World leaders will soon arrive in Israel’s capital to attend Yad Vashem’s special Holocaust forum, where they will pledge to fight anti-Semitism and preserve the memory of the Nazi atrocities.
Anti-Semitism has many faces, but most interesting is the new strain of an age-old virus. This new strain of anti-Semitism, prevalent among Europe’s left-wing circles and their proxies, makes people obsessively hate the Jewish people and their state.
More than being a threat to Israel, this strain poses a danger to Western civilization just as much as the age-old anti-Semitism on the Right.
This new mutation of anti-Semitism is much more dangerous because those who have it have successfully convinced the world they are fighting for human rights. Moreover, they have successfully made inroads into the elite and the mainstream, taking root in schools and among the general population.
It is very easy to distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism because those who engage in the latter judge the Jewish state by unfair and unique and standards and make sure it gets disproportionately maligned compared to other nations.
In 2012, Nobel laureate Günter Grass published the poem What must be said, claiming that Israel’s alleged nuclear arsenal was a danger to world peace and that if it were to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran, it “could destroy an Iranian people” in an “area in which not a single atom bomb has yet been proved to exist.”
Grass co-opted the memory of the Holocaust to attack Israel by saying that it was effectively calling for the wiping out of an entire country, and also warned Germany that it must not provide Israel with submarines that would have the capacity to “send all-destroying warheads.”
The poem, unsurprisingly, won praise from Iran and peaceniks in Europe on both sides of the political spectrum, including among the fringes of Germany’s Right and Left.
Grass has been accused of conjuring up the blood libels against the Jews. Had Grass accused all nuclear-capable countries of threatening world peace, and then threw Israel into the mix, he could have been excused as having a lack of sufficient knowledge. But he is part of the intellectual Left in Europe, whose default position is to make Israel the singular source of evil while belittling the threats of annihilation from Iran.
Anti-Semitism alone cannot explain why many on the European Left hate Israel. The reasons, which are worthy of a separate article, are mainly three: the distorted perception of Israel as a colonialist and apartheid state; Israel’s just attacks to fend off terrorists and establish deterrence; and the Jewish state’s steadfastness in the face of a biased and discriminatory international community.
Grass could not come up with a good explanation as to why an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear installations would result in the Iranian people’s destruction. Perhaps this lack of detail is why he defended his poem by saying it was just an expression of sentiment.
To wrap things up, it appears that this approach stems from guilty feelings over a colonialist past and a reluctance from using force.
By being a thriving state and by successfully countering the Left, Israel has managed to threaten the European Left’s core identity. Anti-Semitism, it appears, is just the symptom of Israel’s ascendance.
*Dan Schueftan is the head of the International Graduate Program in National Security Studies at the University of Haifa.
*This commentary, titled Why do they hate us? was first published in Hebrew in Israel Hayom on January 15, 2020.
*Photo credits: ACJ.org