For Anti-Semitism, It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Hamas agents carry out an act of terrorism against Israel, in this case the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. Next, the rocket bombardment from Gaza accelerates, with hundreds of rockets and missiles being fired at virtually all corners of Israel. Hamas proudly announces that its rockets can now reach every major Israeli population center. Much property is destroyed, Israelis are injured and the devastation would have been much greater but for the Iron Dome system that Israel has installed.

Israel says it can no longer tolerate the endless bombardment from Gaza–thousands of rockets and missiles have been fired into Israeli territory–so it strikes against military targets in Gaza. This inevitably causes casualties, as Hamas locates its launch zones and other military sites inside homes, adjacent to schools and hospitals, and so on.

While there are a few honorable exceptions, the international response is mostly predictable: at best, calls on both sides to exercise “restraint,” at worst, howls of outrage, marches, demonstrations and riots, all directed at Israel for defending itself.

Is this a familiar story, or what? How many times have we seen it unfold?

As usual, “artists” are among the most virulently anti-Israel. Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, whose hostility to Israel we have written about before, is at it again, this time urging fellow musician Neil Young to boycott Israel:

“Dear Neil Young, There are rumors flying about that you are considering doing shows in Tel Aviv this year,” Waters started his letter, titled “Enough is Enough.”

“Neil Young! You are one of my biggest heroes … your songs have always been redolent of love and humanity and compassion for your fellow man and woman. I find it hard to believe that you would turn your back on the indigenous people of Palestine. That you would lend support to, and encourage and legitimize, with your presence, a colonial apartheid regime, largely settled from Europe, that seeks to confine the native people of the land, either in exile or in second class status in reservations and ghettos. Please, brother, tell me it ain’t so.”

And so on. Waters writes that “[Israel's] propaganda machine is well oiled and ruthless,” apparently oblivious to the fact that it is the Palestinians’ propaganda machine that has turned Israel into a pariah state in many quarters.

This time around, Waters was joined by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. (What is it about washed-up rock and rollers that causes them to be so morally myopic? Maybe it’s the drugs.) Vedder ranted at a concert in England:

Eddie Vedder explains

Eddie Vedder explains


“What the f—? What the f—?” Vedder said, alternately taking sips of wine from a bottle he was holding on stage.

Political commentary is best done while sober.

“We can have this many people having a peaceful time. We can have modern technology. We can reach our friends. We know what they’re thinking before they’re thinking it. The advertisers know what we’re thinking before we’re thinking it. We have technology – all this in our hands.”

“At the same time that something this positive is happening, not even that far away, people are f—ing dropping bombs on each other.”

Strangely, he wasn’t referring to the Palestinians’ rockets and missiles.

“I swear to f—ing god, there are people out there who are looking for a reason to kill,” the famed American rocker said. “They’re looking for a reason to go across borders and take over land that doesn’t belong to them. They should get the f—out, and mind their own f—ing business.”

Yes, I see his point: on top of three wars and decades of terrorism, all it took was a few murdered teenagers and 500 rockets, and the Israelis apparently snapped.

In France, things got more serious. Thousands of people, mostly but not all of Arab descent, marched through the streets, protesting Israel’s self-defense. Some of them attacked synagogues:

It is often said that a person can be anti-Israel (or anti-Zionist, which I take to mean the same thing) without being anti-Semitic. In theory this is true, but in fact the distinction is often used to cover up naked anti-Semitism. Take the example of the French synagogue attacks. They ostensibly were precipitated by Israel’s retaliation against Gaza, but the people attacked weren’t Israelis–they were French. They were, however, Jews. How can such attacks, which have become common over much of Europe, be attributed to anything other than pure anti-Semitism?

The same is true of those who are uniquely and obsessively critical of Israel. Thus, Roger Waters refers to Israel as a “colonial apartheid regime”–a laughably false description. But if Waters is looking for apartheid, he doesn’t have to look far. How many Jews and Christians are left in Iraq? Or Iran? What has happened to the Christians in Egypt? Or Pakistan? How did it come about that the Jewish population of Syria is zero? Or Lebanon, same thing? In most of the Islamic Middle East, apartheid actually would be an improvement. But this is of no concern to those whose irrational hatred focuses only on Israel. What can we call them but anti-Semites?

Likewise with Vedder. Describing current events in Gaza, he refers to “people … f—ing dropping bombs on each other,” but he doesn’t mean the Palestinians, who–crucially, one would think–dropped the first few hundred bombs. There is a name for this selective hatred; it is anti-Semitism.

Will this seemingly endless cycle of attack, defense and denunciation ever end? I think it may, actually. Perhaps this time Israel will clear Hamas out of Gaza once and for all. Or perhaps, as David Goldman argues, events and demographics will inevitably lead Israel to annex Judea and Samaria, which, when it happens, will hardly provoke a whimper. Or maybe the collapse of almost all of the region except for Israel, too horrific to ignore, will finally abash the anti-Semites into silence, at least for a while. One way or another, my guess is that this particular Groundhog Day doesn’t have too many re-runs left to go.

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