Martin Fletcher

Not again!

Here we go again. Is anti-Zionism antisemitism? Is there genocide in Gaza? Is there apartheid in Israel? My contribution is this: it doesn’t matter. Definitions don’t matter. Results do. And the result, every time, sadly, is the same old same old.

For 2,000 years, since the Romans expelled the Jews from Jerusalem in 70 AD, we have faced persecution. The fig-leaf varied, but the result was the same: Blame the Jews and kill them, or at least expel them. Jews have been murdered in and expelled from almost every country in Europe, and the Middle East. There is always a different justification, a different definition of the pretext, while the truthful cause is rarely spoken aloud: hatred. Defined in polite society as antisemitism.

So why worry whether the latest incarnation of Jew-hatred is provoked by the existence of Israel? If it wasn’t this, then it would be that.

Consider these drops in the ocean of historical hatred:

1096 massacres across Europe: Riding to the Holy Land to kill Muslims, the Crusaders of the Cross were encouraged to kill any Jews they came across, for it was they who killed Christ. The message was: Kill even one Jew and your sins will be absolved. Fig-leaf: the Cross.

1190 massacre of the Jews in York, England: At least 150 Jews burned to death, hiding from a mob hunting Jews. This attack was stoked by noblemen who wanted to erase their debts to Jewish money-lenders. Fig-leaf: the money.

1903 Kishinev pogrom and many more: The classic blood libel: Jews had murdered a Christian child to drain its blood for a Jewish ritual. Fig-leaf: lies.

1929 Hebron massacres: The rumor spread that Jews were about to seize control of a Muslim holy place in Jerusalem. Fig-leaf: politics and lies.

1938 Kristallnacht pogroms in Germany and Austria: Sparked by the assassination of a German diplomat in Paris, the wide-spread murders and destruction were more of the claim that Jews were sub-human. Fig-leaf: politics and lies.

1941 – 1945 Holocaust: At least the Nazis were honest about wanting to kill every Jew in Europe. Fig-leaf: none.

2024 Gaza border massacre in Jewish communities: Resistance to the “colonialist occupiers” and revenge. Leading to the latest Fig-leaf: specious claims of genocide and apartheid.

The fig-leafs varied but the sneaky sin did not: hatred of the Jew. So arguing over the question whether anti-Zionism is the same as antisemitism, or over genocide and apartheid, is redundant. Today’s chanting youth or baying mob hurling slogans and insults is but the latest link in a 2,000 year chain of blind prejudice.

Yet prejudice is one thing. Acting upon it is another.

The reason prejudice and its big brother, hatred, so often turn into violence against Jews is obvious: it’s easy. Risk-free. World-wide we are few, and therefore weak, and always have been. At 15.7 million, today we are 0.2% of the world’s population, with 13.5 million living in just two countries, Israel and the USA.

So what payback is there for under-informed Spaniards chanting genocide, apartheid, free Palestine, when there are only about 25,000 Jews in their country among a population of fifty million? Or in Ireland with less than 3,000 Jews. Or in Norway with barely 1,500. Or Slovenia with a mere 300. These four are the latest countries to recognize a state of Palestine. They risk nothing, certainly not votes.

In fact, electoral strength may indicate another consideration. Muslims in Spain: 2.5 million. Ireland: 90,000. Norway: 190,000. Slovenia: 100,000.

Not looking good for us, yet again.

But Jews must have some other kind of strength for here’s the thing: The Romans, the Crusaders, the Cossacks, the Nazis – they’re all gone. And we’re still here.

About the Author
Martin Fletcher served as NBC News Mideast correspondent and bureau chief in Tel Aviv for 28 years, winning almost every award in television journalism, including five Emmy’s. He has written seven books. Walking Israel won the National Jewish book Award in America for non fiction and Promised Land was a finalist in the fiction category. He is the only author to be honored in both categories.