to illustrate a violently anti-Israel article written by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, the authors of the book “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”, a book which many have argued is itself anti-Semitic.
Anti-Semitic cartoon from LA Times, January 6, 2008
CAMERA has written a response to the Mearsheimer-Walt article, and has even purchased a full-page advertisement in (other) LA-area newspapers criticizing the Times for its distorted coverage and incidentally pointing out the similarity of the cartoon to one in a German newspaper of the Nazi era.
Last July, I called for a boycott of the Times after they ran a op-ed by Hamas mouthpiece Moussa Abu-Marzouk, in which he asserts that murder of civilians within Israel is justified as ‘resistance to occupation’.
But the Times is just one example of a more widespread phenomenon. The fact is that extreme anti-Israeli expression (which I have argued is often actually anti-Semitic) as well as outright Jew hatred are becoming more and more commonplace. The recent case of Ms. Magazine refusing to print a completely innocuous advertisement that was pro-Israel illustrates the degree of animosity toward Israel in some circles.
US college campuses are presently awash in anti-Semitic expression and have been for some time, as documented in a 2005 hearing before the US Commission on Civil Rights:
The excessive fascination with Israel and the tendency to hold it up to disproportionate scrutiny has turned over into attitudes and acts of hatred and anti-Semitism on many of the nation’s college campuses. There have been a number of examples. For instance, in 2002, at San Francisco State University, Jewish students held an Israeli-Palestinian sit-in hoping to engage the pro-Palestinian students on campus in a dialogue. What ensued as the rally was closing was a hate-fest in which pro-Palestinian students surrounded the 30 remaining Jewish students, screaming “Hitler didn’t finish the job” and “Die racist pigs.” In April, a flyer advertising a pro-Palestinian rally featured a picture of a dead baby with the words, “Canned Palestinian Children Meat – Slaughtered According to Jewish Rites under American License,” thereby reinvigorating the 900-year-old blood libel that Jews eat Gentile children.
During Passover of that year, a brick cinderblock was thrown through the glass doors of the University of California at Berkeley’s Hillel Building. A week after that, two Orthodox Jews were attacked and severely beaten one block from Berkeley’s campus, with anti-Zionist graffiti on blocks and buildings near the school. During a vigil for Holocaust Day, Jewish students who were saying the mourner’s kaddish, the prayer for the dead, were shouted down by protesting students saying a prayer in memory of the suicide bombers. Northwestern University’s Norris University Center was marked with a three-foot swastika in 2003, accompanied by the words “Die Jews.”
However, I doubt that even three years ago we would have seen the kind of mainstream presentation of extreme anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic views as appear today. One of the precipitating events was the 2006 Second Lebanon War, in which much of the media presented an image — almost entirely false — of a diabolical Israel, wantonly killing Lebanese civilians. In addition to made-up incidents, fake casualties, faked news footage and Photoshopped pictures, the war was presented as Israeli aggression, ignoring the fact that Israel responded to an invasion of her territory and the killing and capture of her soldiers. The fact that Hezbollah operated from civilian areas, using residents as human shields was also deemphasized.
There were two major reasons for this: one was the academic bias against Israel which has come to be widespread in the college-educated media as well, and the highly effective media management strategy employed by Hezbollah, which tightly controlled access by the foreign media and assured, sometimes by means of simple intimidation, that they reported what Hezbollah wanted in the way that they wanted.
In any event, the reporting of the war fed anti-Israel sentiment (already strong in Europe) in the US, and interestingly — but not really surprisingly — it seems to spill over into anti-Semitism.
Another factor has been the opposition of some left-wing elements to the Bush Administration, in which it’s become useful to blame “neo-cons” — many of whom are Jewish — for the invasion of Iraq, etc. And the fact that the US economy seems presently to be on a downward trend will certainly give rise to the usual scapegoating.
Anti-Semitism has a viral nature, in which it spreads and intensifies in proportion to its prevalence. So once started, it seems to take on a life of its own.