By Andrew Sullivan, December 23, 2001
A gaffe is perhaps best described as what happens when a politician
accidentally tells the truth. Among professional practitioners of the political arts
this doesn’t occur too often. But every now and then the truth emerges.
So God bless the French ambassador. All he was saying is what many also
privately believe. That “shitty little country”, Israel, has become, among many
European elites, the object of hate that dare not speak its name.
I’m not talking merely about editorials that seem to deny the right of Jews to
emigrate to Israel; or leaders that come close to blaming Israel itself for the
mass murder of its own citizens by Hamas terrorists.
It is simply routine at this point to see ‘balanced’ news reports from the BBC
and the broadsheet British press that morally equate the actions of Israeli
self-defence with the deliberate murder of civilian Jews by Palestinian terrorists.
While Britain and America are allowed to fight a war against terrorism, Israel is
urged to practise self-restraint every time another terrorist massacres another
group of civilians in a restaurant or disco. Supporting Israel as a matter of right
versus wrong is almost unheard of in polite society.
In normal times, this is lamentable but not disastrous. The Jews know
something about survival. They can and will defend themselves.
But in abnormal times, when anti-semitism is spreading across the globe like a
brushfire, it is deeply dangerous. Not since the 1930s has such blithe hatred of
Jews gained this much acceptability in world opinion.
Across the Arab world, in particular, the past decade or so has seen a shift
from mere passive resentment of Jews to a paranoid anti-semitism. That European elites
want to ignore it, or — worse — pander to it, suggests we have learnt nothing from history.
Am I exaggerating? I wish I were. The massacre of September 11 has merely
exposed and accelerated this trend. In the aftermath, a Gallup poll of Pakistanis
found 48% believing that the Jews actually flew the planes into the World
Trade Center, after warning their compatriots to stay away.
This unhinged lie
was routinely reproduced in dozens of Middle Eastern newspapers and remains
the biggest single obstacle to getting Arabs and Muslims to acknowledge
Osama Bin Laden’s guilt.
Al-Ahram, Egypt’s biggest newspaper and the official mouthpiece of the
government, controlled by President Hosni Mubarak, recently published a
particular gem as a compilation of the “investigative work of four reporters on
Jewish control of the world”.
It stated that: “Jews have become the political decision-makers and control
the media in most capitals of the world (Washington, Paris, London, Berlin, Athens,
Ankara).” It claimed: “The main apparatus for the Jews to control the world is the
international Jewish lobby, which works for Israel.”
Or take the official “moderates”. Consider the view of the former imam of New
York’s Islamic Cultural Center, a man described until a short time ago as a
western-leaning mullah sent to New York to spread inter-faith understanding.
After September 11, he disappeared and then popped up in the Middle East
with the following statement: “You see these people (the Jews) all the time
everywhere, disseminating corruption, heresy, homosexuality, alcoholism and
drugs. They do this to impose their hegemony and colonialism on the world.
Now, they are riding on the back of the world powers.”
Then there’s the P.A. newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda: the Muslim-Jewish
conflict “resembles the conflict between man and Satan. This is the fate of the
Muslim nation, and beyond that the fate of all the nations of the world, to be
tormented by this nation (the Jews)”.
Replace the word Muslim with German
and you don’t have an approximation of Hitler. You have Hitler.
Here’s one fact, reported earlier this autumn by Agence France-Presse: Mein
Kampf was recently as high as No 6 on the Palestinian bestseller list. Last
week, Reuters ran a photograph that was barely picked up elsewhere. It was a
picture of Hezbollah youth brigades gathered in a square and all performing the
Nazi salute. If that picture had shown American children doing the same, don’t
you think it would have been splashed on every front page in the world?
In fact, it is a function of condescending racism to the Arabs that we believe
this kind of hate-filled pathology is somehow normal for them.
The left is particularly complicit in this evil. Many western liberals chided
America for withdrawing from the Durban conference on racism last August.
But that conference was the latest high-water mark for Jew-hating.
The infamous, fabricated tract, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, was widely
distributed at the meeting. Questioners were shouted down with cries of “Jew!
Jew! Jew!” The P.A. refuses to include the fact of the Holocaust in its own
What about the following statement by one Ali Aqleh Ursan: “The covetous,
racist, and hated Jew Shylock, who cut the flesh from Antonio’s chest with the
knife of hatred, invades you with his money, his modern airplanes, his missiles,
and his nuclear bombs.”
Is Ursan some fringe extremist? No, he’s the chairman
of the Arab Writers’ Association.
There are, of course, completely legitimate criticisms of Israel and Israeli policy
that have nothing to do with anti-semitism. The settlements policy of P.M. Ariel
Sharon is extremely hard to justify. There are Jewish extremists as well; and
there is brutality in Israel’s conduct in the West Bank and Gaza that deserves
But these valid arguments are light years away from the Jew-hating
that has been fomented by Arab governments for years and tolerated by
western elites for far too long. Such anti-semitism is the fundamental reason
why no peace is possible in the Middle East, because it has so infected every
possible Arab interlocutor that Israel simply has nobody to make peace with. In
fact, unless western governments expose and condemn such anti-semitism no
peace will ever be possible.
And the minute real pressure is put on the Palestinians by the West, we get
results. Hamas’s temporary cessation of suicide bombings in Israel last week is
directly related to the Bush administration’s clear backing for Israel after the
latest terrorist wave. Appeasement is not necessary for peace. In fact, it
Do we remember anything? Sixty years ago such hatred of Jews — unchallenged,
appeased, excused, ignored — led directly to Auschwitz. Its prevalence now in
the Middle East should remove any doubt about the morality of Israel’s
self-defence in these perilous times and shame anyone who trafficks in it.
Yes, this means that Israel’s war against terrorism is the same as our war against
terrorism. And, yes, it is good versus evil all over again.
How much more do we need to know about the nature of Israel’s enemies to
know whose side we should truly be on?