A freshman member of Congress openly espouses bigotry toward Jews and Israel. Her fellow Democrats, with only a few exceptions, fail to forcefully condemn her words and views. Troubling to be sure, but let’s remember: This gnarly tree grows in an old, luxuriant and global forest.
Examples? In Belgium last week, the annual Carnival parade included floats carrying oversize effigies of religious Jews, snarling men with big noses, sitting atop bags of money, one with a rat perched atop his shoulder.
UNESCO, a United Nations agency ostensibly devoted to “the intellectual and moral solidarity of humanity,” recognized the parade as a cultural heritage event and declined to offer any criticism. The U.N., of course, has evolved into an organization that discriminates against Israel with consistency and vehemence.
Also in Belgium last week, Mehdi Nemmouche, identified by the BBC as a “French-born jihadist,” was found guilty of murdering an Israeli couple and two staffers at a Jewish museum in Brussels five years ago. His lawyer had claimed the attack was actually “a targeted execution” by agents of the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency. He didn’t bother to present evidence.
Noted the BBC: “At one point the defense even argued that Nemmouche could not be considered anti-Semitic because he wore Calvin Klein shoes — an apparent reference to Mr. Klein’s Jewish heritage.”
Violent crimes against Jews have been on the rise in Germany, France and Sweden. Britain’s Labor Party is led by Jeremy Corbyn, who last year attended an event by a group that calls Israel “a steaming pile of sewage, which needs to be properly disposed of.”
In Ireland, the parliament recently passed legislation, not yet enacted into law, to criminalize a range of business transactions with Jews in the West Bank, the Golan Heights and even the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
These are often said to be “illegally occupied Palestinian territories.” A less tendentious term would be disputed territories. Israel took them from Syria (the Golan) and Jordan (the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, including the Jewish Quarter) in the defensive war of 1967.
Israelis have given up land in the past, and would undoubtedly do so again — if they were confident they would get peace in return, rather than missiles and terrorist tunnels as has happened since they ceded Gaza in 2005. What other nation would not ask for that? What other nation would be criticized for doing so?
Jew-hatred is as old as the Judean Hills, pre-dating even the rebellion of the Jewish nation against Roman imperialism and colonialism from 66 to 73 CE. Among the punishments Rome inflicted: Renaming the conquered Jewish territories.
Syria Palaestina, or Palestine for short, derives from Philistia, land of the Philistines, ancient enemies of the Israelites (with Goliath the best-known). The Philistines were a seafaring people from islands in the Aegean who settled on eastern Mediterranean shores in the 12th century BCE. And no, those we now call Palestinians are not their descendants.
Jew-hatred has taken many forms over the subsequent centuries, including persecution and pogroms both in Europe and the Middle East. Jews have been despised based on religion and race, for their wealth and their poverty, as capitalists and communists. Jews have been disparaged as cosmopolitans and (in Israel) as nationalists.
Jew-haters may be Christian, Muslim or atheist. Some of the most destructive Jew-haters have themselves been Jewish or of Jewish descent.
“Anti-Semitism” is a relatively new term of art, coined in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr, a German Jew-hater whose goal was to make clear that even Jews who convert and/or assimilate should be regarded as enemies conspiring against the German nation and the Aryan race.
In 1919, Hitler wrote of “rational anti-Semitism,” a doctrine whose “final objective must unswervingly be the removal of the Jews altogether.” After coming to power in 1933, he initiated a boycott of Jewish businesses — a BDS movement (for Boycott, Divest and Sanction) as it were. Eventually, Hitler managed, with extreme prejudice, to remove about 6 million Jews from Europe.
Today, Israel’s opponents seek to remove roughly the same number from the Middle East. Some advocates of BDS insist that’s not their intention. Anyone who believes it’s possible to exterminate the Jewish state without exterminating the Jews living in that state would be well-advised to read up on what’s been happening in Syria, Yemen and Somalia, the blood-soaked land from which Rep. Ilhan Omar and her family fled.
Or they could simply listen to the leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran who make no attempt to disguise their genocidal intentions. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has called Israel a “malignant cancerous tumor” that must be “removed and eradicated.”
Yes, I know: Not everyone who criticizes Israel supports this “final solution.” But I see no reason to give those who call themselves anti-Zionists the benefit of the doubt.
Prior to 1948, the Zionist project was the re-establishment of a Jewish nation-state in part of the ancient Jewish homeland. One could oppose that for many reasons. Since 1948, however, Zionism has come to mean support for Israel’s survival, its right to exist.
Those who oppose that are, at best, indifferent to the fate of the only thriving Jewish community remaining in the Middle East. In other words, to them Jewish lives don’t matter,
That any members of Congress fit that description is troubling. But let’s not forget: It’s an expression of an ancient and widespread pathology, one that has never been dormant for long.
• Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for The Washington Times.