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The New Anti-Semitism

by Vic­tor Davis Han­son

Hat­ing Jews, on racial as well as reli­gious grounds, is as old as the Roman destruc­tion of the Sec­ond Tem­ple in Jerusalem. Lat­er in Europe, pogroms and the Holo­caust were the nat­ur­al devo­lu­tion of that ele­men­tal ven­om.

Anti-Semi­tism, after World War II, often avoid­ed the burn­ing cross­es and Nazi rant­i­ng. It often appeared as a more sub­tle ani­mos­i­ty, fueled by envy of suc­cess­ful Jews in the West. “The good peo­ple, the nice peo­ple” often were the cul­prits, accord­ing to a char­ac­ter in the 1947 film “Gen­tle­man’s Agree­ment,” which dealt with the Amer­i­can aris­toc­ra­cy’s social shun­ning of Jews.

A recent third type of anti-Jew­ish odi­um is some­thing dif­fer­ent. It is a strange mix­ture of vio­lent hatred by rad­i­cal Islamists and the more or less indif­fer­ence to it by West­ern­ers.

Those who ran­dom­ly shoot Jews for being Jews — whether at a Jew­ish cen­ter in Seat­tle or at syn­a­gogues in Istan­bul — are for the large part Mus­lim zealots. Most in the West explain away the vio­lence. They chalk it up to anger over the end­less tit-for-tat in the Mid­dle East. Yet pri­vate­ly they know that we do not see vio­lent Jews shoot­ing Mus­lims in the Unit­ed States or Europe.

Iran­ian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ahmadine­jad promis­es to wipe Israel “off the map.” He seems eager for the req­ui­site nuclear weapons to fin­ish off what an Iran­ian mul­lah has called a “one-bomb state” — mean­ing Israel’s destruc­tion would only require one nuclear weapon. Iran’s theoc­ra­cy intends to turn the idea of a Jew­ish state on its head. Instead of Israel being a safe haven for Jews in their his­tor­i­cal birth­place, the Ira­ni­ans appar­ent­ly find that con­cen­tra­tion only too con­ve­nient for their own final nuclear solu­tion.

In response, here at home the Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions rewards the Iran­ian pres­i­dent with an invi­ta­tion to speak to its mem­ber­ship. At the podi­um of that hal­lowed cham­ber, Ahmadine­jad, who ques­tions whether the Holo­caust ever took place, basi­cal­ly dis­missed a first­hand wit­ness of Dachau by ask­ing whether he real­ly could be that old.

The state-run, and thus gov­ern­ment-autho­rized, news­pa­pers of the Mid­dle East, slan­der Jews in bar­bar­ic fash­ion. “Mein Kampf” (trans­lat­ed, of course, as “Jiha­di”) sells briskly in the region. Hamas and Hezbol­lah mili­tias on parade emu­late the style of brown­shirts. In response, much of the West­ern pub­lic snoozes. They are far more wor­ried over whether a Dan­ish car­toon­ist has car­i­ca­tured Islam, or if the pope has been rude to Mus­lims when quot­ing an obscure 600-year-old Byzan­tine dia­logue.

In the last two decades, rad­i­cal Islam­ic ter­ror­ists have bombed and mur­dered thou­sands inside Europe and the Unit­ed States. Their state sup­port­ers in the Mid­dle East have raked in bil­lions in petro-wind­fall prof­its from ener­gy-hun­gry West­ern economies. For many in Europe and the Unit­ed States, sup­port­ing Israel — the Mid­dle East­’s only sta­ble democ­ra­cy — or even its allies in the West has become viewed as both dan­ger­ous and cost­ly.

In addi­tion, Israel is no longer weak but proud and ready to defend itself. So when its ter­ror­ist ene­mies like Hezbol­lah and Hamas bril­liant­ly mar­ried their own fas­cist creed with pop­u­lar left­wing mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism in the West, there was an eerie union: yet anoth­er sup­posed third-world vic­tim of a West­ern oppres­sor think­ing it could earn a pass for its mur­der­ous agen­da.

We’re accus­tomed to asso­ci­at­ing hatred of Jews with the ridiculed Nean­derthal Right of those in sheets and jack­boots. But this new ven­om, at least in its West­ern form, is most­ly a left­wing, and often an aca­d­e­m­ic, enter­prise. It’s also far more insid­i­ous, giv­en the left­’s moral pre­ten­sions and its influ­ence in the pres­ti­gious media and uni­ver­si­ties. We see the unfor­tu­nate results in fre­quent anti-Israeli demon­stra­tions on cam­pus­es that con­flate Israel with Nazis, while the media have pub­lished fraud­u­lent pic­tures and slant­ed events in south­ern Lebanon.

The renewed hatred of Jews in the Mid­dle East — and the indif­fer­ence to it in the West — is a sort of “post anti-Semi­tism.” Islam­ic zealots sup­ply the old ven­omous hatred, while afflu­ent and timid West­ern­ers pro­vide the new nec­es­sary indif­fer­ence — if punc­tu­at­ed by the occa­sion­al off-the-cuff Amen in the man­ner of a Louis Far­rakhan or Mel Gib­son out­burst.

The dan­gers of this post anti-Semi­tism is not just that Jews are shot in Europe and the Unit­ed States — or that a drunk­en celebri­ty or dem­a­gogue mouths off. Instead, ever so insid­i­ous­ly, rad­i­cal Islam’s hatred of Jews is becom­ing nor­mal­ized.

The result is that the world’s politi­cians and media are talk­ing seri­ous­ly with those who not mere­ly want back the West Bank, but rather want an end to Israel alto­geth­er and every­one inside it.