The long knives are out for another Jewish liberal who committed the sin of stating the uncomfortably obvious truth about the causal effect between Israeli policy and Muslim anti-Semitism.
It’s a truth that has been studied by Israeli security experts and acknowledged by Israeli governments, but it runs counter to the right-wing doctrine that Israeli policy and action exist in a vacuum and Muslims are only pretending to be enraged.
The latest to run afoul of the truth police is the American ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman. As reported in Friday’s Yediot Ahronot and posted on Ynet the next day, Gutman was addressing a group of European Jewish lawyers gathered November 30 to discuss anti-Semitism. In his remarks, posted in full on the website of the European Jewish Union, he drew a distinction between “classic bigotry” directed against Jews for being Jews—which his own father experienced as a Polish Holocaust survivors—and a newer form of Jew-hatred that is a spillover from the Israeli-Arab conflict and can therefore be mitigated by reducing Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
… there is significant anger and resentment and, yes, perhaps sometimes hatred and indeed sometimes and all too growing intimidation and violence directed at Jews generally as a result of the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories and other Arab neighbors in the Middle East. This is a complex problem indeed. It requires its own analysis and solutions. And the analysis I submit is not served simply by lumping the problem with past instances of anti-Jewish beliefs and actions or those that exist today among minority haters under a uniform banner of “anti-Semitism.”
Predictably, partisan Republicans are jumping all over it, claiming it reflects President Obama’s supposed dislike of Israel, accusing Gutman of “blaming Israel for anti-Semitism” and calling for him to be fired (first out of the box: the Republican Jewish Coalition here, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and his Emergency Committee for Israel here, as well as Gingrich and Romney here).
In fact, the Israeli Defense Ministry and IDF have been studying the same question that Gutman addresses - European anti-Semitism as a spillover from the Mideast conflict - for the better part of a decade. And drawing more radical conclusions than Gutman did.
The problem of spillover attacks on Diaspora Jews was discussed as early as 1994 by the Israel Defense Forces and Ministry of Defense. I heard about it from Sallai Meridor, who was a Defense Ministry official in 1994 and took part in discussions of the bombing that year of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which was believed to be staged by Hezbollah in retaliation for Israel’s assassination in 1992 of Hezbollah secretary general Abbas Massawi. Meridor later became chairman of the Jewish Agency and launched a think tank, the Jewish People Policy Institute, in large part in order to have an institutional body that could help analyze the impact of Israeli security policy and action on Diaspora Jews. The JPPI produces a yearly assessment of Jewish needs around the world and presents it to the prime minister and cabinet at a special session. The first one, focused at length on the problem of Muslim anti-Semitism in Europe as a spillover effect from the conflict. It cited as one of the top challenges to be addressed in the coming year
The rise of antisemitism in Europe in the last three years, largely correlated with the rise of Islamic activism and developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinian issue poses tough and often tragic value and political dilemmas. It is a quandary with profound uncertainties. The inherent instability of the region virtually precludes easy, clear-cut and stable “solutions”. Outstanding creative thinking and democratic determination are essential to craft promising policy options and implement them in the face of Palestinian realities and in a gauntlet of diverse dogmatic opinions in Israel emanating from the “left” and “right”. Israel is on the “front line”, and her future essence and territory are at stake. The Israeli-Arab dispute, however, carries important implications for all Jews wherever they reside. Therefore, innovative measures are required to involve the Jewish people as a whole in this critical choice, without undermining the prerogative of Israel to make its own choices.
That’s a lot more radical than what Gutman said. Gutman called the connection between the conflict and European anti-Semitism both “fortunate” and “unfortunate”—fortunate because it means there are things that can be done to ameliorate the situation, in contrast to classic bigotry, but unfortunate because the answers lie outside Europe. The JPPI actually called for Diaspora Jews to have input in the shaping of Israeli policy, so that Diaspora needs and interests can be factored in.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).