In the wake of a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, Michael Horesh writes about how the anger has shifted:
If I normally write about business in Israel and primarily in Jerusalem, the events of last night force me to discuss what happened in Tel Aviv.
Two young Palestinians, dressed up as orthodox Jews, ordered coffee at the popular Max Brenner restaurant in the trendy Sarona market complex in central Tel Aviv. Nothing wrong in that, except that once they had calmly finished their drinks, they slew at point blank range four fellow customers. The security camera captured the massacre.
Since the Autumn of last year, Israel, and particularly Jerusalem, has been the subject of a number of horrendous terrorist incidents. They typically involved random stabbings of innocent civilians.
However, the attack in Tel Aviv has created a new atmosphere, one that has captured the viewpoint of just about all Israelis, whatever their political or religious take. After the anguish, a feeling of deep, deep, deep anger has rushed to the surface. So what was different about last night?
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At a recent event at Harvard Law School, an extraordinary exchange took place. This letter in the Harvard Law Record explains:
Anti-Semitism is still very real today, and it just showed itself in our community at Harvard Law School.
At the Q&A section of an event last Thursday, an HLS student asked Jewish, Israeli dignitary [former Israeli Foreign Minister and current Israeli Parliament Member] Tzipi Livni: “How is it that you are so smelly? . . . A question about the odor of Ms. Tzipi Livni, she’s very smelly, and I was just wondering.”
The letter goes on to say why this is so offensive, other than being unusally rude in a personal sense:
The stereotype of “the Jew” as “smelly” or “dirty” has been around since at least the 1800s. The Nazis promoted the idea that Jews “smell” to propagandize Jews as an inferior people. The idea that Jews can be identified by a malodor is patently offensive and stereotypes Jews as an “other” which incites further acts of discrimination. The fact that such a hate-filled and outdated stereotype reemerged at Harvard Law School is nothing short of revolting.
At this point we might expect an abject apology from the student concerned. There was a sort of non-apology apology, however, in which people were invited to “reach out” to him/her:
Many members of the Jewish community—some of whom hold strong differences of opinion with me—have reached out to me on their own to let me know that they did not interpret my words as anti-Semitic, because they know me well enough to know that that is not at all consistent with who I am as a person. I want to thank them and any others who have given me the benefit of the doubt, and I am writing this note in the hopes that more of you will do the same.
But there was no apology for calling Tzipi Livni “smelly” – three times, it seems – and no explanation of where this suggestion came from. Speculation has circulated about the organization which the student represents (as its president). So far attention has focused on Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association.
Jonathan Sacks served as Britain’s chief rabbi from 1991 to 2013. He was recently named as the 2016 Templeton Prize Laureate. His latest book is Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence. Here he talks about Jews leaving Europe and North America and some of the factors behind anti-Jewish hatred.
What then is anti-Semitism? It is not a coherent set of beliefs but a set of contradictions. Before the Holocaust, Jews were hated because they were poor and because they were rich; because they were communists and because they were capitalists; because they kept to themselves and because they infiltrated everywhere; because they clung tenaciously to ancient religious beliefs and because they were rootless cosmopolitans who believed nothing.
Anti-semitism is a virus that survives by mutating. In the Middle Ages, Jews were hated because of their religion. In the 19th and 20th centuries they were hated because of their race. Today they are hated because of their nation state, Israel. Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism.
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One of the finest contemporary commentators, Nick Cohen, looks at antisemitism on the left. From the Observer:
It took me 40 years to become a Jew. When I was a child, I wasn’t a Jew and not only because I never went to a synagogue. My father’s family had abandoned their religion so he wasn’t Jewish. More to the point, my mother and my grandmother weren’t Jewish either, so according to orthodox Judaism’s principles of matrilineal descent, it was impossible for me to be a Jew.
All I had was the “Cohen” name. I once asked my parents why they had not changed it. After saying, quite rightly, that you should never seek to appease racists, they confessed to thinking that antisemitism was over by the 1960s. After Hitler, humanity would surely see where the world’s most insane hatred led and resolve to put it to one side.
Bertolt Brecht said: “Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.”
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From Labour Friends of Israel:
Co-Chair of Oxford University Labour Club resigns over its endorsement of Israel Apartheid Week; reveals evidence of antisemitic discourse; LFI Vice-Chair Louise Ellman MP “deeply disturbed” by reports
The Co-Chair of Oxford University Labour Club resigned this week following its endorsement of Israel Apartheid Week.