Melanie Phillips says that hostility to Jews is strongest among those on the Left who claim to be fighting racism
Want to make yourself really, really unpopular if you’re a Jew? Try saying that the world is witnessing a terrifying firestorm of hatred directed at Israel and the Jewish people, in which the British and Europeans are deeply implicated.
Since it is now a given in many circles that Israel is a threat to the world equal to North Korea, and that Ariel Sharon is a cross between Martin Bormann and Hendrik Verwoerd, you will find yourself accused of using the Holocaust to avoid any criticism of Israel’s behaviour. Because, well, you know, you Jews always stick together and are mighty quick to deal that persecution card.
Anyone who holds that view may as well skip what follows. More objective and fair-minded souls, however, might be deeply alarmed to learn of the evidence provided at a recent conference on anti-Semitism and the media at the Vidal Sassoon Centre for the Study of Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem.
This was scarcely a gathering of the Ariel Sharon fan club. Among academics and journalists from Israel, Europe, Britain and America were several left-wingers and liberals who were deeply hostile to Israel’s Likud government, believed that the settlements should be dismantled, and were troubled by the behaviour of some of Israel’s military. ‘There’s no doubt that Israel is committing human-rights violations on the West Bank,’ said Professor Yehuda Bauer, the distinguished Holocaust expert.
But there was equally no doubt, from what he and others said, that anti-Zionism is now being used to cloak a terrifying nexus between genocidal Arab and Islamist hatred of the Jews and deep-seated European prejudices.
Anti-Semitism is protean, mutating over the centuries into new forms. Now it has changed again, into a shape which requires a new way of thinking and a new vocabulary. The new anti-Semitism does not discriminate against Jews as individuals on account of their race. Instead, it is centred on Israel, and the denial to the Jewish people alone of the right of self-determination.
This is nothing to do with the settlements or the West Bank. Indeed, the language being used exposes as a cruel delusion the common belief that the Middle East crisis would be solved by the creation of a Palestinian state.
The key motif is a kind of Holocaust inversion, with the Israelis being demonised as Nazis and the Palestinians being regarded as the new Jews. Israel and the Jews are being systematically delegitimised and dehumanised — a necessary prelude to their destruction — with both Islamists and the Western media using anti-Zionism as a fig-leaf for prejudices rooted in both mediaeval Christian and Nazi demonology.
This has produced an Orwellian situation in which hatred of the Jews now marches behind the Left’s banner of anti-racism and human rights, giving rise not merely to distortions, fabrications and slander about Israel in the media but also to mainstream articles discussing the malign power of the Jews over American and world policy.
The Jerusalem conference heard chilling presentations about a phenomenon barely discussed in Britain: the virulent Arab and Muslim hatred of the Jews. This goes far beyond even the desire to finish off Israel as a Jewish state. Anti-Jewish hatred plays a crucial role in the fanatical jihadism that now threatens all of us in the West, pouring out in television programmes, newspapers and religious sermons throughout the Arab and Muslim world, and amounting to a new warrant for genocide.
The dominant message is that Jewish power amounts to a conspiracy to destroy Islam and take over the whole world. Truly mad theories circulate on Islamist Internet sites which have now convinced untold numbers of Arabs and Muslims that the Jews were behind both 9/11 and the Columbia space-shuttle disaster. Egyptian television transmitted a 41-part series which presented the notorious Tsarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion — which purported to be a Jewish plot to control the world — as the truth. (This has prompted some Arab intellectuals to condemn such propaganda as both untrue and a tactical error, but these dissidents remain a small minority.) Meanwhile, Saudi media and religious sermons incite the murder of Jews.
According to the Arabic scholar Professor Menachem Milsom, this Arab and Islamist propaganda persistently dehumanised Jews by representing them as apes and pigs. A preacher at the totemic Haram mosque in Mecca said the Jews were ‘evil offspring’, the ‘destroyers of God’s word’, ‘priest murderers’ and the ‘scum of the human race’. The mediaeval Christian blood libel — the claim that the Jews kill children and drink their blood — has surfaced time and again in prestigious Arab newspapers.
And Zionism was equated with Nazism; just as the Nazis believed in the superiority of the ‘Aryan’ race, so Zionists (sic) believed they were the chosen people, which justified their own military expansion. This equation was not confined to a marginal few. Abu Mazen, said Milsom, the Palestinian Authority intellectual who is being talked about as Yasser Arafat’s prime minister in a ‘reformed’ administration, wrote as much in his doctoral thesis — in which he also said that the Zionists gave the Nazis permission to treat the Jews as they wished so long as this guaranteed their immigration to Palestine.
These sick outpourings are not so much religious or even fundamentalist doctrines as rooted in a fanatical totalitarian ideology. As Professor Bauer observed, the driving aim is the Islamic dictatorship of the world. Realisation of this utopia necessitates the destruction of the foundation creeds of Western culture, Judaism and Christianity — and especially Israel, the supposed personification of Western global power-lust, which was planted as an incubus on Arab soil as a result of the Holocaust.
Holocaust denial is therefore central to Arab anti-Semitism, the prejudice which such historical falsehood has helped to forge a strategic alliance with Europe. For it absolves Europe of its guilt over the Jews, and replaces it with European guilt towards Arabs displaced as a result of the Holocaust.
Europe has waited for more than half a century for a way to blame the Jews for their own destruction. So instead of sounding the alarm over genocidal Islamist Jew-hatred, Europeans have eagerly embraced the Nazification of the Jews, a process which really got under way with Israel’s disastrous invasion of Lebanon in 1982. This marked the beginning of the media’s systematic inversion of Israeli self-defence as aggression, along with double-standards and malicious fabrications, which have nothing to do with legitimate (and necessary) criticism of Israel and everything to do with delegitimising the Jewish state altogether in readiness for its dismantling.
So the conference heard about German accusations that Israel was using Nazi methods and (repeating a claim by Hamas) that the Monica Lewinsky scandal was a Jewish conspiracy against Bill Clinton. It heard of the Nazification of Israel in Sweden, where there were charges that the Israelis were exterminating the Palestinians, that the media were controlled by Jewish interests to suppress criticism of Israel, and that influential Jewish lobby groups were ‘spraying journalists with poison’.
It heard that in France Jews were vilified and excluded from public debate if they challenged the lies being told about Israel. It was shown a devastating French film Décryptage (Decoding) — which has been playing to packed houses in Paris — about the obsessive malevolence towards Israel displayed by the French media. It was told about the way the British media described Israel’s ‘death squads’, ‘killing fields’ and ‘executioners’ while sanitising Palestinian human bombs as ‘gentle’, ‘religious’ and ‘kind’. It heard about the cartoon in the Italian newspaper La Stampa during the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, depicting an Israeli tank pointing a gun at the baby Jesus who is saying, ‘Surely they are not going to kill me again.’
And of course there was Jenin, the so-called ‘massacre’ or ‘genocide’ reported as such by virtually the entire media, where in fact 52 Palestinians died, of whom more than half were terrorists, while Israel sustained (for it) the huge loss of 45 of its soldiers. This astonishing media distortion was conceded at the conference by the (extraordinarily brave) Palestinian politics professor Mohammad Dajani, who also observed that a distraught Palestinian public was — on this and other occasions — whipped up by biased and emotional Palestinian reporting which showed little concern for the truth. But the big lie of the Jenin massacre is now believed as fact, contributing to the belief that Israel is a criminal state.
Europeans have thus made themselves accomplices to an explicitly genocidal programme. But an even more striking feature is that, while the old anti-Semitism still festers away among neo-Nazis, the new anti-Semitism is a phenomenon of their sworn enemies on the political Left. So, as the Canadian law professor Irwin Cotler observed, we now have the mind-twisting situation where anti-Jewish hatred is harnessed to the cause of anti-racism and human rights, with Israel being compared to both Nazism and apartheid by those who define themselves against these ideologies. Such a travesty of the facts involves, of course, the implicit denial of the truth of those terrible regimes, quite apart from the prelude to annihilation created by such a lethal defamation of Israel. And even more counterintuitively, many Jews and Israelis on the Left also subscribe to this analysis — and even to the demonology of Israeli Nazism and apartheid — handing an effective weapon to those who dismiss the claim of a new anti-Semitism as Jewish paranoia or Islamophobia.
So what is the explanation for the Left’s position? Partly, it’s the old anti-imperialist and anti-West prejudice. Partly, it’s the view that only the powerless can be victims; so Third World people can never be murderers, and any self-defence by Western societies such as Israel must instead be aggression. Partly, it’s the post-modern destruction of objectivity and truth, which has ushered in the hegemony of lies. And partly, as the Left takes an axe to morality and self-restraint, it’s a golden opportunity to pulverise the very people who invented the damn rules in the first place.
A left-wing Polish journalist at the conference, Konstanty Gebert, got the real point. The Left, he said, could not face the fact that they had totally misconstrued the Middle East because this would undermine their whole philosophy. This was founded on the premise that reason could reconcile all differences; all that was needed in Israel was an enlightened government for reason to prevail. The evidence that we are facing a phenomenon which is not susceptible to reason would destroy that world view. It would also give credibility to the hated Sharon, whose demonisation is absolutely vital to the Left as a protection against the implosion of its whole ideological position.
So the evidence is being denied, and truth is being stood on its head. The result is the defamation of a people, the greater prospect of its destruction, and the disastrous failure of the populations of Britain and Europe to understand properly the threat that all free peoples now face.
Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist.
© 2003 The Spectator.co.uk