Screenwriter Ben Hecht was known as “The Shakespeare of Hollywood.” His remarkable portfolio included “The Front Page,” “Notorious,” “Mutiny on the Bounty,” and dozens of other classics. Hecht also wrote a one-sentence lamentation that resonates today: “How sad that in the warmest hearts I knew lurked always a little cold spot for the Jew.” That cold spot is growing icier.
In Miami Beach last month, a Jewish family found its car defaced with the words “Jew” and “Hamas,” and a nearby synagogue was spray painted with swastikas. Meanwhile, the chant of “Death to Israel” echoed at a demonstration in New York City.
But the United States is absolutely serene compared to some precincts in Europe. At a rally in London, one protester held up a sign saying, “Hitler you were right.” In Germany, haters shouted, “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig.” And in France, synagogues have been vandalized and Jewish-owned shops burned, while demonstrators shouted, “Death to Jews.”
Thousands of French Jews, reading the swastikas on the wall, are packing their belongings and heading for Israel, and one French official openly worries that a “new form of anti-Semitism” is infecting the country. In fact, there is absolutely nothing new about it. The demonstrations are a (thus far) less violent reincarnation of Kristallnacht, the infamous anti-Jewish rampages in 1938 Germany.
Today’s protesters, most of them denizens of the far-left and far-right fringes, will tell you their anger is justified, inspired by Israel’s war against Hamas and the killing of Muslim civilians in Gaza. But their outrage is stunningly selective.
In his Wall Street Journal column this week, Bret Stephens put forth a litany of recent violence across the Middle East: 1,500 civilians slaughtered in Pakistan, thousands of Christians and Shiite Muslims killed and tortured in Iraq, thousands more butchered in Syria, Christians massacred in Nigeria by the savages of Boko Haram. But the media, Islamic organizations, and pinhead celebrities pretty much ignored all that carnage. Why? Because it was Muslims doing the killing, which apparently doesn’t register on the indignation scale.
So the question is inescapable: Why does Israel’s offensive against Hamas, a direct response to being attacked by rockets, inspire such fury? When Israel unintentionally kills civilians, the U.N. calls it “a moral outrage and a criminal act.” But when Muslims intentionally kill thousands of civilians, the U.N. expresses its “concern.” How touching!
Yes, Israel is held to a higher moral standard, both by its own government and by the world. That’s fine, but how high should that standard be? Some Israel bashers complain because the death toll in Gaza is “disproportionate,” with many more Arabs killed than Jews. The bombing raids on Dresden were also disproportionate, and Hiroshima set the standard for disproportionality. So what? The object of war is to defeat your opponent, not to die in equal numbers. Again, it’s always Israel that seems to come under the harshest criticism.
Steve Bucci, a Middle East expert at the Heritage Foundation, posited on The Factor that the war in Gaza is a convenient excuse for Jew-haters around the world to emerge from their holes. “Anti-Semitism has been below the surface,” he surmised, “and this conflict has now allowed it to come to the surface.”
So what’s behind the “world’s oldest hatred,” which was first documented in ancient Egypt. One pretty smart Jewish guy suggested that jealousy and envy may be in play: “Despite the fact that Jewish people have always been thinly populated in various countries, they have always had a disproportionate number of outstanding public figures.” Those are the words of Albert Einstein, who left Germany just as history’s worst outbreak of anti-Semitism was beginning.
Today’s Jew-bashing is mild compared to the vile culture of death created and nurtured by Hitler. But anti-Semitism, which has endured for thousands of years, remains a reprehensible part of modern culture. It may never be eradicated, but all of us have a moral duty to fight it at every turn, and with all the strength we can muster.