Anti-Semitism and the Gaza excuse

Who hasn’t been disturbed by the recent images of Palestinian civilians killed and wounded by the Israeli incursion into urban Gaza? Or deeply troubled by the video of injured children and lifeless bodies? The IDF’s military assault proved both misguided and counterproductive, a disproportionate overreaction to rocket attacks by Hamas. It was exactly the response the Islamist group, and its Iranian sponsors, had hoped to provoke. When active hostilities ceased, Israel’s adversaries had won a victory in the court of world public opinion and for that the Israeli government could blame no one but itself.

Yet legitimate criticism of Israel for its heavy-handed approach is one thing; it is quite another thing to use anger over the Gaza crisis (or protests against “Zionism”) as an excuse for anti-Semitism in its most virulent form, a crude hatred aimed at Jews for their Jewishness. The target of this surge of post-Gaza anti-Semitism has been Jewish individuals and institutions collectively, as if all Jews somehow bore responsibility for Israel’s actions.

In England, anti-Semitic attacks “included assaults, damage to Jewish property, threats, hate mail, verbal abuse and anti-Semitic graffiti,” according to news reports. Synagogues in France, Sweden and Belgium were also attacked and Dutch synagogues were targets of arson or stoning, the Associated Press reported, while some demonstrators at anti-Israel protests in the Netherland “…shouted slogans of ‘Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.'”

Richard Prasquier, the head of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, told the New York Times that the Gaza conflict had spurred anti-Semitism in France among Muslims who: “… don’t see themselves as anti-Semitic; they identify with Palestinians who are victims of Israel. But they use practically the same stereotypes of the old anti-Semitism, of the rich Jew who manipulates governments and is the origin of all evil.”

Daniel Schwammenthal of the Wall Street Journal argued in his piece “Europe Reimports Jew Hatred” that any outrage over Gaza by Muslim immigrants in Europe is the product of an underlying anti-Semitism they brought with them.

The rage against the Jews that is exploding in Europe has been carefully nurtured; it is not spontaneous sympathy for fellow Muslims in Gaza. How else to explain the silence when Muslims in other conflicts, from Darfur to Chechnya, are being killed?

The depth of anti-Semitic propaganda in Palestinian and other Muslim societies is one of the most underreported facts about the Middle East. It is this anti-Semitism that predisposes Muslims in Europe to attack Jews and fuels the Mideast conflict….

The toxin hasn’t been confined to Europe, however, as anti-Semitic incidents were reported in Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela, where President Hugo Chávez has demonized Jews and openly encouraged anti-Semitic propaganda.

The danger ahead

What makes this current wave of anti-Semitism so dangerous is that it comes during a global economic crisis. Societies in distress are fertile ground for the scapegoating of what Yale Law scholar Amy Chua has termed “market dominant minorities” such as Jews, who are resented and envied for their success. (Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia, Nigerian merchants in Africa, Indians in East Africa, and the Lebanese in West Africa have also suffered from prejudice because of their business acumen, Chua notes). While it has been left-wing and Islamic anti-Semitism on recent display, the potential for a resurgence of right-wing bigotry, especially in Europe, cannot be discounted.

Already there are disturbing signs that Jews are being blamed for the current financial crisis. A public opinion survey in Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Spain commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League found “…nearly a third of Europeans polled blame Jews for the global economic meltdown and that a greater number think Jews have too much power in the business world.” It is no wonder that European Jews are jittery.

Fortunately there are voices now being raised, in Europe, in Latin American, and in the United States about this troubling rise in global anti-Semitism. Elected officials in Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have denounced rhetoric linking Israel and Nazi Germany (a common trope in recent demonstrations). And this week the British government is sponsoring a conference on combating anti-Semitism that has attracted nearly 100 legislators from 35 countries. As Irwin Cotler, a former Attorney General for Canada, notes about this “new, lethal, and virulent” form of prejudice: “Silence is not an option. The time has come not only to sound the alarm, but to act. For as history taught us only too well, while it may begin with Jews, it does not end with Jews.”

Copyright © 2009 Jefferson Flanders
All rights reserved

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11 thoughts on “Anti-Semitism and the Gaza excuse



    I have no proof that 420 Arab children were killed in Gaza, but I have relied on the figures quoted by the world’s media. Whether they are authentic or not, I just don’t know.

    If the figure was not 420, maybe it was 320, or 220, or just 120. Perhaps even only twenty. And, I have no evidence of how old these children were. Some were undoubtedly babies or infants – as I have seen photographs of the bodies, but others could well have been eight, or ten – perhaps even teenagers.

    What I do know and what I am very clear about is that the killing of even twenty children – whether infants or not, was a crime as they could have posed no threat to your powerful tanks, planes and helicopter gunships.

    I also know that my religion – I am Jewish – expressly forbids such killings. So does international law. So does the United Nations. And so does Christianity.

    The Geneva Conventions on Human Rights prohibits such unlawful behaviour and anyone alleged guilty of such a war crime must, by international law, be brought before the International Criminal Court to answer such charges.

    That is the law and that is democracy and that is how our society, and your society, works. Otherwise, there is no democracy, no justice and no law and we could all just kill those we wanted out of the way or who were just inconvenient.

    If there were war crimes committed in Gaza, by either side, then those responsible, must be brought to justice. Can you help?

    1. Dear Ms. Pine,

      Did Israel, and/or Hamas, violate the Geneva Conventions during the recent hostilities in Gaza?

      According to the Times of London, the 1949 Geneva Conventions state the following (link here):

      Article 48 — Basic rule
      Parties shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.

      Article 51 — Protection of the civilian population
      Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. Indiscriminate attacks are:

      (a) Those which are not directed at a specific military objective;

      (b) Those which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective

      Among others, the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate:

      (a) An attack by bombardment which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians;

      (b) An attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

      It’s fair to say that Hamas has violated Article 51 in its rocket attacks on civilians in Israel (indiscriminate attacks) and that some of Israel’s actions in Gaza violate Article 51 (proportionality).

      Under the laws of war the death of children is not a war crime per se, if the use of force is not indiscriminate or excessive.

      The morality of war, and what guilt individuals or governments have for the killing of children and innocent civilians, is another matter.

      Context does matter. Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah that embed themselves in urban civilian neighborhoods and launch attacks, hoping for a counterattack, are also pursuing an illegal and immoral course.


  2. Arab Muslims are dreaming yet again through a thick cloud of hashish: the World is not as stupid as they think it is, nor as ignorant as they wish it were.

    The blatant anti-Semitism they try to disseminate is but the initial phase of the “new war” against Christianity and all other civilizations that Islam started nearly 1,400 years ago.

    Playing as always the VICTIMHOOD card, Palestinians accept that Hamas terrorists hide behind children and women; when these innocent victims get hurt or killed, they blame Israel, of course.

    This perverse game could have ended a long time ago were it not for the Islamists’ allies, the old and tired European Left on the lookout for an “ignorant mass” to replace the old proletariat that change sides after the Soviet implosion.

    People must understand and accept a new reality: the so-called “Palestinian state” is but a chimera that is fast disappearing, as the days pass.

  3. Anti-semitism is back, the Devil is back to the world.
    Unfortunately the media do not do enough to make ordinary people understand that this was not a religious war in Gaza. People must know that there was also Muslim soldiers in the Israeli Army.The fact is that the Palestinian are Semites too and that the problem is a political one is not clear to everybody
    Lack of willingness on the part of the western governments to help solving the conflict so that the Israeli children could be able to grow up without fearing rockets falling on their head and the Palestinians to finally have their own country.
    If Palestinians and Israelies cannot come to an agreement,the U N should impose rules on them.WHY is it so difficult for the world to recognise Palestine as a country ?Israel will be safer.

  4. No army kills children as a strategic policy in conflict. Not the British military, nor the French, nor the Italians, Dutch, Australian, Chinese, Russian, Japanese nor even the Germans. Israel is the only country in the world that implements such an odious strategy. The deliberate killing children is anathema to all civilized states. The killing of over 400 children in three weeks is a shocking indictment of the Israeli government. No state can survive if built on the foundation of the oppression of another people and the killing of its children. This is a policy that has no place in Jewish ethics that teaches the enormity of the taking of life – which is always sacred. The only exception is in genuine self-defence to protect one’s own life. Jews the world over look at the images from Gaza of shooting civilians in the head or killing them with cluster bombs and chemicals, with incomprehension and deep sadness that any state and any army could sink to such depths. NOT IN MY NAME AND NOT IN THE NAME OF JEWISH MEN AND WOMEN THE WORLD OVER WHO DISTANCE THEMSELVES ABSOLUTELY FROM THESE ATROCITIES. The only way to peace is by negotiation. More killing and more hatred simply brings more hatred and more killing. There must be a STOP TO ALL ARMS SALES TO THE MIDDLE EAST – PARTICULARLY BY THE US THE UK.

    You are nearly right when you state that “no army …”. The problem is that pro-Jewish as you seem to be, you single out only Israel to have killed children ON PURPOSE without any shred of proof to support this statement.
    The Palestinian extremists and their malignant outgrowth the Islamic terrorists are doing exactly that – killing innocent people, children included, through attacks on exclusively civil population. Or the bomberboys and at times girls are sent to attack the Israel army?
    Wake up or soon it will be your turn and your family’s too.

  6. [complementing and correcting the last line of my previous post]:

    Wake up or soon it will be your turn and your family’s too TO TASTE PALESTINIANS’ CONCERN FOR KILLING CIVILIANS – JEWS, CHRISTIANS, HUNDUS AND EVEN MUSLIMS.

  7. Don’t waste your breathe on Rachel A. Pine. She is probably not even a jew as she claims. Or else she is plain stupid as they come. Three weeks of war and only 1,300 dead. Israel must be bad at war, or tried not to kill innocent civilians.

  8. I am currently doing a research project on whether ignorance and propaganda lead to the stereotyping of Jews and Muslims, would it be possible if I could use this on my Research Paper blog and link back to you with full credit?

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