VENICE -- Moral indignation and human outrage is writ large in the Holocaust memorials growing ubiquitous throughout Europe. How could such things happen? The question numbs the senses, but it doesn't go away -- no matter how many times the question is asked. The suffering Jew replaced the wandering Jew in mythology and history in the 20th century, and the ancient history of expulsion was replaced with the cold efficiency of Nazi villains who sent Jews directly to the death camps.
Reminders are memorialized in bronze and stone in Venice in a beautiful square in the Cannaregio District, where a bronze relief depicts how 200 Jews were forced to leave the ghetto for Auschwitz. Only eight of the 200 survived. A stone tablet addresses the 6 million Jews of Europe hunted down by "blind barbaric hatred."
Now there's something new, and a visitor to Europe can smell it. An old, old story is beginning again all over the continent. The Jews are being scapegoated again. It's bizarre and ironic that in the heart of Europe, where sympathetic tourists flock to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Berlin, the Auschwitz death camp in Poland, the Deportation Memorial in Paris and the empty ghetto in Venice, poisonous anti-Semitism is returning in another guise, this time called "political analysis."
"Somehow 'world opinion' has moved away from the old 20th century view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a complicated territorial dispute between two long suffering peoples," writes historian Shelby Steele in The Wall Street Journal. "Today, the world puts its thumb on the scale for the Palestinians by demonizing the stronger and whiter Israel as essentially a colonial power committed to the occupation of a beleaguered Third World people."
The ghetto in Venice was actually the first anywhere, named for "the geto," or foundry, in the 13th century. The inhabitants were policed at night by guards at gates, on bridges or on boats in the canal. During the day, Jews could become prosperous as doctors, merchants and scholars.
Shakespeare made the ghetto famous in his play "The Merchant of Venice," with the action played out against the exotic background of Venetian culture. Although there were no Jews in England when the Bard lived, he evokes the ubiquitous hatred throughout the centuries of the Jew as a moneylender and someone who did not share the prevailing Christian religion.
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