In­ter­na­tional scape­goats of choice

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Suzanne Fields

“Jew­cen­tric­ity” is a word that sounds like it was coined by an em­bit­tered anti-Semite. But it’s ac­tu­ally the in­spi­ra­tion of Adam Garfin­kle, a Jew, writ­ing in The Amer­i­can In­ter­est On­line mag­a­zine to call at­ten­tion to a phe­nom­e­non with roots in anti-Semitism and runs from the silly to the sub­lime: “ [. . . ] the idea, or the in­ti­ma­tion, or the sub­con­scious pre­sump­tion [. . . ] that Jews are some­how nec­es­sar­ily to be found at the very cen­ter of global-his­tor­i­cal events.”

“Jew­cen­tric­ity” is most ev­i­dent in the re­cy­cling of “The Pro­to­cols of the Learned El­ders of Zion,” a fic­ti­tious text com­mis­sioned by the Czar’s se­cret po­lice for a Rus­sian au­di­ence at the end of the 19th cen­tury, de­scrib­ing a fan­ci­ful ca­bal of Jews who plan to take over the world. Some crit­ics of the neo­con­ser­va­tives, some of whom are Jewish, cite the pro­to­cols, so called, in their ac­cu­sa­tions that Jews have hi­jacked Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy. Oth­ers, crit­i­cal of Is­rael, hy­per­ven­ti­late over the power of the “Is­rael lobby.”

The Pro­to­cols have nat­u­rally be­come a best-seller in sev­eral Mus­lim coun­tries, in­clud­ing Turkey and Egypt, where they were turned into a television se­ries. (“Semitic Sex in the City,” how­ever, it was not.) The Pro­to­cols were fea­tured on the Ira­nian stands at last year’s book fair in Frank­furt “to ex­pose the real vis­age of this Satanic-en­emy,” along with an abridged edi­tion of Henry Ford’s lit­er­ary thriller, “The In­ter- na­tional Jew: The World’s Fore­most Prob­lem” (which never made it to the screen). “The grip of the Jewish par­a­sitic in­flu­ence,” as­serts the pref­ace of the new edi­tion, “has been grow­ing stronger and stronger ever since [Henry Ford’s time.]” Se­ri­ous ex­am­ples of “Jew­cen­tric­ity” are re­flected in the me­dia ob­ses­sion with Sen. Ge­orge Allen’s Jewish mother, who was born in Tu­nisia and barely es­caped the Holo­caust, and be­fore that, with for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Madeleine Al­bright’s Jewish roots in Cze­choslo­vakia. The na­tional news­pa­pers and television net­works spent con­sid­er­ably more time in­ves­ti­gat­ing the sen­a­tor’s “blood” parent­age and its likely ef­fect on his re-elec­tion cam­paign than the blood be­ing spilled in Dar­fur. “Why?” asks Adam Garfin­kle. “Be­cause [. . . ] Jews is news and there are no Jews in Dar­fur.” That doesn’t slow down the con­spir­acy the­o­rists in other coun­tries, with or with­out Jews, from ob­sess­ing over the myth of sin­is­ter Jewish power.

Ger­many’s Jew­cen­tric­ity is of a com­pletely dif­fer­ent or­der. No neg­a­tive slur against Jews goes unan­swered in the law courts or in the court of pub­lic opin­ion. This has hardly elim­i­nated prej­u­dice against Jews. In an anti-Semitic prank with echoes of the Third Re­ich, a high-school stu­dent in east­ern Ger­many was forced by bul­lies not long ago to wear a sign around his neck in the school yard: “In this town I’m the big­gest swine be­cause of the Jewish friends of mine.” The teacher re­ported it, the chief of po­lice was firm in his out­rage and the state min­is­ter of the in­te­rior promised an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Ger­many does not tol­er­ate pub­lic ex­hi­bi­tion of Nazi sym­bols.

But the strain of anti-Semitism that many thought would van­ish af­ter the hor­ror of the Holo­caust has risen again in the Mid­dle East and among Euro­pean fel­low trav­el­ers of the Is­lamists, whose rhetoric tar­gets Is­rael in a way that Hitler would read­ily rec­og­nize. Is­rael is the eu­phemism for the de­mo­nized Jew. The Jews be- come, as Jonathan Rosen ob­served in the New York Times, “in­ter­change­able em­blems of cos­mic evil.”

It’s not sim­ply an empty ges­ture that maps avail­able in Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries show Is­rael erased. Hezbol­lah demon­strated its ca­pac­ity to send rock­ets into Is- rael, and the Ira­nian nu­clear threat is aimed first at Is­rael.

Jews re­main con­ve­nient scape­goats as they con­tinue to haunt the fan­tasies of ra­tio­nal­iz­ers and haters who want to avoid re­spon­si­bil­ity for their own cul­pa­bil­ity. In the 1930s Jews were blamed for ev­ery­thing that went wrong in Ger­many (and later in East­ern Europe). To­day they’re per­ceived as the sem­i­nal cause of Is­lamic ter­ror­ism, sub­ject to the same old me­dia stereo­types that thrived in Nazi news­pa­pers. Get­ting rid of the Jews in Europe wasn’t enough.

“Jew­cen­tric­ity” serves a spe­cific pur­pose both in the Mid­dle East and in Europe. It unites the Mus­lims against a com­mon en­emy and con­ceals their own di­vi­sions and dis­con­tents, which would be there even if there was not an Is­rael to hate. In­creas­ing Mus­lim pop­u­la­tions in Europe threaten the peace in ways that ab­sent Jews do not. But we can blame the Jews, any­way.

The No­bel Prize-win­ning Hun­gar­ian nov­el­ist Imre Kertesz ob­serves that Euro­peans mask their crit­i­cism of Is­rael in mourn­ful tones about the Holo­caust but use the lan­guage that led to Auschwitz. “Be­cause Auschwitz re­ally hap­pened, it has per­me­ated our imag­i­na­tion, be­come a per­ma­nent part of us,” he says. “What we are able to imag­ine — be­cause it re­ally hap­pened — can hap­pen again.”

Suzanne Fields, a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times, is na­tion­ally syn­di­cated.

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