Israel’s record on civilian casualties compares well to America’s (& One cheer for the Pope)

August 21, 2014

Iranian media approvingly show an anti-Israel/anti-Semitic rally in Germany last month

 

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CONTENTS

1. Israel’s record on civilian casualties compares well to America’s
2. “Yet within six years of publishing his book, my grandfather had to flee Germany”
3. “For Jews in western (and Muslim) societies are expected to know their place”
4. “Was Sainsbury’s anti-Semitic? No. But it does shine a light on the modern phenomenon of acquiescence to anti-Semitism”
5. The pope is not naïve, so why the double standards?
6. “Once again Israel finds it has no alternative” (By Daniel Finkelstein, The Times of London, Aug. 13, 2014)
7. “It’s anti-Semitism, stupid” (By Efraim Karsh, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 11, 2014)
8. “The kosher controversy at Sainsbury’s speaks to a profound problem: acquiescence to anti-Semitism” (By Brendan O’Neill, Daily Telegraph, UK, Aug. 18, 2014)
9. “One cheer for Pope Francis” (By Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, Aug. 19, 2014)


[Note by Tom Gross]

ISRAEL’S RECORD ON CIVILIAN CASUALTIES COMPARES WELL TO AMERICA’S

I attach four articles, each written by subscribers to this email list. I have extracted some parts of the articles below first, for those who don’t have time to read them in full.

As I have written before, I take it for granted that many of you may have read op-eds in leading liberal papers such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Haaretz or Le Monde, and when I occasionally prepare these round-up of articles, I tend to select articles that express views that rarely find their way in to these papers.

***

Three other observations:

(1) The leading Arab paper Al-Hayat reported yesterday that Qatar threatened to expel Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (who has been housed in Doha since 2012, having been expelled from his previous base in Damascus) if Hamas agreed to the cease-fire deal with Israel put forth by Egypt this week.

Qatar continues to fuel the Gaza-Israel conflict (mainly because of its own rivalries with Egypt). Despite this, the Obama administration and other western governments continue to maintain very close ties and kowtow in all kinds of ways to the regime in Qatar.

***

(2) And on the “Contentions” website, Evelyn Gordon reminds us about a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009. It found that, of the victims of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq from March 2003 to March 2008 whose age and gender could be determined, 46% were women and 39% were children.

See here for example:

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/5161326/Number-of-women-and-children-killed-in-Iraq-air-raids-disproportionately-high.html

By contrast, according to the UN, 12% of all Palestinians killed in Gaza were women and 23% were children, far lower than the percentages killed in U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.

www.ochaopt.org/content.aspx?id=1010361

Tom Gross adds: Of course, Israel and many others strongly dispute these UN figures, pointing out that the UN agency in question is largely staffed by Palestinians either working for or threatened by Hamas, and their figures have included as civilians people who Hamas and Islamic Jihad admit were armed combatants, as well as others in Gaza who died of natural causes in recent weeks, and all those killed by the approximately 350 Hamas rockets that have fell short of their targets and landed in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the White House, Pentagon, and State Department have all used very harsh language to accuse Israel of doing little to prevent civilian casualties – while in fact even by the UN’s figures, Israel’s record on this is better than America’s.

***

(3) The UN’s figures also expose the absurd misinformation that the BBC World Service continues to broadcast – often as its part of it lead world news story – that, and this is the exact phrase I have heard the BBC use on dozens of occasions this week: “Over two thousand Palestinians in Gaza have died, nearly all civilians”.

Even Hamas isn’t saying that.

Of course, many in Gaza have suffered horrendous hardships, and the BBC should report on that, but this is not an excuse for misinformation.

(You can read my article on the BBC and Gaza here.)

-- Tom Gross


ARTICLE EXTRACTS

“YET WITHIN SIX YEARS OF PUBLISHING HIS BOOK, MY GRANDFATHER HAD TO FLEE GERMANY”

* Daniel Finkelstein (Times of London): “My grandfather was not a Zionist... He opposed the Zionists, fought them politically. He even wrote a book on the subject, which, within a few months of its publication in 1927, went through three editions… Yet within six years of publishing his book, my grandfather had to flee Germany... Six million of Europe’s nine million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, including my grandmother.”

* “It is impossible to view the death of so many [Palestinian] women and children without being aghast... It is a moral disaster... Yet it is also impossible to stop there. Just as it is not enough to stop after considering my grandfather’s case against the German Zionists without considering what happened to the alternative he was proposing.”

* “What are the choices for Israel? … The Palestinians must have a homeland, they have a right to a homeland… [But] establishing this Palestinian right, much as I passionately believe in it, will not be enough. It won’t be enough to ensure that Israel doesn’t have to wage unthinkable wars to protect itself [as it did before 1967]…. I, of course, supported Israel’s withdrawal from occupying Gaza. But unfortunately it has made things worse…”

* “No democratic government could survive [doing nothing in response to continuous rocket attacks on all its major cities]… Would the international community protect Israel, if Israel did not protect itself? … Jews are always being told they should learn the lesson of the Holocaust…. [One of them is] that world opinion didn’t save us. And that by the time the army liberated the camps, most of the people were already dead.”

 

“FOR JEWS IN WESTERN (AND MUSLIM) SOCIETIES ARE EXPECTED TO KNOW THEIR PLACE”

* Prof. Efraim Karsh (Jerusalem Post): “Let’s admit it: Israel can never win the media war against Hamas. No matter what it does, no matter how hard it tries. Not because the Islamist terror group that is raining missiles on its cities and villages and using its own hapless subjects as human shields is the underdog in this conflict, but because the sight of Arabs killing Jews (or other Arabs for that matter) is hardly news; while the sight of Jews killing Arabs is a man-bites-dog anomaly that cannot be tolerated.”

* “Imagine the following scenario: Thousands of foaming-at-the-mouth Jews rampaging through the streets of London and Paris to protest the blitz bombing of their co-religionists by a murderous al-Qaida/ISIS clone. They carry banners urging the killing of all Muslims wherever they are, hurl rocks and petrol bombs at the police, set fire to mosques, destroy Muslim properties and establishments, and attack all Muslims and Arabs coming their way.

* Sound incredible? No doubt. For Jews in western (and Muslim) societies are expected to know their place… to never fight fire with fire, to always understand the “other,” to ever be ready to please, appease… Not so Israel’s enemies.

* “What makes this phenomenon particularly galling is that instead of clarifying in no uncertain terms the unacceptability of this bigotry in civilized societies, western elites have treated these recurrent hate fests [against Jews and Israelis] as legitimate, if at times excessive, manifestations of Muslim solidarity with the Palestinians, thus providing a safe environment for outright anti-Semitic attitudes and behavior. (As evidenced by the ongoing bloodbaths in Syria and Iraq, the notion of Muslim solidarity is a myth, with far more Muslims killed throughout history by their co-religionists than by non-Muslims.)”

* “Just as western politicians and the media have ignored Hamas’s indiscriminate missile attacks on Israeli civilians but jumped up and down over Israel’s military response, so they have been bending over backward since 9/11 to embrace their Muslim citizens … [Yet] it is Jews who feel vulnerable to attack, and who have faced the most violence, and whose institutions from synagogues to community buildings to Jewish newspaper offices have been under heavy police guard for years – no Muslim community in the West has had to undertake similar security precautions.”

 

“WAS SAINSBURY’S ANTI-SEMITIC? NO. BUT IT DOES SHINE A LIGHT ON THE MODERN PHENOMENON OF ACQUIESCENCE TO ANTI-SEMITISM”

* Brendan O’Neill (Daily Telegraph): “Were you outraged by a Sainsbury’s store’s decision over the weekend to hide away its kosher foods in an attempt to placate anti-Israel protesters? You should have been. For this incident, though seemingly a one-off, speaks to a profound problem in Europe today – the respectable classes’ acquiescence to anti-Semitism; their willingness to accept anti-Semitic sentiment as a fact of life and to shrug it off or, worse, kowtow to it.”

* “So does this mean Sainsbury’s is anti-Semitic? No… But it does shine a light on the modern phenomenon of acquiescence to anti-Semitism, the rank unwillingness of influential people and institutions to face up to anti-Semitic sentiment and their preference for moulding the world around it rather than challenging it. Imagine if a Sainsbury’s manager suggested that the best way to deal with a racist in his store was to remove the black employees who were offending him. There would be outrage. Yet this weekend, in central, apparently civilised London, a manager decided that the best way to deal with people possessed of a possibly anti-Semitic outlook was to hide away the Jew stuff, lest they see it and feel disgusted by it.”

* “Such official or institutional acquiescence to anti-Semitism is now widespread in Western Europe. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people say that the problem of anti-Semitism isn’t all that bad, because they would rather just not talk about it. Or they say anti-Semitism is an understandable if slightly wrong-headed response to Israeli aggression in Gaza, excusing this poisonous prejudice as a kind of misfired political anger. In a world in which we are supersensitive to racism, in which a politician telling a less-than-PC after-dinner joke can expect to be harangued in the press and vilified on Twitter, it is simply extraordinary that more people are not exercised by the spread of anti-Semitic sentiment in Europe, by the smashing-up of synagogues, the vandalism of Jewish stores, the attacks on Holocaust memorials. This is the only prejudice that the opinion-forming set would rather not address.”

* “And in failing to do so, they effectively collude with it, granting it a special moral authority above all other prejudices. Everyone now knows that this is the one prejudice that respectable society won’t really challenge you for holding, and in fact will allow you to hold through making life easier for you.

* “But it does exist here [in Britain], and it is deeply entwined with a now widespread, highly emotional, often unhinged anti-Israel sentiment... Better to leave the anti-Semitism issue alone than invite scrutiny of Western Europe’s very own middle classes and left and the responsibility they might possibly bear for creating the conditions for contemporary anti-Israel-bordering-on-anti-Jew sentiment.”

* “A civilised, democratic society would confront anti-Semitism. Our acquiescence to anti-Semitism is calling into question both our claim to be civilised and our democratic credentials.”

 

THE POPE IS NOT NAÏVE, SO WHY THE DOUBLE STANDARDS?

* Lee Smith (Weekly Standard): “Yesterday Pope Francis endorsed military action to stop the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) from persecuting religious minorities, especially Christians and Yazidis, in Iraq. The pope’s statement is to be welcomed—albeit with serious reservations.”

* How is Hamas, a terrorist organization that targets Jews, a Middle East minority, different from ISIS, a terrorist organization that goes after Christians, Shia, Yazidis, and, presumably, if given the chance, Jews? Regarding ISIS, Francis reasoned that “where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor…I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’“

* The pope is not naïve. What stops violence is not careful verb choice, but violence. So why is it licit to use violence to stop this unjust aggressor and not Hamas or, for instance, Bashar al-Assad?

* Last September the pope held a peace vigil to protest proposed U.S. military action against the Assad regime. “May the noise of weapons cease!” Francis proclaimed. “War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity,” said the pope, just a few weeks after the Syrian regime launched a chemical weapons attack against civilians in a Damascus suburb.

* The Obama administration and Pope Francis are both correct—ISIS’ gory campaign is a real humanitarian catastrophe. The question is, why are they both blind to other grotesque insults to the innate dignity and freedom of others in the Middle East? Why does Francis elaborate a “Just War” argument to stop ISIS, and not Assad or Hamas? Is it only Christians and Yazidis who merit the care of the world and specifically the Catholic church, or aren’t Jews and Sunnis also created in the image of God?

 

FULL ARTICLES

“NO ALTERNATIVE”

Once again Israel finds it has no alternative
By Daniel Finkelstein
The Times (of London)
August 13 2014

The Gaza offensive has been a humanitarian and diplomatic catastrophe – but the other options were insupportable

My grandfather was not a Zionist. No, I should go further. He opposed the Zionists, fought them politically. He even wrote a book on the subject, A Critical Journey Through Palestine, which, within a few months of its publication in 1927, went through three editions.

Alfred Wiener had two objections to the Zionist idea. The first was simply – who on earth would want to live in Tel Aviv (or even, heaven forfend, a kibbutz) when they could live in Berlin? What sort of future was that for the Jews? Not one for him, certainly. It would be dangerous, impoverished and difficult.

The second was that he was an Arabist, a serious scholar of Arab history and culture, and thought that the Zionists were condescending to the Arabs, failing to take seriously enough their nationalist ambitions. He wondered whether it would ever be possible for a Jewish state in Palestine to live in peace.

He resented the Zionists for addressing the German Jew “as though he were in banishment”. Being a German and a Jew belonged together, he argued vehemently, and the Jews should stay in Germany. Germany, not Palestine, was their homeland. This, despite the fact that he was already adopting the role for which he is best known, as the leading archivist and campaigner against German antisemitism.

History has shown many of my grandfather’s worst forebodings to be correct. The Zionists had indeed underestimated Arab nationalism and the ambitions and rights of those people who already lived in Palestine. Life would indeed be difficult in Israel for the pioneers and peace impossible to come by.

Yet within six years of publishing his book, my grandfather had to flee Germany to live his life in banishment. The alternative to Zionism that he proposed turned out to be no alternative. Being a German and a Jew did not belong together. Six million of Europe’s nine million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, including my grandmother. In other words, he was right, but also spectacularly wrong.

This example conditions my response to the terrible events in Israel and Gaza these past few weeks.

It is impossible to view the death of so many women and children without being aghast, without seeing it as a dreadful failure. It is a moral disaster. It is a diplomatic catastrophe. Yet it is also impossible to stop there. Just as it is not enough to stop after considering my grandfather’s case against the German Zionists without considering what happened to the alternative he was proposing.

What are the choices for Israel? Let’s start at the end of one of Douglas Alexander’s press releases. The shadow foreign secretary finishes his statements on Gaza with the assertion that “Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given, but a right to be recognised”. In so far as that means anything, I strongly agree with it. The Palestinians must have a homeland, they have a right to a homeland, in which they can live in prosperity and peace.

As most people agree, this should be broadly consistent with the borders that existed before the 1967 war. And Israel has made the creation of such a state considerably more difficult by its disastrously wrong and ill-considered decision to allow Jewish settlements to be built outside these borders.

Yet in this formulation, there lies a clue. And the clue tells you that establishing this Palestinian right, much as I passionately believe in it, will not be enough. It won’t be enough to ensure that Israel doesn’t have to wage unthinkable wars to protect itself.

The clue is in the idea of returning to the 1967 borders. Because there was a time when Israel lived within those borders, wasn’t there? It lived within them before 1967. And what happened? They had to fight successive wars, in 1948, 1967 and then again in 1973 to be allowed to live inside the borders. It was during the last two wars that it took the land as buffers against invasion. The war against Israel is not caused by the occupation. The occupation is caused by the war against Israel.

And for all that I support a Palestinian state, would its creation really mean peace in the Middle East even if it left Israel alone? The peace that emulates the internal affairs of which neighbour? Egypt? Syria? Lebanon? Iraq? Iran?

I, of course, supported Israel’s withdrawal from occupying Gaza. But unfortunately it has made things worse, not better, and has seen more innocent people die. The response to this has simply been to argue that Israel must “end the blockade”. And, naturally, anything that can safely be done to allow trade and relax restrictions should be done. It is, however, hardly possible to suggest to a country that its best response to a force that is firing rockets at it and building tunnels to allow invasion, is to remove limitations on movement of people and goods.

Alongside all this, there is, of course, another choice. That is to allow Hamas to fire rockets and build tunnels, and to do nothing. Israel would be required to put up with a few civilian deaths, the chance of many more and the need for everyone in the country to rush to air raid shelters all the time. Yet in return it would occupy the high ground and might expect the support of the international community.

To set out this option explicitly is to reveal its absurdity. No democratic government could survive advocating such a policy. And even if they could, it wouldn’t work. Let’s assume (a very big assumption) that failing to respond to Hamas did indeed seize the high ground. Would doing that help? Would the international community protect Israel, if Israel did not protect itself?

Ask the Palestinian refugees starved to death by Assad in a camp outside Damascus as we did nothing. Ask the minorities in Iraq. The West hasn’t the will to intervene and certainly wouldn’t do so before the Jews were being beheaded in the streets or being buried alive.

None of this, not one word, lessens my sorrow, my despair at every Palestinian life that has been lost. Things cannot go on like this. It is a tragedy, it is insupportable.

But Jews are always being told they should learn the lesson of the Holocaust. And yes, one of its most important lessons is that man is capable of great evil and we must struggle against that urge. Yet alongside it Jews learnt the lesson that world opinion didn’t save us. And that by the time the army liberated the camps, most of the people were already dead. Never again.

 

“IT’S ANTI-SEMITISM, STUPID”

It’s Anti-Semitism, Stupid
By Efraim Karsh
The Jerusalem Post
August 11, 2014

Let’s admit it: Israel can never win the media war against Hamas. No matter what it does, no matter how hard it tries.

Not because the Islamist terror group that is raining missiles on its cities and villages and using its own hapless subjects as human shields is the underdog in this conflict, but because the sight of Arabs killing Jews (or other Arabs for that matter) is hardly news; while the sight of Jews killing Arabs is a man-bites-dog anomaly that cannot be tolerated.

Imagine the following scenario: Thousands of foaming-at-the-mouth Jews rampaging through the streets of London and Paris to protest the blitz bombing of their co-religionists by a murderous al-Qaida/ISIS clone. They carry banners urging the killing of all Muslims wherever they are, hurl rocks and petrol bombs at the police, set fire to mosques, destroy Muslim properties and establishments, and attack all Muslims and Arabs coming their way.

Sound incredible? No doubt. For Jews in western (and Muslim) societies are be expected to know their place: to act maturely, responsibly and compassionately, to never fight fire with fire, to always understand the “other,” to ever be ready to please, appease, and whenever necessary – turn the other cheek.

Not so Israel’s enemies. With a sickening unanimity that has become all too familiar over the past decades, whenever the Jewish state responded in strength to Palestinian terrorism – be it rocket attacks from Lebanon; West Bank-originated suicide bombing campaigns (euphemized as the Aqsa intifada); or rocket, missile and mortar attacks from the Gaza Strip – hordes of hateful, violent demonstrators flocked onto the streets of western cities throughout the world, not to call for peace or an end of violence on all sides but to demonize a sovereign democracy for daring to protect its citizens and to vilify and assault their own Jewish compatriots for no reason other than their different religious and/or ethnic identity.

“Today, non-Israeli Jews feel themselves once again exposed to criticism and vulnerable to attack for things they didn’t do,” the late New York University professor Tony Judt lamented amid the growing number of hate fests in the early 2000s. “The increased incidence of attacks on Jews in Europe and elsewhere is primarily attributable to misdirected efforts, often by young Muslims, to get back at Israel.”

Anti-Semites, of course, have never been short of excuses for assaulting and killing Jews, and infinitely larger numbers of Jews were exterminated shortly before the founding of the State of Israel than in the 66 years of its existence, not to mention the millions massacred in Europe and the Middle East since antiquity.

Neither did European Jew-haters await Israel’s establishment to unleash on the remnants of the Holocaust.

Anti-Semitic sentiments remained as pronounced as ever, especially in Eastern Europe, which witnessed a few vicious pogroms shortly after the end of World War II. Even in Germany, Jews found themselves attacked and abused in public with 60 percent of Germans condoning overt anti-Jewish acts of violence.

Yet if this bleak record failed to prevent an astute student of European history like Judt from falling for the canard that Israeli actions are the cause, rather than the pretext, for the worst wave of attacks on Jews and Jewish targets in Europe since the 1930s, why should one be surprised by its thoughtless dissemination by the international media? If it were not so appalling, one could even marvel in the irony that 80 years after being forced to wear yellow stars so they could be targeted for persecution, European Jews are being instructed to hide any signs of their Jewish identity, for their own protection.

What makes this phenomenon particularly galling is that instead of clarifying in no uncertain terms the unacceptability of this bigotry in civilized societies, western elites have treated these recurrent hate fests as legitimate, if at times excessive, manifestations of Muslim solidarity with the Palestinians, thus providing a safe environment for outright anti-Semitic attitudes and behavior. (As evidenced by the ongoing bloodbaths in Syria and Iraq, the notion of Muslim solidarity is a myth, with far more Muslims killed throughout history by their co-religionists than by non-Muslims.) Just as western politicians and the media have ignored Hamas’s indiscriminate missile attacks on Israeli civilians but jumped up and down over Israel’s military response, so they have been bending over backward since 9/11 to embrace their Muslim citizens and to accommodate their perceived needs and sensitivities while remaining willfully blind to the fact that it is Jews, not Muslims, whose lives have been most adversely affected by increasing hostile attitudes on the ground – after all it is the Jews, not Muslims of Europe, who are emigrating in record numbers to find a safe haven. It is Jews who feel vulnerable to attack, and who have faced the most violence, and whose institutions from synagogues to community buildings to Jewish newspaper offices have been under heavy police guard for years, because of events in the Middle East – no Muslim community in the West has had to undertake similar security precautions.

The truth of the matter is that since anti-Semites have never really distinguished among Zionists, Israelis and Jews (notwithstanding repeated protestations to the contrary), and since Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, it has been tacitly construed as epitomizing the worst characteristics traditionally associated with Jews and has attracted the full brunt of anti-Jewish bigotry and hatred hitherto reserved for individuals and communities, not least because it has reversed the millenarian Jewish condition of dispersal, minority status and powerlessness. If prior to Israel’s establishment Jews were despised because of their wretchedness and helplessness, they have hitherto been reviled because of their newly discovered physical and political empowerment.

So much so that 64 years after its establishment by an internationally recognized act of self-determination, the Jewish state remains the only state in the world whose right to self-defense, indeed to national existence, is constantly challenged.

In Lord Byron’s memorable words: “The wild dove hath her nest, the fox his cove, mankind their country – Israel but the grave.”

 

“EVERYONE NOW KNOWS THAT THIS IS THE ONE PREJUDICE THAT RESPECTABLE SOCIETY WON’T REALLY CHALLENGE YOU FOR HOLDING”

The kosher controversy at Sainsbury’s speaks to a profound problem: acquiescence to anti-Semitism
By Brendan O’Neill
The Daily Telegraph
August 18, 2014

Were you outraged by a Sainsbury’s store’s decision over the weekend to hide away its kosher foods in an attempt to placate anti-Israel protesters? You should have been. For this incident, though seemingly a one-off, speaks to a profound problem in Europe today – the respectable classes’ acquiescence to anti-Semitism; their willingness to accept anti-Semitic sentiment as a fact of life and to shrug it off or, worse, kowtow to it.

The kosher incident took place at the Sainsbury’s in Holborn in London. When a mob of anti-Israel protesters gathered outside the store, the manager took the extraordinary decision to take all kosher products off the shelves lest the protesters target them and smash them up. Kosher foods, of course, are Jewish not Israeli; they are part of the Jewish dietary requirement, not part of any kind of Israeli food corporatism. To shamefacedly hide away such foodstuffs in order to appease a gang of hot-headed Israel-haters is an attack on a religious people and their rights, not on the Israeli state. That in Britain in 2014 we have store managers taking kosher foods off public display should be of concern to anyone who hates prejudice and racism.

So does this mean Sainsbury’s is anti-Semitic? No. It doesn’t even show that anyone at the Sainsbury’s in Holborn is anti-Semitic. But it does shine a light on the modern phenomenon of acquiescence to anti-Semitism, the rank unwillingness of influential people and institutions to face up to anti-Semitic sentiment and their preference for moulding the world around it rather than challenging it. Imagine if a Sainsbury’s manager suggested that the best way to deal with a racist in his store was to remove the black employees who were offending him. There would be outrage. Yet this weekend, in central, apparently civilised London, a manager decided that the best way to deal with people possessed of a possibly anti-Semitic outlook was to hide away the Jew stuff, lest they see it and feel disgusted by it.

Such official or institutional acquiescence to anti-Semitism is now widespread in Western Europe. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people say that the problem of anti-Semitism isn’t all that bad, because they would rather just not talk about it. Or they say anti-Semitism is an understandable if slightly wrong-headed response to Israeli aggression in Gaza, excusing this poisonous prejudice as a kind of misfired political anger. In a world in which we are supersensitive to racism, in which a politician telling a less-than-PC after-dinner joke can expect to be harangued in the press and vilified on Twitter, it is simply extraordinary that more people are not exercised by the spread of anti-Semitic sentiment in Europe, by the smashing-up of synagogues, the vandalism of Jewish stores, the attacks on Holocaust memorials. This is the only prejudice that the opinion-forming set would rather not address. And in failing to do so, they effectively collude with it, granting it a special moral authority above all other prejudices. Everyone now knows that this is the one prejudice that respectable society won’t really challenge you for holding, and in fact will allow you to hold through making life easier for you. Hate Jews? OK, we’ll just remove this kosher food for you so that you don’t have to look at such ghastly stuff. Translation: be an anti-Semite, we don’t mind.

Even when some people have challenged the new anti-Semitism, they have tended to do so in a back-covering fashion. Consider Owen Jones’ Guardian piece on the rise of Jew hatred. He admits there has been some anti-Semitism in Western Europe lately but then suggests that the real anti-Semitism is among far-Right groups in places like Greece and Hungary. This, too, is an attempt to distract attention from the scourge of anti-Semitism in Western Europe by effectively saying: “Look East – that’s where the vilest people are.” But a progressive should always start by challenging prejudice in his own society, and there is currently heaps of it in Western Europe. It can be seen, not only in the violent attacks on synagogues, but also in the targeting of Jewish cultural events and Jewish shops and the waving of banners and placards depicting Israelis as big-nosed puppeteers of global politics or as a warped people who take a perverse pleasure in killing children. I’ve seen such banners on the very pro-Palestine demos that Mr Jones has spoken at; no one confronted the people who were waving them. Again, we acquiesce to anti-Semitism; we turn a blind eye; we comfort ourselves with the fantasy that anti-Semitism is something that exists among gruff skinheads in Budapest, but not in polite, tolerant, caring Britain.

But it does exist here, and it is deeply entwined with a now widespread, highly emotional, often unhinged anti-Israel sentiment. This is one of the main reasons people don’t want to pick apart anti-Semitism in Western Europe – because to do so would involve asking some very awkward questions about why it is that Israel gets people angrier and more red-eyed than any other issue on Earth, and why some of the very same things that were once said about the Jews (they’re child-killers, they control global politics, they cause international instability) are now said about Israel. Better to leave the anti-Semitism issue alone than invite scrutiny of Western Europe’s very own middle classes and left and the responsibility they might possibly bear for creating the conditions for contemporary anti-Israel-bordering-on-anti-Jew sentiment.

A civilised, democratic society would confront anti-Semitism. Our acquiescence to anti-Semitism is calling into question both our claim to be civilised and our democratic credentials.

 

ONE CHEER FOR POPE FRANCIS

One Cheer for Pope Francis
By Lee Smith
The Weekly Standard
August 19, 2014

Yesterday Pope Francis endorsed military action to stop the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) from persecuting religious minorities, especially Christians and Yazidis, in Iraq. The pope’s statement is to be welcomed—albeit with serious reservations.

As various experts noted, the Vatican is typically opposed to any sort of military action. James Bretzke, a priest and professor of moral theology at Boston College, told USA Today that “popes in recent history have all lined up against any military intervention, including World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and, most recently, the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.”

Indeed, just last month Pope Francis issued a passionate plea for both Israel and Hamas to cease fighting in Gaza and put down their weapons. “Please stop,” the pope said in his weekly address from the balcony in Saint Peter’s Square. “Brothers and sisters, never war, never war! I am thinking above all of children, who are deprived of the hope of a worthwhile life, of a future.”

So why is this situation different? How is Hamas, a terrorist organization that targets Jews, a Middle East minority, different from ISIS, a terrorist organization that goes after Christians, Shia, Yazidis, and, presumably, if given the chance, Jews? Regarding ISIS, Francis reasoned that “where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor…I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’“

The pope is not naïve. What stops violence is not careful verb choice, but violence. So why is it licit to use violence to stop this unjust aggressor and not Hamas or, for instance, Bashar al-Assad?

Last September the pope held a peace vigil to protest proposed U.S. military action against the Assad regime. “May the noise of weapons cease!” Francis proclaimed. “War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity,” said the pope, just a few weeks after the Syrian regime launched a chemical weapons attack against civilians in a Damascus suburb. The videos of the aftermath of the attack and the testimony of the survivors documented what many would also consider a defeat for humanity—men, women, and children treated like insects by a vicious ruling order while the world looks the other way, while the servant of the servants of God convenes peace rallies.

Some experts argue that Francis is building his case for support of military action against the Islamic State in terms of “Just War” theory, but for others it is hard not to conclude that given his stand against violence to stop Assad or Hamas, the Vicar of Christ is either a relativist, or perhaps worse, has taken sides in a sectarian conflict.

Even before the Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011, the Alawite-led Assad regime has long portrayed itself as a protector of Christians and other minorities. Syrian regime allies have also put forth variations of the same argument, like the Lebanese patriarch of the Catholic Maronite church, Bechara al-Rahi, who when the Syrian uprising first broke out worried about the fate of Lebanon’s Christians if Sunnis took over in Syria. Indeed, many Christian clerics in Syria have come out openly on behalf of Assad and his murderous policies, a stark reminder that many of the Middle East’s men of faith are little more than spokesmen for the narrow interests of their sect or clan. It is natural and just to seek to protect your own, but there is no scriptural basis for petitioning Caesar to lay waste to the other tribe so that yours may thrive.

The concern then is that Pope Francis may be mistaking sectarian propaganda circulated by Middle Eastern clerics for a humanitarian plea. After all, as the Syrian regime and its spokesmen posit, the problem with the Middle East is the Sunni Arab majority—a danger not only to the region’s many minorities but also, as 9/11 made clear, Americans as well. According to this line of thinking, the United States should partner with Syria, as well as its allies, like the Islamic Republic of Iran and Hezbollah, for they all have issues with the regional Sunni majority.

As it turns out, the Obama administration has teamed up with Syria and its allies—but for strategic reasons, not sectarian ones. The White House is tilting toward Iran because it believes, foolishly, there is a grand bargain to be had with the clerical regime. Thus, in Lebanon, the White House has shared intelligence with units of the Lebanese armed forces penetrated by Hezbollah. In Iraq, the administration armed former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki to fight his Sunni rivals, and have just signed off on yet another Iranian-sponsored premier, Haidar al-Abadi. And now news comes today from a pro-Assad newspaper in Beirut, that the White House is sharing intelligence on ISIS with the Syrian regime.

The Obama administration and Pope Francis are both correct—ISIS’ gory campaign is a real humanitarian catastrophe. The question is, why are they both blind to other grotesque insults to the innate dignity and freedom of others in the Middle East? Why does Francis elaborate a “Just War” argument to stop ISIS, and not Assad or Hamas? Is it only Christians and Yazidis who merit the care of the world and specifically the Catholic church, or aren’t Jews and Sunnis also created in the image of God?

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