Drawing the Line on Anti-Semitism: Under the Radar

By Zwarenstein, Carlyn | Canadian Dimension, May-June 2004 | Go to article overview
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Drawing the Line on Anti-Semitism: Under the Radar


Zwarenstein, Carlyn, Canadian Dimension


Remember Tolstoy's "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"? Genocides and war are like that, too. They are each incomparable. As you surely know, millions of Jewish people like me (together with a substantial contingent of homosexuals, Communists, Roma and others) were cattle-carred to Nazi concentration camps, subjected to horrific medical experiments, labour to death, gassing and other inhuman ways to live and die.

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While the Jewish Holocaust was bizarre and horrible and revolting beyond description, it's ridiculous to compare mass murders. Nor is there anything magical that makes anti-Jewish hatred qualitatively worse than other murderous, contemptible hatreds. This even though its special name--anti-Semitism--suggests the way it has mutated over centuries, alternately taking the form of ethnic, racial and religious hatred. That it is a persistent, tremendously adaptable manifestation of racism means it bears watching for vigilantly as opportunists take advantage of Israel's obstinate awfulness.

Anti-Semitism is indeed on the rise in Canada, the U.K., France and Germany. True, the same studies that show rising reports of hate crimes directed at Jewish people and their homes, places of worship, or schools suggest that most cases of renewed anti-Semitism involve disaffected young, white men--the same old neo-Nazi dreck taking advantage of the political climate. It's a good time for it, as the situation in the Occupied Territories boils over, suicide bombers proliferate and Ariel Sharon runs amok.

But even smart people (including many disaffected young, white men) can be really stupid. Kalle Lasn, editor of Adbusters, recently head-counted prominent neoconservatives in the U.S., finding a disturbing (to him) number of Jews, something he attributed to cultural inheritance. (Did he count the number of Jewish left-wingers? Did he count the proportion of middle-of-the-road Americans who are Jewish? Or of neoconservatives who are middle-aged white males like himself?) On the readers' forum of the respectable anti-censorship website, Index On Censorship (www.indexonline.org), sane, sensitive analysis about Israel and Palestine leapt abruptly to wild speculation on the supposed Jewish mafia controlling the world (since I came across this less than two months ago, the editors have removed the readers' forum--a case of anti-censorship censorship?

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