Jewish World Review July 22, 2002 / 13 Menachem-Av, 5762

Time to take off the blinders: There is a global surge of anti-Semitism

By Yossi Klein Halevi | JERUSALEM For more than a year, French Jews have been targets of hundreds of violent attacks, initiated mostly by Muslim immigrants. Synagogues have been burned, cemeteries desecrated and Jews beaten on the streets. Yet the French government continues to deny that France has an anti-Semitism problem.

A few days ago, the denial syndrome spread to Toronto, where skinheads stabbed to death a Jew outside a kosher pizza shop. Despite the fact that the fervently-Orthodox victim was easily identifiable as a Jew, Toronto police quickly announced that the attack didn't appear to be a hate crime.

The chances of a murderous skinhead wandering around a fervently-Orthodox neighborhood without premeditated intent to kill are about as likely as an armed Muslim fanatic who just happens to open fire at a counter of Israel's national airline. The inability of law enforcement agencies to discern a motive in the July 4 shooting into a crowd of Jews at Los Angeles International Airport by a Muslim extremist who hated Jews and accused Israel of deliberately infecting Arabs with AIDS is hardly an isolated example of stupidity and self-deception. It's part of a worldwide pattern of denial in response to increasingly lethal Jew-hatred.

The sentencing in Karachi of the killers of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is a reminder of how the pattern of self-deception works. Just before he was decapitated, his kidnappers forced him to tell the video camera, "I am a Jew, my mother is a Jew." Yet the media's coverage of Pearl's execution focused on Pearl the American journalist, as if his Jewishness were incidental to his murder.

For the last two years, the Arab world has become increasingly dominated by government-incited Jew-hatred. Holocaust denial is now mainstream, even among Arab intellectuals.

The official press from Egypt to Saudi Arabia--to say nothing of Syria and Iraq--publishes the most vile and discredited anti-Semitic slanders, like the medieval libel accusing Jews of using blood for ritual observance.

Yet little notice has been paid by the world to the astonishing phenomenon of a great civilization debasing itself with hatred and lies. Why the tendency to downplay Jew-hatred?

Partly, perhaps, because decent people find the prospect of the return of anti-Semitism, a mere half-century after Auschwitz, an unbearable thought.

Many Jews share that reluctance to face the new reality. We want to believe that the Holocaust was an aberration, that anti-Semitism, at least as a mainstream phenomenon, has exhausted itself in shame.

Many of us have justifiably criticized the Jewish community's obsessive focus on the Holocaust, insisting that we teach our children the beauty and power of Jewish tradition rather than frighten them into a victim identity. But while Jews need to be careful about lapsing into hysteria and self-pity, something familiar and sinister is stirring again, and we'd be fools to ignore it.

Not coincidentally, the renewal of seemingly random anti-Jewish violence is being accompanied by an ideological assault against Zionism and Israel. The assault is being led by Muslim extremists and anti-globalizers and neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers, a bizarre coalition uniting far left and far right. And the hatred against Israel is beginning to penetrate respectable institutions, including universities.

Criticizing specific Israeli policies is, of course, legitimate; self-criticism is an Israeli national pastime. But when the United Nations obsessively searches for a nonexistent massacre of Palestinians in Jenin while systematically ignoring massacres of Israelis, when the only country in the corrupt and violent Middle East to be singled out for judgment is Israel, when the context of Israel's war for survival is ignored and only Israel's self-defense is condemned, when the very existence of a Jewish state becomes immoral and the only form of nationalism considered racist is Zionism--then the line is crossed from legitimate criticism to demonization. And the ground is prepared for murder.

Without identifying the illness, we won't be able to treat it. Its name is Jew-hatred, even if some insist on calling it everything but what it is.

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JWR contributor Yossi Klein Halevi is the Israel correspondent for the New Republic and a senior writer for the Jerusalem Report. He is the author of "Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist (Little, Brown) and, most recently, "At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for G-d with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land." Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002,Yossi Klein Halevi. This article originally appeared in the LA Times.