Commentary Magazine


Topic: anti-Semitism

American Jewry, the Holocaust, and the End of History

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and with it will come the usual raft of stories that fall into two categories. There are the stories marking the day’s solemnity, and the stories in which grouchy academics tell Jews, not in quite so many words, to get over it. Today also marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a stark reminder of the aging of the generation of survivors. And this year it’s Shaul Magid who has stepped into the fray to tell American Jews that they are not Europeans and they are not Israelis, and so they should stop frowning so much.

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Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and with it will come the usual raft of stories that fall into two categories. There are the stories marking the day’s solemnity, and the stories in which grouchy academics tell Jews, not in quite so many words, to get over it. Today also marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a stark reminder of the aging of the generation of survivors. And this year it’s Shaul Magid who has stepped into the fray to tell American Jews that they are not Europeans and they are not Israelis, and so they should stop frowning so much.

In an essay at Tablet, Magid, author of American Post-Judaism: Identity and Renewal in a Postethnic Society, takes up the cause of Jacob Neusner and what he believes is Neusner’s “central thesis on American Judaism: The reception and in some cases mythicization of the Holocaust in American Jewry prevents American Jews from actualizing the distinct potential that exists for them to move beyond an identity founded on oppression and persecution, or ‘negative Judaism,’ and toward a new identity that trusts the world enough to view itself as an integral part of an open society.”

It’s a long essay, so I hesitate to try to summarize it here. It’s also meandering, unsteady, and not quite able to stand on its own two feet, so I don’t want to attribute to it a clarity it doesn’t possess. But here is a coherent enough excerpt to get the point:

What is perhaps more distinctive to American Jewry is the second condition: the way the disappearance of anti-Semitism or anti-Judaism as an imminent threat has obviated the need for a parochial social structure (I do not speak of the diminution of anti-Semitism worldwide, but only in America). When the need for social cohesion is removed, the perpetuation of collective identity must be generated from within. … Neusner argues that contemporary America, a society not plagued by anti-Semitism, is a new landscape that Jews must navigate in order to find resources other than pure ethnicity (ethnos) or negativity (the Holocaust) so as to construct a lasting sense of Jewish identity.

Given these two conditions, Jews in America have not abandoned the need, or desire, for a Jewish identity or “survival”; in fact, ironically, the notion of survival has arguably become an American Jewish obsession, as we can see by the collective Jewish hand-wringing that followed the 2013 Pew Poll. That is to say, survival becomes the primary concern, and even a dogma, of a collective void of any positive raison d’etre.

We’ll come back to the false, though mostly irrelevant, claim that survival is not a “positive raison d’etre.” The key here is that this argument is based on the conclusive idea that America is different. On its face, this is inarguable. But Magid, perhaps unintentionally, reveals what is so dangerous about this. He writes of the “Holocaust-Israel nexus” supposedly holding American Jews back: “it creates a Judaism whose foundations lie elsewhere (prewar Europe or Israel) making American Judaism ‘a spectator sport … spectators at someone else’s drama’.”

Well yes, American Judaism’s foundations lie elsewhere: Judaism is more than a few centuries old. American Judaism isn’t a separate religion—though many left-wing Jews in America do follow a politicized “Torah of Liberalism,” as Norman Podhoretz so accurately termed it. Judaism is not just its own history; Judaism is, in many ways, history itself. “Writing a history of the Jews is almost like writing a history of the world, but from a highly peculiar angle of vision,” wrote Paul Johnson in the introduction to his History of the Jews. “It is world history seen from the viewpoint of a learned and intelligent victim.” What’s more, Johnson adds that writing a history of the Jews enabled him to reconsider the very question, “what are we on earth for?”

He was able to do this, he writes, because he was examining a history spanning 4,000 years. Pace Magid and Neusner, a Judaism that looks back on its history is not a “negative Judaism.” It is a Judaism of self-knowledge and inspirational, miraculous persistence. And a Judaism that looks ahead (to Israel, for example) is not a Judaism unhappy in its present moment but rather one that embraces the future and its own capacity for turning darkness into light.

In the Mishnaic book Ethics of the Fathers, the Jews are taught: “Do not separate yourself from the community.” This is precisely what an American Judaism that self-consciously differentiates itself from the Jews of Europe and the Jews of Israel would do. Magid, Neusner, and others may see in Jewish history a depressing series of calamities. But that’s an incomplete interpretation that stems from giving up the “obsession” with survival. The full Jewish story is one of repeated triumph, courage, and piety against all odds.

That story is not a version of “negative Judaism,” and neither is a focus on survival. Too much intellectual and emotional distance from the Holocaust would not only erode Jews’ ability to see danger coming, if indeed it does. It would also downplay the real theme of Jewish history: our people’s ability to come out the other side.

Non-Jews tend to see this better than we do ourselves—historians like Johnson, but also politicians like Britain’s Daniel Hannan, who yesterday wrote that “Israel has its problems, but it will still be around when the EU is one with Nineveh and Tyre.” That is the lesson of both Europe and Israel, dismal as the landscape might appear at times. Today we commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz. Critics of American Jewry’s Holocaust commemoration habits would be well served by remembering not only Auschwitz, but its liberation.

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J Street Ally Promotes Anti-Semitic Slander

Yesterday on the Sunday morning talk shows, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough attempted to walk back some of the most intemperate off-the-record comments from administration officials about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to speak to Congress about Iran sanctions. But even as he reaffirmed the strength of the alliance, some of the president’s supporters continued to not only campaign for Netanyahu to cancel his acceptance of House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation but to denigrate the Israeli leader. Among the most vocal was Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth, who told radio talker Stephanie Miller that the invite was “close to subversion” and accused the bipartisan pro-Israel majority in Congress of dual loyalty. That should leave the Jewish group that has embraced Yarmouth—the left-wing lobby J Street—with some questions as to whether they are prepared to draw a line between their own campaign against Netanyahu and slander of Israel and pro-Israel members of Congress.

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Yesterday on the Sunday morning talk shows, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough attempted to walk back some of the most intemperate off-the-record comments from administration officials about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to speak to Congress about Iran sanctions. But even as he reaffirmed the strength of the alliance, some of the president’s supporters continued to not only campaign for Netanyahu to cancel his acceptance of House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation but to denigrate the Israeli leader. Among the most vocal was Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth, who told radio talker Stephanie Miller that the invite was “close to subversion” and accused the bipartisan pro-Israel majority in Congress of dual loyalty. That should leave the Jewish group that has embraced Yarmouth—the left-wing lobby J Street—with some questions as to whether they are prepared to draw a line between their own campaign against Netanyahu and slander of Israel and pro-Israel members of Congress.

J Street is currently promoting a petition on its website demanding that Congress delay Netanyahu’s speech. They say the problem is timing, coming as it does weeks before the Israeli election in March. But unlike those Israelis and Americans like myself that think Netanyahu is showing poor judgment because the issue of his invitation is aiding the administration’s efforts to fight increased sanctions on Iran, J Street’s concern is just the opposite. They worry that Netanyahu’s speech may help rally Americans behind the new bipartisan sanctions legislation. They probably are also concerned about whether the speech might help Netanyahu’s reelection prospects.

J Street’s priority here is support for Obama and his policy of appeasing Iran in negotiations that are supposed to be aimed at halting Tehran’s nuclear program but which are instead increasingly aimed at promoting detente with the Islamist regime. But as discreditable as those positions are, they are a far cry from Yarmuth’s incitement.

As it turns out, the relationship between Yarmuth and J Street is close. The group’s website is also promoting an effort to get more members of Congress to sign a letter co-authored by the Kentucky congressman urging the administration to put the creation of a Palestinian state at the top of America’s foreign-policy agenda. Though couched in the language of support for a two-state solution, the letter ignores or minimizes the Palestinian rejectionism and culture of intolerance for Zionism and Jews that is the real obstacle to peace and places the onus for a solution to the conflict on Israel. Seen in the context of Yarmuth’s statements, it is hard to see it as anything but the latest effort from the left to promote pressure on the Jewish state.

Yarmuth’s interview laid bare the animus for Israel that lies behind some of the bland “pro-Israel, pro-peace” statements that serve as a cover for some of J Street’s supporters’ true intentions.

Yarmuth starts by claiming that his Jewish identity gives him particular standing to speak on Israel but then proceeds to claim that most of those who do back the Jewish state and those who seek to defend its security are merely in it for the money. Echoing some of the worst elements of the Israel Lobby thesis about support for the Jewish state, Yarmuth says members only back Israel to get campaign donations and accuses its backers of putting its interests above those of the United States:

“And you know, a lot of it has to do with fundraising — I’m sure some of it is sincere support for Israel,” Yarmuth said.

“You know, I’m a Jewish member of Congress, I’m a strong supporter of Israel, but my first obligation is to the Constitution of the United States, not to the Constitution of Israel. And unfortunately, I think, some of the demands that are made of members by AIPAC and some strong Jewish supporters are that we pay more attention — I guess we defer — to Israel more than we defer to the United States.”

Echoing the slanders of the pro-Israel community made by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Yarmuth also said the acclaim with which Netanyahu was greeted during his speech to a joint session in 2011 was bought and paid for by AIPAC:

“And, you know, I was there in the chamber in 2011, when Netanyahu spoke, and there he got I don’t know how many standing ovations. And I was in Israel shortly thereafter, and believe me, the Israelis pay very, very close attention to events like that. And I just — the first thing out of virtually every Israeli’s mouth was: ‘What was with all the standing ovations?’ And I said: ‘Well, AIPAC was meeting in Washington that week, and the gallery was full of AIPAC members, and every one of the members all wanted to see — make sure that their constituents saw them stand up.’

Neither Yarmuth’s faith nor his relationship with J Street can justify these remarks. They are an echo of the worst sort of anti-Semitic stereotypes put about by Israel haters. Like the authors of the Israel Lobby smear and others who seek to discredit the bipartisan across-the-board pro-Israel coalition in Congress, Yarmuth fails to understand that support for Israel is part of this nation’s political DNA. It transcends party politics or region. Members of Congress back Israel because it is both good public policy and good politics. That’s because Israel is beloved by the vast majority of Americans, whether they are Jewish or not.

I understand that rabid Obama supporters like the leaders of J Street will back him in anything he does, even in appeasement of Iran, though doing so endangers Israel. One doesn’t have to think it’s smart for Netanyahu to intervene in a debate that the pro-sanctions side can win without him (in fact, it may be easier without the speech since the alleged breach of protocol gave Obama an issue that could cause some weak-willed Democrats to sustain a veto of sanctions) to understand that this kind of pushback against the speech has nothing to do with what is best for the U.S. or Israel. Yarmuth’s vile accusations show that the motivation here is to marginalize those who whose support for Israel’s safety means more to them than loyalty to Obama. The real “subversion” going on here isn’t an invitation to an allied leader to speak to Congress, but the willingness of a rogue member of Congress and his allies to trash the alliance with the Jewish state in order to promote the presidential agenda.

If J Street is serious about the “pro-Israel” part of its slogan, it must repudiate Yarmuth. If it doesn’t, a group that had little credibility as a backer of the Jewish state will be rightly branded as an ally of its enemies rather than its friends.

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The Delirium of Anti-Zionism

Last week many were quick to hail the United Nations conference on anti-Semitism as a hopeful step forward. The fact that just 37 of the 193 UN member states even bothered to send delegates should be demonstration enough of just how little many countries care about the modern-day revival of global Jew hatred. There was, however, one moment in the proceedings that particularly stood out. During his address to the conference, French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy identified demonization of Israel as key component of contemporary anti-Semitism, referring to what he termed “the delirium of anti-Zionism.” It was a particularly satisfying irony to hear these words spoken in a chamber that has so often played host to the worst trashing of the Jewish state. And yet the international consensus, as well as the consensus in the West, is largely deaf to that irony. Most still fail to see the extent to which anti-Zionism is the primary expression of hostility against Jews today.

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Last week many were quick to hail the United Nations conference on anti-Semitism as a hopeful step forward. The fact that just 37 of the 193 UN member states even bothered to send delegates should be demonstration enough of just how little many countries care about the modern-day revival of global Jew hatred. There was, however, one moment in the proceedings that particularly stood out. During his address to the conference, French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy identified demonization of Israel as key component of contemporary anti-Semitism, referring to what he termed “the delirium of anti-Zionism.” It was a particularly satisfying irony to hear these words spoken in a chamber that has so often played host to the worst trashing of the Jewish state. And yet the international consensus, as well as the consensus in the West, is largely deaf to that irony. Most still fail to see the extent to which anti-Zionism is the primary expression of hostility against Jews today.

That the United Nations has long provided one of the chief forums for castigating Israel can hardly be in doubt. The current General Assembly session (2014-2015) has so far passed 20 resolutions against Israel, and just three against events elsewhere in the world. The unhinged obsession with condemning the Jewish state is plain enough for all to see. And yet what even those world leaders who do speak out against anti-Semitism still often refuse to see is that those 20 UN resolutions against Israel represent the modern expression of an age-old Jew hatred.

Shortly after the Paris attacks, Natan Sharansky was interviewed by the BBC in his capacity as the head of the Jewish Agency. When asked about the rise of anti-Semitism Sharansky attempted to refer to the liberal circles in Europe where Israel receives almost uniform hostility. At that point the BBC anchor interjected, surely Sharansky did not mean to equate those who are “very critical” of Israel with anti-Semites? That would be a “dangerous” comparison the BBC man asserted. When Sharansky then attempted to clarify the distinction between reasonable criticism and the tendency to treat Israel unfairly the BBC presenter dismissively responded that he didn’t want to get into a discussion about Israel.

But for those who still can’t–or won’t–understand this phenomenon for what it is, and who would subsequently find Henri-Levy’s reference to anti-Zionism during a conference about anti-Semitism puzzling, perhaps they might direct their attention to another event that took place in New York last week. Anyone wishing to see the delirium of anti-Zionism in practice need only refer to Thursday’s storming of a New York City Council session by anti-Israel activists during a commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz.

As the 40 demonstrators were being made to exit the public gallery one young woman hatefully screamed into a recording camera: “Palestinian lives Matter!” Well, quite. But try telling that to Hamas. And besides, however much Palestinian lives do matter, what on earth has that got to do with commemorating the Holocaust? This was in fact another theme picked up by Henri-Levy during his address: the phenomenon of both Holocaust denial and resistance to the Holocaust’s commemoration.

In 1975, when the UN infamously declared that Zionism is a form of racism, Daniel Patrick Moynihan defiantly stood before the General Assembly and informed the delegates that the UN had just granted “symbolic amnesty” to the murderers of the six million Jews. The increasingly common accusation that Israel is in some way replicating the crimes of Nazi Germany is certainly in part an effort to give that same amnesty, as well as to belittle the Nazi crime itself. This effort by anti-Israel activists to hijack Holocaust commemorations with an anti-Zionist message is of course a vicious–albeit clumsy–attempt to invalidate Israel’s very right to exist. These people inhabit a historically illiterate narrative in which they wrongly believe that the world powers simply handed the Jews someone else’s country as an afterthought following the Holocaust. By distracting from Nazi atrocities against Jews while accusing Jews of equal crimes against Palestinians, they seem to believe that they are nullifying the Jewish claim to statehood.

It is a similar ignorance about the history of anti-Semitism that allows everyone else not to see how this is nothing less than the latest manifestation of an ever-mutating Jew hatred. This malady has an unending appeal because of the way it always promises to liberate mankind, in one way or another, by “solving” the Jews. It was with great optimism that a former minister of the Dutch government recently expressed the opinion that transferring all the Jews from Israel to the United States would herald a new era of world peace. Of course, by the same logic it is the selfish Jews clinging to their state who bear ultimate responsibility for entrapping mankind in the ongoing horrors of war.

Anti-Semitism always expresses itself through the prevailing value system of the time. In Nazi Germany it was pseudo race-science, and in the Soviet Union Marxist doctrines, that were employed against the Jews. In the Middle Ages it was the teachings of the Church that fulfilled this role. Today, as human rights and international law are being hijacked to demonize the Jewish state, the UN is assuming a similar role to the one that the medieval papacy once had. It was encouraging then to hear Bernard Henri-Levy denouncing the delirium of anti-Zionism from the General Assembly chamber, voicing a truth that is all too rarely expressed.

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Jewish Voice for Peace Disrupts Auschwitz Liberation Commemoration

In an act of stupefying disrespect, a coalition of New York groups, including the New York City Branch of Jewish Voice for Peace, disrupted a meeting of New York’s City Council on Thursday. The disruption began as the council was “concluding a vote on a resolution commemorating the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.” The coalition demands that the New York City Council respect the call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Fifteen Council members plan to travel to Israel next month on a trip sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the UJA Federation of New York.

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In an act of stupefying disrespect, a coalition of New York groups, including the New York City Branch of Jewish Voice for Peace, disrupted a meeting of New York’s City Council on Thursday. The disruption began as the council was “concluding a vote on a resolution commemorating the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.” The coalition demands that the New York City Council respect the call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Fifteen Council members plan to travel to Israel next month on a trip sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the UJA Federation of New York.

I suppose that Jewish Voice for Peace can claim to be more politically savvy than the other still more marginal groups (Marxist-Leninists? Really?) with whom it has allied itself. At least it has occurred to JVP that it may have been bad optics to be observed yelling at council members as they attempted, as Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito put it, to “honor the memories of millions of Jews and other persecuted minorities who were so senselessly slain, and … the strength and fortitude of the survivors who endured in the face of such terrible pain and loss.” So not long after the protest, JVP-NYC issued this statement on its Facebook page: “We are proud to be part of a coalition organizing for Palestinian rights and strongly oppose the City Council’s JCRC-sponsored trip to Israel. We were not aware that the action organized by the #‎DontTourApartheid‬ coalition would coincide with the introduction of a resolution on Auschwitz liberation; this was a mistake and extremely unfortunate.”

This hedged statement, which does not say whether others in the coalition were aware of what would be going in at the council meeting, which does not explain why they went through with the protest anyway, and which does not really apologize, cannot be taken seriously. The boycott-Israel movement of which JVP is a part has long trafficked in the odious comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany. From that deranged perspective, when Melissa Mark-Viverito votes to honor victims and survivors of the Holocaust, it is our right, indeed our duty, to yell “Melissa, you hypocrite!” because she is willing to set foot in Israel.

The completely unapologetic stance of the New York branch of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, another member of the coalition, was therefore more honest than JVP’s half-hearted admission that a “mistake” that was “unfortunate” had been made by someone or another. In response to the revelation that the protesters had disrupted the council as it was voting to commemorate the liberation of the freeing of prisoners from Auschwitz, QAIA snarked “Oh the irony,” by which they meant that a council morally compromised by the intent of some of its members to take a trip to Israel has no business moaning about the Holocaust. But perhaps even QAIA felt they’d been caught at something, since they also claimed that the council agenda was a secret, which isn’t true; however, they also suggested that their action would have been appropriate, even if they had known (“Still:”).

Today’s protest was disgusting, but it was not an aberration. It is what the boycott movement stands for.

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Blasphemy’s New Friends

Innocent victims of violence and injustice often attract the opposite of fair-weather friends: when they are at a low point, they become a cause. The surviving staffers of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French magazine at which twelve were murdered by Islamist terrorists for publishing Muhammad cartoons, would probably be surprised by some of their new friends. And in fact, some of those new friends might be surprised themselves.

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Innocent victims of violence and injustice often attract the opposite of fair-weather friends: when they are at a low point, they become a cause. The surviving staffers of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French magazine at which twelve were murdered by Islamist terrorists for publishing Muhammad cartoons, would probably be surprised by some of their new friends. And in fact, some of those new friends might be surprised themselves.

Over at his new perch at the Atlantic, former New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier has written a piece about the choice now facing the Jews of France. It’s headlined “We Are Hyper Cacher,” a reference to the kosher market whose shoppers were taken hostage by the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, who then killed four of the Jewish hostages. In discussing the history of French Jews, Wieseltier pairs the religious shoppers at Hyper Cacher and the secular satirists of Charlie Hebdo this way:

The mockers at Charlie Hebdo had no place in their hearts for the believers who shopped at Hyper Cacher, and the pious consumers at Hyper Cacher were not readers of the witheringly anticlerical Charlie Hebdo, but they were unlikely partners in the same project: a society of freedoms and rights. In striking at them both, the killers struck at the same thing. The cartoons and the challahs both were talismans of democracy, which is Islamism’s nightmare.

When cartoons and challahs occupy the same bunker in a culture war, one of them has either been sacralized or demoted. In this case, the cartoons have been sacralized.

What’s interesting about this is the clarifying moment the mass murder at Charlie Hebdo now appears to have been. The cartoons don’t suddenly possess new meaning; if such meaning is present, it predated the massacre. Wieseltier, though, didn’t seem to think so the last time they were in the news.

In the fall of 2012, Charlie Hebdo was a topic of conversation around the time of the terrorist attack on the American mission in Benghazi and the administration’s ham-handed attempt to blame it on the obscure anti-Islam video Innocence of Muslims. Right after the attack, Charlie Hebdo published more cartoons making fun of Muhammad, raising fears of more attacks and calls to tone down anti-Islam “art,” such as it was.

The Washington Post’s Charles Lane was having none of it. In a column decrying “censorship-by-riot,” Lane wrote: “I say: One cheer for Charlie Hebdo. I doubt that its cartoons are either laudable or responsible. In fact, I’m sure that they are neither. But if free speech means anything, it’s the right to say and publish things that other people find objectionable and irresponsible, even blasphemous.”

Lane was right about the attempted censorship through violence (or fear of violence). Wieseltier didn’t think so. And he particularly didn’t care for Lane’s bestowal of the term “blasphemous” on Charlie Hebdo’s antics. He shot back at Lane:

When the cartoons of Mohammed were published by Charlie Hebdo in Paris, it was another exercise in pseudo-blasphemy, even if they did give real offense, because the right of a French magazine to publish them was never in doubt. The constitutional freedoms of Pastor Jones were never imperiled by General Dempsey when he implored the odious cleric not to circulate “Innocence of Muslims,” the Islamophobic garbage that led ineluctably to violence in the Muslim world. It is not “censorship-by-riot,” as Charles Lane indignantly put it, to attempt to prevent innocent people, Americans among them, from dying. Is this video not crying fire in a crowded theater, or providing theater for a crowded fire?

Here we have two points that seem to have dissipated with the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher. First is Wieseltier’s suggestion that what Charlie Hebdo’s editors were doing wasn’t real blasphemy, and it wasn’t brave. It was the empty gesturing of ungrateful nogoodniks. This is because, according to Wieseltier, the cartoons were protected by law.

But law had no helping hand to lend when the terrorists came for the cartoonists and murdered them in cold blood. And the law certainly permitted Western newspapers from republishing examples of the subject matter that some felt was worth dying for. But the hasty and obsessive self-censorship in the wake of that attack had nothing to do with the law, because it wasn’t the law anyone was worried about. It was censorship-by-riot.

And it’s not censorship, Wieseltier said, to lean on cartoonists and filmmakers to take it easy on Muslims because lives are at stake. Once upon a time, Charlie Hebdo deserved mention alongside Innocence of Muslims while Wieseltier decried the latter as shouting fire in a crowded theater–arguably unprotected speech. Today, however, Charlie Hebdo has been promoted. It is speech that ought to be protected, it is essential to democracy, it is analogous to the bread Jews bless and eat to signify their miraculous survival by God’s grace in the wilderness.

It appears the 2012 set of incidents were the exception in Wieseltier’s worldview. In 1989, he castigated fellow Western writers for not immediately stepping up to defend Salman Rushdie from the latter’s censorship-by-fatwa. And those who found some dark irony in writers like Rushdie having opposed the free world’s democrats whose support and protection he now requires, Wieseltier called “mean and grudging and partisan.”

I don’t think so, but on the rest he was surely right then, as he is right now. And it would be mean and grudging and partisan to ignore the fact that some writers, Charles Lane among them, were right all along.

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Terror War Comes to Europe

Many European countries decided they would have nothing to do with the war on terror. Of course, they made the argument for not intervening in the Middle East on moral and legal grounds, but no doubt they also wagered that they would be safer at home if they kept out of it and left the unpleasant work to others. Yet as the events of recent weeks have demonstrated, none of this has kept Europeans any safer, and now Europe is rapidly turning into a flashpoint in radical Islam’s war with the West.

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Many European countries decided they would have nothing to do with the war on terror. Of course, they made the argument for not intervening in the Middle East on moral and legal grounds, but no doubt they also wagered that they would be safer at home if they kept out of it and left the unpleasant work to others. Yet as the events of recent weeks have demonstrated, none of this has kept Europeans any safer, and now Europe is rapidly turning into a flashpoint in radical Islam’s war with the West.

Following last week’s four terror incidents in France (the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo offices, the shooting of a female police officer in Paris, the hostage taking at the printing works, and the attack on the kosher supermarket), there have now been a series of terror raids across Europe. Most dramatic were the events in the small Belgian town of Verviers. There the police intervened to prevent an imminent attack—what some have called a “second Paris”—and a gun battle ensued in which two of the terror suspects were killed and a third was injured and arrested.

Meanwhile in Germany a whole series of anti-terror raids took place. Already on Saturday night there had been the firebombing of the Hamburger Morgenpost, when once again Islamist extremists moved to shut down the free press. Now the German authorities have arrested several with alleged links to ISIS, with 250 police being involved in raids on eleven residences in Berlin, and a further unrelated raid and arrest of a man linked to ISIS in Wolfsburg, west of Berlin. Back in France, twelve people were detained by police for their association with Amedy Coulibaly, the kosher supermarket attacker. Additionally, French police also closed the Gare de l’Est station in Paris on account of a bomb scare there.

There can be little doubt that the terror war has come to Europe, in spite of—and perhaps even because of—Europe’s refusal to play a significant role in the war against radical Islam. For while most European countries have attempted to avoid getting involved in the wars of the Middle East, the turmoil currently rocking the Islamic world has come to the streets of Europe nonetheless. As Simon Gordon remarks in an important new piece for Mosaic, “rather than the West exporting liberal democracy to the Middle East, as many had fantasized during the late lamented ‘Arab Spring,’ it is the Middle East that is exporting Islamism to the free world.”

As Islamism has increasingly gained a foothold in Europe, so the future of Europe’s Jews has become increasingly imperiled. France may have resisted deploying troops to Iraq, but now in a ridiculous and unsustainable move it has been forced to put boots on the ground in Jewish schools. And following last night’s incident in Belgium, Jewish schools across Brussels and Antwerp have been closed for the time being, as have a synagogue and a Jewish school in Amsterdam. In Sweden, Jewish communal leaders are reporting that the already high threat to Jews there has now doubled in the wake of Paris; apparently these attacks have galvanized radicals, rather than convincing them of the horror that their extremism unleashes. It is also noteworthy that in Britain a report released this week by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism found that 45 percent of Jews there believe they and their families are at risk from Islamists.

Just like Nazism and Communism before it, the nihilistic and anti-Western forces of radical Islam know that ending the Jews must be a core pillar of their efforts to turn the world upside-down. Understanding where Jews fit into the Islamist worldview is an essential part to understanding their war with the West and current events in Europe. Yet maddeningly, while Jews are being murdered in Europe, the left-liberal media is primarily concerned with handwringing over a possible anti-Muslim backlash. A backlash which apparently, and thankfully, never seems to come. Yet somehow Europe’s Muslims have gained the status of victims in waiting. So while extremists from their community terrorize society and specifically target the Jews, publications such as the New York Times have prioritized coverage of fears among European Muslims, as Liel Leibovitz has exposed so brilliantly.

Once again in Europe, Western democracy is under attack. Indeed, one cannot help but wonder if that continent hasn’t been identified by Islamists as a soft target, as the West’s weakest link. Europe’s security services are now springing into belated action, but they have let radical Islam fester in their cities for so long that they have a lot of catching up to do. And more than anything, it is not at all clear that Europeans and their politicians even fully recognize the battlefield that they are on. Yes, freedom and democracy are valued by many in Europe. But the values of wealth redistribution, multicultural tolerance, and even pacifistic dialogue are still so strong in Europe that it remains unclear whether these societies can even muster the willpower to have this fight.

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How Not to Fight Anti-Semitism in France

Anti-Semitism in France is nothing new. And even the “new” anti-Semitism in France isn’t new, as our COMMENTARY editorial on the plight of Jews in France and the necessity of Zionism points out. What’s new, it appears, is that France is in danger of its Jews giving up on the sustainability of Jewish life there. The current trend of French Jews making aliyah is seeing the numbers double each year. In response, the French government has taken to saying nice things about how integral Jews are to France’s national identity. It’s a kind sentiment. But is it true?

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Anti-Semitism in France is nothing new. And even the “new” anti-Semitism in France isn’t new, as our COMMENTARY editorial on the plight of Jews in France and the necessity of Zionism points out. What’s new, it appears, is that France is in danger of its Jews giving up on the sustainability of Jewish life there. The current trend of French Jews making aliyah is seeing the numbers double each year. In response, the French government has taken to saying nice things about how integral Jews are to France’s national identity. It’s a kind sentiment. But is it true?

In a speech yesterday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls offered the following stirring declaration:

How is it possible to accept that France, which is the land of emancipation of the Jews many centuries ago, but which also seventy years ago was one of the lands of the martyrdom of Jews, how can it be accepted that we hear on our streets “Death to the Jews”? How can we accept the acts that I have just recalled? How can one accept that French people be murdered simply because they are Jewish?

… We must say to the world: without the Jews of France, France would no longer be France. And that message is one that we all have to deliver strongly and loudly. We did not say it in the past. We did not show our indignation in the past.

First, it must be said that the prime minister deserves praise for his defense of the Jews. The rest of Europe should take note. We should temper our cynicism by recalling that words and ideas are the currency of a society reckoning honestly with its political demons. And if positive change is going to come to France, it won’t arrive overnight. Valls’s speech is in some ways a plea for patience, to buy time for the state to begin turning things around.

But it is unlikely that real change is, in the end, on the horizon in France. And Valls’s speech even hints at why. The talk of “emancipation” of the Jews of France in the time of the revolution is a bit of a misdirection. “Emancipation” in France was a graduation to secularism. The revolution was a psychotically violent one, and that violence was aimed, much of the time, at the clergy.

Loyalty oaths were instituted, Constitutional clergy were foisted upon faith communities that preferred their own, and the state engaged a struggle to render unto Caesar far more than what is Caesar’s. That was merely a reverse power structure from the ancien regime, in which the clergy were part of an aristocratic governing structure. For the ancien regime to be uprooted, so did the clerical class. And it was a bloody uprooting.

What does this have to do with the Jews of France? A lot, actually. The French Revolution inculcated a fear and suspicion of religious authority as a threat to secular Enlightenment power. It’s true that when the dust settled under Napoleon’s feet, there had been at least a façade of reconciliation for the purposes of putting the country back together. But it was only really a façade. And a Napoleonic power structure sowed the seeds of its own undoing. French society remains unnerved by strangers among them, as well as anyone they believe answers to a higher authority than the state. The French government can talk all it wants about appreciating its Jews, but unless and until those Jews feel comfortable and safe actually showing outward signs of their Judaism and religiosity, it won’t change minds. A Frenchman who happens to be a Jew at home cannot be the only Jew who feels at home in France.

Additionally, the French government appears poised to make precisely the same mistakes over and over again. If Valls is right about the importance of Enlightenment principles and personal liberty in his country, they wouldn’t be arresting the notorious anti-Semite and popularizer of Nazi social signaling Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, which authorities have now done.

Dieudonne is actually a perfect test case for how France chooses to fight its battles going forward. He is fully and truly repellant in virtually every way. And so his freedom must be defended forcefully. If the lesson of the “free speech uber alles” protests after the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and then the censorship conducted by Western media (with the New York Times as the chief self-censor) is to censor Dieudonne–or worse, criminalize his demented stupidity–then France will doom history to repetition.

Censoring and criminalizing anti-Semitism, in addition to being incompatible with a free society, does two major things wrong. First, it suggests that the Jews get special treatment and that therefore the anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists are right. This will certainly not make Jews–or anyone in France–any safer. Second, it allows these ideas to gain the credibility of the counterculture while simmering and metastasizing unchallenged out of view. If sunlight is truly the best disinfectant, then France is enabling this infection to spread.

Is France truly still France without its Jews? The last thing the government wants is to have to find out. But that’s where they’re headed, and they haven’t done anything yet to change direction.

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What Binds Our Hearts to the Jewish State

I want to commend COMMENTARY’s powerful and bracing editorial, “The Existential Necessity Of Zionism After Paris.” In its words:

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I want to commend COMMENTARY’s powerful and bracing editorial, “The Existential Necessity Of Zionism After Paris.” In its words:

The battle lines are drawn. The French elite may occasionally condemn anti-Semitism, as did Hollande after the attack on the kosher market. And on January 11, Hollande, arm-in-arm with world leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, led more than a million people in a march supporting the victims of the January attacks and condemning hate.

But there are no substantive signs that France’s leaders are prepared to stop the radical Islamists who have declared war on French Jewry. Meanwhile, members of the French working class are coming to see the Jews more and more as a hindrance to their own economic well-being. And Europe’s steady turn against Israel has sharpened anti-Semitism of all stripes.

… For every French Jew at risk, for every Jew everywhere at risk, and for every Jew who chooses, Israel is home. Its existence before the Holocaust would have saved millions. Its existence after the Holocaust saved and created millions. Seventy years after the Holocaust, Jews in Europe are in need of it again.

This editorial should be alongside of this front-page story in the New York Times that begins this way: “French Jews, already feeling under siege by anti-Semitism, say the trauma of the terrorist attacks last week has left them scared, angry, unsure of their future in France and increasingly willing to consider conflict-torn Israel as a safer refuge.”

The rise of anti-Semitism in France–most especially the Muslim attacks on French Jews, of course, but also the tepid and equivocal response by the French government–is a moral disgrace. In one respect, it’s staggering to see the rise of anti-Semitism on the continent that produced the Holocaust. In another respect, I suppose, it’s not, as history demonstrates that there is no half-life to anti-Semitism. Its lethally corrosive evil may be contained now and then, but it usually finds a home. And this explains in part why the Jews need their home, too. That home has been, and must ever be, Israel. “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen,” the prophet Amos wrote, “and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.”

The Jewish people deserve a Jewish state. As a non-Jew, I simply want to add that the founding of the Jewish state also touches my heart because it is an unbelievable human drama, a transcendent story of hope and redemption, a nearly miraculous testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. Israel is a place and a state. But it is also a story, among the most riveting and inspiring ever written. For many of us it is that story, its beauty and wonder, its defiance and courage, that further binds us to the Jewish state. First and foremost, the fate of the Jewish people is tied to Israel. But not their fate alone.

Jews are in need of Israel. So are the rest of us.

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Terror, Israel, and France’s False Unity

The narrative of “unity” in Paris yesterday was quickly punctured by reports that French President Francois Hollande tried to prevent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s participation in the rally against terror. According to Haaretz, Hollande’s national security advisor relayed the message to his Israeli counterpart. There are, clearly, several things wrong with this picture, foremost among them the gratuitous insult to a Jewish community in mourning that the head of the Jewish state is not welcome in Paris. But if the report is correct, the reasons given for the attempted exclusion compound the offense.

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The narrative of “unity” in Paris yesterday was quickly punctured by reports that French President Francois Hollande tried to prevent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s participation in the rally against terror. According to Haaretz, Hollande’s national security advisor relayed the message to his Israeli counterpart. There are, clearly, several things wrong with this picture, foremost among them the gratuitous insult to a Jewish community in mourning that the head of the Jewish state is not welcome in Paris. But if the report is correct, the reasons given for the attempted exclusion compound the offense.

First, there is the following explanation, relayed by Haaretz, for why Hollande didn’t want Netanyahu there:

Audibert explained that Hollande wanted the event to focus on demonstrating solidarity with France, and to avoid anything liable to divert attention to other controversial issues, like Jewish-Muslim relations or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Audibert said that Hollande hoped that Netanyahu would understand the difficulties his arrival might pose and would announce that he would not be attending.

Anyone who hoped the French might get serious about the terrorism and anti-Semitism plaguing their country will have their hopes dashed by that paragraph. A refresher: the march for unity was held after a two-pronged terror attack, the latter half of which centered on Islamic extremists specifically targeting Jews. In the wake of that attack, Jews were warned to hide any outward appearance of their Judaism and the famed Jewish quarter of the Marais became a ghetto regulated by fear.

To this, the French president says that he doesn’t want the response to include “other controversial issues, like Jewish-Muslim relations.” In fact, “Jewish-Muslim relations”–a mild way of describing French Islamists’ murderous anti-Semitism and pogromist instincts–is currently tearing Paris apart. What Hollande doesn’t want to talk about is what’s actually happening to his country. If the Jewish presence atop the Islamists’ target list can’t be acknowledged even in the wake of terror, then Hollande is really making no room for it at all. Hollande’s head is still in the sand.

Netanyahu was at first open to Hollande’s unreasonable request. But then he changed his mind, and informed Hollande he would attend. Here is the apparent response from the French government:

According to the source, when Cohen informed Audibert that Netanyahu would be attending the event after all, Audibert angrily told Cohen that the prime minister’s conduct would have an adverse effect on ties between the two countries as long as Hollande was president of France and Netanyahu was prime minister of Israel.

But the foot stomping wasn’t over. Hollande had to publicly convey his opposition to Israel’s head of government participating in a “unity” event. Both attended an event at the Grand Synagogue: “Hollande sat through most of the ceremony, but when Netanyahu’s turn at the podium arrived, the French president got up from his seat and made an early exit.”

There is another explanation, however, for Hollande’s decision to disrespect the Jews in the Grand Synagogue. In an unsigned piece at Tablet, a video is provided of the arrival first of Hollande and then of Netanyahu at the Grand Synagogue. Netanyahu receives a hero’s welcome.

This is not all that surprising. I recommend watching the video of Netanyahu’s entrance into the synagogue; it is more compelling than it might appear. The simple fact is that Netanyahu’s presence is a reminder to the Jews of Paris and the Jews of the world that when their home countries repay their love and loyalty with hatred and abuse, the existence of Israel provides an inspirational counterpoint–even for Jews with no intention of making aliyah. Tablet notes:

One of the great lessons of the Holocaust for the Jewish people and for all other peoples who have since been threatened with genocide by fanatics—Cambodians under Pol Pot, Bosnian Muslims, and the Tutsi of Rwanda—is that the world will always talk a good game but will do precious little to save you. If you don’t stick together, you will die alone. The fact that the State of Israel exists means that the Jewish people will never be radically alone. That’s why the people in the Grand Synagogue of Paris are cheering.

And thus it is also something of a reproof to the host country. The presence of an Israeli prime minister in a Western capital that has proved incapable of protecting its Jews provides a contrast that does not benefit Hollande. In that sense, though Hollande’s behavior is not defensible, neither is it incomprehensible.

But the attempt to prevent Netanyahu from attending the march is also delegitimizing to the Jewish state. Jews were killed because they were Jews, and with the partial pretext of the Jewish state’s self-defense. Excluding the Israeli leader is a divisive act–literally, as it divides the Jewish people–and also treats Israel, which is a Western country on the front lines of fighting such terror, as an outsider looking in on the free world. Netanyahu was right to attend, and by the looks of it, the besieged Jews of Paris agreed.

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BBC Reporter Blames Jews for European Anti-Semitism

With those murdered during Friday’s hostage taking at a Parisian kosher supermarket not yet buried, you might have thought that the media would allow the Jewish community a short grace period. Not if you’re the BBC. In the middle of yesterday’s “Unity March” in Paris, a BBC anchor began lecturing the daughter of Holocaust survivors on what Jews had done to provoke the anti-Semitism they are now experiencing in France. And quite apart from the fact that the BBC’s Tim Wilcox seemed to want to drag in the Palestinians and the Middle East at a completely inappropriate time, Wilcox’s conflation of “Israel” and “Jewish” certainly blows out of the water media claims that being anti-Israel has nothing to do with attitudes toward Jews.

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With those murdered during Friday’s hostage taking at a Parisian kosher supermarket not yet buried, you might have thought that the media would allow the Jewish community a short grace period. Not if you’re the BBC. In the middle of yesterday’s “Unity March” in Paris, a BBC anchor began lecturing the daughter of Holocaust survivors on what Jews had done to provoke the anti-Semitism they are now experiencing in France. And quite apart from the fact that the BBC’s Tim Wilcox seemed to want to drag in the Palestinians and the Middle East at a completely inappropriate time, Wilcox’s conflation of “Israel” and “Jewish” certainly blows out of the water media claims that being anti-Israel has nothing to do with attitudes toward Jews.

During yesterday’s rally in Paris—which reporters were eager to stress had a “carnival” atmosphere, with the coming together of many religions, ethnicities, and nations—the BBC interviewed a number of people from the crowd. Among those put on camera was a Jewish woman who was asked about her experience of anti-Semitism in France. When asked whether she felt secure in France the woman, referred to simply as Chava, expressed her fear that Europe was returning to the mood of the 1930s. However, when she began to insist that Jews must not be afraid to come out and say that they are the ones who are being targeted now, Tim Wilcox quickly shut her down. Interrupting, Wilcox put it to her: “Many critics, though, of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.”

It was clear that at the very moment that someone was attempting say that Jews must not be afraid to say they are being targeted, the BBC correspondent attempted to shame the speaker into silence. Clearly taken aback, Chava attempts to respond by explaining that these two issues can’t be so easily amalgamated, but once again Wilcox interjects to shut her up. This time he tells her: “But you understand everything is seen from different perspectives?” Whose different perspective is he referring to? The people who carry out attacks on French Jews? The people who think Jews deserve to be attacked because of the things that Israel is alleged to be doing?

The fact is, no BBC correspondent would have told the friends or family of the murdered cartoonists or policemen, “but you understand that everything is seen from different perspectives?” Indeed, if Muslims were being attacked–taken hostage and murdered–even if in a reprisal for last week’s atrocities, no BBC reporter would be lecturing a member of the Muslim community on how others had suffered at “Islamic hands.” Yet for Jews it is different. Apparently, just forty-eight hours after the murder of Jews in a supermarket, it is thought appropriate to lecture Jews on how they are responsible for causing people to hate them.

Even if Wilcox was not attempting to directly justify the attacks, it sounded a lot like he was telling a Jewish woman not to complain about anti-Semitism; doesn’t she know what “Jewish hands” are doing to Palestinians? Whatever Wilcox’s actual agenda here, it reveals an unpleasant undertone present throughout much of the European and liberal media’s attitude to Jews and Jew-hatred.

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Abbas in Paris: Hypocrisy Isn’t Progress

The presence of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at today’s unity rally in Paris probably seemed quite natural to those whose knowledge of his activities is limited to the statements praising him as a champion of peace from President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry. But the baggage Abbas, who was given an unusually prominent place in the front rank of the march symmetrically balancing the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on the other side of French President Francois Hollande, carried a great deal of baggage to the event in terms of his own association with terrorism and fomenting of hate against Jews. The instinct of the news media is to embrace Abbas’s presence there along with that of Netanyahu as proof that the march was a transcendent kumbaya moment that will mark a turning point in the struggle against terror and anti-Semitism. But the question more sober observers will struggle with is whether Abbas’s poor record on these issues does more to undermine progress than the symbolism did to advance it.

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The presence of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at today’s unity rally in Paris probably seemed quite natural to those whose knowledge of his activities is limited to the statements praising him as a champion of peace from President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry. But the baggage Abbas, who was given an unusually prominent place in the front rank of the march symmetrically balancing the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on the other side of French President Francois Hollande, carried a great deal of baggage to the event in terms of his own association with terrorism and fomenting of hate against Jews. The instinct of the news media is to embrace Abbas’s presence there along with that of Netanyahu as proof that the march was a transcendent kumbaya moment that will mark a turning point in the struggle against terror and anti-Semitism. But the question more sober observers will struggle with is whether Abbas’s poor record on these issues does more to undermine progress than the symbolism did to advance it.

Why question Abbas at all?

Though the Obama administration and all of Europe treats him as a hero of peace, his personal record as well as that of his government gives the lie to such assurances. His critics will bring up his long service as a deputy to arch terrorist Yasir Arafat as well as his doctoral thesis denying the truth of the Holocaust. But we don’t have to go back to the period preceding his service as president of the PA (an office in which he is currently serving in the 10th year of the four-year term to which he was elected). Since taking over the PA after Arafat’s death, Abbas has not only turned down peace offers and refused to negotiate seriously with Israel, he has repeatedly stated that he will never accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. He has also continued to support the “right of return,” which is inconsistent with Israel’s existence though at times he has said things to the English and Israeli press that contradicts those given to his own people.

Moreover, rather than standing in unity with the world against terrorism, Abbas signed a unity pact with Hamas terrorists last year, an act that blew up the peace talks Secretary of State Kerry worked to keep alive.

But even more than that, Abbas has in recent months personally incited his people to commit acts of violence as part of an effort to falsely convince them that the mosques on the Temple Mount are in danger. Abbas’s praise of a terrorist who tried to assassinate a rabbi advocating Jewish prayer rights on the Mount as someone who went straight to heaven tells us all we need to know about the PA. This is, of course, in addition to the steady drumbeat of incitement against Jews and Israel on the official PA media controlled by Abbas. Indeed, had the Charlie Hebdo and kosher market murderers committed their acts in Israel, there is little doubt that Abbas would have honored them by naming a square or some edifice after them. It is also certain that had they been captured alive after taking part in an act of terrorism, he would have supported taking Israeli hostages in order to free them in a prisoner exchange, after which he would have greeted them as heroes as he has terrorists who committed equally heinous crimes against Jews.

One may say that, to use Francois de La Rochefoucauld’s memorable phrase, Abbas’s presence at the rally is a classic case of hypocrisy being “the homage vice pays to virtue.” But any good that might come from the symbolism of Abbas being there also reminds us that it will take more than one rally, however impressive it might have been, to defeat Islamist terror. What France and the world need to do to defeat terror is to acknowledge that the problem lies not so much in the few who commit these acts but in the vast number of people in the Muslim and Arab worlds that either rationalize or support such acts. Progress will come not when Mahmoud Abbas marches in Paris but when he stops supporting it at home. Until then, inviting him to such events only undermines the purpose of the rally.

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One Kumbaya March Can’t Stop Islamism or Cleanse Europe of Jew-Hatred

The spectacle of more than a million people taking to the streets of Paris in protest against the attacks against the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and a kosher market is in and of itself a good thing. The condemnations of Islamist terror from a broad cross-section of French society and the willingness of many world leaders, including some from Arab and Muslim nations, to take part in the event is encouraging to those who have noted with dismay not only the assault on free speech but also the many attacks on Jews in Europe in recent years. This has led some to express the hope that the march will mark a turning point in the struggle against Islamist terror and anti-Semitism in which a unified European continent will somehow reject hatred. But while it would be wrong to react to what is being portrayed by the cable and broadcast networks as a transcendent kumbaya moment with pure cynicism, it is important that no one should think a march can by itself undo the wide support that is given Islamist ideology in the Arab world. Nor should we confuse bromidic statements by leaders with policies that will end the delegitimization of Israel and the Jews.

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The spectacle of more than a million people taking to the streets of Paris in protest against the attacks against the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and a kosher market is in and of itself a good thing. The condemnations of Islamist terror from a broad cross-section of French society and the willingness of many world leaders, including some from Arab and Muslim nations, to take part in the event is encouraging to those who have noted with dismay not only the assault on free speech but also the many attacks on Jews in Europe in recent years. This has led some to express the hope that the march will mark a turning point in the struggle against Islamist terror and anti-Semitism in which a unified European continent will somehow reject hatred. But while it would be wrong to react to what is being portrayed by the cable and broadcast networks as a transcendent kumbaya moment with pure cynicism, it is important that no one should think a march can by itself undo the wide support that is given Islamist ideology in the Arab world. Nor should we confuse bromidic statements by leaders with policies that will end the delegitimization of Israel and the Jews.

The first thing that must be understood about this week’s tragic events is that they must not be viewed in isolation from either the recent history of violent protests and attacks on journalistic outlets by Muslims or the rising tide of anti-Semitism that has swept over Europe. It is comforting for those marching and those reporting the march to pretend as if the Charlie Hebdo and kosher market terrorists were a small, isolated cell of extremists operating outside of the Islamic mainstream. But the large mobs that took to the streets to riot and kill after a Danish newspaper published cartoons that Muslims also thought were offensive in 2004 or the many other instances of similar behavior since then point toward a contrary conclusion. Indeed, the support for Islamist political movements throughout the Middle East who share many of the beliefs of the terrorists makes it obvious that although many, even perhaps a majority of Muslims don’t agree with them, the attackers committed this slaughter in the belief that tens if not hundreds of millions of their co-religionists are prepared to rationalize if not justify their unspeakable acts of barbarism.

Similarly, the decision of the terrorists to target a kosher market on the eve of the Sabbath cannot be taken out of the context of a situation in France and Europe in which Jews have felt themselves under siege. Some have excused the numerous attacks on Jews as the natural reaction to outrage about Israel’s attempts to defend itself against terrorism. But this “new” anti-Semitism is merely a variant on the more traditional forms of Jew hatred that have found new traction because they draw on the hostility of non-Muslim intellectual elites for Israel as well as that of immigrants from the Middle East and the vestiges of pre-Holocaust French anti-Semitism. Long before the slaughter of the past few days, Jewish travelers to France were warned not to dress in a manner that would identify them as Jewish and thus be vulnerable to random street violence, if not worse.

As I wrote on Friday, the primary fear expressed by the media was that there would be a backlash against Muslims. But the Hyper Cacher terror attack illustrated that it was the Jews who had most to fear, not Muslims or Arabs. The fact that the Grand Synagogue in Paris was closed for Sabbath services this week because of fear of more terrorism while the Parisian Great Mosque remained open tells us all we need to know about where the real threat lies.

It would be nice to think a grand gesture such as that of the march or even the very appropriate statements about Jewish security from French leaders would be enough to change things. But history tells us about how adaptable and persistent the virus of anti-Semitism has been. It has morphed from a defining characteristic of the old French religious right to that of fascism to Nazism and then to Communism and now is a fundamental aspect of an Islamist movement that can claim broad support around the world. This deep-seated variant of hate can draw on the sympathy of both the left and right wings of European politics that share the Islamists’ antipathy for Israel and Jewish identity. A Europe where bans of circumcision and kosher slaughter are thinkable and where boycotts of Israel are increasingly popular is not one in which Jew-hatred or Islamism can be waved away with a rhetorical flourish or a mass media event.

Defeating the Islamists will require both Muslims and non-Muslims to acknowledge the religious roots and motivation of the terrorists, something most European leaders as well as President Obama seem incapable of doing. Similarly, pushing anti-Semitism back to the margins of European society will need more than merely social media hastags or a unity march. The ease with which it has been revived only a generation after the Holocaust teaches us that ensuring Jewish security or that of the West will require more than gestures.

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NIAC Board Should Denounce Anti-Semitic Fundraising

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a group which consistently lobbies to end sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran, has a new fundraising plea out on Facebook, which asks “Should the U.S. Congress follow Israel’s lead on #Iran, or yours?” Accompanying the question is a photo suggesting that Senator Lindsey Graham is telling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Congress will take marching orders from him.

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The National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a group which consistently lobbies to end sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran, has a new fundraising plea out on Facebook, which asks “Should the U.S. Congress follow Israel’s lead on #Iran, or yours?” Accompanying the question is a photo suggesting that Senator Lindsey Graham is telling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Congress will take marching orders from him.

The “We will follow your lead” Graham quote was taken out of context and then promoted by the Ron Paul Institute and notorious racist David Duke. That’s probably not the company that most Iranian Americans want to keep, but for NIAC it’s nothing out of the ordinary. While NIAC claims to be mainstream (and has been welcomed into the White House under the Obama administration), it consistently aligns itself with not only Ron Paul, but also fringe or hard-left organizations like Code Pink and WarIsACrime.org. As for the Graham speech from which NIAC pulls its suggestion that Netanyahu is directing American policy, here it is:

I would love nothing better than a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear ambitions. I support the Administration’s effort to try to bring this to a peaceful conclusion. But you, above all others, have said that sanctions are what got Iran to the table, and it will be the only thing that brings them to a deal that we can all live with. I’m here to tell you, Mr. Prime Minister, that the Congress will follow your lead. In January of next year, there will be a vote on the Kirk-Menendez bill, bipartisan sanction legislation that says, if Iran walks away from the table, sanctions will be re-imposed; if Iran cheats regarding any deal that we enter to the Iranians, sanctions will be re-imposed. It is important to let the Iranians know that from an American point of view, sanctions are alive and well.

Now, even if NIAC disagrees with Senator Graham and sanctions, it is clear that Graham is discussing leverage in order to win the best possible deal from Iran. He also states his support for the White House’s efforts to negotiate a solution to the Iranian nuclear dispute.

What is most noxious, however, is the notion that Congress is pursuing Israel’s interest above that of the United States. This reeks of the dual loyalty canard and appears right out of the spirit of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Now, I happen to disagree with the policy pursued by retired Ambassadors Thomas Pickering and John Limbert, both of whom serve on NIAC’s advisory board, but I sincerely hope that they are not embracing the dual loyalty calumny that the organization which they advise pursues. If they wish to win the policy debate, they should do so on the facts of Iranian behavior and the results of the diplomatic strategies which they advise, not on the basis of suggesting that anyone who holds a different point of view is un-American and in the service of a foreign state. The same holds true for retired congressman Wayne Gilchrest. Does Gilchrest really believe that the hundreds of congressmen and senators with whom he once advised take marching orders from Israel?

There is real reason for diplomatic strain between the United States and Iran. The list of American grievances includes the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing, the 1996 Khobar Towers attack, and the supply of explosively-formed projectiles to militias seeking to kill U.S. forces in Iraq. To suggest that Israel directs U.S. enmity toward Iran is to forget the last 35 years of Iran’s undeclared war against the United States. Let us hope that NIAC understands that charges of dual loyalty and other anti-Semitic tropes have no place in this policy debate but, if not, that Pickering, Limbert, and Gilchrest won’t soil their reputations on an organization that finds itself in the company of David Duke, Ron Paul, and other purveyors of conspiracy and hate.

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Obama Should Have Called Paris Market Attack What It Is: Anti-Semitism

This week’s bloody events in France have shocked the civilized world. But shock and sadness are not a sufficient response from those entrusted with the responsibility to defend us against Islamist terrorism. That’s why President Obama’s initial statement in response to today’s news was so disappointing. The conspicuous absence of any acknowledgement of the motive of the terrorists or their targets made his remarks empty platitudes rather than a meaningful call for solidarity against a common enemy. The continued refusal of the president to identify Islamist ideology as the foe is undermining efforts to combat this dangerous virus. But the fact that he also failed to label the attack at the Parisian kosher market where four hostages were slaughtered was a case of anti-Semitism sent exactly the wrong signal to a world that is looking to the U.S. for leadership in this struggle and getting precious little of it from this president.

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This week’s bloody events in France have shocked the civilized world. But shock and sadness are not a sufficient response from those entrusted with the responsibility to defend us against Islamist terrorism. That’s why President Obama’s initial statement in response to today’s news was so disappointing. The conspicuous absence of any acknowledgement of the motive of the terrorists or their targets made his remarks empty platitudes rather than a meaningful call for solidarity against a common enemy. The continued refusal of the president to identify Islamist ideology as the foe is undermining efforts to combat this dangerous virus. But the fact that he also failed to label the attack at the Parisian kosher market where four hostages were slaughtered was a case of anti-Semitism sent exactly the wrong signal to a world that is looking to the U.S. for leadership in this struggle and getting precious little of it from this president.

The president did well to express solidarity with France as our oldest ally as well as condemnation of the actions of the terrorists that he characterized as standing for “hatred and suffering.” But the sensible reluctance on the part of Western leaders from casting this conflict as one between all Muslims and the rest of the world is no excuse for his determination to ignore the fact that these crimes are rooted in a form of political Islam that is supported by tens if not hundreds of millions of people around the globe. Pretending that these armed killers are not connected to a worldwide movement, even as information about their connections to such groups continues to trickle out, does nothing to avoid antagonizing those who already hate Western values and culture. It also serves to help unilaterally disarm both Muslims and non-Muslims who understand that we must directly confront the corrupt and evil source of this violence within the spectrum of Islamic belief.

Just as wrongheaded was the president’s conspicuous omission of a mention of anti-Semitism.

As the president well knows, his own State Department has already labeled the increase in incidents of Jew hatred as being part of a “rising tide of anti-Semitism” throughout Europe. This trend can be traced in part to the crude Jew hatred that has become a routine element of the culture of the Muslim and Arab worlds and which has been brought to Europe by immigrants from the Middle East. Though some of this antagonism is a function of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians — a point on which European intellectual elites have made common cause with Islamists — the distinction between traditional anti-Semitism and the new variety that is tied to hostility to the Jewish state is essentially meaningless.

Not mentioning anti-Semitism when Islamist killers specifically seek out Jews to slaughter — as if anyone could possibly believe a terrorist assault on a kosher market in Paris could be mere happenstance — is more than insensitive. It is a sign that this administration does not take the many attacks on French and European Jews seriously. It is also a message to the Muslim world that the United States does not take the issue of anti-Semitic violence seriously. To his credit, French President Francois Hollande did specifically condemn the attack as an act of anti-Semitism, a statement President Obama should have echoed.

In essence, while the president rightly wishes to embrace France, the Jews there are essentially on their own as far as the U.S. is concerned.

This administration has conducted a vigorous campaign of drone attacks on terrorist targets, his eagerness to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan created a void that gave rise to ISIS even as its al-Qaeda rivals were far from destroyed as the president claimed in his re-election campaign. But his appetite for outreach and engagement has also undermined the ability of the U.S. to rally allies against Islamist radicals. His avoidance of anti-Semitism in his comments today sent the same message. More such mistakes can only encourage the very elements that the United States must defeat if it is to protect our freedom and those of other peoples.

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Who’s in Danger? Not Islam. The Jews.

The smoke had not cleared from the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo before many journalists and talking heads were warning us not to focus too much on the Muslim identity of the perpetrators of the massacre. Their main fear was that this latest instance of Islamist terrorism would trigger a wave of Islamophobia. But while the tensions within French society are such that such worries are not entirely unreasonable, those sounding the alarm on this issue clearly missed the obvious. As today’s hostage standoff at a kosher market by what may be an associate of the Charlie Hebdo terrorists made clear, it was the Jews who were the logical next targets of violence. It’s time to remember that when Islamist terrorism is involved, the primary threat is not about a theoretical backlash against Muslims but to a European Jewish population that has increasingly been under siege in recent years.

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The smoke had not cleared from the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo before many journalists and talking heads were warning us not to focus too much on the Muslim identity of the perpetrators of the massacre. Their main fear was that this latest instance of Islamist terrorism would trigger a wave of Islamophobia. But while the tensions within French society are such that such worries are not entirely unreasonable, those sounding the alarm on this issue clearly missed the obvious. As today’s hostage standoff at a kosher market by what may be an associate of the Charlie Hebdo terrorists made clear, it was the Jews who were the logical next targets of violence. It’s time to remember that when Islamist terrorism is involved, the primary threat is not about a theoretical backlash against Muslims but to a European Jewish population that has increasingly been under siege in recent years.

We don’t know all the details about the events that unfolded at the supermarket that took place at the same time as a similar hostage standoff with the two Charlie Hedbo shooters that appears to have ended with their deaths. If, as seems likely now, this terrorist cell chose to target a kosher market on the day before the Sabbath when it would be busiest, their goal was to lash out at people whose existence angers them as much as those who draw cartoons about Muslim topics: Jews.

The discussion since the news broke about the massacre at the satirical magazine has centered on the need to defend free speech against an Islamist movement that seeks to silence opposing views. And as I wrote yesterday, the conflict between a huge and insular Muslim immigrant population and those portions of the French population that are hostile to them put these events in a context that is rife with potential for conflict. We’re also hearing more about the complaints of Muslims about discrimination or marginalization in French society. But what the kosher market attack should remind us is that the population that has felt most at risk in recent years in France is not the inhabitants of Muslim neighborhoods that are reportedly treated by police as “no go zones,” but Jews who openly identify as such.

The rising tide of anti-Semitism throughout Europe and specifically in France was enough to justify its prominent mention in President Francois Hollande’s annual New Year’s Eve speech when he called upon the citizens of France to reject anti-Semitism. Those words were a reaction to a situation in which attacks on Jewish institutions and harassment of Jewish individuals have become routine even in Paris. This is not just a function of violent protests against Israel during last summer’s Gaza war that led to many incidents, including a siege of a Parisian synagogue by a mob. This also involves routine behavior. Jewish travelers to France are told not to wear headgear or jewelry that identifies them as Jews lest they make themselves vulnerable to attacks.

What the attack on the market makes plain is that while Islamist terrorists seek high-profile targets like Charlie Hebdo in order to silence those who criticize radical Islam, they are always going to return to their favorite Jewish scapegoats and victims.

Islamists seek to destroy Western freedoms throughout the world. But integral to their worldview is an equal intolerance for Jews. The hatred for Jews and Israel emanating from radical Islamist preachers and ideologues in the Middle East has been brought to Europe by Muslim immigrants and found a secure foothold there. Combined with the disdain for Israel that is a hallmark of leftist intellectual elites, it has created a toxic atmosphere for Jews throughout Europe in recent years. That is the background for the increasing number of violent attacks on Jews throughout the continent.

No one should blame innocent Muslims for the actions of these terrorists or seek to speak of this conflict as one between all Muslims and the West. But the real danger in Europe is not to Muslims but to a small and increasingly vulnerable Jewish population. What happened to the hostages at the market was not an isolated event but one that must be viewed as an extension of years of assaults on European Jews. A proper response to these events can’t be limited to expressions of grief about the victims or even just to support for free speech. History teaches us that when it comes to hate, Jews are the canaries in the coalmine. If Jews cannot live freely without fear of attack on the streets of the City of Light, then everyone is at risk. Stopping Islamist terror must also mean addressing the way Jew-hatred has become acceptable in European society.

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BDS Hasn’t Hurt Israel’s Economy, New Report Shows

Yesterday, Jonathan Marks dissected the lie of the BDS movement’s alleged commitment to nonviolence–a lie underscored by the South African chapter’s launch of a “fundraising tour” starring Palestinian airline hijacker Leila Khaled. But another lie about the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement was also exploded this week: the lie that it is having an increasing impact on Israel. The truth, according to a new study released yesterday by the Knesset Research and Information Center, is exactly the opposite: Not only has BDS not dented Israel’s economy overall, but Israeli exports have surged even in places where the movement is most active, like Europe.

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Yesterday, Jonathan Marks dissected the lie of the BDS movement’s alleged commitment to nonviolence–a lie underscored by the South African chapter’s launch of a “fundraising tour” starring Palestinian airline hijacker Leila Khaled. But another lie about the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement was also exploded this week: the lie that it is having an increasing impact on Israel. The truth, according to a new study released yesterday by the Knesset Research and Information Center, is exactly the opposite: Not only has BDS not dented Israel’s economy overall, but Israeli exports have surged even in places where the movement is most active, like Europe.

Overall, the study reports, Israeli exports rose by 80 percent from 2000 to 2013, with exports to Europe rising even more sharply, by 99 percent. But the bulk of this increase has taken place since 2005–i.e., in the years when BDS was most active. From 2005-2013, despite a sharp drop during the global financial crisis of 2009, annual exports to Europe averaged $15.6 billion. That’s almost double the preceding decade’s annual average of $7.8 billion.

Foreign direct investment in Israel has also risen steeply, posting an increase of 58 percent over the last four years alone–precisely the years when BDS was supposedly having its biggest impact.

Most surprisingly, exports from the West Bank and the Golan Heights, which are the primary focus of boycott efforts, rose even faster than exports overall. Consequently, they constituted 3.1 percent of total exports in 2013, up from 0.5 percent in 2000–and the overwhelming majority of that increase also stemmed from exports to Europe. A handful of industries, like Jordan Valley date farmers, have taken a hit, but the impact on Israel as a whole has been negligible.

As the report acknowledged, this is largely because “A major portion of Israeli exports are intermediate products, like electronic components, that sit inside the final products of well-known global companies.” That makes them hard to boycott: How do you boycott the insides of your computer or cellphone?

But it’s also worth noting that even in Europe, where BDS has gained most traction, the movement’s strongholds are found among academics, trade unionists, and unelected EU bureaucrats–i.e., people with no responsibility for the performance of national economies. In contrast, BDS has few champions among elected politicians in national governments, because these politicians are responsible for delivering economic growth to their constituents and view Israel’s innovative tech sector as a potential contributor to this effort.

Consequently, while BDS was making noise in the press, European governments were quietly working to deepen economic ties with Israel. A particularly notable example is the British Embassy Tech Hub, brainchild of British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould. Founded in 2011, the Hub essentially functions as a matchmaking service between British and Israeli firms, giving the former access to Israeli high-tech and the latter access to partners who can help them grow their businesses and enter new markets. It’s been so successful that other ambassadors in Israel are now consulting Gould on how to replicate his model at their own embassies.

The bottom line is that for all the hype about BDS, its efforts to strangle Israel have been a total failure. BDS may be thriving in the media and on college campuses, but out in the real world, what’s thriving is Israel’s economy.

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The “Nonviolence” of the BDS Movement

Among the strategies the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement uses to disguise its extremism from unsuspecting potential converts is to insist on its nonviolence. As Corey Robin of Brooklyn College, a leading American academic advocate of BDS explains, “the Palestinians have tried four decades of armed revolt, three decades of peace negotiations, two intifadas, and seven decades of waiting. They have taken up BDS as a non-violent tactic.”

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Among the strategies the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement uses to disguise its extremism from unsuspecting potential converts is to insist on its nonviolence. As Corey Robin of Brooklyn College, a leading American academic advocate of BDS explains, “the Palestinians have tried four decades of armed revolt, three decades of peace negotiations, two intifadas, and seven decades of waiting. They have taken up BDS as a non-violent tactic.”

Tactic is the key word. It is hard to claim that nonviolence is at the center of one’s movement when your foremost spokesperson is Ali Abunimah, whose support for Hamas is well-documented. But no one has been more explicit about the relationship between nonviolent BDS and violence than Leila Khaled. BDS-South Africa is now advertising her “fundraising tour” on its behalf (h/t Haaretz). Khaled, a member of the “Political Bureau” of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, is still living off of the vapors of two hijackings, one successful, she participated in 45 years ago. An old glamor photo of Khaled, machine gun in hand, graces the BDS-South Africa ad. Although Khaled insists she was instructed not to hurt anyone during the hijackings, the PFLP has been committed to violence, including violence against civilians, not only in Khaled’s youth, as in the Lods Airport Massacre, but also more recently, as in November’s murder of four worshippers and a policeman at a Jerusalem synagogue, dubbed a “heroic operation” by the PFLP. But if you find yourself in South Africa next month, you can have dinner with, as the ad put it, this “wife, mother, hijacker, and Palestinian freedom fighter.”

However that may be, Khaled reveals to anyone who cares to listen exactly how she understands the role of BDS. BDS “of course, on the international level [is] very effective. But it doesn’t liberate, it doesn’t liberate land. If there’s BDS all over the world, and the people are not resisting, there will be no change.” In apartheid South Africa, she claims, boycotts “helped the people who were holding arms. But if they were not holding arms it may have affected them politically, but it would not have liberated, not on the ground.” BDS is a way of supporting an armed resistance. As Khaled sees it, BDS is the propaganda arm of groups like her own PFLP.

Rather than distancing themselves from Khaled and the terrorist organization for which she continues to labor, the purportedly nonviolent BDS-South Africa celebrates what they plainly regard as her praiseworthy legacy. Rather than denying that they happily march arm in arm with the likes of PFLP, they quote approvingly an unnamed source that calls Khaled the “poster girl of the Palestinian struggle,” and invite us to dine with her.

You might almost think that they are auditioning for the role—of propagandists to ease the way for the people with guns—Khaled has assigned them.

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A Zionist Dream Come True

In many ways, the year that just ended was a difficult one for Israel–a war in Gaza, terror in Jerusalem, escalating international opprobrium, a slowing economy. Perhaps that explains why so little attention has been paid to the fact that last year also marked the achievement, for the first time in Israel’s history, of one of Zionism’s longtime goals: In a year where immigration to Israel hit a 10-year high, a majority of the immigrants, for the first time ever, came from the West. In other words, for the first time ever, most immigrants came to Israel not because they had no other options, but because they wanted to come.

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In many ways, the year that just ended was a difficult one for Israel–a war in Gaza, terror in Jerusalem, escalating international opprobrium, a slowing economy. Perhaps that explains why so little attention has been paid to the fact that last year also marked the achievement, for the first time in Israel’s history, of one of Zionism’s longtime goals: In a year where immigration to Israel hit a 10-year high, a majority of the immigrants, for the first time ever, came from the West. In other words, for the first time ever, most immigrants came to Israel not because they had no other options, but because they wanted to come.

Granted, rising anti-Semitism in Europe contributed to the immigration surge; Jews from France, where anti-Semitism has increasingly turned violent, constituted more than a quarter of the 26,500 immigrants. But there’s another factor as well, epitomized by the identical and completely unsolicited comments I independently received from citizens of two different European countries at last week’s Limmud UK conference: Europe, they said, feels dead. Israel feels alive.

And it’s worth noting that neither of the speakers came from one of the continent’s economic basket cases. They came from Britain and the Netherlands, two of Europe’s stronger economies.

Indeed, as Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky pointed out, until not long ago, even French Jews who wanted to leave Europe preferred to go to Montreal. Today, as many as 70 percent choose Israel–and the number is likely to keep growing. A year ago, the Jewish Agency ran one immigration information seminar a month in France, Sharansky said. Now, it runs two a day.

I don’t know whether Tel Aviv’s building boom really outpaces construction in European cities, or whether Israelis really smile more than Europeans–both factors my Limmud interlocutors cited as contributing to their impression of Israel’s vibrancy. But one thing they said is certainly correct: You see more children in Israel than you do in Europe. In fact, Israel is the only country in the Western world with a birthrate above replacement rate.

And in that sense, their assessment is literal truth: Europe’s aging, shrinking population condemns it to slow oblivion, whereas Israel’s relatively high birthrate (3.05 children per women) means it is constantly rejuvenating itself. The very fact that Israelis, unlike Europeans, are still bringing children into the world is a sign that they still believe Israel has a future.

And clearly, many Diaspora Jews do as well–because nobody, no matter how badly he wanted to leave Europe, would opt for Israel rather than another Western country if he didn’t consider Israel an attractive country with a bright future.

“Here you have for the first time, a clear thing,” Sharansky said. “There is a massive exodus from a community in the free world, which has all the doors open to them, and they are choosing Israel.”

It’s a Zionist dream come true. And a wonderful beginning to 2015.

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Is Wiping Israel Off the Map Just the Price of Doing Business in the Middle East?

Much is said here and elsewhere about Palestinian incitement and how the Arab world’s rejection of Jewish rights, if not Jewish existence altogether, has poisoned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Much is also written about the international community’s toleration of Arab anti-Semitism, and the many forms it takes. But we should single out for special attention those who seek to make a buck off this deadly hate, as a major publishing house was recently caught doing.

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Much is said here and elsewhere about Palestinian incitement and how the Arab world’s rejection of Jewish rights, if not Jewish existence altogether, has poisoned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Much is also written about the international community’s toleration of Arab anti-Semitism, and the many forms it takes. But we should single out for special attention those who seek to make a buck off this deadly hate, as a major publishing house was recently caught doing.

The Washington Post highlighted the indefensible actions of HarperCollins when the company was discovered to have been publishing an atlas for schools in the Arab world whose maps did not include Israel. HarperCollins literally wiped Israel off its maps. The Post explains:

For months, publishing giant HarperCollins has been selling an atlas it says was “developed specifically for schools in the Middle East.” It trumpets the work as providing students an “in-depth coverage of the region and its issues.” Its stated goals include helping kids understand the “relationship between the social and physical environment, the region’s challenges [and] its socio-economic development.”

Nice goals. But there’s one problem: Israel is missing.

There’s Syria. There’s Jordan. There’s Gaza. But no mention of Israel. The story was first reported by a Catholic publication, the Tablet.

How and why did this happen? They knew their audience:

Collins Bartholomew, a subsidiary of HarperCollins that specializes in maps, told the Tablet that it would have been “unacceptable” to include Israel in atlases intended for the Middle East. They had deleted Israel to satisfy “local preferences.”

Yes, “local preferences.” The Jewish people just keep ending up on the wrong side of “local preferences.” Of course, the Arab world teaches its children such hateful propaganda because Israel’s enemies hope to make HarperCollins’s maps one day reflect reality. How does HarperCollins feel about profiting from being used as a marginal tool in a genocidal quest? They’re sorry! Really, really sorry:

“HarperCollins regrets the omission of the name Israel from their Collins Middle East Atlas,” HarperCollins UK said on its Facebook page. “This product has now been removed from sale in all territories and all remaining stock will be pulped. HarperCollins sincerely apologizes for this omission and for any offense it caused.”

Wiping Israel off the map gets the classic Facebook apology. But hey, no worries. Happens all the time. You have to make a living somehow, right?

To the Washington Post’s great credit, they wouldn’t let HarperCollins off the hook just yet. The publishing house, the Post noted, was not sorry to have done what it did: it wasn’t a mistake, but rather policy. HarperCollins was sorry, oh so sorry, to have been caught.

As the Post’s education writer pointed out in a follow-up story:

Sorry? Given that the omission was a deliberate decision to appease customers who wish Israel didn’t exist, one thing we can be pretty sure of is that HarperCollins is sorry that somebody noticed the omission outside the countries where these maps were welcome.

Those are strong words, and they are entirely correct. Once again, good for the Post. We should all be able to agree that genocide is bad. Go stand in the corner, HarperCollins.

Of course there’s a larger point here, and since this is about education, it’s especially pertinent. And the Post didn’t miss that point either: “But it isn’t the only publishing company that wiped Israel off the map. Scholastic Inc., the large children’s book publisher, did the same thing in books for kids in 2013.” Not to mention what goes on in Gaza:

In any case, those aren’t the only maps and books that omit Israel. Many textbooks in Mideast countries don’t show Israel in maps, and this November 2013 story in the New York Times reported that Hamas, the movement that controls the Gaza Strip, was introducing new textbooks that would be used “as part of a broader push to infuse the next generation with its militant ideology” and that don’t recognize modern Israel. So much for geographic accuracy.

I don’t think there are many in the Middle East outside Israel who are all that concerned about “geographic accuracy.” And for those who are, my guess is that geographic accuracy is trumped pretty easily by “local preferences” every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

But we can and should zoom out even more. As I wrote in November, UNRWA–the UN agency dedicated to keeping Palestinians living like refugees in perpetuity–has been embroiled in its own scandals with revelations that it employs as educators and directors anti-Semites who openly root for the murder of Jews. UNRWA then does its part to facilitate that by somehow ending up housing Hamas weapons in its schools. (Surely some kind of administrative oversight.)

Arab children are being educated to hate Jews not only by their own warped state propaganda machines but by the United Nations and Western textbook publishers. It’s true that HarperCollins didn’t invent this market for anti-Jewish capitulation. And obviously the company plays a very minor role in all this. But as long as such hate finds ready suppliers in the mainstream West, none of this will change.

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A Big Loss for Anti-Israel Academics

It wasn’t even close. At Sunday’s business meeting of the American Historical Association’s annual conference, AHA members present voted overwhelmingly against considering two resolutions sponsored by Historians Against the War, both attempting to draw AHA into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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It wasn’t even close. At Sunday’s business meeting of the American Historical Association’s annual conference, AHA members present voted overwhelmingly against considering two resolutions sponsored by Historians Against the War, both attempting to draw AHA into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The resolutions accuse Israel of the usual crimes against the right to education and academic freedom. But the content of the resolutions, though objectionable, as usual disguised the actual goal of those proposing them. As Van Goss, a historian at Franklin and Marshall and a member of HAW’s steering committee, explained at a roundtable on the resolutions, “I know the AHA. If we bring in a BDS resolution, we’ll get blown out of the water. That’s not a tactically smart thing to do.” Having conceded that the resolution is a “politically and tactically sensible move” on the part of people whose purpose is to get the AHA to boycott Israel, Van Goss goes on to deny that the resolution is an “in any shape or form” an “entering wedge” for the boycott movement. Sure.

Van Goss may have been right about the likely fate of an actual BDS resolution. Such a resolution was submitted for consideration at the meeting but rejected in part because it did not have the required 50 signatures. As AHA executive director James Grossman said in explaining the decision, this “bar is quite low,” since AHA has more than 13,000 members. Of course, a more competent effort would have netted more than the required 50 signatures, but the incompetence of this year’s effort is itself heartening.

Indeed, HAW submitted its own two resolutions late, which is why the vote was about whether to suspend the rules so that the resolutions could be considered rather than about the resolutions themselves. Claire Potter, via Twitter, reported on the debate. Opponents of suspension for the most part agreed with the AHA Council, which could have put the resolution on the agenda but declined to do so for two reasons. First, timing: “A complex issue should not arise [without] time for research and reflection.” Second, fairness: putting the item on the agenda late would be unfair to those not in attendance who “might have attended had they known the resolutions [would be] on the agenda.”

Those in favor of suspension argued, strangely, that abiding by the rules was undemocratic since the rules were made to “suppress and curtail debate.” They also argued that even if the procedure were unfair, that unfairness could somehow be wiped out by a full membership vote, though such a vote was not guaranteed to occur and, if it did occur, would do so in a context of an unfairly secured endorsement. No one explained why there was such a hurry to pass a resolution, perhaps because it is “not a tactically smart thing to do” to say out loud that the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement needs every anti-Israel statement it can get, whether it directly calls for a boycott or not, to create the appearance of momentum. That propaganda beast needs feeding.

The members present weren’t buying it. The resolutions’ supporters needed two-thirds of the votes. They got not even one-third. In a defeat the History News Network called stunning, the activists won just 51 votes. 144 voted against suspending the rules, and 3 abstained.

The History News Network is right to call the magnitude of defeat stunning. Proponents of the resolutions had more time to organize than did their opponents, and the AHA has not been shy about taking political stands before. Historians like David Greenberg of Rutgers University, Sharon Musher of Richard Stockton College, and Jeffrey Herf of the University of Maryland, who have defended the integrity of AHA against attempts to use it as a political weapon, deserve a lot of credit. But they and their allies will soon enough have to be at it again. Incoming AHA president Vicki Ruiz has decided to devote three of six presidential sessions at next year’s conference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is disappointing that Ruiz thinks that the AHA staking out its foreign policy is worth half of the time she controls at the conference. But Ruiz has once before stood against the anti-Israel boycott movement, and it is to be hoped that the discussions she organizes will be fairer than has been the norm. Certainly, BDS opponents are not afraid of such discussions. Alice Kessler Harris of Columbia University, a boycott opponent, rose to urge the AHA Council to design a program of education so that if it should come to a vote next year, the vote might actually be informed by knowledge of the issues at stake.

The activists of Historians Against the War tried to interrupt her. I guess they think ignorance is good for their cause.

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