The global rise in anti-Semitism over the past several years has left few parts of the world unscathed. From Western Europe to the Arab countries, Jews have become the targets of renewed vitriol and fury, leading various Jewish organizations to intensify their efforts to monitor and track this growing and worrisome trend.
But for all the attention being paid to international outbursts of anti-Semitism, there is one place in the world where this phenomenon has largely gone overlooked: right here in the State of Israel, under our very own (Jewish) noses.
That’s correct – there is anti-Semitism here in Israel, too, and plenty of it. If you find this hard to believe, then just take a look at some of what appears in the local press and decide for yourself.
Take, for example, an article that ran last week in Haaretz. Zvi Barel, one of the paper’s correspondents, wrote a piece entitled “To Find Shades of the Old Harlem, or a Jewish Sadr City, Look To Hebron.” His main point: to compare the Jews living in Hebron’s Avraham Avinu neighborhood with Iraqi Shi’ites in Baghdad who carry out terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in the area.
Barel is, of course, entitled to his opinion about the Jews of Hebron, but to compare them to followers of renegade Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is simply twisted and hate-filled demagoguery.
Don’t find it sick or offensive? Well, then, how about this from Amira Hass, writing in Haaretz on March 21: “Israel has turned the liquidation of Europe’s Jews into an asset. Our murdered relatives are being enlisted to enable Israel to continue not giving a damn about international decisions against the occupation.”
The last time I checked, accusing Israel of exploiting the Holocaust for political gain is considered to be blatant anti-Semitism. Indeed, just last month, the Anti-Defamation League released a report on anti-Semitism in the Arab press, noting with dismay that “many newspaper articles accused Jews of using the Holocaust to justify the persecution of others.”
Yet that is precisely what Hass herself was doing. And if you don’t believe me, just check out the headline of her article: “Using the Holocaust to Ward Off Criticism.”
The anti-Jewish tirades in Israel’s media don’t end there. In a pre-Pesach article in Yediot Aharonot, one writer mused: “That which the Egyptians did to us, along with many other nations throughout our long history, we are now doing to the Palestinians.”
That’s right – the Jews are cast as Pharaoh and his evil taskmasters, playing the role of villains who enslave others.
And how about this pearl from Ma’ariv last October: “There is one principal difference between the ayatollahs in Iran and rabbis in Israel. There, religious rulings are compulsory; here they are merely a recommendation. But as the need and the response to such recommendations increases, so too the differences grow blurred.”
The writer, one Moshe Gorali, was criticizing various rabbis for their opposition to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Gaza withdrawal plan. Apparently, he saw nothing wrong with comparing Israel’s sages to the fanatical rulers in Teheran, the very same ayatollahs who seek Israel’s destruction.
It would be easy to dismiss the rantings of such people as little more than angry rhetoric, the journalistic equivalent of those who spray offensive graffiti on the sides of buildings.
But to do so understates just how dangerous such hatred can be. If Israel’s own newspapers are filled with anti-Semitic rhetoric, then how can we expect anything better from our neighbors? And the fact that the people who write such horrible things in the Israeli media also happen to be Jewish should in no way excuse the gravity of what they do. An article should be judged to be anti-Semitic on the basis of what it says, and not because of the religious beliefs of the person who wrote it.