It has been called “the oldest hatred,” and many scholarly books have been written about its persistence. In a widely praised recent column, the renowned historian Simon Schama focused on the “long and miserable history” of “[t]he left’s problem with Jews”. Pondering today’s fashionable “anti-semitic anti-Zionism” – an expression coined by Alan Johnson – Schama asked why the “rage” of activists supporting campaigns like BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) against Israel is “so conspicuously selective,” adding that one could also phrase this question differently: “why is it so much easier to hate the Jews?”
Fortunately, there is no longer a need to ponder this question, as I have good tidings: the oldest hatred is no more. Remember, you read it here first: anti-Semitism is being successfully abolished – it’s finished and kaput, and I will henceforth do what I’ve really always wanted to: sharing cute cat pictures and videos.
But first a quick overview of the exhilarating news that will once feature in the history books as the beginning of the end of the oldest hatred.
Perhaps we should start with recent developments in Austria, the native land of a certain Herr Hitler. In a legal case about a Facebook post by “Ibrahim B.”, the owner of a hair salon near the town of Linz (said to have been Herr Hitler’s favorite Austrian town), a prosecutor recently accepted Ibrahim B’s defense that he merely meant to express his “displeasure toward Israel” when he posted a fabricated quote of Hitler boasting that he could have killed all Jews, but left some alive to show why he killed the others. Reportedly, a member of the Austria-Israel Society concluded astutely: “This position [of the prosecutor] is, unfortunately, becoming more popular. Everything passes as so-called criticism of Israel. Anti-Semitism seems to have been officially abolished. In view of the climate in Europe, it is a dramatic development.”
Admittedly, I once compiled a sampling of Twitter posts expressing “displeasure toward Israel” in terms similar to those used by Ibrahim B. and misinterpreted it all as a sign of anti-Semitic sentiments. But I now realize that we indeed have to conclude that “Anti-Semitism seems to have been officially abolished.”
This conclusion is all the more warranted in light of a recent controversy that developed in the wake of a lecture delivered at Vassar College by Jasbir K. Puar, Associate Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies at Rutgers University. Entitled “Inhumanist Biopolitics: How Palestine Matters,” the lecture was presented as part of a “solidarity project” that “seeks to invite new participants in the global quest for Palestinian liberation.” While I have criticized Puar’s lecture as a Stürmer-style demonization of Israel, its substance could also be summarized with a quote from Schama’s recent article that references “virtual vampirism” as a new addition to the anti-Semitic canon in the 19th century. Indeed, “virtual vampirism” perfectly describes Puar’s laments that Israel’s endless cruelties condemn the Palestinians to a state where they are neither allowed to fully live or die.
Alternatively, one could get a good idea what Prof. Puar’s lecture offered by reading this short description on “Defining the Enemy” from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM):
“Exploiting pre-existing images and stereotypes, Nazi propagandists portrayed Jews as an ‘alien race’ that fed off the host nation, poisoned its culture, seized its economy, and enslaved its workers and farmers.”
Substitute “Nazi propagandists” with “Puar” and “Jews” with “Israel/Israeli Jews” and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the lecture minus all the pretentious jargon. To be sure, there was also a creative new version of the ancient blood libel when Puar mentioned Palestinian accusations that Israel “mined” the bodies of killed Palestinian terrorists “for organs for scientific research” and later added her own fantasies about Israel’s pursuit of “a weaponized epigenetics” which requires “body parts, not even whole bodies, for research and experimentation.”
Incidentally, let me add that the USHMM article also explains:
“As the Nazi regime tightened control over the press and publishing after 1933, propagandists tailored messages to diverse audiences […] Propagandists offered more subtle antisemitic language and viewpoints for educated, middle-class Germans offended by crude caricatures. University professors and religious leaders gave antisemitic themes respectability by incorporating them into their lectures and church sermons.”
Oh well, bygones are bygones.
So to return to our own glorious times: once Prof. Puar faced public criticism for her lecture, hundreds of her colleagues rallied in support of her, passionately denouncing this criticism as “heinous and misinformed attacks.” As I have argued elsewhere, the people who drafted the statement in support of Puar and the hundreds of academics who signed it apparently believe that speculating about Israel stealing organs from dead Palestinians due to the requirements of a “weaponized epigenetics” is “grounded in serious scholarship and thorough research” and reflects “the highest professional and scholarly rigor.”
At first, I found this rather depressing and concluded that we may be living in times almost as dark as the Nazi era.
But now, thanks to an article by regular Ha’aretz contributor and political science professor Mira Sucharov, I understand that I was just one of those “Crying Wolf on Campus anti-Semitism” because “The Vassar College Talk Was No Blood Libel.”
Sucharov concedes that “[u]nfortunately, the unsubstantiated charge of using ‘body parts for experimentation’ cuts close to the bone of blood libel myths.” But she feels it has to be seen “in the context of a cultural moment on campuses when most criticism of Israel is inappropriately being cast as anti-Semitic.”
“Presenting unsubstantiated claims against agents of a state in a public lecture is irresponsible. And if the symbolism chosen for these non-evidenced charges quacks like an infamous anti-Semitic myth, it will not surprisingly be heard by many as redolent of that scourge. But that does not necessarily make it, in and of itself, anti-Semitism.”
It is noteworthy that Sucharov claims to have “received a transcript” of the lecture. Well, as it happens, I also had access to the transcript and have actually read all of it, as well as relevant published writings of Puar. I therefore find it quite remarkable that Sucharov feels she has to take refuge in these “in and of itself” reservations. What about the lecture and Puar’s writings as a whole?
To be sure, Sucharov also cites two professor who (unsurprisingly) agree with her: Joshua Schreier, a Vassar history professor who supported the Jewish Studies Program’s co-sponsorship of Puar’s lecture and cannot have much interest in admitting they sponsored a lecture that promoted age-old anti-Semitic tropes; and Ian Lustick, a professor of political science at University of Pennsylvania, who learnt from Max Blumenthal’s screed “Goliath” that “Israel is not just a little bit fascist, Israel is a lot fascist” – which is, according to Lustick, the “ultimate delegitimizer,” because after World War II, “nothing fascist can even be allowed to survive.” And guess what? Lustick had an explanation for “the speculations about horrific Israeli behavior with respect to organ harvesting from Palestinian bodies,” which are, according to him, “as unlikely to be true as they are likely to be circulated as long as Israel refuses to quickly return bodies of dead Palestinians to their families.” Right, it’s so obvious that it’s all Israel’s fault!!!
In any case, there is clearly no need to worry about anti-Semitism. The oldest hatred is finally over – and it turns out we could have abolished it decades ago, simply by postulating that as long as nobody herds Jews into gas chambers and then incinerates their bodies, it’s all legitimate criticism of the world’s only Jewish state, which many of its legitimate critics want to see abolished because they are firmly convinced that without this one tiny Jewish state, the world would be a much better place…
It is really really truly just a curious coincidence that throughout the ages, Jew-haters have been firmly convinced that without Jews existing as a community and doing what they were accused of doing without any evidence, the world would be a much better place.