Saturday, July 24, 2004

Could there be a second Holocaust? Even asking the question outrages some people; others are relieved that someone is bold enough, in a worldwide climate of growing anti-Semitism, to pose the outrageous question. Ron Rosenbaum raises the possibility in this extraordinary collection of 50 essays, “Those Who Forget the Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism.” Between outrage and relief are discussions of the phenomenon that has plagued Jew and Gentile alike for millennia, the anti-Semitism that flowers in wicked profusion. The poisonous flower has now reappeared in abundance, thriving in the seething streets of the Middle East, the coolly sophisticated salons of the leftist intellectuals of Europe and in certain precincts of America. It’s a remarkable phenomenon. Hatred of the Jews grows as the Islamists, with their perverted strain of Islam, make remorseless war on the West. “Even if the Jews were the most rotten and misguided people on earth,” writes Ruth Wisse, a professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard, “they do not number 280 million in nationality (let alone one billion in religious affiliation); they have not organized their politics around the destruction of twenty-one Arab countries, or trained a generation of suicide bombers to achieve that goal; they have not used the United Nations as a medium for spreading a genocidal ideology around the globe, or their synagogues to preach ‘death to the Arabs!’ Jews did not bomb America in the name of the Torah, or foment anti-Muslim sentiment throughout Europe.” Modern anti-Semitism is relatively subtle, unlike the raw brutality of the disease of the Third Reich, but Prof. Wisse makes a strong case that attacks on Jews nevertheless bear an ominous similarity to those in Eastern Europe in the 1930s. The modern outbreak is the “warm-up act” for an enemy with larger political ambitions. The same hatred that fuels terrorism against Jews in Israel fuels anti-Americanism. September 11 was a wake-up call to deal firsthand with the terrorism Israel must confront every day; anti-Semitism is a tactic and a strategy by Islamists and their apologists in Europe. Seventy-five years ago anti-Semitism found its home on the European right. Today it’s more likely to be found among intellectuals of the left who, Prof. Wisse argues, suffer from a “massive intellectual resistance to acknowledging the threat.” After World War II the Ochs-Sulzberger families, owners of the New York Times, apologized for the “meager coverage” the paper gave to the Holocaust as the storm was gathering in Germany, fearful that paying too much attention to it would identify the Times as a “Jewish newspaper.” Consequently the Times had avoided the consistent daily reporting that would have revealed that “Nazi anti-Semitism cloaked darker anti-democratic purposes behind an enmity directed against the Jews alone.” The Times missed the way Adolf Hitler’s abuse of the Jews signaled a broader danger to the democratic freedoms and civil liberties of everyone, and set in stark relief Hitler’s ambition to dominate the world. Prof. Wisse accuses the Times of a similar blindness today, when embarrassment over Jewish causes governs the newspaper’s coverage of the Middle East, and the paper fails to report “in copious detail on the unmistakable signs of growing Arab extremism that erupted with spectacular force in the attacks on America of September 11.” Harold Evans, the former editor of the London Sunday Times, argues that it isn’t anti-Semitic to criticize Israel (and he has), but it is “anti-Semitic to consistently condemn in Israel what you ignore or condone elsewhere.” He describes the “new anti-Semitism” as frenzied, vicious, prolific and largely unrecognized in the West by the press, academia, churches and governments. Modern anti-Semitism isn’t likely to lead to rounding up 6 million Jews for death chambers. But it could lead to a nuclear annihilation of Israel. Muslim children study textbooks with maps of the Middle East with Israel blanked or cut out. Why should we believe that this is not a goal? When Israel destroyed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor in 1981, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin evoked the memory of the 1 million children murdered in the Holocaust. Asks Mr. Rosenbaum: “Who’s to say that if Begin hadn’t acted in defiance of world opinion, one of Saddam’s Scuds, the ones he fired at Tel Aviv (as well as at American forces in Kuwait) would not have carried nuclear explosives?” In 2001 Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president of Iran, speculated that in a nuclear exchange with Israel his country might lose 15 million people, which would amount to a small “sacrifice” from among the billion Muslims worldwide in exchange for the lives of 5 million Israeli Jews. He seemed pleased with his formulation. Cynthia Ozick observes in an afterword that the “new” anti-Semitism accelerates under the rubric of “anti-Zionism” and is masked by the deceptive language of “human rights.” This is the Big Lie of our time, propelled with “malice of aforethought by the intellectual classes, the governing elites, the most prestigious elements of the press in all the capitals of Europe and by the university professors and the diplomats.” Analogies to Hitler are often overstated, but the grim irony of our time is that the anti-Semites of the Third Reich hid their dirty deeds from sight, never boasting of their killing prowess, whereas Muslims of the 21st-century Middle East celebrate the murder of Jews with suicide bombers, accompanied by the joyful partying of an entire society. Jeffrey Goldberg of the New Yorker magazine cites an Egyptian columnist offering this tribute to the most infamous Jew-killer of history: “Thanks to Hitler of blessed memory, who on behalf of the Palestinians took revenge in advance, against the most vile criminals on the face of the earth …” Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard, puts in the last word. “It is my greatest hope and prayer that the idea of a rise in anti-Semitism proves to be a self-denying prophecy — a prediction that carries the seeds of its own falsification. But this depends on all of us.” Suzanne Fields is a syndicated columnist for The Washington Times.

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