THE NEW WAVE of anti-Semitism began with a cruel paradox. It took the murder of more than 1,400 Jews, the biggest horror after the Holocaust, for the reawakened anti-Semite to parade hate across streets and classrooms in the West. In the crooked morality of those who have been overwhelmed by the pain of the Palestinians displaced and dispossessed by Israel, loss and sorrow are mere abstractions in the passage of history. What matters in a doctrinaire division of good and evil, and in the larger de-personalisation of the past, is the suitability of a victim that fits the ideological size. Palestinian homelessness is a necessary catalyst for the full formation of post-Holocaust anti-Semitism.
And that is why what the Jews experienced, in the pre-dawn hours of October 7, matters less. What matters, in the prevailing theology of oppression, is the rage running through the veins of the killers from the Gaza Strip who found the image of the oppressor even in the faces of infants. In the veiled semantics of anti-Semitism that animated some of the day-after commentaries, on the internet and in mainstream media, the sudden slaughter was an inevitable reaction, the spontaneity of anger in a wretched space constrained by the exigencies of geopolitics. In the logic of anti-Semitism, only one thing remained constant: the arrogance of the Jews for being alive in a land that is not theirs.
Anti-Semitism, genetically related to anti-Zionism, started as a caricature of exclusion, then of pure hate, in Europe. The racial profiling of the Jew, worse than what Shakespeare had portrayed in The Merchant of Venice, first created the myth of Jewish avarice, and then it became a fairy tale of conspiracy in which the Jew was the subterranean power curator. In Hitler’s Germany, the Jew was institutionalised as the sub-racial other, and the chilling resonance of the Final Solution, monumentalised by Auschwitz, reverberates in history as a reminder: the intensity of hate can legitimise the elimination of an entire race.
Israel was born as the home of Europe’s unwanted Jews, and that was the fact. Simultaneously, in the wake of the human disruption it has caused in a small geographical space with long-held tribal prejudices, a fiction was sanctified: Israel’s right to exist is a crime against the memory of Palestine. The next stage was building an ideological foundation on which the lie of the Jewish state could be erected.
We saw them all joining the mission of formalising the perfect victim and the fictionalised victim. The old romantics of the Palestinian struggle, in which the stone-throwing Intifada kid and the bird of resistance poetry without a sky to fly through provided the customary poignancy, acquired quite a few ideological allies. The Left’s campus zealots, fed on the mythology of the permanent oppression of the colonised, found in the Palestinian displacement an ideal cause to suit their Marxian conscience. Even as the Palestinian struggle, despite the tragedy of the homeless, made terror a legitimate form of resistance, a perfumed version, an Arabian piece on stolen homeland, has taken root in the leftist literature of outcasts. The Jew was recreated as the natural enemy of freedom.
After the genocidal rage of October 7, there was no we-are-all-Israelis-now sentiment sweeping across the world. There was no outright condemnation of Hamas either. Apologists for the Islamisation of the Palestinian struggle, out of politeness maybe, maintained a studied silence. The Israeli response, military power intensified by emotional nationalism, brought them to the vanguard of dissent with an anti-Semitic tinge.
Hamas, the soldiery of radical Islam, gave them what they wanted to see: a picture-perfect war in which the most dispensable lives were the Palestinians’. The images from Gaza, where children constitute half of the population, reinforce why this war serves the purpose of Hamas and its apologists: the dead and the orphaned are a necessary prop for the campaign against Jewish cruelty. They may unmake the fragile terms of the Jewish-Arab rapprochement; but their real contribution is to the further isolation of Jews in the secular spaces of the democratic West. They have made competitive body-counting easier. In the new anti-Semitism, effect is cause.
They are all Palestinians today, students of elitist campuses and artists of cosmopolitan cities and professional protesters everywhere. To be a Jew in the liberal world is to be the sole receptacle of guilt and shame. Once again, the Jew is the one who has been asked to feel the stigma, carry the burden of identity. The new anti-Semitism is not a vindication of the subverted hierarchy of victimhood. It is a cultural project sustained by ahistorical sophistry in which the tragedy of the Jew has already been made redundant by the terror of the Jewish state. The state itself is a lie in the view of Hamas. The new anti-Semitism cannibalises the true agony of Palestinians, the ownership of which entirely belongs to Hamas and the corrupt Palestinian leadership. It reduces an entire people to an anomaly of history. Is there a bigger crime?