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Mar 13 2008

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Broad brush

 Anti-Semite.  My, my, my, but aren’t we quick these days to paint someone as an anti-Semite?!  As in “Charley Reese is an anti-Semite” because he dares suggest Israel’s manifest influence on foreign policy may not be in America’s best interest.  As in “Charley Reese is an anti-Semite” because he reminds us of the inconvenient truth, despite systematic efforts by the Israeli government to revision its own history, that Jewish immigrants to Palestine terrorized Arab natives into fleeing for their lives.  As in “Charley Reese is an anti-Semite” because he has the audacity to compare Israel’s brutish behavior towards Palestinians and neighboring countries with those even more brutal and genocidal European tyrannies that Jews insist (rightly) we must never forget.

And it’s not just Charley Reese.  Any person, no matter how honorable or credentialed, who speaks out against injustice or criminality or unwarranted influence by foreign powers is subject to being labeled an anti-Semite.  Jimmy Carter, John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, Norman Finkelstein, Uri Avnery, Ilan Pappe, Joel Kovel, David Noble, Tony Judt, Amira Hass, and Greg Felton are just a few who have been painted with the broad brush of anti-Semitism.

Hell hath no fury like Israel scorned.  Last year a delegation of German bishops visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, and then crossed through the high concrete wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian “territories.”  One bishop compared photographs of the Warsaw Ghetto to “Ghetto Ramallah.”  Another who had lived through Nazi and then Communist occupations said “something like this is done to animals, not to human beings…  I never in my life thought to see something like this again.”

Reaction to the bishops was swift.  The Anti-Defamation League called on the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference to repudiate the remarks.  The Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Israeli Embassy lectured the bishops on their “alarming lack of knowledge about history.”  Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem, wrote that they were seeking “to lessen European responsibility for Nazi crimes.”  Within days, Cardinal Karl Lehmann (Germany’s top cardinal) was forced to censure his bishops by writing that it was inappropriate to “connect contemporary problems or situations of injustice in any way with the National Socialists’ genocide of the Jews.”

 Anti-Semite.  That ugly word was thrown into the fray as well.  In an opinion piece for Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, correspondent Eldad Beck said the bishops’ comments raised the question of “just how tainted with anti-Semitism… the Catholic church and German society remained.”  What the bishops saw first-hand, and what they tried to tell the world, was successfully obscured in a frenzy of name-calling.  And so it is now with Charley Reese.  With precious few exceptions, the current propensity for calling an individual an anti-Semite is an ad hominem attack, an age-old cheap trick that diverts our attention from the merits of what is being argued by casting doubt on the character and motivations of whoever is making the argument.

 At least in public, we Americans are conditioned to recoil with horror at racial and sexual epithets.  However, despite an ongoing campaign to cleanse our verbal landscape of all offensive, derogatory language, we seem to have overlooked the word anti-Semite.  Why?  Is it because it’s such an effective weapon in Israel’s powerful arsenal, trotted out every time someone tries to tell the truth?  What exactly is it that warrants calling Charley Reese an anti-Semite?  What is it that leads (or qualifies) you to believe that he has “a Jewish obsession?”  And just what is he writing that so urges you to recommend that this newspaper “would do well” to quit printing his opinions?  Welcome to Hot Springs!  May the truth that was denied you in Clarksburg, Roanoke, and High Point set you free here.

Permanent link to this article: http://levantium.com/2008/03/13/broad-brush/

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