The great historian Gavin Langmuir gave us a very insightful definition of
antisemitism. He began by distinguishing it from anti-Judeanism (my term, not
his) and anti-Judaism. When the Romans attacked Israel 2000 years ago, it was
standard geopolitics. The Romans attacked any number of provinces, with no
need for any deep-seated animosity toward their residents. The Roman war that
led to the Temple’s destruction had more to do with the Roman need for a
reliable salt supply from the Dead Sea than with any priestly rituals or arcane Jewish laws or anything have to do with Jews per se. It was anti-Judeanism, not antisemitism.
In a similar vein, the theological attacks of Christianity and, later, Islam
were at least in principle reasonable and respectable. Whether G-d could
become incarnate as a human being; what one needed to do in order to merit lif everlasting; the relation of the letter of the law to the spirit—these are all
legitimate topics for vigorous debate. So, too, the threat of
proselytizing/encroachment was a source of legitimate concern and legitimate
tension. But this was anti-Judaism, not antisemitism. At least until the swords came out.
For Langmuir, antisemitism does not really come into being until a new
element appears: delusional fantasy. When, about a thousand years ago, people
start talking about Jews having horns and tails, suckling at the teats of pigs, and (G-d forbid) drinking the blood of non-Jewish children, antisemitism came into its own. Now, hatred of Jews could expand to world-conspiratorial dimensions. One could say literally anything about Jews no matter how divorced from reality, because reality no longer mattered. In fact, most of the accusations were as contra-factual as possible. Jews, of all people, drinking pig milk? Seriously? Drinking blood? Much less human blood?
The target of antisemitism was not real Jews, but rather “the Jews”—those eerie and malevolent quasi-human devil worshipers.
The target may not have been real Jews, but real Jews were the victims.
Fast forward to the war against Hamas, where Israel is increasingly being
accused of “genocide.” The evidence that this accusation is counter-factual is
overwhelming. Consider: at this point in the conflict, Israel has bombed Gaza
24,000 times and killed 12,000 Palestinians in purportedly “indiscriminate”
bombings. But that means that in this densely populated area, Israel dropped
12,000 bombs “indiscriminately” and killed absolutely no one.
But wait, there’s more. Hamas is notorious for padding the numbers.
Surely the 12,000 dead Palestinians includes the supposed 500 victims of the Islamic Jihad rocket attack at Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital. And given that about 1 out of every 10 Palestinian rockets misfires and lands in Gaza, that’s probably worth another 500 victims. So we’re down to 11,000. And Israel has a very good track record when it comes to targeting Hamas terrorists vs. civilians, usually in the neighborhood of a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio. Which means 3,000 or so of the 11,000 were Hamas terrorists.
That leaves 8,000. And when people were killed, they were often not alone.
Assuming that the 8,000 were killed in 4,000 bombings, we come to the
staggering conclusion that the Israelis dropped 24,000 bombs on Gaza, and in
these “indiscriminate” bomb raids dropped 20,000 bombs without killing anyone!
Hoboken, New Jersey, has the same population density as Gaza. Anyone think they could drop 20,000 bombs on Hoboken without killing anyone?
If Israelis were trying to commit genocide, G-d forbid, they would surely
rank as the most incompetent genocidal murderers ever. But of course they
aren’t, which should be perfectly obvious to anyone thinking rationally. After all, making 30,000 warning calls, dropping nearly 4 million leaflets sending nine million voice mail messages, and 10 million warning texts, directing civilians to safe areas isn’t exactly compatible with genocidal plans. As an aside, think about all that the next time someone says that Israel should do more to protect innocent civilians. What should Israel do? Use carrier pigeons? Send engraved invitations? “Dear Sir or Madam, You are cordially invited to save your life while we hunt for terrorists in your neighborhood.”
The glaring contrast between the lines of Jews on the way to gas
chambers and the lines of Palestinians walking away from the danger zone could
not be clearer. A line in the Holocaust meant people marching to their deaths. A line in Gaza means people being given a chance to live.
Equally telling is the statistical comparison. The Israelis have tragically
and accidentally killed (not “murdered”) 8,000 innocent civilians in over a month.
During a three month period of Operation Reinhard in 1942-1943, Nazis
intentionally murdered (not “killed”) innocent Jews at a rate of 14,600 per day.
The textbook definition of genocide involves an attempt to destroy a
people, in whole or in part, “as such.” That is exactly not what the Israelis are doing. But caught in the antisemitic fever dream, there are those who continue to insist that Israel’s attacks are both “indiscriminate” and “genocidal” at the same time. Go figure.
There are those, particularly within the world of academia, who recognize
that Israel’s actions don’t match any genocide the world has ever seen, so they turn to an arcane legal definition that expands the concept of genocide beyond recognition. As my mother of blessed memory would so delicately put it, “Cut the crap.” When people say Israelis are committing genocide, they aren’t thinking of Article 4, paragraph 2, clause 15 of some obscure treaty they never heard of.
They are thinking Nazi. How do we know? Because Holocaust inversion is
ubiquitous. All throughout the Middle East, as well as in some circles in the West,the portrayal of Israelis as Nazis is commonplace. In the West, one will often hear the question, “How could Jews who have suffered so much do the exact same thing to another people?” “The exact same thing.” A question that would be obscene in its vulgarity if it were not so embarrassingly stupid. But if you needed a sophisticated (if also deranged) expression of the same sentiment, consider the words of Hamid Dabashi, the Hagop Kevorkian professor of Iranian studies and comparative literature at Columbia University (G-d help us): “After [the 2014 Israeli attack on] Gaza, not a single living Israeli can utter the word ‘Auschwitz’ without it sounding like ‘Gaza.’ Auschwitz as a historical fact is now archival. Auschwitz as a metaphor is now Palestinian. From now on, every time any Israeli, every time any Jew, anywhere in the world, utters the word ‘Auschwitz,’ or the word ‘Holocaust,’ the world will hear ‘Gaza.’ “
But if that is true, quite obviously the world needs a hearing aid. If not
The antisemitic genocide delusion serves to explain another contemporary
phenomenon—the “disappearing” of Jewish victims. That is why people have
been tearing down the posters of innocent Jewish hostages. That is why there is an entire cottage industry of denial about Oct. 7 and beyond—no rapes, no
murders, no tunnels, no arms caches in hospitals—up to and including Mahmoud
Abbas (our “partner in peace”) claiming that it was the IDF, not Hamas, that
attacked the Gaza envelope communities (I’m not making this up). This should
not be surprising, because his Master’s thesis was an attempt to describe the
Holocaust as a “fantastic lie.”
And perhaps, the epitome of erasure: the literal erasure of the iconic Warsaw Ghetto child with raised hands from the mural of Italian artist aleXandro Palombo in Milan. Simply put, it’s hard to maintain a deluded antisemitic view of genocide when reminders of a real genocide, and its latter day successors, are staring you in the face.
So what now? For the most part, there isn’t very much than can be done
about this. Every attempt to distinguish between reality and fantasy will only
reinforce the fantasy (file under: “Say the sky is blue enough times, and people will think it must be another color; otherwise, why would you be so insistent it was blue?”). Explaining things to the Israeli genocide crowd is like talking to a flat earther. With an AK-47.
Perhaps the lesson might be learned by the young Jews who share in the genocide delusion if they realize that they, too, are in danger of
In any case: there is as much truth to the new delusion of Israeli genocide
as there is to the classic delusion of Jews having horns. Which is to say, no truth at all. But if you continue to insist that it is true, well, we will at least know you for what you are.