Minimal intellectual honesty compels us Jews to admit that we live in dangerous times – so dangerous that they cannot but remind us of the noxious atmosphere that led to the incomparable tragedy we will solemnly commemorate this Tuesday.
Never in its annals was the phoenix-like Jewish state – literally arisen from the ashes of incinerated Jewish multitudes – so defamed, so unaccepted by the so-called family of nations and so tossed in a howling tempest of ill will. Never since the 1930s have we experienced isolation so suffocating and so ubiquitous. Never since the 1930s did our collective pariah-status breed among us a resignation so deep-seated that it appears to border on apathy.
What makes our times so chillingly similar to the era that conceived and tolerated the Holocaust is the broad social respectability accorded Jew-bashing. It matters little if the pretext is the fake ogre the Nazis called “International Judaism,” or the state that the Jews established so they would never be defenseless again. What matters is that Jewish self-defense in the framework of the Jewish state is as assiduously demonized as was the nonexistent cabal of the Elders of Zion.
JEWISH SELF-preservation today is as illegitimate as it was then, and assailing it is as bon ton as in those dark days before the great cataclysm.
The vulgar bigotry of thugs – whether brown-shirted and in hobnailed boots or skin-headed or keffiyeh-wrapped – was and is facilitated by the ideologically-honed vitriol of an ostensibly exemplary, honorable sort. They rationalize their abhorrence as decent and de rigueur. They were the ones who once made it possible for the storm troopers to terrorize and who now vindicate jihadist terror. Once more the self-professed spokespersons of enlightenment and free speech horrifyingly shout down and shut up the objects of their scorn.
Reviling the Jewish state is today just as proper and urbane as turning sophisticated noses up at Jews was for the prewar smart-set. Verses like T.S. Eliot’s “The rats are underneath the piles/The Jew is underneath the lot” were received with knowing winks and smug nods of approval by his literary milieu. Jews were judged as deserving repugnance, and the then-guardians of virtue perceived nothing untoward in the diabolical portraiture.
To be sure, Eliot-style spitefulness is crude by today’s slyer standards, but the bottom-line is unchanged. No need to badmouth Jews indelicately when Judeophobic ends can be more effectively achieved via compassion for the Jews’ would-be annihilators.
When the latter are painted as oppressed victims, Jews per force emerge as ruthless oppressors. When Jews, moreover, are called Israelis, their maligners can fend off accusations of anti-Semitism. Such accusations are anyhow brandished as proof of manipulative intent to silence all criticism of the Jewish state. Calculated, circuitous reasoning eventually turns Jew-haters into righteous, persecuted underdogs, while Israelis are cast as ferocious hounds.
It’s thus possible to seethe with anti-Semitism without admitting it. This in turn enables self-loathing Jews to join the denunciation-fest, present themselves as morally superior to benighted “other” Jews and thereby strive for their own personal exoneration from Jewish guilt.
Hate-mongers need only claim that they just cannot abide the suffering inflicted by Nazi-clone Jews/Israelis on pitiable Palestinians. By equating Jewish/Israeli “crimes” with the Holocaust, the ploy becomes altogether irresistible. It no longer matters that Israel’s army is humane to its own detriment, or that the Palestinians are merely the vanguard of the pan-Arab/Muslim drive to ethnically cleanse this region of any negligible Jewish vestige.
It doesn’t even matter that Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular were avid cheerleaders and collaborators in the original Holocaust. Pop-culture banality nearly casts Jews/Israelis as the bad guys of the Holocaust saga.
In the topsy-turvy reality of shallow pop-conscience, descendents of history’s worst mass murderers and most indifferent onlookers now decontaminate their heritage by arrogantly portraying descendents of the most downtrodden as flagrantly evil. Exploiting the Holocaust to condemn the children of Holocaust survivors for seeking to preempt a Holocaust sequel must be the epitome of cynicism. But this cynicism is the basic prerequisite for progressive credentials.
THAT’S WHY The New York Times published Pat Oliphant’s cartoon featuring a gigantic, headless, sword-wielding, goose-stepping, uniformed fiend wheeling a razor-fanged Star of David that threatens to run down a tiny, defenseless Gazan woman and baby. Every last demonizing stereotype is there, yet the guise is of an indignant liberal commentary rather than the Der Sturmer calumny it replicates.
The Australian-born Oliphant, moreover, is no gutter-agitator. He’s the world’s most widely syndicated political cartoonist, the winner of numerous awards, including the Pulitzer, and his works have been exhibited in no less than Washington’s National Portrait Gallery. Even more disheartening is the fact that Oliphant’s distortive cliche is so commonplace.
In bastions of professed broadmindedness, deploring “Israeli excesses” is the barest minimum expected of upstanding persons of goodwill and forward-thinking inclinations. It’s an indispensable accessory for the liberal image. Any young quasi-cultured person one might encounter overseas is likely not to like us. That has nothing to do with malice and everything to do with the trendy indoctrination of the do-gooders in crowd.
Said do-gooders orchestrate sinister demonstrations outside Israeli embassies. They throng at college campuses to heckle and abuse any speaker suspected of pro-Israeli sentiments (or of not being sufficiently anti-Israel). They clamor for boycotts of all Israeli products. In freedom’s name they initiate inherently incongruous academic boycotts of Israeli universities (which are renowned for unconstrained nonconformity and pluralism). They disrupt sporting events in which Israelis compete. Some even purport to champion opposition to genocide by abiding chants like “Hamas! Hamas! All Jews to the gas!”
They so detest bloodshed and injustice that they vehemently deprecate any remotely feasible plan to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear warheads. The politically correct thing to do is not impede tyrants who broadcast their bloodcurdling intentions before every available microphone.
World peace will supposedly be secured by restraining Israel. Submissive Jews/Israelis are presumably assured the affections of do-gooder non-anti-Semites. Which brings us right back to the 1930s, when Jews couldn’t have been more powerless or compliant. Nonetheless, their helplessness won them no kind consideration.
“In those days before the war,” Chaim Weizmann said in recalling international vexation with the Jews, “our protests were regarded as provocations. Our very refusal to subscribe to our own death sentence became a public nuisance.”
Words that could be spoken today.
This also goes for Weizmann’s warning to Anthony Eden: “The fire from the synagogues may easily spread to Westminster Abbey… If a government is allowed to destroy a whole community which has committed no crime… it means the beginning of anarchy and the destruction of the basis of civilization. The powers which stand looking on, without taking measures to prevent the crime, will one day be themselves visited by severe punishment.”
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