Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The objective anti-Semites

British researcher Robin Shepherd says a new form of anti-Semitism lies at the root of much of Western Europe’s criticism of Israel.
From yesterday's Haaretz: The objective anti-Semites, by Anshel Pfeffer

Robin Shepherd is not the first person to try and define the world's oldest hatred, but he is perhaps one of the most unlikely. The senior research fellow at the Chatham House think tank in London has no significant connection to the Jewish people, and his visit to Israel last week was only his second. But he still believes his decision to spend a year researching the new European anti-Semitism is perfectly relevant for any serious observer of international affairs.

When asked about his interest in the subject, he first answers on a philosophical level by quoting the polemicist Christopher Hitchens, who has said that "only a moral cretin thinks that anti-Semitism is a threat only to Jews." He then offers an academic explanation: "The Israel-Palestine conflict is one of the key issues in international relations, and there are very few people in this field without a position on it." His last work was on the wave of anti-Americanism sweeping Europe, and this led him to believe that a new form of anti-Semitism was also at the root of the increasingly critical attitude toward Israel there.


The article ends off with the following interesting observation
Religion of politics
Israel's poisonous critics who say they are not anti-Semites often state that there are prominent Jews among their ranks. Shepherd says this is one of the most interesting points that he plans to research.

"I know there is a tendency to call them self-hating Jews, but the key point is much more subtle. This is where you have to understand people like Noam Chomsky, who is American but an iconic figure for the European left. He is not a self-hating Jew, but his political standing in the left is more important for him than his Jewish identity. That's why the extreme Jewish critics of Israel almost always come from the far left - for them, politics is the most important part of their identity. They are in thrall with a system of thought that happens to have as one of its main objects of belief an obsessive hatred of Israel.

"It might be personally painful for them, but the ideological left is a secular religion, more than any other political group, and for them this religion comes before being Jewish," he says.

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