Singapore and India: Examining antisemitism in an honest way

November 13, 2003

[Note by Tom Gross]

This is the fourth dispatch resulting from the controversial speech by outgoing Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir in which he made various anti-Semitic comments and received a standing ovation from 56 other world leaders on October 16.

There has been a wave of articles sympathetic to Mahathir in the Arab and Asian press (and even one by Paul Krugman in the New York Times).

But there has also been a truthful examination of the evils of anti-Semitism in some Asian countries.



SUMMARIES

I attach two articles from last weekend from the Straights Times of Singapore, and a note on India's first Holocaust exhibition, which opened on Monday.

1. "Jews: History's scapegoats," (Singapore Straights Times, November 2003). The former Malaysian prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, said recently that Jews rule the world by proxy. Opinion polls in Europe show a majority of Europeans feel Israel is a threat to world peace. Anti-Semitic 'hate speech' and 'hate acts' seem more frequent lately. But as Janadas Devan finds out, anti-Semitism has a long, persistent and troubling history.

Consider the following: 'Reasons of race and religion combine to make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable.' 'You may as well do anything most hard/ As seek to soften that - than which what's harder? -/ His Jewish heart.' 'How I hated marrying a Jew.' 'Jew York'. 'Jewnited States.' 'Franklin Delano Jewsfeld.'

Who uttered these statements? Dr Josef Goebbels? A member of the lunatic Ku Klux Klan?

None of the above. They were made by some of the most prestigious figures in Anglo-American culture: T.S. Eliot, William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf (who, of course, married Leonard Woolf, a Jew), F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound.

Similar examples of anti-Semitism can be easily multiplied. Emile Zola, Rudyard Kipling, Henry Adams, King Edward VIII, later the Duke of Windsor.

[Full article below]

 

2. "Fear of globalisation fuelling resurgence of anti-Semitism" (Singapore Straights Times, November 2003)

Is there a resurgence of anti-Semitism in the contemporary world? Some scholars think so. A recent article in the US journal Foreign Policy noted the following:

Anti-globalisation demonstrators at the World Economic Forum carrying placards reading, 'Nazis, Yankees and Jews: No More Chosen Peoples', and wearing T-shirts with the Star of David twisted into the Nazi swastika.

An Italian newspaper running a cartoon depicting the infant Jesus about to be run over by Israeli tanks, saying 'Don't tell me they want to kill me again.'

Statements in 'Malaysia and Zimbabwe nations nearly bereft of Jews warning of an international Jewish conspiracy to control the world's finances'.

[Full article below]

[Note the editors at the "Singapore Straights Times" were sent the article in Foreign Policy, through this email list (Dispatch: Antiglobalism's Jewish Problem, November 4, 2003)]

 

INDIA

3. Another Asian country that has recently been exploring anti-Semitism is India. Last Monday, November 10, the prestigious Indira Gandhi National Center For The Arts opened a Holocaust exhibition, the first of its kind in India. Among those attending the opening were religious, political and academic figures, including the Chief Justice of India's Supreme Court, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

 

YASSER ARAFAT'S FORTUNE

4. The following item also appeared in the al bawaba internet site that serves the Arab world a surprisingly honest report about Yasser Arafat's finances:

albawaba.com/news/index.php3?sid=262816&lang=e&dir=news

US television documentary: Arafat's wife, daughter live in Paris on expense of Palestinian aid money
Al Bawaba
November 7, 2003

Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, transfers $100,000 from funds directed to the Palestinian Authority to his wife Suha who lives in Paris along with the couple's daughter, according to an investigative report conducted by CBS television show 60 Minutes, to be aired Sunday across the United States. According to the report, Arafat has accumulated in his private accounts more than $800 million from aid originally appropriated to the Palestinian Authority. Raymonda Tawil, Mrs. Arafat's mother, is apparently also enjoying life in Paris at the expense of the Palestinian taxpayers, the report is to claim. Mrs. Arafat lives in Paris with her eight-year-old daughter, Zahwa.


FULL ARTICLES

JEWS: HISTORY'S SCAPEGOATS

Jews: History's scapegoats
Singapore Straights Times
November 2003

http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/think/story/0,4386,219031,00.html?

The former Malaysian prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, said recently that Jews rule the world by proxy. Opinion polls in Europe show a majority of Europeans feel Israel is a threat to world peace. Anti-Semitic 'hate speech' and 'hate acts' seem more frequent lately. But as Janadas Devan finds out, anti-Semitism has a long, persistent and troubling history.

Consider the following examples of anti-Semitism:

'Reasons of race and religion combine to make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable.'

'You may as well do anything most hard/ As seek to soften that than which what's harder? / His Jewish heart.'

'How I hated marrying a Jew.'

'Down in a tall busy street he read a dozen Jewish names on a line of stores... New York he could not dissociate it now from the slow, upward creep of these people.'

'Jew York'. 'Jewnited States.' 'Franklin Delano Jewsfeld.'

Who uttered these statements?

Dr Josef Goebbels? Some Nazi poet? A blond Aryan, expressing regret for marrying a Jew during the Holocaust? A member of the lunatic Ku Klux Klan?

None of the above.

They were made by some of the most prestigious figures in Anglo-American culture: T.S. Eliot, William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf (who, of course, married Leonard Woolf, a Jew), F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound.

Similar examples of anti-Semitism can be easily multiplied.

In French literature Emile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, Maurice Barres.

In English literature Rudyard Kipling, Hilaire Beloc, G.K. Chesterton.

In American letters Henry Adams, H.L. Mencken. Among industrialists Henry Ford.

Among 'All-American heroes' Charles Lindbergh. Among royalty King Edward VIII, later the Duke of Windsor.

And on and on, ad infinitum.

But these are only examples of 'hate speech'.

The list of 20th century anti-Semitic 'hate acts' is more gruesome.

The Holocaust, when six million Jews were exterminated by Hitler, was only the final act.

Pogroms during and after the 1917 Russian Revolution resulted in the death of 75,000 Jews.

In Germany, after World War I, Jewish communities in Berlin and Munich were terrorised by anti-Semitic organisations.

After the Munich Soviet was crushed, all foreign-born Jews were expelled from the city.

The Holocaust didn't happen out of the blue; Europe was well-primed for the 'Final Solution'. And it was not the work of only a few decades, but of centuries.

As historian Paul Johnson points out in his History Of The Jews, though the term 'anti-Semitism' was not coined until 1879, anti-Semitism, 'in fact if not in name', undoubtedly existed from 'deep antiquity'.

'The specific hostility towards the Jews, which began to emerge in the second half of the first millennium BC, was a function of Jewish monotheism and its social consequences,' he writes.

Circumcision, for instance, 'set them apart and was regarded by the Graeco-Roman world as barbarous and distasteful'.

In the Roman era, these religious prejudices took on a political dimension.

'The Jewish refusal to practise the formalities of state worship was seen not merely as characteristic of Jewish exclusiveness... but as actively disloyal.'

In AD70, Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem.

Anti-Semitism in the Christian era had one of its source in the Bible.

Matthew's Gospel, for example, quotes 'the people', watching Pilate wash his hands, exclaim: 'His blood be upon us and on our children.'

This was interpreted by the early Church as an admission by Jews themselves that they bore guilt for Christ's crucifixion.

As a result, as early as in the 5th century, Christian theologians presented Jews as deicides or murderers of God.

Jews lost their rights in many Christian societies, were excluded from state office, and often expelled altogether.

The first mass expulsion occurred in England, in 1290, and the last in Spain, in 1492.

In 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council required Jews to distinguish themselves from Christians by wearing a badge, a practice that Hitler later copied.

Jews were victims of genocides and pogroms throughout the Crusades, from 1096-99 to the 15th century.

In the Middle Ages, Jews also became the subject of an extraordinary allegation.

Known as 'blood libel' 'the allegation that Jews murder non-Jews, especially Christians, in order to obtain blood for the Passover or other rituals' it led 'to trials and massacres of Jews in the Middle Ages and early modern times,' the Encyclopedia Judaica explains.

There were 'blood libel' trials as recently as the 17th century in Poland, with Jews being tortured to extract confessions of having drunk Christian blood, especially of children.

Tsarist Russia revived the libel in the early 20th century, as did the Nazis in the 1930s and the Soviet Union in the 1970s.

The persistence of such beliefs indicates how different anti-Semitism is from other forms of racism.

Strictly speaking, it is not a racism, for what defines a Jew is not so much a race as a religion.

That, more than economics or politics, explains the persistence of anti-Semitism in the Church's history.

'The provocation to Christian theology of Jewish survival; assumptions that Judaism had been superseded by Christianity, and that Christian ethics are superior to those of Judaism' these, as the scholar Dr Anthony Julius notes, are the historical causes of European anti-Semitism.

That is why St John Chrysostom could argue in the 5th century: 'If the Jewish rites are holy and venerable, our way of life must be false'.

That is why Hippolyte Gayraud, a French Dominican, could advocate a 'Christian anti-Semitism' in the 19th century, arguing 'a convinced Christian is by nature a practising anti-Semite'.

From St Ambrose in the 4th century to Martin Luther in the 16th, anti-Semitism infected most denominations of the Church a fact that Pope John-Paul II himself has underlined, by apologising for that history.

But there were also counter-arguments and counter-examples.

The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II rejected the blood libel, as did Pope Innocent IV.

The most important theologian in the early Church, St Augustine, adopted a relatively enlightened attitude towards Jews.

England expelled Jews in the 13th century, but in the 19th, it made Benjamin Disraeli, a Jew, its Prime Minister.

Even at the height of the Holocaust, in Berlin itself, about 10,000 German families risked their lives to hide Jewish friends.

And the Danes, an occupied people, refused to enact any of the anti-Jewish laws that the Nazis had insisted upon.

Indeed, when the Nazis announced in 1943 a round-up of all the Jews in Denmark, the whole country resisted.

In a stupendously daring operation, the Danes ferried by sea almost all Jewish Danes to neutral Sweden and out of harm's way.

After the war, when the Jews returned, they not only found their homes intact, they discovered that their neighbours, in many instances, had paid the rent in their absence.

The Danes, one might say, merely acted as Christ, the founder of Christianity - and a Jew would have.

 

FEAR OF GLOBALISATION FUELLING RESURGENCE OF ANTI-SEMITISM

Fear of globalisation fuelling resurgence of anti-Semitism
Singapore Straights Times
November 2003

http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/think/story/0,4386,219033,00.html?

Is there a resurgence of anti-Semitism in the contemporary world? Some scholars think so. A recent article in the US journal Foreign Policy noted the following:

As violence in the occupied territories mounts, Israeli officials haven taken to equating criticism of their policy with anti-Semitism. REUTERS

Anti-globalisation demonstrators at the World Economic Forum carrying placards reading, 'Nazis, Yankees and Jews: No More Chosen Peoples', and wearing T-shirts with the Star of David twisted into the Nazi swastika.

An Italian newspaper running a cartoon depicting the infant Jesus about to be run over by Israeli tanks, saying 'Don't tell me they want to kill me again.'

Desecration of synagogues and Jewish schools in Europe, culminating in 2002, when the highest number of such attacks in 12 years occurred.

Statements in 'Malaysia and Zimbabwe - nations nearly bereft of Jews warning of an international Jewish conspiracy to control the world's finances'.

A phenomenon that has existed for more than 2,000 years is not easy to disentangle. But one might specify three broad reasons for contemporary anti-Semitism religious, economic and political.

In the US, anti-Semitism used to be prevalent among evangelical Christians, but this has been displaced by pro-Israeli feelings. Many evangelicals now believe the 'Covenant of Abraham' gave all the holy land to Jews and that Christ won't return till Israel rules it all.

But anti-Semitism still exists in some Christian communities, the residue of ancient prejudice, and in many Islamic societies.

These religious-inflected hatreds have also been augmented by economic and political causes. Fear of globalisation, for instance, has contributed to anti-Semitism, tapping old stereotypes of the voracious Jewish money-man (Shylock in Shakespeare, Fagin in Dickens, Melmotte in Trollope).

In the Arab world, economic failure has combined with the humiliation of repeated military defeats by Israel to accentuate anti-Semitism. Anger, failure, humiliation, defeat these are not conditions which will enable Arab/Muslim societies to resume their traditional tolerance for Ahl al-kitab, people of the book.

But a caveat is necessary here: It is false (and self-serving) to equate all criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, as some Israeli officials do.

That makes as much sense as equating criticism of Chinese policy in Tibet with anti-Sinicism or of Indian policy in Kashmir with anti-Hinduism.

If criticising Israeli policy in the occupied territories is anti-Semitic, many people of goodwill will have to be labelled as such including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the literary scholar Edward Said, the New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, the current Israeli Chief of Defence Staff, activists in the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, Israeli journalists in Haaretz, and this newspaper's leader writers.

'Both the vision of social justice and the equality of all peoples that the Jewish people has cherished for 3,000 years, and the vital interests of the Jewish people in the Diaspora and even more so in Palestine, require absolutely and unconditionally that the rights and interests of the non-Jewish inhabitants of the country be guarded and honoured punctiliously.'

Who said that? None other than David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, on Jan 29, 1918, just three months after the Balfour Declaration. It is not anti-Semitic to demand that Israel live up to that promise of equality and justice.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.