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Anti-Semitism refuses to wither away

Jewish hatred is still rampant in the Muslim world

If the survey carried out by the Jewish organization B’nai B’rith, is anything to go by, anti-Semitism is making itself felt in just about every country in the world, including those, such as Japan, in which the number of high-profile Jews has always been tiny. It seems that in most places a considerable minority think the Jews are too pushy, too cliquish, too clever, too powerful and too fond of Israel. Despite its undeserved reputation as a hotbed of Nazi sympathizers, Argentina is assumed to be relatively tolerant: “only” 24 percent of the population harbours such prejudices, fewer than anywhere else in Latin America, save Brazil, or, for that matter, most of Western Europe, especially France, where 37 percent are classed as anti-Semites. The exceptions tend to be Protestant countries such as Sweden, Holland and the UK, as well as the US: it would appear that the efforts of fiery Muslim preachers and leftwing zealots concerned with Zionism to revive ancient hatreds have been far less successful than local Jewish leaders fear.

Throughout the Muslim world, virulent anti-Semitism is rampant. This is not surprising: the descendants of the “apes and pigs” Islamic clerics rail against have always occupied a lowly place in their scheme of things. That is the main reason the mere existence of Israel makes not only many Arabs but also pious Pakistanis and Malaysians, who live far away from the shores of the Mediterranean, foam at the mouth. For them, the fate of the Palestinian Arabs is a minor matter. What angers them is the distressing fact that a people they have been taught to despise as money-grubbing underlings have created a thriving state in what to their mind should be Muslim land to the end of time because it once was and, what is even more humiliating, have by far the toughest and most resourceful armed forces in the entire Middle East.

Were it not for the prevalence in the Muslim world of a degree of anti-Semitism that rivals that of the Nazis, and, among other things, makes translations of Hitler’s Mein Kampf and the Tsarist police’s Protocols of the Elders of Zion permanent bestsellers, resolving the Israel-Palestinian dispute would be easy enough. All it would take would be a willingness to resettle the now hereditary refugees in the countries they have been living in for several decades, much as Germany did when many millions of people were driven from their homes in Eastern and Central Europe after the Second World War, and Israel did to house the huge number of Jews that were expelled from Arab countries three years later. But such an arrangement is regarded as unthinkable. Instead, the Palestinians are kept cooped up in “refugee camps” to put pressure on the international community. Should Israel cave in, it would not be replaced by an independent Palestinian state; as on occasion leaders of the PLO have admitted, Jordan, Syria and Egypt would simply take over the vacated territory.

The founders of Israel imagined that, after Jews tired of being persecuted had somewhere safe to go, anti-Semitism would melt away. That was wishful thinking. Far from dampening the fervour of anti-Semites, the presence of a Jewish State has simply given them an additional excuse to go on about how dreadful Jews are. If an Israeli soldier manhandles a stone-throwing Arab, protest marches erupt in cities the world over; when hundreds of thousands of Arabs are slaughtered by someone like Bashar-al Assad or Saddam Hussein, few professional humanitarians think it worthy of notice.

Anti-Semitism has deep roots. It began long before Christianity came on the scene; to judge by the B’nai B’rith survey, the Greeks have exceedingly long memories. It periodically erupts in countries in which for some reason people feel hard done by. There is little the Jews can do about this. Keeping out of sight does not help; the Tsarist pogroms showed them that. Neither does blending in; many of Hitler’s victims were proud German patriots who were physically indistinguishable from their “Aryan” neighbours and had adopted all of their habits.

Just before the Holocaust, it was said that some poor Jews liked to read anti-Semitic tracts in which they were told they were the true masters of the universe; if that was so, they soon learned that their enemies took even the most absurd accusations quite literally. Are the “23 per cent” of Argentines that, according to the B’nai B’rith think the Jews, rather than the Romans who at the time were very much in charge, “killed Jesus”, prepared to punish their remote descendants for that particular crime? Probably not. Luckily, in Argentina active anti-Semitism seems limited to a few far-right or far-left troublemakers and does not unduly disturb members of Latin America’s largest and most visible Jewish community.

One reason often given for the survival of anti-Semitism is envy; Jews are assumed to be unfairly successful. That would certainly seem to be the case if you apply the standards currently prevailing in the US, where ethnic quotas are all the range and lobbyists for various “minorities” assume that if outcomes vary from group to group it must be the result of prejudice. It is estimated that, starting in 1901, people with some Jews among their forebears have carried off almost a quarter of all the Nobel Prizes that have been awarded but, strange as it may appear, rabid anti-Semites have yet to stage street demos against such blatant Swedish philo-Semitism.

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