'The Last Acceptable Predjudice'

Posted: Jul 28, 2003 12:00 AM

The "new" anti-Semitism is as virulent as ever, but it's often easy for Americans - Christian and Jew alike - not to notice.

Christians and Jews get along here. Evangelical Christians have become some of the best friends Jews have, and, for their part, most Jews are not as suspicious of Evangelical motives as they once were. Since the anti-Semites abroad regard America as the great Satan and Israel the little Satan, we all feel equal-opportunity hate.

Anti-Semitism is no longer the preserve of the Ku Klux Klan, the uneducated, the outcasts and the bigots of the night. The bigotries at home are nurtured now on the left, by domestic radicals allied with the usual suspects abroad. This is not easy for some of us to get used to.

Phyllis Chesler, a left-wing feminist, was a reluctant candidate to become a "professional Jew," as she puts it in The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It.

The role was thrust upon her by men and women she thought were her intellectual, emotional and social comrades in arms against injustice, but who took an irrational detour into vicious mendacity, spouting demented politically correct propaganda against Jews and Americans everywhere.

"I now find it necessary and sane to think tribally as well as internationally to think as an American and as a Jew who is concerned not only with justice for all but also with the survival of America and of the Jewish people," she writes. "Islamic reactionaries and Western intellectuals and progressives who may disagree on every other subject have agreed that Israel and America are the cause of all evil. Israel has fast become the Jew of the world - scorned, scapegoated, demonized and attacked."

Angry words, but amply documented. She shows how the new antiracist (so called) anti-Zionist shares a common hatred with the old anti-Semite. She won't separate anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism, but cuts to the core of obfuscation and hypocrisy, recalling how Martin Luther King, Jr. responded to a student who attacked Zionism: "When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-Semitism."

She gets to the point of why Israel's enemies abroad, with no appreciation of the pluralism on which democracy thrives, hate America, too: "In many ways the state of Israel towers above its neighbors both morally, politically, and in terms of religious freedoms."

As a feminist, she's particularly outraged that many feminists have muted their criticism of Islamist misogyny, or how others are oblivious to their own self-interests. What could be more ludicrous, she asks, than to see grown men marching against Zionism behind a banner proclaiming "Queers for Palestine." Queer, indeed. If these men lived in an Islamic culture they would be harassed - or worse. Much worse.

Some of the enemies she identifies are familiar. Noam Chomsky, whose anti-Israel and anti-American books are best sellers on campus, catalogs the imperfections of American and Israeli democracies but forgives the total lack of democracy in Islamic countries. Edward Said, the "prestigious" professor of literature at Columbia University, compares the Palestinians under Israeli rule to the plight of the European Jews under the Third Reich.

What has emerged in the past decade is how the new anti-Semitism has become politically and psychologically respectable among western intellectual elites: "The American and European Left have made a marriage in hell with their Islamic terrorist counterparts."

The new anti-Semitism drips into the mainstream with surprising ease. Since she went to print, a popular columnist in The Observer, one of the most popular of Britain's liberal papers, piously announced that he would no longer even read letters to the editor about anti-Semitism if they were signed with Jewish names.

The Chicago Tribune, with several newspapers following its lead, only recently ran a particularly nasty political cartoon depicting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with a stereotypical hooked nose and the Jewish star sewn on his jacket, staring down with pleasure as President Bush satisfies his greed by paving "the roadmap to peace" with dollar bills. (The Tribune apologized for failing to recognize the anti-Semitic slurs.)

The Belgian affiliate of Oxfam International, organized to fight poverty, posted a cartoon on its Web site depicting a slice of orange dripping with blood-red juice: "Israeli fruit tastes bitter. Say no to the occupation of Palestine. Don't buy any fruit from Israel." The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization," protested on its Web site with a reproduction of a Nazi poster from April 1933: "Germans! Protect yourselves! Don't buy from Jews!"

The new anti-Semitism passes unnoticed among those who should know better. Writes Phyllis Chesler: "In a politically correct, multicultural world, anti-Semitism is the last acceptable prejudice."

Even in America, the land of the free and the home of the bravest.