I’m a little bit paranoid when it comes to antisemitism. I am looking for it everywhere. I’ve witnessed very few direct attacks. But I see it there bubbling below the surface. I never used to notice at all. I felt that I was living in a time of tolerance. I grew up in a multi-cultural city. Most of my friends were not/are not jews. In college I started studying antisemitism of the past and reading one day I realized something. All periods of profound hatred of Jews (the crucades, the expulsion from spain, the holocaust) came following periods of tolerance. It was when jews were an active part of the secular society that intolerance arose. At that point I realized that it could happen again. It could and it would. Kinda scary to think about.
But it is happening. All over the world. Israel is pointed to as the main catalyst for the rise in hatred but the intolerance goes deeper. You can be against Israel, against the policies, you can be against Zionism, against colonial mentality (i frequently am) but once you start talking about the problems as being the Jews against the Palestinians (rather than the Israelis) you are no longer talking about government and policies you are talking about a people.
This lack of distinction was very clear to me visiting Spain. We did a tour of the Jewish calle (old quarter) in Barcelona and in Gerona. The government in Barcelona, aware of the interest in tourism of the Jewish history, has made an effort to mark certain places. Of course, the Jewish history of Barcelona ended in 1491 following a huge attack. And this Jewish history of Spain ended a few years later. But now there are places marked saying more or less “Jews once lived here.” And many of these markings put up in the past few years are covered in swastikas or as can be seen in this photo- graffitied over saying ‘Palestine Libre.”
In Gerona there is a Jewish museum. In the courtyard one of the people who lives above it has hung a Palestinian flag outside of their window. These things upset me. I’m all for protesting occupation. But what does it have to do with a community that was kicked out of its home hundreds of years ago. Why can’t the distinction be made between the Jewish people and Israel?
The Washington Post yesterday had an article by a British politician about the rise of antisemitism he has been witnessing in Europe. What he is noticing goes beyond Israel and the hatred I have witnessed. It’s deeper and it’s scary:
Europe is reawakening its old demons, but today there is a difference. The old anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism have morphed into something more dangerous. Anti-Semitism today is officially sanctioned state ideology and is being turned into a mobilizing and organizing force to recruit thousands in a new crusade — the word is chosen deliberately — to eradicate Jewishness from the region whence it came and to weaken and undermine all the humanist values of rule of law, tolerance and respect for core rights such as free expression that Jews have fought for over time…We are at the beginning of a long intellectual and ideological struggle. It is not about Jews or Israel. It is about everything democrats have long fought for: the truth without fear, no matter one’s religion or political beliefs. The new anti-Semitism threatens all of humanity. The Jew-haters must not pass.
Maybe what he is saying is too much even for my paranoid mind. Or maybe he’s right on. The article was followed by ten pages of comments which seemed to prove his point. The comment below though it seems to support the Jewish people:
I believe most Americans back, support, and love all Jewish people. Some of us have problems with their government as we do with our own rogue administration.
But note that it’s the Jewish people’s government that they have problems with. Not the Israeli government. The Jewish people. Then there is this comment:
God hate sucks in any form, but if this paper is going to offer a platform for this (and this is not by any means I’ve read this subject of world jew haters in these pages these past couple years, then balance it out and talk about the hate other group have to endure. Unbalance coverage like this makes out to become an propaganda agenda. P.S… personally if I am going to lend a hand out, the first one will be toward the palasteins, not isreal.
The article was not about Israel it was about the rise of antisemitism. It was not written to be propaganda but a warning of a dangerous increase of hatred. Hatred which is clear from the comment. Hatred which is clear in the acts of vandalism this past weekend and at my synagogue while i was in Spain.