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Anti-Semitism and the New "Jews"

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Message Bernard Weiner
Recently while surfing the web, I happened onto an article at a number of alternative-press websites by a widely-published internet author.

I couldn't believe what I was reading: the essay was a long diatribe aimed, it seemed, at an amorphous Jewish conspiracy that according to the author is at the heart of what ails America and its policies.

Maybe I misunderstood, I thought -- since the actual word "Jews" was not used -- so I googled the author's name and read another essay by him. This one pulled no punches; it was a defense of Holocaust denial and a scabrous attack on "the Jews" as the evil villains of contemporary society.

I have nothing against the right of anyone to print anything; it's the glory of free speech, and I find reprehensible Austria's throwing David Irving into prison for expressing similar Holocaust-denial thoughts in his writings. (If rightwingers can be jailed for expressing their opinions, at some point it surely will happen to leftwingers. Free speech should always be defended for one and all, the exception being actual incitements to violence -- "shouting fire in a crowded theater," that sort of thing.)

But I wondered whether the website editors had carefully perused what this author was writing in his article, or whether they simply read the first paragraph or two and decided to publish or link to it because he had established a reputation questioning the Bush Administration's Iraq war policies and its 9/11 scenario.

The other possibility, which I didn't really want to consider, was that the editors had read his article carefully and agreed with this kind of racist garbage. Anti-Semitism is universal and, though more prevalent on the Right, also exists on the Left. (Note: I'm not talking about anti-Zionism, i.e., articles opposed to Israeli policy and even to the existence of Israel, about which reasonable minds can agree or disagree. No, I'm referring to out-and-out raging rants about "the Jews," as a people.)


Anti-Semitism on the Left is generally not spoken about, but it's real and appears to be growing. For those so inclined, it's easy to slip from denunications of Israeli policy -- many of us on the Left are quite vocal in opposing Israeli policies and actions -- to out-and-out anti-Semitism.

It's often difficult to locate that fine line. Jew-haters often can hide their true feelings and arguments inside broadsides against Israeli policy, but those opposed vehemently to certain Israeli policies (and I count myself as one of that breed) are definitely not anti-Jewish in this context. So how to tell the difference?

Certainly, AIPAC (the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee) has no problem: Anybody writing anything in opposition to Israeli policies is all too-often smeared with the "anti-Semitic" or "Jew-hater" brush; if they happen to be Jewish, AIPAC types often throw the phrase "self-hating Jew" into the denunication.

In my experience, in order to judge articles about Israelis and Jews somewhat accurately, you sort of have to follow a pundit's writings over time, and discern where the arguments are coming from and where they are going.


Most liberals and leftists, including those who have grave disagreements with Israeli policy and U.S. policy toward Israel, abhor generalized statements about any subgroup of people, be they Jews, Arabs, Muslims, African-Americans, gays, women, et al.

But because U.S.-supported Israeli policies are at the heart of much of the conflict in the Middle East, and thus are connected in some degree to Islamist terrorism around the world, anti-Jewish feelings get stirred up more than usual in these current times.

The anti-Semitism-on-the-Left issue cries out for more in-depth examination as to motive and intent. Perhaps in time, I will be able to delve deeper into this topic. Suffice it to say that elements of anti-Semitism are alive and well not only in the usual hate and neo-Nazi sites on the internet but also can be found where most of us live in alternative, progressive and even mainstream circles.

I realize that I come at this topic from an insider's extra-sensitivity, having been raised Jewish and with many members of my parents' families having perished in the Holocaust. Perhaps I'm over-reacting. I would love to believe that, but I don't really think so. I'd love to hear others' opinions on this development, which might help expand the thesis.

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Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked for two decades as a writer-editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (more...)
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