Anti-Semitism and the New "Jews"
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
March 21, 2006
Recently while surfing the web, I happened onto an article at a number of
alternative-press websites by a widely-published internet author.
I couldn't believe what I was reading: the essay was a long diatribe
aimed, it seemed, at an amorphous Jewish conspiracy that according to the
author is at the heart of what ails America and its policies.
Maybe I misunderstood, I thought -- since the actual word "Jews" was not
used -- so I googled the author's name and read another essay by him. This
one pulled no punches; it was a defense of Holocaust denial and a scabrous
attack on "the Jews" as the evil villains of contemporary society.
I have nothing against the right of anyone to print anything; it's the
glory of free speech, and I find reprehensible Austria's throwing David
Irving into prison for expressing similar Holocaust-denial thoughts in his
writings. (If rightwingers can be jailed for expressing their opinions, at
some point it surely will happen to leftwingers. Free speech should always
be defended for one and all, the exception being actual incitements to
violence -- "shouting fire in a crowded theater," that sort of thing.)
But I wondered whether the website editors had carefully perused what this
author was writing in his article, or whether they simply read the first
paragraph or two and decided to publish or link to it because he had
established a reputation questioning the Bush Administration's Iraq war
policies and its 9/11 scenario.
The other possibility, which I didn't really want to consider, was that
the editors had read his article carefully and agreed with this kind of
racist garbage. Anti-Semitism is universal and, though more prevalent on
the Right, also exists on the Left. (Note: I'm not talking about
anti-Zionism, i.e., articles opposed to Israeli policy and even to the
existence of Israel, about which reasonable minds can agree or disagree.
No, I'm referring to out-and-out raging rants about "the Jews," as a
ANTI-SEMITISM FROM THE LEFT
Anti-Semitism on the Left is generally not spoken about, but it's real and
appears to be growing. For those so inclined, it's easy to slip from
denunciations of Israeli policy -- many of us on the Left are quite vocal
in opposing Israeli policies and actions -- to out-and-out anti-Semitism.
It's often difficult to locate that fine line. Jew-haters often can hide
their true feelings and arguments inside broadsides against Israeli
policy, but those opposed vehemently to certain Israeli policies (and I
count myself as one of that breed) are definitely not anti-Jewish in this
context. So how to tell the difference?
Certainly, AIPAC (the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee)
has no problem: Anybody writing anything in opposition to Israeli policies
is all too-often smeared with the "anti-Semitic" or "Jew-hater" brush; if
they happen to be Jewish, AIPAC types often throw the phrase "self-hating
Jew" into the denunciation.
In my experience, in order to judge articles about Israelis and Jews
somewhat accurately, you sort of have to follow a pundit's writings over
time, and discern where the arguments are coming from and where they are
REACTIONS TO ISRAELI POLICIES
Most liberals and leftists, including those who have grave disagreements
with Israeli policy and U.S. policy toward Israel, abhor generalized
statements about any subgroup of people, be they Jews, Arabs, Muslims,
African-Americans, gays, women, et al.
But because U.S.-supported Israeli policies are at the heart of much of
the conflict in the Middle East, and thus are connected in some degree to
Islamist terrorism around the world, anti-Jewish feelings get stirred up
more than usual in these current times.
The anti-Semitism-on-the-Left issue cries out for more in-depth
examination as to motive and intent. Perhaps in time, I will be able to
delve deeper into this topic. Suffice it to say that elements of
anti-Semitism are alive and well not only in the usual hate and neo-Nazi
sites on the internet but also can be found where most of us live in
alternative, progressive and even mainstream circles.
I realize that I come at this topic from an insider's extra-sensitivity,
having been raised Jewish and with many members of my parents' families
having perished in the Holocaust. Perhaps I'm over-reacting. I would love
to believe that, but I don't really think so. I'd love to hear others'
opinions on this development, which might help expand the thesis.
THERE IS NO VACCINE AGAINST HATE
Anti-Semitism is like a dormant virus, relatively quiet most of the time
in respectable society and discourse, but which bursts out into the open
now and again, usually in times of economic and psychological crisis. The
resulting social rash can be deadly. And there is no vaccine, other than
shining the light of truth on ignorance, with which to combat the disease
of hate. (In America, overt racism against blacks similarly is a virus
that tends to lie dormant until suddenly bursting out in tense times.)
Since the Israel/Palestine situation goes unresolved decade after decade,
and since the explosive region there is so much at the heart of U.S.
policy and thus of resistance to that policy, it should not surprise
anyone that the virus of anti-Semitism is erupting once again, and in so
Just a few examples:
THE FORGED "PROTOCOLS"
* We get more than the usual number of anti-Semitic letters these days at
The Crisis Papers, mostly disguised but more often recently out-and-out
Nazi-type screeds directed at "the Jews." For the most part, we don't
print them, but every so often we do so to reveal to our readers the level
of what passes for intelligent debate from some on the Right fringes. (And
how far are the incendiary comments about "traitorous" liberals by the
likes of Coulter, Horowitz, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and Savage from crossing
the line into incitement-speech?)
* In earlier years, world leaders would not speak openly in anti-Semitic
terms; but recently, for example, officials from Malaysia and Iran in
public speeches have stoked the fires of anti-Jewish suspicion and hatred.
And just a few years ago, Egyptian TV broadcast a documentary filled with
anti-Jewish propaganda, based largely on the long-discredited forgery
called "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," about an alleged Jewish plot
to rule the world. Schools in many Muslim countries (including states
allied with the U.S.) continue to teach their young students to hate Jews,
likewise using the phony "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" as their
* The fact that there are a number of well-known Jews at the heart of the
neo-conservative movement in America -- most notably Wolfowitz, Perle,
Feith -- has engendered a good many rants about how "the Jews" control
U.S. foreign policy and have taken America to war in Iraq for reasons
having more to do with protecting Israel than America. (Ignored in these
screeds are the majority of non-Jews involved in the neo-con and HardRight
movements, and the influence of Christian Zionists and the
military/industrial/Big Oil complex on American foreign policy.)
* The Left was somewhat split over last weekend's anti-war demonstrations.
Many liberals chose not to participate in the large marches organized by
one of the main national anti-war groups, A.N.S.W.E.R. ("Act Now to Stop
War & End Racism"), because that outfit's emphasis on Palestinian
statehood at the expense of Israel's existence -- thus implying that Jews
need to be eliminated from the region -- is both offensive and
ill-advised; the group also is much criticized for co-opting rallies
organized by other anti-war groups and bringing a whole host of domestic
and foreign issues into marches supposedly devoted to getting the U.S. out
of Iraq. Those not choosing to march with A.N.S.W.E.R. avoided Saturday's
rallies or made other arrangements; many are gearing up for the April 29
nationwide demos being organized by United for Peace, which concentrates
less on side issues and mostly on ending the war in Iraq.
Well, one could go on and on with such a listing. The point is that
scapegoats are required in any time of crisis. Often those scapegoats are
"the Jews," but at other times and at other places, the focus of hate is
directed at "the liberals," "the blacks," "the gays," "the Arabs," and so
"KILLING EACH OTHER, OF COURSE"
I recall my travels in Yugoslavia when Tito was holding together that
artificially-constructed, multi-ethnic country by force of his charisma
and his Communist police-state. I asked all the academics and students I
ran into what would happen when their leader died. It didn't matter
whether these reasonable intellectual types were Serbs or Croats,
Christian or Muslim, the answer was always the same: "When Tito dies?
We'll go back to killing each other, of course."
But, I protested, you've lived together in peace for decades now, you are
often good friends and colleagues, you even intermarry; why would you
revert back to such brutal ways of dealing with each other, to a kind of
vicious tribalism? The answer I got was heartbreaking in its scapegoat
simplicity: "Because you can't trust the [insert name of ethnic or
religious group], they're all liars and thieves." When, years later, the
Serbs and Croats began slaughtering each other, I was appalled but not
surprised. Ancient rivers run deep.
And Jews are, in some ways, as ancient as they come, and therefore
throughout history have served as handy scapegoats when an outlet is
needed for blame and resentment.
THE NEW "JEWS"
But there are Jews and there are those who might be considered the new
"Jews," who take their lumps as well: homosexuals, Chinese in Southeast
Asia, Palestinians and other Arabs in Israel and the U.S. (and often also
in Arab nations), African-Americans in the South and in the inner cities,
Mexican immigrants, whoever. It's the same process of stereotyping and
repression, which often leads to discrimination and violence, even when
the group being victimized changes.
Again, this topic of anti-Semitism on the Left and Right is enormous, and
I only want to raise it here as a warning flag for progressives, something
we need to examine and deal with in thinking about how
discriminated-against groups are treated.
For obvious reasons, anti-Jewish expression on the Left mostly does not
make its way into liberal discourse. But if you want a good starting-point
for thinking about the issue, I'd suggest a 2003 article that transcribes
a rare forum on the topic: Jamie Glazov's
"Symposium: Anti-Semitism - the New Call of the Left" at FrontPage
Perhaps what is called for is a national forum on
religious/ethnic/sexual-preference scapegoating that includes
representatives from all discriminated groups. The participants might then
become aware of the commonality of their persecution (and often of their
persecutors), and develop a coordinated way of defending themselves and
going after those who wish them ill.
Copyright 2006, by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught
government & international relations at universities in California and
Washington, worked as a writer/editor at the San Francisco Chronicle for two
decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).
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