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June 04, 2003

Taking on Incitement

When reflecting on the task ahead of Palestinian prime minister Mahumud Abbas, or Abu Mazen, I think it serves well to read a portion of Ruth Wisse's article in Commentary, On Ignoring Anti-Semitism.
"Unlike the Germans who unleashed their war against the Jews under cover of a wider European conflict, the Arab nations, through the PLO, placed the destruction of Israel explicitly at the heart of their mission. The PLO’s charter, a public document, defines the Jews as “not a people with an independent identity,” branding them as colonial occupiers of land that belongs eternally to the Palestinian people, and their state as an illegitimate “entity” that needs to be eliminated. On these grounds, the PLO not only claimed the moral right to kill Jews but turned their murder into a sacred cause. And this, as the historian Michael Oren has pointed out, does mark one difference between German and Arab anti-Semitism, albeit a difference suggesting that the Arab variety is worse:

For all the kudos discreetly given SS killers by the regime, Nazi Germany never publicly lionized them, never plastered their pictures on the streets, or openly encouraged children to emulate them. That kind of adoration for mass murderers can only be found, in abundance, among the Palestinians.

In the light of this adoration, indeed, it has become more and more difficult to maintain the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, with the latter defined as “merely” a political-territorial objection to the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. Rather, contemporary anti-Zionism has absorbed all the stereotypes and foundational texts of fascist and Soviet anti-Semitism and applied them to the Middle East. Every stratum of Arab society, from top to bottom, has been nourished on the myth of Israel’s illegitimacy, and has been encouraged to express its loyalties through aggressive hostility to the Jewish people and its land.

The dissemination of anti-Jewish propaganda by and within Arab and Muslim societies has lately been swifter than the spread of the Internet. As anyone can discover by punching in the relevant keywords in any major library system, Arabic translations of all the major works of European anti-Semitism have been supplemented by an immense new body of original literature defaming Israel and the Jews. As long ago as 1986, Bernard Lewis could write in Commentary that certain Arab countries were the only places in the world “where hard-core, Nazi-style anti-Semitism is publicly and officially endorsed and propagated.” Since then, Arab propagandists have been working hard to expand and revitalize the tradition. The sincerity and the steadfastness of this genocidal hostility, proliferating through the press, the visual media, literature, and the schools, are much greater in Arab lands than they ever were in pre-Hitler Europe—which had, after all, a contrary liberal tradition and at least the rudiments of a modern democratic culture. And now, thanks in part to Muslim immigrants, this same hostility has found its way back to the heartland of the very Europe where it originated."

Abu Mazen has a serious task ahead of him, if he intends on really fulfilling the Palestinian commitments. As of now, however, a series of cartoons in the Palestinian press--controlled by Arafat--might point to a dynamic that is developing: Arafat will continue to flex his muscles and does not intend on helping Abu Mazen one bit--he wouldn't even make the token gesture of stoping anti-Semetism in the media.