And now Le Pen. Its seems as if the mask is coming off European anti-Semitism right and left. I don’t want to say I told you so about European-specifically French-anti-Semitism (see my April 15 column on the roots of the Second Holocaust). It doesn’t afford any satisfaction to have one’s darkest imaginings confirmed. But when I heard the news about Le Pen, I was thinking about Amos Oz, the Israeli novelist and longtime dovish advocate of living side-by-side in peace with a Palestinian state, and how he had been driven by events of the past few weeks to ask the question (in The Nation ), “Would an end to occupation terminate the Muslim holy war against Israel?”
This is, of course, the key question that the anti-Israel Euro-idiots don’t get, and here Amos Oz, peace-loving man of letters and friend of many Palestinians, says that “If, despite simplistic vision, the end of occupation will not result in peace,” he favors war. “Not a war for our full occupancy of the Holy Land”-he’s against the occupation of the West Bank-“but a war for our right to live … in part of the land. A just war, a no-alternative war. A war we will win.”
Remember, this is not Ariel Sharon; this is Amos Oz, Israeli dove. I agree with his pessimism about the prospect of avoiding war, because there is no reason to believe that “the Muslim holy war” against Israel will ever end, or that their ambition to extirpate the Jewish state entirely will ever cease.
But, alas, I can’t share his optimism that “we will win” that war. As I suggested in my extremely gloomy previous essay, it’s only prudent to prepare for the ultimate destruction of the state of Israel by Islamo-fascist fury, not to mention weapons of mass destruction.
Believe me, I’d much rather not be writing about this terrible subject. For the past month, I’ve most wanted to write a Jane Austen column. I’ve been working on a revision of my Jane Austen character-typology theory, one of my most popular and controversial columns, in which I analyzed people’s personalities in terms of which Jane Austen novel is their favorite. I’ve now extended that analysis to the recent spate of Jane Austen films and added a searching analysis of the neglected Northanger Abbey character type.
But, as Al Pacino says in my favorite line from Godfather III , “Just when I thought that I was out, they pull me back in”- they being the terrible events in the Middle East that portend a Second Holocaust, they being the years I spent writing a book about Hitler and the first Holocaust. And the way the first Holocaust-particularly European complicity in the past and guilt-ridden anti-Israel sentiment in the present-entails the second, the one now in the making in the Middle East.
What makes me feel a need to return to the subject is the need to express the despair and sadness I feel; to begin the mourning and to chronicle the number of distortions, untruths and, well, lies I find in the coverage of the crisis (and the reaction to my column). Beginning with:
Lie No. 1: There Is No Cause for Alarm
Events are moving far more rapidly and grimly than I could have imagined when I suggested that a Second Holocaust* is becoming a realistic possibility. I had focused in particular on the one-sided European anti-Israel sentiment-the equanimity with which European politicians and people regarded the massacre of Jewish children, and the alacrity with which they condemned attempts by the state of Israel to defend itself from mass murder as “war crimes.”
I’d suggested the deep source of this phenomenon was European complicity in the original Holocaust, a few short decades ago. The way demonizing the Israelis now served to “salve their collective conscience” for their sickening collaboration with Hitler: The Jews probably deserved it then, and we can wash our hands of what happens to them now. (I was gratified to see the New York Times’ strong lead editorial on April 21 pick up on my phrase: European “Guilt over the Holocaust may be salved,” The Times wrote, by depicting Jews in Israel as cruel.)
Further sad confirmation of my analysis of anti-Israel bias in my previous column came within days, as European anti-Israeli sentiment morphed without much transition at all into outright “death to the Jews” anti-Semitism.
Of course, one expects it from the French, who demonstrated the kind of bravery they’ve shown in past wars with such acts as terrorizing Jewish children on school buses-acts consistent with a culture that has begun the new wave of synagogue burning, a nation that leapt to lick the boots of the Nazis in their eagerness to execute the orders for the transport and murder of their Jewish countrymen. And has now made a racist a serious presidential contender.
And one could hardly claim to be surprised to see the anti-Israeli march in Berlin that featured a poor 5-year-old girl garbed by her sick, hateful parents in a mock-up of a suicide bomber’s explosive belt.
I thought I had lost my power to be shocked by this sort of European pathology, but I must admit that I found it hard to believe when I read the reports about the Oxford professor and poet Tom Paulin, who called for Jews-particularly American Jews, specifically “Brooklyn-born Jews”-to be “shot” if they were found on the West Bank.
Mr. Paulin made the remarks in an interview with Al-Ahrom Weekly , the semi-official newspaper of the Egyptian government, on April 12. The person who forwarded me the transcript of the interview, a sophisticated-and horrified-writer friend, pointed out that “Paulin is a favorite of U.K. leftist publications [such as] The Guardian , The Observer , The Independent , The New Statesman , The London Review of Books . Last year the Observer ‘s ‘poem of the week’ written by Paulin spoke of the ‘Zionist SS.'”
This time, in his interview with Al-Ahrom Weekly , he said he “never believed the state of Israel had a right to exist.” Al-Ahrom Weekly praised him for “berating Guardian columnist Ian Buruma as a Zionist.” And as for the Brooklyn-born settlers, “‘They should be shot dead,’ Paulin says forcefully. ‘I think they are Nazi racists, I feel nothing but hatred for them.'”
Perhaps more repulsive than this call for the murder of Jews was the response of the chattering classes in Britain: virtually none. A silence which must be taken as tacit approval. Imagine if, say, a right-wing writer in America had called for the murder of “militant blacks” and said, “They should be shot dead.” One hopes the reaction from the entire political spectrum would be volcanic and that such a writer would be forever shunned.
But no, the British left press is too busy trying to portray the Israeli response to mass murderers (the so-called “suicide bombers”) as a war crime. When self-defense is defined as a war crime, the very existence of a people is delegitimized-a useful preparation for genocide.
Not that Americans are immune from appearing to welcome the destruction of the Jewish state, with whatever consequences that might have for the Jews left to the mercy of Hamas.
In a special Nightline report about the question of anti-Semitism and its relationship to anti-Israel sentiment, the Nightline correspondent (not Ted Koppel) patted his network on the back for not airing a particularly repulsive piece of footage in a previous broadcast.
It was footage of an anti-Israel rally in Berkeley that featured an interview with a young woman holding a sign depicting Ariel Sharon wearing a swastika armband and giving the Hitler salute. We didn’t run that image, the self-congratulatory Nightline reporter told us, because it was anti-Semitic and it would have been anti-Semitic to show it.
How a man as astute as Ted Koppel allowed such palpable sophistry to air on his broadcast (he was off interviewing Elie Wiesel) is baffling. By censoring just how blatantly anti-Semitic certain of the anti-Israel demonstrators were, you weren’t avoiding being anti-Semitic; you were engaged in a cover-up of the truth of just how much anti-Israel protests have become anti-Semitic protests. Nightline compounded the error by running it as evidence of how enlightened they were.
In fact, what that piece of tape does is add to the growing indications that the infection of anti-Semitism is not confined to the Saudis or the French. It’s right here, right now.
And yet we are told in some quarters (among them a particularly foolish letter writer in The Observer last week) that concern about this situation-the delegitimizing of a nation surrounded by people who want to drive them into the sea or murder them on the ground-is alarmist , unnecessarily raising fears when all that is required is more “education,” a deeper study of “Imperialism.”
No cause for alarm. This may be the biggest lie of the current crisis: the belief that there is always a solution. The definition of tragedy-or one definition-is a conflict without a solution. This is a tragedy already. It’s going to get worse.
What was disturbing about the letter writer who accused those concerned about a Second Holocaust of alarmism was that it precisely mirrored the language of those who claimed in 1938 that there was no cause for alarm. Yes, there were synagogue burnings in Europe (Kristallnacht and all that), and yes, Hitler had declared his determination to drive the Jews out of Europe dead or alive, but it would be “alarmist” to take such facts and statements seriously. Alas, those who listened to such sentiments were murdered for their complacency.
One of the things that strikes you if you spend any time researching the period before the beginning of the first Holocaust is the following syndrome: Time after time, evidence of Hitler’s genocidal intentions would surface, and time after time, useful idiots would say, “Oh, that’s being alarmist-he doesn’t really mean it.”
For years now, the Arab press has been filled with Hitlerian exterminationist rhetoric calling for the murder of the Jews. And the people of Israel-many of them children of Holocaust survivors-are supposed to regard any focus on such exterminationist sentiments, on “death to the Jews” marches in Europe, on Jews “should be shot” remarks by Oxford dons, as “alarmist.”
Lie No. 2: Self-Defense Is a War Crime
In addition to the lone cry of “alarmist,” I received a number of remarkably supportive reactions. One that meant the most to me came from a Holocaust survivor, who said he’d feared no one would come out and say what he felt. Another that meant a lot to me was a call from a writer I’d admired who publishes in a left-wing weekly and who, like me, had in the past been of the dovish, Peace Now, Shimon Peres, negotiation-will-bring-peace belief.
He said what changed things for him were the “suicide bombers.” Not just the suicide bombers-who he believes, like me, should be called by their proper name: “mass murderers”-but the celebration of them, not just by Palestinians but by every Arab populace. And the implicit legitimation of them by European politicians and peoples whose passion for “moral equivalence” (“mass murderer” is equivalent to people attempting to defend themselves from mass murder) is exceeded only by their passion to blame the Jews in the guise of moral equivalence.
Another response that was important to me personally came from a Jewish writer I admired, who said he’d felt a perverse gratitude that someone had said out loud the phrase “Second Holocaust,” because formulating it that way “diminishes the sense of loneliness and almost deranging isolation it is possible to feel-reading the misrepresentations of the situation” in the press, here and abroad.
I agree about that sense of isolation and loneliness, but I would go further than “misrepresentations.” Some are lies, one of them being that Israelis should suffer mass murders of their civilians in silence-for their sins, presumably-or as a price for their existence, rather than attempt as effectively as possible to stop them. Or that in some Orwellian reversal of the truth, they should respond to the suicide bombing by “negotiation,” when in fact the suicide bombings were the Palestinians’ response to an Israeli attempt to negotiate. The lie that the way to stop the killing of Jews is to trade “land for peace” with a people who have made it abundantly clear that what they wish for the Jews in their midst is, “No land, no peace, no Jews.”
Which brings us to Lie No. 3: Being “Anti-Israel” is the same as being critical of Israel.
Here I want to begin with an important distinction: I’m not saying that criticism of Israel makes one anti-Semitic. Obviously there are many people, indeed many Jews inside and outside Israel, who are for honorable reasons critical of the tactics of the Israeli government. I was critical of Likud policies for a long time.
But what we’re seeing now, what the issue is now, is not criticism of Israel, it’s what you might call-to use a word popularized by a left-wing pundit-“reflexive” hostility to Israel. And at this point, when the Jewish state is being made uninhabitable by mass-murderers, a one-sided reflexive hostility that denies Jews the right to defend themselves effectively and focuses only on the damge caused by retaliation-that in effect tells them to sit back and let themselves get blown up in the hope that a “peace process” might develop somewhere down the line-this “reflexive” anti-Israel stance can be called, for all practical purposes, anti-Semitic.
Perhaps the best way of explaining what I think is an important distinction-between being critical of Israel and being anti-Israel/anti-Semitic-comes from a column by Rod Liddle in the U.K. Guardian , one of the few writers to speak up against Oxford’s Tom Paulin and his “I want to shoot Jews” declaration.
“The Paulin business shook me out of my Wasp-ish complacency,” Mr. Liddle wrote in the Guardian . “I’d been inclined to dismiss as paranoid repeated complaints from British Jews that there was a new mood of anti-Semitism abroad. I was wrong. Paulin will undoubtedly complain that his remarks are not anti-Semitic, but merely anti-Zionist. So might others, generally from the Left, who, when examined about their opposition to what they call Zionism, reveal a deep and visceral hatred of Jews.”
Mr. Liddle wonders aloud whether there’s some truth to the view that “the Left’s demonization of capitalism was simply a displaced anti-Semitism” (he adduces the similarity of Marxist caricatures of money-grubbing capitalists to anti-Semitic caricatures of money-grubbing Jews, not to mention-he doesn’t-Marx’s own self-hating anti-Semitism). One can find support for that in the eagerness of the anti-globalization movement, which has taken up the kind of anti-Zionism that demonizes Jews, in the same language that Stalin used to condemn Jews: for their “cosmopolitanism.”
Lie No. 4: The Polite Form of Holocaust Denial
Another instance of a kind of visceral anti-Semitism lurking beneath the supposedly neutral “critical discourse” can often be found in those who use the sneering term “Holocaust industry” to deny any connection between the legitimacy of the state of Israel and the crime against the Jews which the civilized nations of Europe collaborated in. “Holocaust industry” is a particularly noxious phrase because it embodies a primal anti-Semitic stereotype: “industry” implies that the Jews are in it for the money or profit. There’s no good-faith reason to remember the murdered millions; it’s just being used for bad-faith commercial reasons, or to justify Israeli “imperialism,” or some such nonsense. I saw “Holocaust industry” invoked recently by a letter writer to The Observer who was defending “the progressive values” of the idiotic Mirroring Evil exhibit at the Jewish Museum, and in a headline in Salon about the same controversy: the “entrenched Holocaust industry.”
The ostensible philosophic rationale for employing the phrase “Holocaust industry” is that by making such a fuss over millions of dead family members, Jews are “sacralizing” the Holocaust, “removing it from history.” There is an argument to be made against “sacralizing” the Holocaust in the name of some ineffable “uniqueness.” It’s an argument I make in my own book, in fact. But that’s not what they’re after, the “Holocaust industry” crowd. In a stunning unacknowledged contradiction, they seek to remove the Holocaust from history as well, by denying the obvious, denying the connection between the first Holocaust and the reaction of people who fled from the first and are facing a second in the state of Israel. Just forget about the Holocaust; to remember it is to make an “industry” of something irrelevant to the present. In denying its historical relevance-the reasons Jews are not going to allow themselves to be slaughtered without fighting back-they are engaging in a sanitized form of Holocaust denial.
They don’t say it didn’t happen. They say it didn’t matter, so it might as well not have happened.