The flotilla, Thomas, and the sum of all fears

The flotilla, Thomas, and the sum of all fears

The title of my first column, a scant seven months ago, was “A conservatarian’s fears for Israel and his people.” Fifteen columns later, my fears have been increased. This takes some doing.

In the late ’80s, I joined the New Jersey regional board of the Anti-Defamation League. I was sensing an increase in subtle anti-Semitism and a blase feeling among fellow Jews. This reminded me of Germany and Europe in the late 1920s and early 1930s. I wanted to contribute to an organization whose purpose was to expose what I was sensing and to prevent an outcome similar to what happened in Europe.

I later joined United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ’s Community Relations Committee, in part to try to take action on what I thought was a growing threat to both American Jews and to Israel.

Over the past year or so, my trepidations have increased and are taking form. Events of the last month, especially the past two weeks, are feeding these fears.

We were on a cruise off the Dalmatian Coast when Israel confronted the Turkish-sponsored Gaza flotilla. BBC World News was the sole English channel on the on-board TV, and there were a number of French, German, and Italian stations. Of course, the lead-up to the boarding, the boarding itself, and the reactions were the lead news items on all channels for days. It got so that I did not want to turn on the TV because of the biased reporting.

I also was able to get some Internet references to the boarding.

In all the broadcasts and Internet articles there was a common theme, an overt anti-Israel sentiment which has become a modern acceptable code for anti-Semitism, especially among the Left and the European and American intellectual and elite classes. (I realize that there is overlap among these groups.)

I kept on thinking, “What would these people have Israel do to protect itself from its sworn enemy on its Gaza border?” Then along came Helen Thomas with the answer.

In an interview with Rabbi David Nesenoff, Thomas said, “Tell [the Jews] to get the hell out of Palestine.” This took the rabbi by surprise and he asked for elaboration. “Remember, these people are occupied, and it’s their land, not German and not Polish,” Thomas responded. Nesenoff asked the next logical question: “Where should they go?”

“They should go home. Poland. Germany. And America, and everywhere else.”

When Nesenoff circulated the interview, it started a firestorm that eventually cost Thomas her job. (She was allowed to resign. Anyone else who was not an “iconic” representative of the mainstream media would have been fired.)

Many commentators pointed out that the Jews whom Thomas referred to were survivors, or descendants of survivors, of Nazi concentration and death camps. To send them to Germany and Poland was figuratively to send them to the gas chambers.

Mark Steyn, in a poignant column about Jewish cemeteries, noted the irony of Thomas’ statement. “In 1936, during the Cable Street riots, the British Union of Fascists jeered at London Jews, ‘Go back to Palestine!’, ‘Palestine’ being in those days the designation for the Jewish homeland.” Steyn added, in his interpretation of Thomas’ slur, “Wherever a Jew is, whatever a Jew is, he should be something else somewhere else. And then he can be hated for that, too.”

But Thomas had her supporters in entertainment, media, and political circles. In his column in The Guardian, Roy Greenslade, professor of journalism at City University in London, said that America and Europe were appalled, not by what Thomas said, but by the “disproportionate” response that her remarks elicited.

Meanwhile, in an interview on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Nesenoff reported receiving “about 25,000 hate mail, you know, e-mails, and more shocking than even that is the hate media that I’m beginning to learn about — you know, from TV and newspapers and blogs and talk shows and entertainers, and they’re accusing me of being some right-wing ambusher….”

Steyn’s must-read column ably articulates my fear of the tolerance by the international community — including the United States — of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. As former Spanish Prime Minister Jose María Aznar noted in an op-ed in the London Times, “To defend Israel’s right to exist in peace, within secure borders, requires a degree of moral and strategic clarity that too often seems to have disappeared in Europe. The United States shows worrying signs of heading in the same direction.”

Steyn points out, “The Jewish presence almost anywhere on the map is as precarious as, to coin a phrase, a fiddler on the roof. And Israel’s enemies are determined that the biggest Jewish community of all should be just as precarious and prove just as impermanent.”

Ominously, Steyn concludes, “The impatience of the new globalized Judenhass [literally “hatred of Jews”] is now palpable…. The new anti-Semitism is a Euro-Islamic fusion so universal, so irrational, and so fevered that it’s foolish to assume any limits.”

And this is why I feel that I am in a 1920s-1930s time warp. I am increasingly afraid for my family and my fellow Jews.

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