Friday, November 19, 2010

As Virulent Antisemitism Grows, Jewish and Government Institutions Refuse to Name the Real Cause

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By Barry Rubin

At a time when antisemitism is at the highest point in the West and the world generally since 1945, the battle against it faces a terrible obstacle.

To a very large extent, the driving force of this hatred is revolutionary Islamism, whether it be in the form of attitudes promoted by many Muslim immigrants to the West, or from anti-Israel propaganda generated by Islamist groups and their (usually) leftist allies in the West (directly or indirectly), or from Iran or Arabic-language media in the Middle East.

The information in the above paragraph should not be surprising. Yet large sectors of Western society are in denial about these realities. To speak of it would require them to do something. Criticism of the left can be portrayed as right-wing. Criticism of powerful sectors in academia, media, and intellectual life can be costly to one’s career. Criticism of insane slanders of Israel can be portrayed as cynically branding all criticism of Israel as antisemitic. And criticism of radical Islamists can be portrayed as some kind of “racist” bigotry.

I wrote “can be portrayed” but, of course, the correct phrase should be: is so portrayed on a daily basis.

Nobody wants to be portrayed as racist or bigoted; most people in academia, media, and intellectual life view being called “right-wing” as an equally horrifying assault; and the kind of people who could fight this battle are usually also engaged in building their careers.

Checkmate. Reality distorted. People shut up. Problem grows like a fertilized weed.

And, of course, that is the goal of the anti-Israel often anti-Jewish strategy that creates such responses to silence correction, complaint, or criticism.

Part of the problem also lies with Jewish history and attitudes that make it hard to acknowledge that the leading cause of antisemitism and main danger to the Jewish people today is not neo-Nazis and Skinheads but comes from revolutionary Islamism and the far left. Fascism is no longer a powerful political ideology; the Russian czar fell a long time ago. It is time to acknowledge the environment of the twenty-first century rather than being obsessed with the previous ones.

An example of this kind of problem is demonstrated by the behavior of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which is (supposed to be) the main defense organization fighting antisemitism in the United States and the world. Recently, ADL head Abe Foxman found the time to bash controversial television and radio commentator Glenn Beck for what was in fact a carefully worded, perfectly unobjectionable account of George Soros. Soros is funder of many anti-Israel groups and has contributed to the current problems described above.

But Beck is a safe target, albeit a totally innocent one when it comes to antisemitism. Many American Jews, who are overwhelmingly liberal, are suspicious of him because he is conservative although he is outspokenly pro-Jewish and pro-Israel. That combination of characteristics is rather common in the changed atmosphere of the current era.

Where, however, is the ADL when it comes to Islamist hatred of Jews? Well, pretty much nowhere. This is made apparent in a new study, “An Analysis of the Anti-Defamation League’s Press Release Archive as a Measure of the Organization’s Priorities,” by Eliyahu ben Avraam. I know the researchers and consider them to be very accurate, conscientious, and—by the way—liberal.

Of 3841 ADL press releases produced over the last 15 years, only `1.4 percent focuses on Islamic extremism and 1.3 percent on Arab antisemitism (or hatred of Jews, if you prefer). Even given this limited scope, most of these were issued in the 1990s (almost half of these in 1996 alone) and less than a dozen have been produced in the nine years since September 11, 2001.

And what proportion of the releases has highlighted traditional, right-wing antisemitism from Nazis and Christian extremists? Answer: 43.5 percent.

About five percent have dealt with terrorism in all of its forms, both domestic and international so some of these also touched on Islamist groups.

Regarding materials on Israel and the Middle East, of 737 press releases issued, a total of three deal with Islamist-based material: Jan ’01: “ADL Calls on PA and Islamic Leaders to Condemn Perversion of Religious Symbols;”Apr ’01: “ADL denounces claim by Muslim leaders that Pokeman game is "Jewish Conspiracy;"” Nov ’01: “ADL Says Anti-Semitic and Anti-American Reports in Arab and Muslim Media "Foment Anger And Hate.")

This is at a time of rampant hatred for Jews being preached in sermons, written about in newspapers, purveyed by several governments, and motivating war and terrorism on Israel. Yet practically none of the ADL releasesdeal with Islamist ideology, according to the study.

Of course, this is not a question of the ADL alone. It is apparent, for example, that the European Union is desperate to avoid naming the real sources of antisemitism in its member states, going so are as suppressing one study that it had commissioned when that research came up with the “wrong” answer and pointed to Islamist extremism.

This statistical analysis of the ADLs activities is an accurate reflection of the fear of many Jewish institutions and the disinterest of all too many governmental and liberal or social democratic forces throughout the West really dealing with this issue except in the most vague, feel-good, and historically-oriented terms.

By the way, here are two little stories that signify the insanity loose, though both pertain to Western supporters of terrorist and Islamist groups--the most insidious danger--rather than Islamism directly.

In the first, Dutch newspapers (reminiscent of the blood libel carried by a top Swedish newspaper not long ago) gave uncritical publicity to an interview with a Dutch filmmaker claiming he personally witnessed former Israeli Prime Minister shoot and kill two Palestinian children in Lebanon. Sharon was hundreds of miles away at the time and internal contradictions--none of them pointed out in the original stories--showed the accusation was nonsense. Perhaps the claim was inspired by the award given to a British newspaper cartoon showing Sharon eating Palestinian children.

Meanwhile, in Canada, a rabbi who merely wrote a letter to the president of York University complaining about an invitation to speak being given to George Galloway, a former recipient of Saddam Hussein's largesse who is an outspoken supporter of Hamas, among other things, the university president threatened to file a criminal complaint against the rabbi. The university administration has never done such things on past occasions when, for example, Natan Sharansky's talk on campus was disrupted.

These two incidents don't go to the direct actions and propaganda by revolutionary Islamist groups, but they are the kind of spin-off happening that is spreading antisemitism, supporting terrorist groups, and undermining Western democracy.

If you don't talk about the real sources of this new antisemitism, action against it is impossible and the problem will only grow bigger and bloodier. And since the same forces that target the Jews also are working to destroy Western interests and Western democracy that's everybody's problem.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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