Anti-Semitism in the Guise of Political Protest

Last week, a Los Angeles 'rabbi to the stars' invited an allegedly remorseful Mel Gibson to address the Jewish congregation at Temple of the Arts with a public apology for anti—Semitic slurs the actor made after being stopped July 28 for speeding in Malibu. Rabbi David Baron suggested Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, might be an appropriate date for Gibson to address an outraged community.

But why has there been no similar outrage against the increased worldwide violence against Jews and the sinister attempt to discredit and malign the only democracy in the Middle East? It is indeed curious that the drunken rantings of a Hollywood actor and producer have drawn widespread public outcry, while actual anti—Semitic violence, boycotts against Jews and the Jewish state, as well as negative media propaganda, have largely been ignored or buried after perfunctory publication.

Since Israel began its defensive war against the terrorist organization Hezb'allah, attacks have increased against Jews in the United States, Europe and Australia.  Recently, a Muslim man entered the Jewish Federation of Seattle, proclaimed his anger over Israel's war against Hezb'allah and shot six women. Three days later, 20 shops in Rome were vandalized and painted with swastikas, in a manner dangerously reminiscent of Kristalnacht, when hundreds of Jewish businesses were destroyed throughout Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, synagogues in Sydney and Miami have been targeted, Hebrew University of Baltimore was firebombed and a Holocaust memorial in Brussels was desecrated, including a crypt containing the ashes of Auschwitz concentration camp victims.

Yet, these increasing acts of violence worldwide have failed to generate even a fraction of the media attention given to the drunken ramblings of one Hollywood actor. Instead, these obvious anti—Semitic acts of terror, violence and vandalism seem to be accepted as legitimate expressions of political protest, unworthy of the horrified reaction they deserve. The rationale is that violence against Jews worldwide is committed to 'protest' the actions of Israel. Yet no one asks, why are Jews everywhere answerable for every single action of Israel?

We don't hold other expatriate nationals to similar standards. For example, over 50 years ago, China invaded Tibet, taking from the Tibetans every freedom and right they had enjoyed as citizens of an independent country. Since that 1949 invasion, one million Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese, thousands of monasteries and shrines have been destroyed and famine has become rampant. Yet, Chinese nationals worldwide do not endure persecution and personal threats on a regular basis as a result of China's actions. Retaliatory attacks are not made on Chinese restaurants in San Francisco and Vancouver, nor is the Chinese embassy in Sydney firebombed.
 
In November of 2004, French Army helicopters fired indiscriminately and without warning on a demonstration by African civilians in the Ivory Coast, killing 60 and wounding over 2,000. The massacre of unarmed citizens was authorized by French President Jacques Chirac's government. It was viewed as a declaration of war by the Ivory Coast government. Yet, this incident wasn't followed by the destruction of businesses in Louisiana's French Quarter or the bombing of Quebec cathedrals. No one attempted to abduct employees at French houses of haute couture on Rodeo Drive or the Champs—Elysees!

If it seems ludicrous and even somewhat nonsensical to imagine such acts of retaliation against French and Chinese expatriates for the actions of their respective governments, then why do we so easily accept such retaliatory action against Jews? Why are Jews singled out for these retaliatory actions, while those of other nations remain untouched? The answer is obvious:  such actions are actually anti—Semitism in the guise of political protest. And under that guise, anti—Semitism continues to escape scrutiny and reprobation.

This anti—Semitism extends beyond violent behavior. Jews and Israel have also been targeted by economic and political actions. Since the terror wars began against Israel, attempts have been made to discriminate against Israeli academics, boycott Israeli products and divest from companies that do business with the Jewish state.  In 2002, as part of a boycott of Israeli universities by the Association of University Teachers, two Israeli scholars were removed from boards of professional publications.  A British lecturer who worked at the University of Tel Aviv was told 'We don't accept any applicants from a Nazi state,' when he applied for a post in the United Kingdom.  Amit Davshani, an Israeli student, was denied a position at Oxford due to his nationality and service in the Israeli military.  Academic principles of freedom of speech and debate are conveniently suspended for Israeli scholars and they are singled out for intellectual intimidation.

Economic sanctions, such as divestment campaigns, directed by the International Solidarity Movement, International ANSWER  and SUSTAIN, target companies that sell products to Israel, such as Caterpillar, Motorola and United Technologies. Several Arab nations, including Dubai, turn away deliveries of products containing Israeli components.

These actions are justified by the depiction of Israel as an aggressive bully, rather than the victim of a clearly stated plan of annihilation. Israel is condemned for self—protective measures, such as the life—saving security fence and checkpoints. It is singled out for blame, while the Arab role in perpetuating violence is generally overlooked.

Meanwhile, other nations that engage in obvious genocidal actions entirely escape reprisals. Why do no sanctions exist against Syria for the occupation of Lebanon or the Sudan for the massacre of over two million Africans?

Even the media falls prey to anti—Semitic influences. Since the beginning of the war to stop Hezb'allah assaults against Israel, the media has focused almost exclusively on the suffering of the Lebanese people, whose own government invited Hezb'allah into its Cabinet. Sympathetic stories abound about the destruction of Lebanon and the horror of death from Israel's retaliatory strikes. The reporting landscape is filled with apocryphal accounts by Hezb'allah spokesmen and massacres in the tradition of Jenin, in which reporters in 2002 passed along false accusations of the massacre of thousands of Palestinians, and the more recent Gaza Beach, in which the death of seven Palestinian civilians was inaccurately blamed on the Israeli army activity, instead of the more likely explosion of buried explosives.
 
Against a backdrop of Lebanese suffering, front—page stories depicting the suffering of the Israeli people have been largely absent. Where are heart—rending articles about the war's impact on Israeli children and their families, many of whom have spent the last few weeks in bomb shelters for safety from the onslaught of over 2,000 rockets fired by Hezb'allah?

Even more dangerous than these missing stories, however, is actual misinformation propagated about Israel. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has called the country itself an 'honest mistake, a well—intentioned mistake, a mistake which no one is culpable but which has produced a century of warfare and terrorism.'  His statements were repeated in New York Magazine.  This portrayal of Israel as a modern—day creation imposed on an ancient land ignores the following facts: that Jews have maintained a continuous presence in the land for almost 3,500 years and that close to one million Jews were forced to flee Muslim countries in the 20th century as a result of violence and pogroms. Also deemed unworthy to report is the fact that 22 Muslim countries exist and only one Jewish state, that Arabs started all five wars against Israel and lost every one of them, that Fatah and Hamas Constitutions still call for the destruction of Israel, and that Israel ceded most of the West Bank and all of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority.

Anti—Semitism existed long before Israel achieved statehood in 1948 and persists to this day, despite the lessons that should have been learned as a result of the extermination of six million Jews in the Holocaust. Anti—Semitism takes many forms — slurs, violence, economic and political sanctions, standards of behavior applied more strictly against Israel than other countries, and studied ignorance and indifference to facts. Anti—Semitism in all its forms should be recognized and identified for what it is and not merely easily accepted at face—value as political protest. Just as we condemn a Hollywood actor for anti—Semitic rants, we should condemn, be outraged and deem unacceptable all anti—Semitic behavior.

Last week, a Los Angeles 'rabbi to the stars' invited an allegedly remorseful Mel Gibson to address the Jewish congregation at Temple of the Arts with a public apology for anti—Semitic slurs the actor made after being stopped July 28 for speeding in Malibu. Rabbi David Baron suggested Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, might be an appropriate date for Gibson to address an outraged community.

But why has there been no similar outrage against the increased worldwide violence against Jews and the sinister attempt to discredit and malign the only democracy in the Middle East? It is indeed curious that the drunken rantings of a Hollywood actor and producer have drawn widespread public outcry, while actual anti—Semitic violence, boycotts against Jews and the Jewish state, as well as negative media propaganda, have largely been ignored or buried after perfunctory publication.

Since Israel began its defensive war against the terrorist organization Hezb'allah, attacks have increased against Jews in the United States, Europe and Australia.  Recently, a Muslim man entered the Jewish Federation of Seattle, proclaimed his anger over Israel's war against Hezb'allah and shot six women. Three days later, 20 shops in Rome were vandalized and painted with swastikas, in a manner dangerously reminiscent of Kristalnacht, when hundreds of Jewish businesses were destroyed throughout Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, synagogues in Sydney and Miami have been targeted, Hebrew University of Baltimore was firebombed and a Holocaust memorial in Brussels was desecrated, including a crypt containing the ashes of Auschwitz concentration camp victims.

Yet, these increasing acts of violence worldwide have failed to generate even a fraction of the media attention given to the drunken ramblings of one Hollywood actor. Instead, these obvious anti—Semitic acts of terror, violence and vandalism seem to be accepted as legitimate expressions of political protest, unworthy of the horrified reaction they deserve. The rationale is that violence against Jews worldwide is committed to 'protest' the actions of Israel. Yet no one asks, why are Jews everywhere answerable for every single action of Israel?

We don't hold other expatriate nationals to similar standards. For example, over 50 years ago, China invaded Tibet, taking from the Tibetans every freedom and right they had enjoyed as citizens of an independent country. Since that 1949 invasion, one million Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese, thousands of monasteries and shrines have been destroyed and famine has become rampant. Yet, Chinese nationals worldwide do not endure persecution and personal threats on a regular basis as a result of China's actions. Retaliatory attacks are not made on Chinese restaurants in San Francisco and Vancouver, nor is the Chinese embassy in Sydney firebombed.
 
In November of 2004, French Army helicopters fired indiscriminately and without warning on a demonstration by African civilians in the Ivory Coast, killing 60 and wounding over 2,000. The massacre of unarmed citizens was authorized by French President Jacques Chirac's government. It was viewed as a declaration of war by the Ivory Coast government. Yet, this incident wasn't followed by the destruction of businesses in Louisiana's French Quarter or the bombing of Quebec cathedrals. No one attempted to abduct employees at French houses of haute couture on Rodeo Drive or the Champs—Elysees!

If it seems ludicrous and even somewhat nonsensical to imagine such acts of retaliation against French and Chinese expatriates for the actions of their respective governments, then why do we so easily accept such retaliatory action against Jews? Why are Jews singled out for these retaliatory actions, while those of other nations remain untouched? The answer is obvious:  such actions are actually anti—Semitism in the guise of political protest. And under that guise, anti—Semitism continues to escape scrutiny and reprobation.

This anti—Semitism extends beyond violent behavior. Jews and Israel have also been targeted by economic and political actions. Since the terror wars began against Israel, attempts have been made to discriminate against Israeli academics, boycott Israeli products and divest from companies that do business with the Jewish state.  In 2002, as part of a boycott of Israeli universities by the Association of University Teachers, two Israeli scholars were removed from boards of professional publications.  A British lecturer who worked at the University of Tel Aviv was told 'We don't accept any applicants from a Nazi state,' when he applied for a post in the United Kingdom.  Amit Davshani, an Israeli student, was denied a position at Oxford due to his nationality and service in the Israeli military.  Academic principles of freedom of speech and debate are conveniently suspended for Israeli scholars and they are singled out for intellectual intimidation.

Economic sanctions, such as divestment campaigns, directed by the International Solidarity Movement, International ANSWER  and SUSTAIN, target companies that sell products to Israel, such as Caterpillar, Motorola and United Technologies. Several Arab nations, including Dubai, turn away deliveries of products containing Israeli components.

These actions are justified by the depiction of Israel as an aggressive bully, rather than the victim of a clearly stated plan of annihilation. Israel is condemned for self—protective measures, such as the life—saving security fence and checkpoints. It is singled out for blame, while the Arab role in perpetuating violence is generally overlooked.

Meanwhile, other nations that engage in obvious genocidal actions entirely escape reprisals. Why do no sanctions exist against Syria for the occupation of Lebanon or the Sudan for the massacre of over two million Africans?

Even the media falls prey to anti—Semitic influences. Since the beginning of the war to stop Hezb'allah assaults against Israel, the media has focused almost exclusively on the suffering of the Lebanese people, whose own government invited Hezb'allah into its Cabinet. Sympathetic stories abound about the destruction of Lebanon and the horror of death from Israel's retaliatory strikes. The reporting landscape is filled with apocryphal accounts by Hezb'allah spokesmen and massacres in the tradition of Jenin, in which reporters in 2002 passed along false accusations of the massacre of thousands of Palestinians, and the more recent Gaza Beach, in which the death of seven Palestinian civilians was inaccurately blamed on the Israeli army activity, instead of the more likely explosion of buried explosives.
 
Against a backdrop of Lebanese suffering, front—page stories depicting the suffering of the Israeli people have been largely absent. Where are heart—rending articles about the war's impact on Israeli children and their families, many of whom have spent the last few weeks in bomb shelters for safety from the onslaught of over 2,000 rockets fired by Hezb'allah?

Even more dangerous than these missing stories, however, is actual misinformation propagated about Israel. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has called the country itself an 'honest mistake, a well—intentioned mistake, a mistake which no one is culpable but which has produced a century of warfare and terrorism.'  His statements were repeated in New York Magazine.  This portrayal of Israel as a modern—day creation imposed on an ancient land ignores the following facts: that Jews have maintained a continuous presence in the land for almost 3,500 years and that close to one million Jews were forced to flee Muslim countries in the 20th century as a result of violence and pogroms. Also deemed unworthy to report is the fact that 22 Muslim countries exist and only one Jewish state, that Arabs started all five wars against Israel and lost every one of them, that Fatah and Hamas Constitutions still call for the destruction of Israel, and that Israel ceded most of the West Bank and all of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority.

Anti—Semitism existed long before Israel achieved statehood in 1948 and persists to this day, despite the lessons that should have been learned as a result of the extermination of six million Jews in the Holocaust. Anti—Semitism takes many forms — slurs, violence, economic and political sanctions, standards of behavior applied more strictly against Israel than other countries, and studied ignorance and indifference to facts. Anti—Semitism in all its forms should be recognized and identified for what it is and not merely easily accepted at face—value as political protest. Just as we condemn a Hollywood actor for anti—Semitic rants, we should condemn, be outraged and deem unacceptable all anti—Semitic behavior.