You know, I am genuinely shocked at the level of free-floating antisemitism on offer and open display these days. Yes, it is being dressed up as anti-Zionism, as if that made any difference in the same old Jew-hatred that’s been around since … I don’t know, as long as there have been Jews as a discrete and identifiable religious minority, even well before a certain sub-sect branched off, upon accepting that a relatively obscure itinerant Jewish preacher was really the son of G*d, accepting his destiny as a sacrifice in atonement for the sins of us all.
I am also certain – from my education as an old-style Lutheran in readings from the Old Testament and my own general studies in history – that the ancient historic Hebrew nation had enemies. Damn few of them are around today in a recognizable guise. The pharaohs of Egypt, the Assyrians, the Seleucid Greeks, the Roman Empire – all had a bash at ancient Israel, some with more success than others. The Roman Empire, though – that sent the ancient Jews a-wandering, after putting down a hard-fought rebellion in the first century as the Christian era is reckoned. For nearly two millennia, a people – hardy, resourceful, self-identified and adaptable, given to the work of the mind rather than the body – took their chances in the larger and intermittently viciously hostile world. In some ways, I am reminded of how the native American coyote was hunted, trapped, poisoned as a pest and a blight, nearly wiped out of the habitat for a time … and yet all that has resulted is the making of a hardier, wilier, more daring and successful coyote.
Such was the fate of the Jews, culminating in the Shoah of Nazi-occupied Europe. In the wake of that horror it seemed as if open Jew-hatred was something that just wasn’t acceptable. The first time I ever personally witnessed an open act of anti-Semitic hostility was in the sixth grade, and the offender was bounced into the principal’s office so hard and fast that I am certain his ears rang for years afterwards. Other than that – for decades it looked to me as if the uglier forms of Jew hatred were in the history books, although there was some leakage on the campus of CSU-Northridge in the late 1970s, just about all of it from the kook fringe. And there were some definite kooks wandering around, muttering to themselves and sometimes handing out badly mimeo’d and incoherent leaflets. I wish that I had kept my personal collection of such, which I called the Phreak Phile – likely most of them would be an amusing break from the current version.
I did detect a certain uptick in Jew hatred when I started blogging in 2002 – especially when I touched on the topic of Israel, which wasn’t all that often. Some of the regular commenters at the old SSDB back then were pretty hostile whenever the topic came up. When I blogged at Open Salon a few years later, some OSers practically frothed at the mouth whenever the matter of Israel and the poor pitiful Palestinians came up, but that was a tempest in a tea pot compared to what I read now; near to riots in Paris, synagogues having to be protected by police from mobs, kids on a school bus in Australia threatened by drunken yobs, pro-Palestinian protestors in American cities getting physical with the pro-Israeli demonstrators … and on and on.
I don’t really have much of an explanation as to why Jew-hate would have flared up again so virulently. It could be that it’s been almost seventy years since the Holocaust and memories are fading as the generations which can recall it at first-hand fall away. I also wouldn’t be surprised to find that a lot of the most virulent and public Jew-hatred is the variety which has been bought and paid for, with a money trail leading variously from the middle east or Russia. Middle-eastern Jew hatred may also be rooted in frustration that modern Jews aren’t rolling over and walking tamely into the gas chambers this time, allied with resentment over the fact that Israel is vibrant, technologically advanced, moderately wealthy, tolerant and successful. Israel is everything that practically every other middle eastern country isn’t – and even the rich ones with oil are hardly healthy and self-supporting societies. Finally, European Jew-hatred might also be derived from festering guilt over the Holocaust itself – a kind of retroactive justification along the lines of ‘See! Look how those nasty Israelis miss-treat the innocent Palestinians! That’s how they are, and Hitler gave them what they deserved, so we don’t need to feel responsible any more!’
Or not. Discuss.