It is something of an axiom of Jewish life that “Is it good for the Jews?” remains the litmus test of Jewish communal activity — in other words, interest over principles. A good example is free speech. There can be little doubt that the organized Jewish community sees free speech as a problem because it may be used to criticize the behavior of Jewish organizations and especially Israel.
In Canada the response of the organized Jewish community to recent demonstrations against Israel was to attempt to invoke Canada’s restrictions on free speech in order to silence their critics. The Canadian Jewish Congress complained that protests against Israel’s incursion into Gaza contained images that were “uncivil, un-Canadian, that demonize Jews and Israelis.” They are asking the police to investigate the matter for referral to the Canadian Human Rights Commission which is in charge of enforcing laws that infringe on free speech. Although the organized Jewish community in Canada has strongly supported the thought crime legislation (see below), Bernie Farber, the head of the CJC, stated “we are firm supporters and believers in the need to be able to demonstrate passionately in free and democratic societies.”
Because of the First Amendment, we are still a ways from the situation in Canada here in the US. Nevertheless, the ADL has been in the forefront of promoting hate-crime legislation in America, and there can be little doubt that they see the First Amendment as a barrier to their interests in suppressing thoughts and speech critical of Israel and other Jewish interests.
An example of the efforts of the organized Jewish community in the direction of thought control is the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004. This law created an office of “Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism” within the State Department, headed by Gregg J. Rickman. The act not only requires the State Department to document acts of anti-Semitism, but also to “combat acts of anti-Semitism globally.”
The act does not say what the U.S. must do to combat anti-Semitism around the world. I assume combating anti-Semitism wouldn’t require any more in the way of lives and money than, say, the war in Iraq — another project spearheaded by Jewish activism on behalf of Israel. But that may be wishful thinking as the same activists are avidly promoting a war with Iran which would likely be even more disastrous.
In any case, the office issued its most recent Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism Report (GASR) in March of last year. The document is an excellent example of Jewish activism that would be unremarkable except that it is now officially ensconced at the highest reaches of the U.S. government. As we shall see, it goes beyond criticizing anti-Jewish actions to anti-Jewish attitudes, such as statements about Jewish influence.
The report performs the by now familiar casuistry on Israel as a cause of anti-Semitism. The reader is led to believe that the allegations of Israeli atrocities are overblown propaganda — when the real question is just how Palestinians manage to survive at all in the occupied territories. The recent horrifying incursion into Gaza is only the most recent example. Not only did Israel carry out a starvation-inducing blockade during a ceasefire and an assault that finally provoked Palestinian retaliation, there seems little doubt that Israel committed — (site hacked as of 3/4/16) dispatch.co.za/article.aspx?id=28743 — war crimes — particularly the use of white phosphorus bombs in densely populated civilian areas.
The report complains that Israel’s bad behavior is singled out while nobody cares when other governments behave inhumanely. The problem here is that because Israel’s bad behavior is an important ingredient in enflaming the entire region, it should interest everyone. And because of the role of the Israel Lobby in shaping American policy, Israel’s bad behavior is even more properly the concern of all Americans. American taxpayers are not being asked to massively subsidize other badly behaved governments, nor are they asked to fight and die in wars designed to advance the interests of those governments.
The report graciously states that “responsible criticism” of Israel’s policies is acceptable. (Thanks!) But there’s a catch: “Those criticizing Israel have a responsibility to consider the effect their actions may have in prompting hatred of Jews.”
This, of course, has the effect of proscribing criticism of Israel for fear of being called an anti-Semite. Presumably responsible criticism of Israel does not include books like John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt’s The Israel Lobby, despite its academic tone and masterful marshalling of evidence. Jewish activists have routinely accused the authors of resurrecting the Protocols and other vicious acts of anti-Semitism.
As the report notes, Israel is without doubt the source of most anti-Jewish words and deeds in the contemporary world. But the report also points to traditional Jewish stereotypes as a continuing concern: Jews as more loyal to Israel and Jewish interests than the interests of their country of residence; and Jews as having inordinate influence and control over media, the economy or government. For example, according to ADL surveys, substantial percentages of Europeans believe that Jews have too much power in business and in international financial markets. (The percentages range from around 20% in Germany to 60% in Hungary.)
Similarly, ADL surveys indicate that beliefs that Jews are disloyal are common among Europeans, ranging from 39% in France to 60% in Spain. The report notes that “those who believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own country tend to believe that Jew ish lobbying groups and individual Jews in influential positions in national governments seek to bend policy toward Israel’s interests.”
In other words, these anti-Semites are living under the illusion that organizations like AIPAC actually have some influence. And they may even believe that highly placed Jews like Paul Wolfowitz, Elliott Abrams and Richard Perle may have steered U.S. policy in a way that benefited Israel to the detriment of the United States.
As I noted in my review of Mearsheimer and Walt,
Pro-Israel activists such as Perle typically phrase their policy recommendations as aimed at benefiting the United States. Perle does this despite evidence that he has a strong Jewish identity and despite the fact that he has typical Jewish concerns, such as anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and the welfare of Israel. Perle poses as an American patriot despite credible charges of spying for Israel, writing reports for Israeli think tanks and op-eds for the Jerusalem Post, and maintaining close personal relation-ships with Israeli leaders.
Needless to say, the GASR is not a good place to find nuanced or fair treatments of these issues.
The GASR also has a section deploring ethnic nationalist movements of non-Jews, mainly in Eastern Europe, complaining that these movements are commonly anti-Jewish. Typically the anti-Jewish sentiments of such movements stem from the perception that Jews are an elite with considerable power and that this elite opposes the ethno-nationalism of non-Jews—a view that certainly has some basis in reality. (Jewish opposition to ethno-nationalism is restricted to non-Jews in areas where Jews form a Diaspora; it does not, of course, apply to Israel.)
For example, the GASR singles out Roman Catholic institutions as “encouraging anti-Semitism and ethnic and religious chauvinism.” Chief among the offenders isa conservative Catholic radio station in Poland, Radio Maryja, cited for claiming that “Jews were pushing the Polish government to pay exorbitant private property restitution claims [for Holocaust reparations], and that Poland’s President was ‘in the pocket of the Jewish lobby.’”
This seems odd, since it would hardly be surprising if indeed Jews and Jewish organizations were pressuring the Polish government on this issue. Indeed, Norman Finkelstein points out:
In negotiations with Eastern Europe, Jewish organizations and Israel have demanded the full restitution of or monetary compensation for the pre-war communal and private assets of the Jewish community. Consider Poland. The pre-war Jewish population of Poland stood at 3.5 million; the current population is several thousand. Yet, the World Jewish Restitution Organization demands title over the 6,000 pre-war communal Jewish properties, including those currently being used as hospitals and schools. It is also laying claim to hundreds of thousands of parcels of Polish land valued in the many tens of billions of dollars. Once again the entire US political and legal establishment has been mobilized to achieve these ends. Indeed, New York City Council members unanimously supported a resolution calling on Poland ‘to pass comprehensive legislation providing for the complete restitution of Holocaust assets’, while 57 members of Congress (led by Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York) dispatched a letter to the Polish parliament demanding ‘comprehensive legislation that would return 100% of all property and assets seized during the Holocaust’.
No sign of Jewish involvement there. Clearly, Radio Marija is way out of line.
Incidentally, Finkelstein has paid dearly for offending the Israel Lobby: blacklisted from employment in the academic world, deported and barred from Israel, and living in a rent-stabilized apartment near his boyhood home in Brooklyn. The Lobby clearly believes in free speech so long as it’s in done in one’s closet and assuming the neighbors can’t hear it. (More on this below.)
Also related to Poland, the GASR notes that Maciej Giertych, European Parliament Deputy, wrote a booklet “suggesting that Jews were unethical and a ‘tragic community’ because they did not accept Jesus as the Messiah.” The report also deplored the ADL’s finding that 39% of Polish respondents agreed that “Jews are responsible for the death of Christ.”
This is truly amazing. Here we have an official U.S. government report condemning a Polish politician and a large percentage of the Polish people for expressing religious ideas that date from the origins of the Church in antiquity. It’s very reminiscent of the situation in Canada where the Christian Heritage Party has been charged with promoting hatred because they published material opposing homosexuality for religious reasons stemming from their reading of the Bible.
Incidentally, the GASR complains that Giertych also claimed that “Jews ‘create their own ghettos’ because they like to separate themselves from others.” Residential segregation, of course, was standard Jewish behavior in the Diaspora beginning in the ancient world, and it certainly occurred in Polandwell into modern times. Indeed, it continues in many areas of the Diaspora today. But, as with thought crimes generally, truth is no defense.
The GASR coyly states that “While the report describes many measures that foreign governments have adopted to combat anti-Semitism, it does not endorse any such measures that prohibit conduct that would be protected under the U.S. Constitution.”
Nevertheless, the act requires the compilation of material that would presumably be protected by the US Constitution, in particular “instances of propaganda in government and nongovernment media that attempt to justify or promote racial hatred … against Jewish people.” When one considers that a great many of the attitudes mentioned in the GASR are either substantially factual or reflect common religious beliefs, they would certainly seem to fall within the protections of the First Amendment.
And it’s pretty clear where its heart lies. Indeed, as Ezra Levant has recently described, Jewish organizations and activists have been a major source of support for the Canadian Human Rights Commission, intervening in dozens of cases in favor of plaintiffs. Levant describes the Simon Weisenthal Center as “one of the most vicious interveners in Canadian Human Rights Commission censorship trials.” And Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress stated recently that “our anti-hate laws are probably the most underused.” Levant comments: “That sounds like Ian Fine, senior counsel for the CHRC, who declared that ‘there can’t be enough laws against hate.’ So while the rest of the country is realizing that our government censorship has gone too far, Farber says it goes nowhere far enough; it’s underused. He wants more censorship, more government intervention into thoughts and ideas — and the emotion called ‘hate’.”
Clearly the office of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism is nothing if not a Jewish activist organization. And it doubtless would love to institute the same kinds of thought control in the U.S. that have made Canada into a police state. Indeed, it would be entirely within the letter of the law that created this monster if the United States were to declare war on Poland as a means of combating anti-Semitism. At least it won’t be necessary to invade Canada.
See also: State Dept. opposition
Kevin MacDonald is a professor of psychology at California State University–Long Beach.