Column, Expressen, August 12 2014
Hatred of Jews
With certain exceptions (mainly Hungary and Greece), the hatred of Jews (anti-Semitism) is still a European taboo. Anyone who openly declares himself to be an anti-Semite will be regarded as an extremist far outside the boundaries of politics.
This was not always the case. Before the Second World War, anti-Semitism was an almost fashionable prejudice, richly represented in politics, academia and culture. Even people who had never met a Jew (which was true about most Swedes) certainly knew what “the Jews” were all about. If nothing else, they had been told in Church.
In his groundbreaking study, “Anti-Judaism, The Western Tradition”, David Nirenberg provides a fascinating account of the long history of “The Jews” as the focus of other people’s fantasies and phobias. Common to these fantasies is the fact that they have had very little to do with the thinking, sayings and doings of actual Jews. In the universe of anti-Judaism it has all been about The Jew or The Jews as idea and principle. To a Jew-hater, Jews are of course The Jews as well, but you don’t have to be a Jew to be The Jew, which was amply demonstrated by the Inquisition and the Nazis. The forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion – the master fantasy of anti-Semitism – is still having a wide circulation even in countries with no or few Jews – only The Jews.
However, I will maintain that Jews have rarely lived in such security and freedom as they do today, neither have they enjoyed such public recognition and respect, and I must add, in the last two thousand years never had such power .
Not The Jews this time, but actual Jews, with a state of their own and an army to go with it.
Israelis are certainly not the same as Jews and most Jews in the world have little to do with the Israeli exercise of power, but it seems unavoidable that the power wielded by Jews in the name of Jews runs the risk of being perceived as something “Jewish”, whether it is about making the desert blossom or occupying a people.
This makes it even more important, but also more difficult, to safeguard the demarcation line between criticism of Israel and hatred of Jews. Particularly in times when the exercise of Israeli power justifiably stirs indignation and not surprisingly give rise to hatred. In such times, there is a risk that anti-Semitic notions might color an otherwise legitimate critic of Israel and genuine anti-Semitic propaganda masquerade as such. In such times there is also a risk that legitimate critic of Israel will be labeled as anti-Semitism and thereby delegitimized.
In both cases, the significance of the term anti-Semitism is trivialized, the understanding of its character obstructed, the memory of its doings manipulated, the taboo against its expressions weakened.
There is no doubt that the present increase in anti-Semitic incidents, mainly in Europe, is directly linked to the sayings and doings of the State of Israel. This makes it even more important to strike at any attempt to poison the criticism of Israel with anti-Semitic expressions and deeds, but equally important to strike at any attempt to fabricate accusations of anti-Semitism and for political reasons foment fear of anti-Semitism in order to undermine and delegitimize criticism of Israel.
Anti-Semitism is no child’s play.
Neither is the present-day power of Israel.