An Ugly Resurgence
by Nomi Blumenthal - January 22, 2002
In a recent piece in the London Daily Telegraph, veteran columnist Barbara Amiel described the re-emergence of anti-Semitism in European polite society.
Amiel tells the story of a private gathering at her house, at which the ambassador to London of a prominent EU member state blamed the current world crisis on "that shitty little country, Israel." The ambassador, it is related, expressed his remarks in a humorous tone, evidently confident that his fellow guests would share in the joke.
In the same article, Amiel quoted a remark by the hostess of a prominent political salon in London, to the effect that she could not stand Jews, and that everything that happened to them was their own fault.
To Israelis, seen from the vantage point of the grim struggle of attrition in which we have been locked for the past year, such utterances may seem of little consequence. One of Zionism's raisons d'etre, after all, was to bring about a situation in which Jews would no longer need to worry and ponder over every bigoted remark made by every ignorant European official. Yet the recent re-emergence and proliferation of such sentiments is a matter of deep concern to Diaspora Jews, and deserves wider attention in Israel.
This is particularly the case because, as the remarks quoted by Amiel accurately convey, the newly vociferous hostility to Jews is entirely nourished by the tones of strident criticism of Israel to be found in foreign media outlets. Such utterances are reflective of deeper streams of opinion regarding Israel, especially in Europe. (The phenomenon exists only in far more muted and marginal form elsewhere in the democratic world.)
At a recent conference of Jewish parliamentarians, I was struck by stories from many of the European participants about interviewers and colleagues holding them responsible for Israeli actions widely condemned in their home countries. The prevailing tone of discussion in Europe affords an ever freer rein for the most scandalous and slanderous attacks on the Jewish people and their very right to sovereignty. Diaspora Jews, especially those prominent in public life, bear the brunt of these attacks.
This is a serious matter. It demonstrates the success of the Arab campaign of disinformation, waged with such consummate and enviable skill by the public relations mouthpieces of our opponents. Their campaign has apparently managed to link up with deeper and older attitudes toward Jews that remain present in European political culture. The success of this ugly alliance has been illustrated most graphically in recent days in the virtual news blackout in the foreign press regarding the interception of the Karine A arms ship.
Here was a most significant development. If it represents, as well it may, a Palestinian turn toward an alliance with Iran, then it is a matter of grave concern for the West as a whole. By contrast, Israel's destruction of Palestinian properties that had been used as bases for terror attacks was greeted with a deluge of coverage. Palestinian preparations for war are seemingly of less concern than Israeli acts of self defense.
A climate of delegitimization is being constructed.
The Jewish people as a whole, in Israel and in the Diaspora, need to be aware of the worrying long-term implications of this situation. It is imperative that our brethren in the Diaspora do not allow themselves to be cowed by the widely accepted lies and misrepresentations of our opponents. Rather, the debate must be engaged, and our enemies exposed.
It is simplistic to suppose that this trend can be neutralized merely by successful public relations. We are up against powerful and deep currents. But the truth is on our side, and must be plainly and boldly stated.
Throughout the 1990s, far-sighted Israelis and their allies sought to warn of the danger of radical Islamism. Again and again, we strove to turn the attention of the world toward the growth and proliferation of poisonous anti-Western and anti-Israel organizations and ideologies in the Middle East and in the wider Muslim world. Our opponents attempted to dismiss our concerns as scaremongering. We were even accused of anti-Muslim bigotry.
Since the terrible events of September 11, the reality has been exposed. Radical Islamism - not Islam as a whole, but a particular mutation of it - with its sworn allegiance to the methods of terror, and its tireless search for weapons of mass destruction, is the most dangerous enemy the West has faced since Soviet communism. Now, as then, Israel and the Jewish People are in the front line, alongside the whole democratic world.
And just as in those days, when the apologists and fellow travelers of Soviet communism made frequent use of deep-rooted anti-Semitic sentiments in their propaganda, so today the apologists for terrorism find easy and comfortable common cause with the enemies of the Jewish People, and in the language of anti-Semitism.
We cannot afford to concede the battle for European public opinion in advance. We must work closely with Diaspora communities, to make sure that their representatives are sufficiently cognizant of the facts. Israel, the only democracy between Europe and the Indian sub-continent, is a natural and integral part of the free Western world in its war against terror. We must mobilize all resources to drive this point home and by so doing, we will silence the apologists for Islamist terror, together with the ugly shadows which they seek to revive.
(The writer is a Likud MK and deputy minister of national infrastructure.)
©2001 - Jerusalem Post