A letter to my friend...

By Rodney Mazinter

A letter written to my friend of many years, "Michael", when he worked as a lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch in the Department of Forestry before being employed by The World Bank, and now living in retirement in London with his wife, "Mary" (not their real names).
He has always been critical of Israel and my letter is in response to articles he sent me from The Guardian in which he points out quotes from Illan Pappe and Noam Chomsky, whom he characterises as Jews critical of Israel.

Dear Michael

Thank you for your letter containing the newspaper cuttings that arrived in yesterday’s mail. I know that I said that I would not write again before we left next Sunday but felt compelled to take keyboard once more in hand and dash off a few lines.

I regularly read the Guardian on the Web, (or used to). Despite its leftist editorial policy, it is considered to be one of Great Britain’s, and the world’s, pre-eminent broadsheet newspapers and the quality of its writing commands respect. Not so the political leanings of some of its correspondents although there is no doubting their intellectual credentials.

The two cuttings you attach pose a few fundamental questions. In the brochure advertising Historian Illan Pappe’s VHS Cassette he makes the statement that, “My conviction (note he does not say fear or suspicion, but conviction), is that the Israeli government is going to use the war on Iraq to ‘solve the Palestinian question once and for all,’ (a deliberately emotional borrowing from ‘the final solution’ of notorious recent history with the purpose of setting up a moral equivalency covering Arab and Israeli behaviour), expelling as many Palestinians as possible and destroying what is left of Palestine.”

By his own admission Pappe represents a small “… cadre of 100 to 150 within a population of 7 million …” What is interesting is that he and Chomsky, an American national, are not only free to express their views both in and out of Israel, but they are also, in the finest democratic tradition, given free access into Israel where they can say and write what they please from any forum or public platform, a right not granted to critics of any Arab state that I can think of, with perhaps the exception of Turkey. But then Turkey, while Muslim is not Arab and has aspirations of being a democracy. And to date in human history no two democracies have gone to war with each other.

The question is often posed and is once again implied in Chomsky’s article: Israel must take chances for peace. He ignores that for the sake of its own survival Israel, even up to and including the start of the recent Intifada, has taken many chances for peace with the result that its willingness to compromise is seen as weakness and as an opportunity for its enemies to attack.

A statement made by Henry Kissinger in his book, ‘The White House Years’ (page 587) in addressing Richard Nixon is as true today as it was then. He said "Israel, with her survival at stake, cannot afford to take chances.... The nature of the Israeli's situation is bound to influence their interpretation of ambiguous events. We, on the other hand, have an incentive to minimize such evidence, since the consequences of finding violations are so unpleasant. Violations force us to choose between doing something about them and thus risk the blow-up of our initiative; or doing nothing and thus renege on our promises to Israel, posing the threat of her taking military action. Accordingly, we tend to lean over backwards to avoid the conclusion that the Arabs are violating the cease-fire unless the evidence is unambiguous."

It is curious that newspapers such as the Guardian choose not to see this side of the question. Yet this seeming lack of intellectual honesty is so important to the whole debate that glib or emotional responses are not enough. I have dug deeply into my disorderly pile of sources – newspaper commentary, the Internet and books – and have tried to sift the wheat from the chaff, not just to try answer the questions for my friends who support such views, but for my benefit too.

Whatever emotion you detect in the following is mine; the facts are as independent as I can make them, and all are verifiable.

The questions implied in your e-mail are:

  • Why does a newspaper like the Guardian, and dozens more of its ilk, professing to be the mouthpiece of liberal thought, slant its reports and comments so that they come out not just anti-Jewish and biased against Israel, but also pro-Arab? And,

  • Why has there been a “sudden” upsurge of anti-Semitism in Europe and the rest of the world?

I have come to the conclusion that many of the long-established newspapers I have always read with respect for their analytical excellence and dispassionate professionalism, newspapers which espoused the fine liberal philosophy of tolerance, justice, and even-handedness, have turned out to be something quite different. They still claim the moral high ground of liberalism, but they have revealed themselves as the standard bearers of the “New Left”, which in turn seems to have been hijacked by a terrifying form of extremism espousing racial hatred of a very specific kind.

Today it is simply taken for granted, that Europe, most of the Western news media, the universities, the liberal churches, the arts world, support the Palestinians and the larger Arab/Muslim worlds in their war against Israel.

But an important question does need to be asked and an anomaly addressed, and you have in fact inadvertently asked it by the Guardian’s and Pappe’s articles. Surely on even a cursory reflection it must be clear that to side with Israel's enemies is completely inconsistent with the professed values of the group mentioned in the previous paragraph. Just about every value they claim to uphold, Israel upholds, and its enemies do not.

These commentators speak about their passion for democracy ("power to the people"). Yet it is Israel that is a fully functioning democracy, as opposed to all its Arab and Muslim enemies. First Yasser Arafat, and now Mahamoud Abbas, are precisely the self-aggrandizing, corrupt dictator-types that democratic institutions claim to hold in contempt.

More corroboration: Flip through the pages of any Western newspaper, especially the Guardian, and you will find evidence of particular concern for women's rights. Yet it is Israel that has as highly developed a feminist movement as that of any Western country. It is Israel that conscripted women into its armed forces before almost any Western country. At the same time, the state of women's rights among Israel's Muslim enemies is perhaps the lowest in the world.

The Western media’s, especially the Guardian’s, current pre-occupation is with LGBTQ rights. Yet it is Israel that has annual Gay Pride days, while Egypt and other Arab and Muslim countries arrest and execute homosexuals.

It is Israel that has an independent and highly liberal judiciary. It is Israel that has in its commitment to freedom of information a vigorous press that tolerates and encourages debate from the Chomskys and Pappes of the world. It is Israel that has been governed more by leftist, even socialist, parties than by right wing ones. Israel's enemies have none of this. So, why aren’t those guardians (Guardians?) of democracy, the Western Media, out there leading pro-Israel demonstrations? The answer is as important as it is contemptible.

Those in the West who find their political expression in marches are silent on the plight of the above groups in Arab countries. In general, I strongly suspect that these pseudo liberals do not care about women, independent judiciaries, minorities, the LGBTQ community, democracy, or almost anything else for which it marches. I have never read of one single march against the insulting, sometimes barbaric, treatment of Afghanistan’s, northern Nigeria’s, or Saudi Arabia’s women.

I admit that I am not competent to know the reason for this strange phenomenon, but I can speculate, at the same time trying not to compromise my own finely honed liberal tendencies. I believe that there is a conspiracy, perhaps unstated and unorganised but real nevertheless, that seeks to overthrow Western, especially Judeo-Christian and capitalist values.

In psycho-analytic terms (if you will allow me to venture into that unknown and unschooled territory), it is often antagonism to ones parent’s values. I read in one of our online newspapers a report in which the Dean of some American university claimed that the purpose of a college education is "to question your father's values." This somehow rings false to me. I always thought that the purpose of a university education is to discover what is true and what is good.

It is instructive to know why America and Israel are often lumped together when criticism is offered. Looking at America, can it be because America embodies all that this strange new liberalism dislikes? It is the most religious of the industrialised democracies (proudly and uniquely Judeo-Christian). Please don’t get me wrong, I am not beating the religious drum. I have never been one for the dogma associated with organised religion. But I do wholeheartedly endorse the ethics taught to us by religion, that keep our baser instincts in check.

It is also the most capitalist of countries. And, what drives its critics especially crazy, is that with all this religion and capitalism, America is still so powerful and successful — economically, militarily, and culturally — warts and all (and there are many warts I grant you.)

Israel is Little America. Though a secular state like the United States, it is proudly Jewish. It too, is religious. It, too, celebrates capitalism. There are no demonstrations in Israel against McDonald's, Unilever or any other symbol of capitalist success, as there are in many of the Arab states.

And Israel, like America, celebrates its national identity, not the "world" identity that the new ersatz liberalism affirms. The question, "Why does the ‘liberal’ Press support the Palestinians?" is an extremely important one. At this time in history nothing so illustrates the Fourth Estate’s nihilism as does its support of the Palestinians against Israel.

This leads to your next question: “Why have the European liberal institutions got to be so anti-Semitic?” For the past year there has been an upsurge of a type of hatred that many decent people throughout the world thought had been consigned to the history books, trotted out only as a cautionary tale to instruct young minds in the values of tolerance, civilisation, and the dangers inherent when such values are ignored.

Why has anti-Semitism, the most virulent form of racial hatred in history, once more reared its ugly head? Could it just be that it had never disappeared; that tolerant minded people have been living in a fool's paradise that only superficially demonstrated benign respect for the cultures and religions of others?

Bear in mind that the number of Jews in Europe are minuscule in the context of the general population. France numbers only 600,000 and in all other European countries appreciably less.

Read the catalogue of incidents below gleaned by Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and come to your own conclusion:


By Jeff Jacoby

The Boston Globe

”April 28, 2002. The rocks have been lifted all over Europe, and the snakes of Jew-hatred are slithering free.

In Belgium, thugs beat up the chief rabbi, kicking him in the face and calling him "a dirty Jew." Two synagogues in Brussels were firebombed; a third, in Charleroi, was sprayed with automatic weapons fire.

In Britain, the cover of the New Statesman depicted a large Star of David stabbing the Union Jack. Oxford professor Tom Paulin, a noted poet, told an Egyptian interviewer that American Jews who move to the West Bank and Gaza "should be shot dead." A Jewish yeshiva student silently reading the Psalms was stabbed 27 times on a London bus. ‘Anti-Semitism,’ wrote a columnist in The Spectator, ‘has become respectable at London dinner tables.’ She quoted one member of the House of Lords: ‘The Jews have been asking for it and now, thank God, we can say what we think at last.’

In Italy, the daily paper La Stampa published a Page 1 cartoon: A tank emblazoned with a Jewish star points its gun at the baby Jesus, who pleads, ‘Surely they don't want to kill me again?’ In Corriere Della Sera, another cartoon showed Jesus trapped in his tomb, unable to rise, because the Israeli prime minister with rifle in hand, is sitting on the sepulchre. The caption: ‘Non resurrexit.’

In Germany, a rabbinical student was beaten up in downtown Berlin and a grenade was thrown into a Jewish cemetery. Thousands of neo-Nazis held a rally, marching near a synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath. Graffiti appeared on a synagogue in the western town of Herford: ‘Six million were not enough.’

In Ukraine, skinheads attacked Jewish worshippers and smashed the windows of Kiev's main synagogue. Ukrainian police denied that the attack was anti-Jewish.

In Greece, Jewish graves were desecrated in Ioannina and vandals hurled paint at the Holocaust memorial in Salonica.

In Holland, an anti-Israel demonstration featured swastikas, photos of Hitler, and chants of ‘Sieg Heil’ and ‘Jews into the sea.’

In Slovakia, the Jewish cemetery of Kosice was invaded, and 135 tombstones destroyed.

But nowhere have the flames of anti-Semitism burned more furiously than in France.

  • In Lyon, a car was rammed into a synagogue and set on fire.

  • In Montpellier, the Jewish religious centre was firebombed; so were synagogues in Strasbourg and Marseille; so was a Jewish school in Creteil.

  • A Jewish sports club in Toulouse was attacked with Molotov cocktails, and on the statue of Alfred Dreyfus in Paris, the words ‘Dirty Jew’ were painted.

  • In Bondy, 15 men beat up members of a Jewish football team with sticks and metal bars.

  • The bus that takes Jewish children to school in Aubervilliers has been attacked three times in the last 14 months.

  • According to the police, metropolitan Paris has seen 10 to 12 anti-Jewish incidents per day since Easter.

  • Walls in Jewish neighbourhoods have been defaced with slogans proclaiming, ‘Jews to the gas chambers’ and ‘Death to the Jews.’

  • The weekly journal Le Nouvel Observateur published an appalling libel: It said Israeli soldiers rape Palestinian women, so that their relatives will kill them to preserve ‘family honour.’

  • The French ambassador to Great Britain was not sacked -- and did not apologise -- when it was learned that he had told guests at a London dinner that the world's troubles were the fault of ‘that shitty little country, Israel.’

‘At the start of the 21st century,’ writes Pierre-Andre Taguieff, a well-known social scientist, in a new book, ‘we are discovering that Jews are once again select targets of violence. . . . Hatred of the Jews has returned to France.’

But of course, it never left. Not France; not Europe.

Anti-Semitism, the oldest bigotry known to man, has been a part of European society since time immemorial. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, open Jew-hatred became unfashionable; but fashions change, and Europe is reverting to type.

To be sure, some Europeans are shocked by the re-emergence of Jew-hatred all over their continent. But the more common reaction has been complacency. ‘Stop saying that there is anti-Semitism in France,’ President Jacques Chirac scolded a Jewish editor. ‘There is no anti-Semitism in France.’

The European media have been vicious in condemning Israel's self-defence against Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank; they have been far less agitated about anti-Jewish terror in their own backyard.

They are making a grievous mistake. Militant Islamist extremists were attacking and killing Jews long before they attacked and killed Americans on Sept. 11. The Nazis first set out to incinerate the Jews; in the end, all of Europe was ablaze. If today the violence and vitriol are aimed at the Jews, tomorrow they will be aimed at many more. A timeless lesson of history and war is that it rarely ends with the Jews.

Jews, it is often said, are the canary in the coal mine of civilisation. When they become the objects of savagery and hate, it means the air has been poisoned and an explosion is soon to come. If Europeans don't rise up and turn against the Jew-haters, it is only a matter of time before the Jew-haters rise up and turn against them. “

Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.

Here are some examples of French Anti-Semitism from various sources and through the ages:

  • “Finally and long overdue, your people, oppressed and disgraced by hatred and maliciousness, have achieved justice: now you enjoy full citizen's rights, but you'll remain Jews nonetheless."

Franz Grillparzer (1791-1872)
Austrian author.

  • "That shitty little country, Israel."

Daniel Bernard, French Ambassador to England
(and former French ambassador to the UN), December 2001.

  • April 3, 2002: Two Molotov cocktails were thrown at a synagogue outside of Paris;

  • April 2, 2002: Or Aviv Synagogue in Marseille was burned to the ground;

  • April 2, 2002: Arsonists struck a pavilion in a Jewish cemetery in the eastern town of Schiltigheim, France;

  • March 30-31, 2002: Arsonists attacked synagogues in Strasbourg, France after an anti-Israel demonstration;

  • Fifteen masked men drove two cars through the gates and into a synagogue in Lyon. They then set fire to one of the cars inside the shul;

  • A gunman opened fire on a kosher butcher's shop (and, of course, the butcher) in Toulouse, France;

  • A Jewish couple in their 20s were beaten up by five men in Villeurbanne, France. The woman was pregnant.

  •  Jewish school was broken into and vandalized in Sarcelles, France. This was in the past week.

  • According to the Anti-Defamation League, from September 9, 2000, at the start of the intifada, to November 20, 2001, there were some 330 acts of anti-Semitism just in and around Paris.

  • In addition to literally scores of firebombing of synagogues, just before Rosh Hashanah, 200 Arabs attacked Jews on the Champs Elysees. The pace has only picked up since then:

  • In December, a French cinema in Paris refused to allow a Hanukah showing of Harry Potter to 800 Jewish children because of French-Palestinian threats (the threats were confirmed by French police who then went on to do nothing, not even giving details). It was one incident in an eventful month when synagogues continued to be firebombed and a Jewish kindergarten was vandalised with anti-Semitic graffiti and set ablaze.

  • ” We can understand anti-Semitism among the French people,” writes a commentator. “There is nothing the French love like their traditions. On the question of hating Jews, they certainly have tradition galore.

  • What, however, can explain the sometimes muted, sometimes defensively outraged reaction of French officials? Simple. There are approximately 5,000,000 to 6,000,000 Muslims presently living in France and many more arrive daily. There are only about 600,000 Jews still living in France.

  • Moreover, France is the number one European exporter to Iraq, totalling over two billion dollars per year in exports since 2000. To those who are at a loss to explain why French elected officials seem ‘helpless’ to stem the tide of anti-Semitism, I say that something smells awfully Vichy around here. “

The above was gleaned from my files dating back 20 years. Over time the situation has not only deterioriated, but has become more overt and sinister

Michael, you should already know that Israel is at war against a fearsome enemy, which has brought the fight to its streets. Much of the civilised world seems to finally understand this fact. What is not being acknowledged, however, is that this is not a war against Israel, or as propagandists and demagogues worldwide would have it, occupiers. This is a war against each and every individual who subscribes to Western values, Israeli or not, religious, or colonial, right, left or centre. Israel is only the publicised front line and if you are not in Israel, and the fight has not arrived at your front yard, just wait.

Israel cannot wait. History has finally taught Jews, of all people, that waiting and hoping for succour and sympathy from the nations of the world will lead only to more burned synagogues, pogroms, and, down the road, grim-faced dignitaries mouthing "never again" while dedicating yet another memorial museum.

Jews will never again wait inactively and hope to have security or peace for themselves. We dare not privately rail against irrational, virulent hatred while letting the world believe that we remain disinterested, accepting our lot with equanimity or, worse, resignation. Jews today, as opposed to Hitler’s time when they were helpless, have the means to defend themselves and will no longer do more than merely grieve.

So, Michael, I call on you my dear friend, as a person I know to have the capacity and desire to distinguish decency from depravity, to do, at least, these three simple things:

  • First, care enough to stay informed. Put out your finely honed feelers of fairness and distinguish between propaganda and the truth. 

  • Second, don't ever let yourself become deluded into thinking that this is not your fight.

  • And third, let the Guardian and Chomsky and Pappe and France and other countries, and their spokespersons, know that such behaviour at the seat of civilisation cannot be tolerated. It is not only the Arab countries that are today more toxically anti-Semitic; for proof you have just to read your Guardian.

Kindest regards to you and Mary

PS: “BDS is a hardcore, repeat-offending, unrepentant anti-Semitic organisation, whom no decent person will believe or support.”