The December 15th issue of New York magazine has an excellent piece on the rising worldwide tide of anti-Semitism. The issue takes a critical look at the way in which anti-Zionism is rapidly developing into anti-Semitism and the reasons why Israel has become "the Jew among nations" – an entity held to a different and hypocritical standard to others.
The American Jewish Committee’s David Harris was living in Europe at the time, and he remembers how the Palestinian narrative began to take hold. “A kind of quick collective amnesia set in among the Europeans, and at times I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. The people I discussed the issue with largely dismissed, ignored, or relativized the Israeli side of the story.”
Harris believes that embracing the Palestinian story line enabled the Europeans to avoiding facing some difficult questions. Had it been a mistake to support Arafat all along? Why had they been funding Palestinian Authority institutions, including schools that continue to dehumanize Jews and continue to use textbooks and maps that picture a world with no Israel?
Many believe that taking the Palestinian side after Arafat blew up the peace process even provided the Europeans a kind of expiation of their collective Holocaust guilt. According to this view, Israeli violence enabled the Europeans to say, “Look, you are an occupying, colonialist state engaging in war crimes. You no longer have the moral high ground.”
Finally, bashing the Israelis enabled the various governments to try to curry favor with their alienated Muslim populations. “The whole thing just kept spiraling,” Harris says. “And very quickly the story line was this: Israeli violence was unjustified, and therefore they were actually responsible for the Palestinian violence unleashed on them.”
I think the explanation explains a good amount of the motivating factors behind the explosion of anti-Semitism, although I would disagree about collective Holocaust guilt being the reason. The groups that are leading this vanguard of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are groups that never experienced the Holocaust except through the lens of the media and history books. Those who experienced the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust have no such luxury of moral relativism – they have experienced what the brilliant philosopher Hannah Arendt described as "the banal face of evil."
The driving force behind anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Zionism are those who grew up on a steady diet of moral relativism and multiculturalist dogma. If one is taught that one cannot judge a moral culture with any absolute moral barometer, why not call those who kill children with explosives and deadly shrapnel "freedom fighters" while a state that builds a wall to prevent this as being "Nazis?" (The comparions between Israel and Nazi Germany are particularly disgusting as they trivialize the Holocaust and slander the many Israelis who are either survivors of the Holocaust or descended from survivors.) A moral system without any prevailing moral compass can encompass such obvious hypocrisies without considering how truly illogical and morally reprehensible they are.
The fact remains that the Arab world is awash in anti-Semitism, and it is spreading. Criticism of Israeli policy is acceptable public discourse. Tacitly or directly supporting the cold-blooded murder of Israelis and Jews is not. Unfortunately too many fall prey to such notions when discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When supporters of Palestinian statehood argue that Sharon is Hitler revisted, and legitimacy their argument may have had flies out the window.