Anti-Semitism is like a dormant virus, relatively quiet most of the time in respectable society and discourse, but which bursts out into the open now and again, usually in times of economic and psychological crisis. The resulting social rash can be deadly. And there is no vaccine, other than shining the light of truth on ignorance, with which to combat the disease of hate. (In America, overt racism against blacks similarly is a virus that tends to lie dormant until suddenly bursting out in tense times.)
Since the Israel/Palestine situation goes unresolved decade after decade, and since the explosive region there is so much at the heart of U.S. policy and thus of resistance to that policy, it should not surprise anyone that the virus of anti-Semitism is erupting once again, and in so many areas.
Just a few examples:
THE FORGED "PROTOCOLS"
* We get more than the usual number of anti-Semitic letters these days at The Crisis Papers, mostly disguised but more often recently out-and-out Nazi-type screeds directed at "the Jews. " For the most part, we don 't print them, but every so often we do so to reveal to our readers the level of what passes for intelligent debate from some on the Right fringes. (And how far are the incendiary comments about "traitorous" liberals by the likes of Coulter, Horowitz, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and Savage from crossing the line into incitement-speech?)
* In earlier years, world leaders would not speak openly in anti-Semitic terms; but recently, for example, officials from Malaysia and Iran in public speeches have stoked the fires of anti-Jewish suspicion and hatred. And just a few years ago, Egyptian TV broadcast a documentary filled with anti-Jewish propaganda, based largely on the long-discredited forgery called "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, " about an alleged Jewish plot to rule the world. Schools in many Muslim countries (including states allied with the U.S.) continue to teach their young students to hate Jews, likewise using the phony "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" as their starting point.
* The fact that there are a number of well-known Jews at the heart of the neo-conservative movement in America -- most notably Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith -- has engendered a good many rants about how "the Jews " control U.S. foreign policy and have taken America to war in Iraq for reasons having more to do with protecting Israel than America. (Ignored in these screeds are the majority of non-Jews involved in the neo-con and HardRight movements, and the influence of Christian Zionists and the military/industrial/Big Oil complex on American foreign policy.)
* The Left was somewhat split over last weekend's anti-war demonstrations. Many liberals chose not to participate in the large marches organized by one of the main national anti-war groups, A.N.S.W.E.R. ("Act Now to Stop War & End Racism"), because that outfit's emphasis on Palestinian statehood at the expense of Israel's existence -- thus implying that Jews need to be eliminated from the region -- is both offensive and ill-advised; the group also is much criticized for co-opting rallies organized by other anti-war groups and bringing a whole host of domestic and foreign issues into marches supposedly devoted to getting the U.S. out of Iraq. Those not choosing to march with A.N.S.W.E.R. avoided Saturday's rallies or made other arrangements; many are gearing up for the April 29 nationwide demos being organized by United for Peace, which concentrates less on side issues and mostly on ending the war in Iraq.
Well, one could go on and on with such a listing. The point is that scapegoats are required in any time of crisis. Often those scapegoats are "the Jews, " but at other times and at other places, the focus of hate is directed at "the liberals, " "the blacks, " "the gays, " "the Arabs," and so on.
"KILLING EACH OTHER, OF COURSE"
I recall my travels in Yugoslavia when Tito was holding together that artificially-constructed, multi-ethnic country by force of his charisma and his Communist police-state. I asked all the academics and students I ran into what would happen when their leader died. It didn 't matter whether these reasonable intellectual types were Serbs or Croats, Christian or Muslim, the answer was always the same: "When Tito dies? We 'll go back to killing each other, of course. "
But, I protested, you 've lived together in peace for decades now, you are often good friends and colleagues, you even intermarry; why would you revert back to such brutal ways of dealing with each other, to a kind of vicious tribalism? The answer I got was heartbreaking in its scapegoat simplicity: "Because you can 't trust the [insert name of ethnic or religious group], they 're all liars and thieves. " When, years later, the Serbs and Croats began slaughtering each other, I was appalled but not surprised. Ancient rivers run deep.
And Jews are, in some ways, as ancient as they come, and therefore throughout history have served as handy scapegoats when an outlet is needed for blame and resentment.
THE NEW "JEWS"
But there are Jews and there are those who might be considered the new "Jews," who take their lumps as well: homosexuals, Chinese in Southeast Asia, Palestinians and other Arabs in Israel and the U.S. (and often also in Arab nations), African-Americans in the South and in the inner cities, Mexican immigrants, whoever. It 's the same process of stereotyping and repression, which often leads to discrimination and violence, even when the group being victimized changes.