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HANSON: The cowardice of politically correct anti-Semitism

Since when is criticizing Jews and Israel cool and, even better, safe?

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An obscure academic organization called the American Studies Association not long ago voted to endorse a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli universities. The self-appointed moralists were purportedly outraged over the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians.

Given academia's past obsessions with the Jewish state, the targeting of Israel is not new. Yet why do the professors focus on Israel and not Saudi Arabia, which denies women the right to drive and only recently granted them the right to vote? Why not Russia, which has been accused of suppressing free speech, or India, which has passed retrograde anti-homosexual legislation?

The hip poet Amiri Baraka (aka Everett LeRoi Jones) recently died. He was once poet laureate of New Jersey, held prestigious university posts and was canonized with awards — despite being a hateful anti-Semite.

After Sept. 11, 2001, Baraka wrote a poem that suggested Israel knew about the plan to attack the World Trade Center. One of his poems from the '60s included this unabashedly anti-Semitic passage: "Smile, jew. Dance, jew. Tell me you love me, jew ... I got the extermination blues, jewboys. I got the hitler syndrome figured." Yet that did not preclude The New York Times and National Public Radio from praising him after his death.

Trendy multicultural French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala is known for his anti-Semitic provocations and for making a gesture that has been described as an inverted Nazi salute. He recently quipped of a Jewish journalist: "When I hear him talk, you see ... I say to myself, gas chambers ... a pity." Auschwitz is now a joke?

Loudmouth multimillionaire hip-hop artist Kanye West recently suggested in an interview that President Obama's approval ratings have waned because "[b]lack people don't have the same level of connections as Jewish people." In the mind of Mr. West, Mr. Obama's current unpopularity has nothing to do with the Internal Revenue Service, Benghazi, The Associated Press and National Security Agency scandals, or with the Obamacare disaster.

In politics, Israel often finds itself at the wrong end of a troubling double standard.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry seems to be camped out in Israel these days. The Obama administration hopes to pressure Israeli leaders to offer concessions that will lead to an elusive Middle East peace. Yet even if Israel gave this administration what it wanted, how would the United States guarantee reciprocal commitments from the notoriously corrupt Palestinian Authority, which has no democratic legitimacy among those in the West Bank? Terrorist-affiliated Hamas wants no part of any such settlement.

It is hardly anti-Semitic to focus on problems between Israel and the Palestinians, or even to pressure the Israelis. It becomes so, however, when problems elsewhere are simply ignored, and Israel alone is singled out to be chastised.

Is the United Nations focused on the 13 million Germans who were ethnically cleansed from Eastern Europe about the same time that thousands of Palestinians left what became Israel? Would the American Studies Association boycott Chinese universities over the absorption of Tibet?

Is the world really troubled about divided capitals such as Jerusalem? If so, why not an international conference on the Turkish occupation of a divided Nicosia on Cyprus?

Can't Mr. Kerry use shuttle diplomacy to settle who owns all those disputed rocky islands that have led China and Japan to the brink of war?

Nazis and racists used to spearhead Jewish hatred, based on ancient crackpot defamations that date back to the Jewish Diaspora into Europe after the Roman destruction of Judea.

But lately, anti-Semitism has become more a left-wing pathology. It is driven by the cheap multicultural trashing of the West. Jewish people here and abroad have become convenient targets for those angry with supposedly undeserved Western success and privilege.

Aside from the old envy, and racial and religious hatred, I think cowardice explains the new selective anti-Semitism. Mr. West would not dare slander radical Muslims, given the violence and threats against European cartoonists and filmmakers who have dared to create work perceived as insulting to Islam. The American Studies Association would not call for a boycott of Russia despite its endemic persecution of homosexuals. After all, Russian President Vladimir Putin is as unpredictable as Israeli politicians are forbearing.

Mr. Kerry is not rushing into Damascus to stop the bloodletting that has claimed far more lives than all the Palestinians lost in 70 years of conflict with Israel. Syrian President Bashar Assad, Shiite terrorists and al Qaeda would not listen politely to Mr. Kerry's pontificating sermons.

The sort of anti-Semitism we see from buffoons such as Dieudonne M'bala M'bala is appalling, but the double standard to which Israel is held in matters of foreign policy by those who should know better is in many ways even more galling.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

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