Memoirs of an Anti-Anti-Semite

David Mamet, in his 2006 book The Wicked Son, throws out a Molotov cocktail in his first paragraph: “The world hates the Jews.” That’s strong language, and one needs to back it up these days in order not to be called an anti-anti-Semite.

What’s an anti-anti-Semite, you ask? Someone who has it in for anti-Semites and their nasty world view. Spotting anti-Semites used to be easy, before they went underground. Anti-Semitism used to be quite common, especially here in Europe, where most countries decided at one point or another in their history that the Jews living within their borders were far too many. These people didn’t want to live near so many Jews, so they periodically drove them out or killed them. This was the opposite end of the spectrum from “light” Jew-hatred, as in T.S. Eliot’s poem “Burbank With a Baedeker:”

The rats are underneath the piles.
The jew is underneath the lot.

As if to amplify his hatred through orthography, note that Eliot wrote “jew’ and not “Jew.” The Nazis would perfect the dehumanization process within a few decades of the publication of Eliot’s poem. For further discussion of Eliot’s anti-Semitism, see Anthony Julius, T.S.Eliot, anti-Semitism, and Literary Form.

This is just a brief reminder that anti-Semitism was once a commonplace in “civilized societies.” It went out of style after the Shoah,  because the anti-Semites were forced to recognize the consequences of their hatred. Or perhaps because a new culture of “human rights” was developed to safeguard the world against future genocides (the term was coined by Raphael Lemkin). This new culture is embodied by the UN, an organization which has spent more time condemning the State of Israel for long-term border disputes than any other country or conflict on earth.

Which brings us to anti-Zionism, which replaces anti-Semitism through the use of a “legitimate” target: Israel. As a modern state, the logic goes, Israel shouldn’t be exempt from criticism. Agreed. But it isn’t as if Jews, before Israel came into existence, had been exempt from criticism–quite the opposite. So now the game is to suffocate the Jewish State with lawfare, beating the ploughshares of “human rights” discourse into the swords of anti-Zionism. But even so, is anti-Zionism simply anti-Semitism in disguise?

We live in an age when many people have a romantic idea of murdered Jews. Europe is positively in love with the concept of the “diaspora Jew,” the embodiment of the rootless cosmopolitanism which has become the new European dream now that nationalism is–ahem–dead. No matter that this same “international Jew” was the target of Henry Ford, Stalin and Hitler. But a Jew-free Europe is a nostalgic Europe (except for France and England, there are only negligible Jewish communities in Europe today–and take a look at France and England to see how they adore their Jews).

Paul Kriwaczeck, in the opening pages of his book Yiddish Civilization, writes of an elderly Polish woman who makes a living handcrafting wooden figures of Hasidic rabbis. The author notes that “such a gift at Easter is supposed to bring good fortune.” That the craftswoman may never have seen a Hasidic Jew in the flesh is no matter. “They are part of our culture,” she says. A taxi driver elaborates: “In the distant future Polish people will recount to each other stories about a time long, long ago when Jews lived among us. But they will be like the folk tales other nations tell their children about ogres, giants and fairies.”

So in a world without Jews, one must simply invent them. If you can’t take them in person, perhaps a lucky figurine will be easier to swallow. Israel makes things a lot easier in another respect: you can hate the Jews from afar, without ever having to come into contact with them face to face. In Arab and Muslim countries where millions revel in anti-Semitic propaganda a la Der Stürmer, the revelers have probably never seen a Jew, much less an Israeli. They get their rocks off hating an image.

All this to say that spotting anti-Semites is hard work. Even the real ones hide behind more acceptable ideologies today. Their venom is still poisonous, mind you. It’s just that it takes a detective to root them out. Once you’ve got one pegged, however, watch your tongue, because calling an anti-Semite by his real name will only get you a libel suit. “Anti-anti-Semite!” Right back at ya’, babe.

So if you write something criticizing Israel’s critics for their lack of precision, invention and originality, or because they criticize Israel for stuff everyone does worse, or for things that simply ain’t true, you get called an anti-anti-Semite. The Israel Lobby has become the “acceptable” version of this knee-jerk defense mechanism, counter-criticism to silence all criticism.

It has been pointed out recently on this blog (see comments) that Israel is a racist country because it is impossible to become a citizen unless you are a Jew. I don’t have to tell you that there are around a million Arab citizens of Israel for you to know this is bull. What lies beneath this canard, however, is strange and disturbing. Let’s get this straight: for centuries, millennia even, Europeans ghettoized, expelled and murdered Jews so as not to have to live with them in peace. Muslims were better, as long as Jews knew their place and kept to it. Now there are very few Jews left in any Arab-Muslim lands. Most of the world is happily judenrein. And now that the Jews are gone, they bitch because they can’t all move to Israel and become Israeli citizens? Since when does everyone want to live in a Jewish neighborhood, anyway?

14 thoughts on “Memoirs of an Anti-Anti-Semite

  1. Hehe. I am glad I managed to disturb you enough to write a blog about it.
    I want to correct something though. When people talk how hard it is for non-jews to get israeli citizenship, they of course talk about the arabs. As there are very few non-jews in the world who would get it in their head to migrate to Isreal. Now, with regards to those Arabs. Nobody is saying that there are no non-jews in Israel. You haven’t been paying attention. Critics are saying that it is nearly impossible for non-jews to BECOME israeli citenzens. Arabs that are born in this region, from parents born in this region, and fled during nabka, can’t go back and live in this region. That is very different from any other region in the world, usually people don’t ‘lose’ their right to live in the place where there were born. Not in modern day western nation-states. Just mentioning it because it bothers me people reading your blogs getting the wrong information. Also, it is actually prohibited by law for westbank, gaza and jeruzalem arabs to go and live with their spouse in Israel. Israeli Arabs often marry occupied territory arabs, the latter can’t join their spouses by moving to israel and get israeli citzenship. A very strange situation.
    When it comes to semitism, anti-semitism, anti-anti-semitism, i think all this labelling, paranoia, counter-paranoia is unproductive. It is arguing through ad hominem attacks. It is of course very pleasurable to call somebody racist or something but not productive. It is more productive to come with solutions and to work towards those solutions that make the world more fair, equal and less cruel.

    1. “Arabs that are born in this region, from parents born in this region, and fled during nabka, can’t go back and live in this region. That is very different from any other region in the world, usually people don’t ‘lose’ their right to live in the place where there were born. Not in modern day western nation-states.”

      So you never read about WWII, Sandra, with its millions of displaced Europeans? Or the six million or so murdered Jews who can’t return to their homes? Or the native Americans who live on reservations in the land of their birth (and mine)? Or the million or so “Arab Jews” who were kicked out of their homes and can’t go back–and were never compensated with a penny by any of the countries that tossed them out for the crime of being Jews?

      I’m sure the Congolese are overjoyed to know your thoughts are with them.

  2. A little documentation to back up my claim that Israel has institutionalized racism under the cover of ‘security concerns’, not only are there a lot of practical measures that make immigration nearly impossible for non-jews, there are actually laws prohibiting migration for non-jews. The link refers to an article published in the ‘Northwestern University Journal of International Human Rights’ . It discusses one of a few racist law called ‘Citizenship and Entry into Israel’.
    This is what the article says about this law: “The law, passed July 31, 2003 prohibits Palestinian spouses from obtaining citizenship, permanent residency and temporary residency status in Israel by marriage to an Israeli citizen, a process referred to as “family reunification.” The provision also applies to children from the territories (West Bank and Gaza) who wish to live with an Israeli Arab parent…” The fact that not even children can come and live with their Israeli arab parents goes to show that ‘security reasons’ are not really the raison d’etre for this law. In the words of the writer of the article:
    “The Nationality and Entry into Israel Law may be construed as an effort to preserve a clear Jewish majority over Arabs—not only by preventing migration across the territory borders, but also by burdening marriage and, consequently, reproduction. Palestinian citizens of Israel (Israeli Arabs) comprise approximately one-fifth of the country’s population, and the Jewish majority has an interest in retaining its superior numbers, which matter in a representative democracy such as Israel. Although Israeli Arabs vote and have the same individual rights as Jewish Israelis, Israeli Arabs face discrimination in all facets of life ”

    I would be interested in your comments on this law. I hope you can do it without insulting either me, the arabs the palestinians or the pope, hehe.

    1. As usual, ‘Owl’ fails to observe that if Israel does not maintain a clear Jewish majority it is finished, at which point it will become just another Arab-Muslim country with its own discriminated minorities (I’m being optimistic) in a part of the world full of them already. But, in her world, Jewish survival is “racism.” None of her criticism applies to other countries, making her something of a you-guessed-it-I-don’t-have-to-spell-it-out-for-you.

  3. I did not fail to do anything. It is not my job to observe the reasons for israel’s racist laws. I don’t know from where you attribute to yourself the right to tell me what and what not I should ‘observe’. I am pointing out that Israel’s laws and pratices are racist and that there are big policy differences for jews and non-jews in becoming Israeli. I can try to understand why Israel is so messed up and incidentally I do (see my blogs) but I am simply responding to your inaccuracies in your blogs. I have no time explaining back to 2000 years ago why israel is doing what it is doing in every respons to a blog full of nonsense and besides it doesn’t justify anything in my opinion. Also there are plenty of people more than happy to explain why Israel needs to be exclusive Jewish.
    But anyway. At least now you admit to the racism. What took you so long? Instead of spending so much time calling me ignorant and anti-semite you should have done your research. I had to dig this law out and rub your nose into it before you would acknowledge it exists.
    So now the racism exists but is justified according to you because of the justifiable jewish desire the keep out at much as possible the non-jewish undesirable elements. Where did we hear this logic before? Racist laws being justified because people have a right to ethnic purity… Hm
    Tell that to the children of arabs that can’t join their arab family in israel because of the fact that they are of the wrong ethnicity, religion, tribe, whatever you want to call it.
    I call it neuremberg laws second edition.

    With regards to other human rights violating countries; I have no trouble whatsoever condemning them for any human righs violating laws, actions, practices etc. Iran, Egypt, Myamar, Sudan, are all at least as bad as Israel. hehe. Now good? Since you mention this so often and expect everybody else to mention them in the same breath with israel, i suggest you should become involved in the human rights struggle. I almost hope they will call you a racist or an islamophobe. for pointing out that one tribe (arab africans) are slaughtering an other one (black africans) by the thousands. I almost hope they will demand from you a deep understanding for the atrocities of the arab sudanese and an equal condemning of every other country in the world where crimes against humanity occur.
    Almost. Because in the end, all this namecalling and BS serves no purpose. It just breeds more resentment. And I rather have you use your energies saving darfurians than having to defend yourself against accussations of racism. It’s a shame you can’t extend the same courtesy to your opponents.

    By the way, a good organisation to start with is the Safedarfur organisation. They need funds.

  4. MARC – excellent post!

    As you rightly note: it has become a simple matter for anti semites to hide their hatred, these days. They simply state ‘Oh, I have no issue with Jews. I just dislike zionists.’

    But of course, this is like stating:

    ‘Oh, I have no issue with Irish people. I just dislike ANY IRISH PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT THE EXISTENCE *OF* IRELAND.’

    For let us be clear:

    zionist = someone who supports Israel’s ***right to exist***

    If you are ‘anti zionist’ then you are AGAINST the right of Israel to EXIST.

    Now, of course, one can criticise Israel, and that is fine.

    Of course, one can criticise and condemn Israeli politicians, and policies, and actions – and that is fine.

    But any time someone MISrepresents the facts by asserting that:
    – Israel is ‘racist’
    – Jews are ‘alien’ to the middle east
    – Jews ‘displaced’ Arabs
    – Jews ‘stole’ land
    – Israel is wantonly ‘murdering’ Palestinians

    – ANY AND ALL OF THESE are *lies*.

    Again, to be crystal clear:

    anti zionist = opposed to Israel’s right to EXIST

    ***Apologies, Marc, for repeating things that you know, it’s just that in my experience many people have a less sophisticated understanding than your good self 🙂

  5. Oy gevalt…

    I can hardly BELIEVE that yet AGAIN, I am having to correct ‘Owl’ on the exact same point that I have already corrected her on UMPEEN TIMES THIS WEEK ALONE.

    OWL: It is not ‘almost impossible’ for non Jews to become Israeli citizens. I PERSONALLY KNOW MANY NON JEWS who now live happily AS Israeli citizens!

    They became Israelis just as easily as one becomes a German, or an American, or an Italian.

    Your refusal to accept this BASIC TRUTH is indicative of your fundamental dislike of Israel, up to and including a desperation to ONLY believe bad things about it.

  6. OWL writes:

    ‘Also there are plenty of people more than happy to explain why Israel needs to be exclusive Jewish.’

    Er, how is Israel ‘exclusive jewish’ if 30% OF ISRAELI CITIZENS ARE *****************NON JEWS****************??????

  7. OWL

    – tell you what. When I see you give A FRACTION of the condemnation to the Islamic states where NO NON MUSLIMS have any basic rights and where NO JEWS CAN LIVE AT ALL, then I will state that you are not being biased against Israel.

    Just tossing in one sentence about these other nations doesn’t cut it.

    Either judge ALL countries by the SAME moral standards, or stop banging on about Israel.

    Are you even aware that Jordan has always officially BANNED ANY JEW from citizenship?

    Where is all your righteous fury over the ONE MILLION JEWS who were kicked out of EVERY ARAB AND MUSLIM STATE overnight, with literally nothing but the shirt on their backs?

    What about THEIR right of return…?

    Where are your impassioned posts about THEM?

  8. to jew with a view,
    as usual, your post contains no content whatsover. It is simply a meaningless elaboration of the meaningless labels of ‘anti-zionist, anti-semite’ etc. We are still left with racist laws and practices within Israel and a few million displaced palestinians in westbank and gaza that you still have no commented upon.
    Again, we are not talking about other countries. We are talking about Israel. If people talk about the US do you also demand that they discuss France, Germany, The netherlands, belgium, Poland, Sweden, the UK etc?
    It is a shame you don’t spend as much time doing a little research about Israel and its laws instead of spending so much time trying to prove that somebody is an anti-semite. Or whatever label you want to give me. You and your stupid labels. We are talking here about the discrimination against non-jews in becoming Israeli. Discrimination against Arabs that were born in Palestine from arabs born in palestine and up to this day still have the deeds to their old houses. You can argue like Marc does that racist laws are justified because people have the right to be an ‘exclusive’ jewish country. So jews can expel people from their land, or prevent them from coming back because they are not jewish. Fine. Then say so instead of all this stupidity about zionism and anti-semitism.

  9. By the way, with regards to other human right violating countries, I AM involved in fighting human rights abuses in other countries, except, since not as much nonsense about these other countries is written as is written about palestine, we don’t have to blog relentlessly about it. We all agree that human right abuses are going on in Congo. We don’t have to fight lies about it. Unfortunately my energies are limited, I am just one person. I wish I could do a lot more than what I do.
    I don’t even have to tell you this. It is absolutely none of your business what I do in my free time and which ‘countries’ I volunteer for. I am telling you because frankly I feel a bit sorry for you, believing as you do I am blogging about Israel because I hate you. I don’t hate you. You don’t have to hate people to fight for justice, you only have to hate the injustice.

  10. a little glimpse in Israel’s increasingly undemocratic practices:
    a little summary of the article:
    The article discusses the ban on reporting in gaza, the arrests of a journalist who had entered gaza, the raiding of offices of peace activists, it also mentions the story of an israeli tourguide that compared the holocaust trauma with the palestinian’s trauma. Apparently, there is a rule that forbids comparing holocaust suffering to other suffering. As if all suffering doesn’t have something in common that allows is to compare it with each other. Anyway, needless to say, the tourguide was fired.
    The article also discusses how they are talking about prohibiting the arabs in Israel to commemorate nabka, how the government is increasingly trying to control which information is being spread, which stories are being told, etc. The are not matters of opinion, the arrests, raiding and firing of people are simple facts.
    All this resulting in Freedom House (founded among others by Eleanor Roosevelt) downgrading Israel’s press status from “free” to “partly free, which of course right away caused israeli government officials to call Freedom House to be a ‘ridiculous’ organization.
    There are a lot of countries where the situation is a lot worse. However, if I was israeli, I would be seriously concerned about these serious restrictions on free speech. The first thing a fascist government does is restricting acces to the truth.
    What I am wondering is if Israeli citizens are aware of these evolutions and if they agree with it?

  11. are you saying it happened in the past so it should continue to happen in the future? What exactly are you saying? My whole point is that these sort atrocities should no longer happen anywhere. They shouldn’t have happened anywhere in the first place. I mean isn’t the point of the whole human rights movement to evolve towards a world where such things don’t happen anymore? I honestly don’t know where you are going with this. You seem to be saying that because it happened in the US and the whole history of europe is written in blood we should allow other countries to do the same thing?

    With regard to you stupid comment about the congolese, i am inclinced to tell you what you can you with your meaningless sarcastic comments but i wont.

  12. in case you or anybody else that reads this blog wants to do something small but significant for the darfurians (which are in Sudan, not Congo) here is a link, (savedarfur is trying to collect 50000 signatures for a open letter to Obama with regards to the humanitarian catastrophe that is still unfolding itself in southern Sudan, plus rain season coming up).

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