Michael Gerson on antisemitism
An excellent op-ed piece on this difficult subject links together a few important themes: antisemitism as a historical phenomenon, denial & hate in the age of internet, etc. A few excerpts, the emphasis is mine:
Why the Jews? by Michael Gerson (Wash Post)
That day, out of curiosity, I did something I rarely do. I read the comments on my column on a number of Web sites that publish it. In addition to the normal political vituperation, the level of anti-Jewish feeling was appalling. The European genocide, some contended, was exaggerated by Jews for political purposes. Jews were behind the Bolshevik Revolution, the rise of Hitler and the outbreak of World War II. They control the newspapers, radio, television and book publishing. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is right to expose the Holocaust myth, they wrote, and Israel is perpetrating the real holocaust against the Palestinians.
The Internet has helped to create communities of malice.
The anti-Semitic community is varied in background and ideology. It includes both Internet Nazis and campus leftists carrying signs that read, "Jews = Nazis." The Rev. Jeremiah Wright recently blamed "them Jews" for blocking his access to President Obama. A conservative Web site recently included a forum on Holocaust denial (before it was exposed and removed). One posting read: "The same blinded people that believe that the Germans intentionally killed Jews — also believe the myth of the Anne Frank Diary."
But these ideas are not harmless, because they can inspire an angry, obsessed bigot who sets out on a June morning to kill Jews — and murders an African American man who had a wife and young son.
The durability of anti-Semitism is a horrifying marvel of history. Sara Bloomfield, the director of the Holocaust Museum, observes: "Anti-Semitism has existed with and without Christianity. With and without the right wing. With and without the left wing. With and without democracy. With and without economic problems. With and without globalization. With and without a Jewish homeland."
David Berger, the editor of "History and Hate," writes, "We shall never fully understand anti-Semitism. Deep-rooted, complex, endlessly persistent, constantly changing yet remaining the same, it is a phenomenon that stands at the intersection of history, sociology, economics, political science, religion and psychology."
But we do know that anti-Semitism has always been a kind of test — a reliable measure of a nation’s moral and social health. When the rights of Jews are violated, all human rights are insecure. When Jews and Jewish institutions are targeted, all minorities have reason for fear. And by this standard, America has cause for introspection.
Not far from where von Brunn entered the museum, there is a black wall inscribed with a quotation: "All men are created equal . . . they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights . . . among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
This is what anti-Semitism ultimately must deny, and this is the reason anti-Semitism must always and everywhere be confronted.
Deborah E. Lipstadt was there in the USHMM when the shooting took place: Commentary: Witness to history and horror (CNN)
Jeffrey Goldberg’s insightful one-liner: Rev. Wright Clarifies:
He meant "Zionists," not "Jews," he sez. In other words, he regrets speaking plainly instead of deploying a euphemism.
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