For better and for worse, the terrorist attacks on the United States have changed public attitudes toward Israel. Certain anti-Semites on the intellectual left have been forced into the open; others have been driven into their closets.
Those who contribute to "for worse" are whining and dining in some of the chic salons of London.
"Since Sept. 11, anti-Semitism and its open expression has become respectable at London dinner parties," writes a columnist in the (London) Spectator. The ambassador of a major European Union nation tells Barbara Amiel of London's Daily Telegraph that the problems of the world could be blamed on "that s----- little country, Israel."
When the hostess of one little salon was greeted with silence when she expressed her contempt for Jews, she denounced her friends' "hypocrisy."
"Oh, come on," she said. "You all feel like that."
The English, of course, have a tradition of anti-Semitism, but despite these outbursts the terrorists have tilted a lot of others in a different direction. The intifada, Yasser Arafat's weakness and complicity in those attacks and the mounting toll of Israeli civilians, including many children, have identified the Palestinians as more the victimizers than victims.
The rhetoric of moral equivalence is silenced. President Bush and Colin Powell have used strong language to tell Arafat to end the terrorism; there's a growing awareness that if he really wanted to do something about it he could. The European Union has pledged to speak "with one voice" on the Middle East and this means focusing international pressure on Yasser Arafat.
The editor of a major British newspaper that consistently blames Israel for obstructing the "peace process" was asked the other day how he could expect the Israelis to negotiate when "Arafat does not believe in the right of the Jewish people to a state"? The eminent editor admitted, with a certain rue: "You have put your finger on the weak point in our argument."
Despite Arafat's protests, the evidence suggests that he is the same old terrorist he was before Oslo. Last week, at a high-level conference of leading security experts, the Israeli military chief of staff charged that the Palestinian leader was working with the radical terrorist groups known to be responsible for the attacks. The lines between Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Arafat's own security forces "have become blurred."
It's difficult to see any difference between al-Qaida, the destroyers of the World Trade Center and 3,000 human lives, and the terrorists who are blowing up Israel piece by piece. Only the most blinded ideologue any longer calls the Palestinian terrorists "freedom fighters." President Bush got it right when he called the suicide bombings that killed 27 men, women and children on a Saturday night in Tel Aviv "unconscionable acts of murder." The most outspoken Arabists in our own State Department didn't even try to contradict him.
World sympathy for the survivors of the Holocaust, together with hard-headed strategic realities, created the state of Israel in 1947. But in later years, that first blush of enthusiasm, especially on the Western intellectual left, dissolved. The tough, efficient Israeli soldiers in the Six-Day War of 1967 overturned the image of Jews as victims. Jews who were once perceived to be sheep led to slaughter in the concentration camps were suddenly hardened soldiers fighting back against those trying to kill them. This destroyed a stereotype precious to certain intellectuals, including some Jews.
But Sept. 11 brought back the Holocaust image in new ways, illuminating starkly the deadly threat to Israel's continued existence. The Islamist terrorists have been compared to Nazis, and the analogy works. The Nazis sought to eliminate Jews. So do the Islamists of the Middle East. Caricatures of Jews, drawn with heads with hooked noses on the bodies of insects and vermin in the newspapers of the Third Reich, have reappeared in textbooks and newspapers of Arabia.
Hamas is "considering" halting "martyrdom operations," but calling the suicide bombers martyrs is something like calling Adolf Eichmann's crematoria the "solution to the Jewish problem." Evil wears many disguises, but the face behind the veil has not changed.