The new wave of anti-Semitism is sustained by an ahistorical misreading of the origins of terror and the struggle for existence
The news from Mumbai was not alarming. Enraged by the ‘genocidal’ fury of Israel in Gaza, where civilians are being bombed for the ‘freedom struggle’ of Hamas, certain shopkeepers in the city have begun to boycott American and Israeli goods. According to a newspaper report, in a restaurant run by a Muslim, the justification for the boycott, and the promotion of local products, was written on the wall: ‘We do not want to strengthen the hands of the killers of humanity.’ This show of solidarity with the ‘martyrs’ is not alarming because we have been there before. Remember those days when Saddam Hussein, smoked out of his golden palace on the Tigris, was running from one spider hole to another, in true troglodyte style, to escape American missiles? In places as remote as Calicut, human chains were formed to declare ‘We’re with you Saddam’, and the Ba’athist despot got a second life in graffiti on the walls of Malabar. Such moments bring the communal constituencies that identify with the global struggle of Islam and communists who live on the slogans of anti- imperialism together. India is an ideal place for such confluences because the so-called Third World causes still have a market here. There was a time when the best of our valued guests were the bloated freedom fighters turned tyrants of Africa— and other worthies of the Non Aligned Movement. Even the homeless Yasser Arafat felt at home in New Delhi. So the Mumbai restaurateur was only living up to a hoary Indian tradition.
That said, he is still a more civilised protestor than the one multiplying in the streets of England and Europe. Anti- Semitism has staged a horrifying comeback in the wake of the war between Israel and Hamas. In Britain, more than 100 incidents of anti-Semitic violence have been reported in the month of July. From London to Paris to Berlin, synagogues were stoned and kosher markets were attacked, and every Jew, Israeli or not, was abused as being worthy of only gas chambers. As the columnist Richard Ferrer writes in The Independent of London, ‘Looking at them all marching and hysterically slandering Israel as a ‘terrorist state,’ it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Israel is the best and worst thing that’s happened to the Jews.’ Such sentiments are inevitable because the new slogans of hate include ‘Heil Hitler’, ‘Child Murderers’ and even panegyrics on the Holocaust. In the words of Natan Sharansky, a survivor of Siberia, ‘I believe we are seeing the beginning of the end of Jewish history in Europe. What makes the situation in Europe unique in history is the fact that Europe has become very intolerant of identities in a multicultural and post-nationalist environment. This anti-Semitism is connected to Israel—demonisation, delegitimisation and double standards—and is now so deep in the core of European political and intellectual leaders that practically every Jew is being asked to choose between being to loyal to Israel and loyal to Europe.’(The Jewish Chronicle)
What lies beneath this imagery of the bad Jew is the twisted narrative of good and evil—or victim and aggressor—in the Middle East. The current war began with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, and at this moment, Israel wants to destroy the Hamas project of building tunnels into its territory. There are two fundamental fallacies about the arguments built on Israeli violence and Hamas resistance. First: Some commentators are so worried that the Israeli casualty is much less than the Palestinian toll of more than a thousand. It is as if a higher Israeli body count will make this war a just one. Second: If this war is an unequal war, it is because of Hamas, which is not a state or a legitimate representative of Palestinians; it is a shadowy terrorist organization, as opposed to Fatah, which controls West Bank through the Palestine Authority. Hamas is engaged in a war with a country which it thinks has no right to exist. And its idea of freedom is the same medieval fantasy pursued by any other radical Islamist organisation. So equating Palestinian freedom with Hamas is to reduce the Palestinian issue to a variation of global jihad. In spite of its terrorist back story, Fatah is the only organisation worthy of being in any peace negotiation.
Strangely, what matters in the time of the second wave of anti-Semitism is not the Palestinian tragedy, but Israel as the convenient bogeyman. More Muslims in the Middle East were killed by rogue Muslim rulers, the latest among them being Bashar Assad. There were no street parodies of intifada though. The new wave of anti-Semitism is sustained by an ahistorical misreading of the origins of terror and the struggle for existence.