The horrendous events in the Sikh Temple remind us that hatred is capable of bursting forth anywhere, at any time. Yet if one looks for a common denominator between the White Supremecist and the radical fundamentalist, between the communist oligarchy and the Fascist dictatorships, the binding thread is easy to find. One hatred ties these disparate movements together, the longest hatred that is both widespread and resurgent. Around the world, there is the threatening and all too familiar specter of the hatred of Jews. The executive summary of our own State Department's report for 2011, released late last month, described a "global increase" in anti-Semitism and a "rising tide of anti-Semitism."
Like all officially unacceptable beliefs, this hatred wears masks. Often we are told that it is the conduct of the State of Israel and not anti-Semitism. (To clear up the terminology, Semites are not really a category of people, but of languages. There are Semitic languages, and people who speak them often referred to as Semites. But the word has come to mean Jew hatred.) To be sure, Israel is not a perfect state. Even in view of the state of constant war that it has been subjected to since its founding, no one of sense or conscience would say it has not done cruel or wicked things. But no nation draws upon itself the obloquy of Israel. In the years of the worst massacres in Sudan, not one U.N. resolution was passed regarding Sudan, but 22 passed against Israel. If you doubt that something deeper lies within, listen to the words and images.
Egypt, now that the popular will is more freely expressed, is a hotbed of resurgent hatred of Jews. As Jeffrey Goldberg writes for Bloomberg: "One popular series depicts an Egyptian diplomat stationed in Tel Aviv who robs Israeli banks on the side. The show was promoted by a Middle East satellite channel, which claimed that it would 'surprise the audience with the sweetest jokes about the cheap Jew.'
Hungary and Spain, according to a recent survey, are the Western countries most imbued with anti-Semitism. In other words, countries with a negligible Jewish population and a history, both medieval and modern, of ridding itself of the Jews who once lived in its midst. Apparently it is not necessary to have Jews around to hate them.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran and Holocaust denier, has said explicitly the only thing standing between the current fractured world and peace are the Jews. (It is worth pointing out that when the State of Israel did not exist there were two world wars and in the second millions of Jews were murdered. Apparently, Israel is not the only stumbling block to peace.) And Iran's vice president declared at an anti-drug conference that drug use was a result of the Talmud.
I recognize that people are tired of hearing this said. They are not only tired here in the U.S.: Poland's general prosecutor has called off a year-long investigation into anti-Semitism on some of Poland's largest Internet portals and websites. The decision was taken, according to the general prosecutor's office, "because of lack of public interest." Still it cannot be said often enough: In time the enemies of the Jews become the enemies of the world, whether they call themselves Nazis or Jihadists. And they will always find a reason for their hatred.
A passage to ponder on the true nature of anti-Semitism comes from Polish literary critic Konstantyn Jelenski, first published in Kultura, Paris, 1968, reprinted several years ago in the New York Review of Books:
"Poles have never come out against Jews "because they are Jews" but because Jews are dirty, greedy, mendacious, because they wear ear locks, speak jargon, do not want to assimilate, and ALSO because they DO assimilate, cease using their jargon, are nattily dressed, and want to be regarded as Poles. Because they lack culture and because they are overly cultured. Because they are superstitious, backward and ignorant, and because they are damnably capable, progressive and ambitious. Because they have long, hooked noses, and because it is sometimes difficult to distinguish them from "pure Poles." Because they crucified Christ and practice ritual murder and pore over the Talmud, and because they disdain their own religion and are atheists. Because they look wretched and sickly, and because they are tough and have their own fighting units and are full of chutzpa. Because they are bankers and capitalists and because they are communists and agitators. But in NO case because they are Jews."