Jewish, Jewish, Everywhere, & not a drop to drink
Sunday, November 02, 2003
“Those Jews” by Victor Davis Hanson


October 31, 2003

If only Israel and its supporters would disappear.

There are certain predictable symptoms to watch when a
widespread amorality begins to infect a postmodern
society: cultural relativism, atheism, socialism,
utopian pacifism. Another sign, of course, is
fashionable anti-Semitism among the educated, or the
idea that some imaginary cabal, or some stealthy
agenda — certainly not our own weakness — is
conspiring to threaten our good life.

Well apart from the spooky placards (stars of David
juxtaposed with swastikas, posters calling for the
West Bank to be expanded to "the sea") that we are
accustomed to seeing at the marches of the supposedly
ethical antiwar movement, we have also heard some
examples of Jew-baiting and hissing in the last two
weeks that had nothing to do with the old crazies.
Indeed, such is the nature of the new anti-Semitism
that everyone can now play at it — as long as it is
cloaked in third-world chauvinism, progressive
thinking, and identity politics.

The latest lunatic rantings from Malaysian prime
minister Mahathir Mohamad are nothing new, and we
should not be surprised by his mindless blabbering
about Jews and his fourth-grade understanding of World
War II and the present Middle East. But what was
fascinating was the reaction to his madness: silence
from the Arab intelligentsia, praise from Middle
Eastern leaders ("A brilliant speech," gushed Iran's
"president" Mohammad Khatami), and worry from France
and Greece about an EU proclamation against the
slander. Most American pundits were far more concerned
about the private, over-the-top comments of Gen.
Boykin than about the public viciousness of a head of
state. Paul Krugman, for example, expressed the
general mushiness of the Left when he wrote a column
trying to put Mahathir Mohamad's hatred in a
sympathetic context, something he would never do for a
Christian zealot who slurred Muslims.

Much has been written about the usually circumspect
Greg Easterbrook's bizarre ranting about "Jewish
executives" who profit from Quentin Tarantino's latest
bloody production. But, again, the problem is not so
much the initial slips and slurs as it is the more
calculated and measured "explanation." Easterbrook's
mea culpa cited his prior criticism of Mel Gibson, as
if the supposed hypocrisy of a devout and public
Christian's having trafficked in filmed violence were
commensurate with the dealings of two ordinary
businessmen who do not publicly embrace religion.
Michael Eisner and Harvey Weinstein simply happen to
be movie executives, with no stake in producing Jewish
movies or public-morality films, but — like most in
Hollywood — with a stake in making money from films.
That they are Jewish has absolutely no bearing on
their purported lack of morality — unless, of course,
one seeks to invent some wider pathology, evoking
historical paranoia about profiteering, cabals, and
"the Jews."

Recently, Joseph Lieberman was hissed by an
Arab-American audience in Dearborn, Mich. when he
briefly explained Israel's defensive wall in terms not
unlike those used by Howard Dean and other candidates.
What earned him the special public rebuke not accorded
to others was apparently nothing other than being
Jewish — the problem was not what he said, but who he
was. No real apology followed, and the usually
judicious and sober David Broder wrote an interesting
column praising the new political acumen of the
Arab-American community.

Tony Judt, writing in The New York Review of Books,
has published one of the most valuable and revealing
articles about the Middle East to appear in the last
20 years. There has always been the suspicion that
European intellectuals favored the dismantling of
Israel as we know it through the merging of this
uniquely democratic and liberal state with West Bank
neighbors who have a horrific record of human-rights
abuses, autocracy, and mass murder. After all, for all
too many Europeans, how else but with the end of
present-day Israel will the messy Middle East and its
attendant problems — oil, terrorism, anti-Semitism,
worries over unassimilated Muslim populations in
Europe, anti-Americanism, and postcolonial guilt —
become less bothersome? Moreover, who now knows or
cares much about what happened to Jews residing under
Arab governments — the over half-million or so who, in
the last half-century, have been ethnically cleansed
from (and sometimes murdered in) Baghdad, Cairo,
Damascus, and almost every Jewish community in the
Arab Middle East?

And what is the value of the only democratic
government in a sea of autocracy if its existence
butts up against notions of third-world victimhood and
causes so much difficulty for the Western
intelligentsia? Still, few intellectuals were silly
enough to dress up that insane idea under the pretext
of a serious argument (an unhinged Vidal, Chomsky, or
Said does not count). Judt did, and now he has
confirmed what most of us knew for years — namely,
that there is an entrenched and ever-bolder school of
European thought that favors the de facto elimination
of what is now a democratic Jewish state.

What links all these people — a Muslim head of state,
a rude crowd in Michigan, an experienced magazine
contributor, and a European public intellectual —
besides their having articulated a spreading anger
against the "Jews"? Perhaps a growing unease with hard
questions that won't go away and thus beg for easy,
cheap answers.

A Malaysian official and his apologists must realize
that gender apartheid, statism, tribalism, and the
anti-democratic tendencies of the Middle East cause
its poverty and frustration despite a plethora of
natural resources (far more impressive assets than the
non-petroleum-bearing rocks beneath parched Israel).
But why call for introspection when the one-syllable
slur "Jews" suffices instead?

And why would an Arab-American audience — itself
composed of many who fled the tyranny and economic
stagnation of Arab societies for the freedom and
opportunity of a liberal United States — wish to hear
a reasoned explanation of the complexities of the
Israeli-Palestinian war when it was so much easier to
hiss and moan, especially when mainstream observers
would ignore their anti-Semitism and be impressed
instead with the cadre of candidates who flock to

How do you explain to an audience that Quentin
Tarantino appeals both to teens and to empty-headed
critics precisely because something is terribly amiss
in America, when affluent and leisured suburbanites
are drawn to scenes of raw killing as long as it is
dressed up with "art" and "meaning"?

How could a Tony Judt write a reasoned and balanced
account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when to do
so would either alienate or bore the literati?

So they all, whether by design or laxity, take the
easier way out — especially when slurring "Israel" or
"the Jews" involves none of the risks of incurring
progressive odium that similarly clumsy attacks
against blacks, women, Palestinians, or homosexuals
might draw, requires no real thinking, and seems to
find an increasingly receptive audience.

You see, in our mixed-up world those Jewish are not a
"people of color." And if there really is such a
mythical monolithic entity in America as the "Jews,"
they (much like the Cubans) are not easily stereotyped
as impoverished victims needing largesse or
condescension, and much less are they eligible under
any of the current myriad of rubrics that count for
public support. Israel is a successful Western state,
not a failed third-world despotism. Against terrible
oppression and overt anti-Semitism, the Jewish
community here and abroad found success — proof that
hard work, character, education, and personal
discipline can trump both natural and human adversity.
In short, the story of American Jewry and Israel
resonates not at all with the heartstrings of a modern
therapeutic society, which is quick to show envy for
the successful and cheap concern for the struggling.

This fashionable anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism —
especially among purported intellectuals of the Left —
reveals a deep-seated, scary pathology that is growing
geometrically both in and outside the West. For a
Europe that is disarmed, plagued by a demographic
nightmare of negative population growth and
unsustainable entitlements, filled with unassimilated
immigrants, and deeply angry about the power and
presence of the United States, the Jews and their
Israel provide momentary relief on the cheap. So
expect that more crazy thoughts of Israel's
destruction dressed up as peace plans will be as
common as gravestone and synagogue smashing.

For the Muslim world that must confront the power of
the patriarch, mullah, tribe, and autocrat if it is
ever to share the freedom and prosperity of the rest
of the world, the Jews offer a much easier target. So
expect even more raving madness as the misery of
Islamic society grows and its state-run media hunker
down amid widespread unrest. Anticipate, also, more
sick posters at C-SPAN broadcast marches, more slips
by reasonable writers, and more anti-Israeli
denunciations from the "liberals."

These are weird, weird times, and before we win this
messy war against Islamic fascism and its sponsors,
count on things to get even uglier. Don't expect any
reasoned military analysis that puts the post-9/11
destruction of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein's evil
regime, along with the liberation of 50 million at the
cost of 300 American lives, in any sort of historical
context. After all, in the current presidential race,
a retired general now caricatures U.S. efforts in Iraq
and quotes Al Sharpton.

Do not look for the Islamic community here to
acknowledge that the United States, in little over a
decade, freed Kuwait, saved most of the Bosnians and
Kosovars, tried to feed Somalis, urged the Russians
not to kill Chechnyans, belatedly ensured that no
longer were Shiites and Kurds to be slaughtered in
Iraq, spoke out against Kuwait's ethnic cleansing of a
third of a million Palestinians — and now is spending
$87 billion to make Iraqis free.

That the Arab world would appreciate billions of
dollars in past American aid to Jordan, Egypt, and the
Palestinian Authority, or thank America for its help
in Kuwait and Kosovo, or be grateful to America for
freeing Iraq — all this is about as plausible as the
idea that Western Europeans would acknowledge their
past salvation from Nazism and Soviet Communism, or be
grateful for the role the United States plays to
promote democracy in Panama, Haiti, the Balkans, or
the Middle East.

No, in this depressing age, the real problem is
apparently our support for democratic Israel and all
those pesky Jews worldwide, who seem to crop up
everywhere as sly war makers, grasping film
executives, conspiratorial politicians, and greedy
colonialists, and thus make life so difficult for the
rest of us.

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