The above-title is well-known from the famous letter published in a French newspaper in January, 1898, written by the noted writer Emile Zola, accusing the French government of anti-Semitism in the prosecution of Alfred Dreyfus, a French army officer sentenced to life in prison on Devil’s Island for alleged espionage. I use it in the context of the disproportional criticism directed at Israel in the current conflict in Gaza.
Am I playing the “Anti-Semite card?” Accusing Israel’s critics of anti-Semitism? No. I’m not playing. I’m dead serious.
How else can one explain the obsession with Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians? In a world in which certain Muslim extremists are exterminating hundreds of thousands of other Muslims, as well as massacring Yazidi’s, Kurds, and even crucifying Christians, why is a large portion of world opinion focussed unfavorably on Israel’s defense of its citizens from random rocket attacks? Why were there mass protests Saturday, from London and Paris to Cape Town, South Africa, in favor of Hamas, a group recognized by most of the Western world as a terrorist organization, and against the government of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East? Where are the protests against the real genocide being committed everyday in Syria and Iraq by the mad men of ISIS? Why the obsession with the Jews and Israel?
In the past, anti-Semitism was inspired by various pathologies. It seemed that there was always a reason to hate the Jews, although the reasons varied. The Jews killed Christ, the Jews poisoned the wells, the Jews control the banks and/or the world, the Jews are an inferior people. Those on the left have accused the Jews of being Nazis or capitalists. Those on the right have labeled the Jews Communists or Socialists. There are too many forms of anti-Semitism to count: religious anti-Semitism, cultural anti-Semitism, economic anti-Semitism, racial and political anti-Semitism.
This time around it was supposed to be different. Critics of Israel earnestly asserted that they were not anti-Semites. No. They repeatedly insisted that they were not anti-Semitic, only “anti-Zionist.” In the current conflict, this myth finally has been dispelled. Many, if not most, anti-Zionists, are at bottom, nothing but old fashioned anti-Semites, newly minted for the internet age.
Indeed, the very term “anti-Zionist” is suspect. After all, who but Jews declare themselves to be Zionists. Non-Jewish supporters of Israel rarely label themselves Zionists. Only Jews do. When one attacks the “Zionists,” one attacks the people of Israel, Jews.
One might legitimately ask whether one can be genuinely opposed to the particular policies of a particular Israeli government without being anti-Semitic? One course one can. There is nothing anti-Semitic per se about condemning Israel’s settlement policy or its building of a security wall. It is only when one applies a double-standard to Israel, expecting one sort of behavior from the Jews of Israel, while excusing or ignoring much worse behavior in the rest of the world, that the anti-Semitic basis for the critique becomes apparent. Is there something uniquely horrific about Israel’s defense of its people from missile attacks coming from Gaza? Is Israel’s response – – rightly defended elsewhere in these pages – – more worthy of the world’s attention that the barbaric crucification of Christians in Iraq by Muslim maniacs? Of course not.
In the past, anti-Zionist anti-Semites were able to maintain their cover by focussing on particular grievances against the Israeli government. In the current conflict, all bets are off and the focus on hatred of Jews, as opposed to criticism of Israeli government policies, has tragically come to the fore.
In just the past few weeks, since the recent outbreak of conflict caused by Hamas’ repeated rocket fire on Israeli cities, the following are among the hundreds of attacks directed at Jews as Jews:
A group of Jewish children ages 5 to 12 were taunted by teenagers who boarded their private school bus in Sydney, Australia, shouting, “Heil Hitler,” and “Kill the Jews.”
In Rome, Jewish shop windows were marred with swastikas and graffiti that read “Torch the synagogues” and “Jews your end is near.”
In Antwerp, Belgium, a doctor refused to treat a Jewish woman, telling her son to “send her to Gaza for a few hours, then she’ll get rid of the pain.”
In Germany, demonstrators chanted “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight alone” and explosives were thrown at a synagogue in western Germany. Also, in Germany, chants of “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas!” have been heard.
In Paris, a pro-Palestinian mob besieged a synagogue with 200 congregants inside.
A Brussels cafe owner put up a sign saying “dogs are allowed, but Jews are not.”
The hashtag #HitlerWasRight took off the week that Israel started bombing Gaza.
Newsweek’s recent cover story had the chilling headline: “Exodus: why Europe’s Jews are fleeing once again.”
Please note that the protestors are not screaming “death to the Israelis’’ on the streets of Europe. They are screaming “death to the Jews.” Would anyone in their wildest nightmare have imagined that, seventy years after six million Jews were exterminated in Europe and the world universally agreed “never again,” that shouts of “kill the Jews” would once again ring out on the blood-stained streets of Europe?
Many of my pro-Palestinian friends are quick to point out that most of the protesters shouting such ugly slogans are recent Muslim immigrants, not “real” Europeans. I don’t really understand the import of this. At a minimum, it seems to undercut their general support for these same Muslim terrorists in the Middle East. And while today these protestors might be “just recent immigrants,” they are tomorrow’s European citizens and, one day, Europe’s majority population. And what does it say of the “real Europeans” that, even if they do not join in the chants of “death to the Jews,” they tolerate such behavior only seventy years after the Holocaust took place on their soil?
As I noted, the title to this piece derives from a 1898 article by Zola condemning the anti-Semitism that lay at the heart of the infamous Dreyfus affair. The same title was utilized by Norman Podhoretz in a September, 1982 article in Commentary magazine in which the author decried the rise of anti-Semitism resulting from Israel’s defense of its northern border in a conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon. In words that could have been written yesterday, instead of 32 years ago, Podhoretz concluded his article stating:
“In the broadside from which I have borrowed the title of this essay, Emile Zola charged that the persecutors of Dreyfus were using anti-Semitism as a screen for their reactionary political designs. I charge here that the anti-Semitic attacks on Israel which have erupted in recent weeks are also a cover. They are a cover for a loss of American nerve. They are a cover for acquiescence in terrorism. They are a cover for the appeasement of totalitarianism. And I accuse all those who have joined in these attacks not merely of anti-Semitism but of the broader sin of faithlessness to the interests of the United States and indeed to the values of Western civilization as a whole.”
For Podhoretz’s full 1982 Commentary article, please see
This article was originally published at the Times of Israel website.