Anti-Semitism and its limitations
Outside the US, throughout the Western world, anti-Semitism is becoming a powerful social and political force. And its power is beginning to have a significant impact on Israel’s relations with other democracies.
Consider South Africa. Following a lopsided vote by the University of Cape Town’s Student Union to boycott Israel, Jewish students fear that their own student union will be barred from operating on campus. Carla Frumer from the South African Jewish Student Union told The Times of Israel, “If they prove we are a Zionist organization and support Israel, they can have us banned and seek to de-register us.”
In Sydney, Australia, Jewish families received a triple blow last week when Jewish children on a chartered school bus were assaulted by eight anti-Semitic drunken teenagers.
The first shock was that their children, some as young as five, were terrorized on their school bus.
The second shock was that the bus driver made an unscheduled stop to allow the anti-Semites to board the bus and harass the children.
The third shock was that after catching six of the eight assailants, the police let them out of jail the same evening.
Taken together, the incident revealed an obscene comfort level among Australian authorities with the terrorization of Jewish children. Jewish families cannot assume that their children will be protected by non-Jews, whether they are school bus drivers or the police.
Unfortunately, these stories do not begin to scratch the surface of the rising tide of anti-Semitism in the developed world. From Paris to San Paulo, from Berlin to Boston the public space Jews can enjoy without fear is becoming more and more limited.
The same is the case in leftist political circles.
Last week, Paul Estrin, the president of Canada’s Green Party, was forced to resign for his pro-Israel views. On July 25, Estrin posted a pro-Israel essay on the party’s website. His post caused a furor among the party faithful. The Green Party’s leader, MP Elizabeth May, distanced herself from Estrin. And almost the entire party leadership denounced him and demanded his resignation.
In an essay published this week in the Canadian Jewish News, Estrin explained that he joined the party because he wanted to make a difference in the spheres of the environmental protection and human rights. He did not believe that working to achieve these goals in the Green Party would require him to disavow his support for Israel. His recent experience showed him that he was wrong.
In his words, “I am now convinced that one simply can’t [support Israel] within the confines of Canada’s Green Party.”
Similar sentiments have been expressed in recent weeks by pro-Israel members of Britain’s Labor Party. After party leader Ed Miliband sided with the majority of the party membership and against Israel in Operation Protective Edge, Kate Bearman, the former director of Labor Friends for Israel, published an article in theJewish Chronicle announcing that she was quitting the Labor Party.
Bearman wrote, “I feel Ed Miliband’s rush to a condemnation of Israel’s ground incursion into Gaza gave me no choice but to say goodbye to the party I have always voted and campaigned for.”
A survey of Britons taken at the end of last month by YouGov showed that 62 percent believed that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza. This includes 72% of Labor supporters and 57% of Conservatives.
In other words, nearly two-thirds of Britons believe that Israel has no right to defend itself. And since Israel is surrounded by forces that seek its destruction, we can extrapolate that nearly two-thirds of Britons would, at a minimum, have no problem with Israel being wiped off the map.
This rising political force of anti-Semitism is already impacting previously supportive governments’ policies toward the Jewish state. Bowing to the anti-Israel positions of his Liberal-Democrat coalition partners, British Prime Minister David Cameron decided that arms exports to Israel will be suspended if Hamas continues its current round of war with Israel.
The primary engine propelling Western nation after Western nation to abandon their support for Israel and deny the protection of law to Jewish communities is the rising power of Muslim minority communities in these countries. As Douglas Murray explained in an essay published by the Gatestone Institute this week, when it comes to Israel and Jews, otherwise integrated, moderate Muslims in Europe are quick to join jihadists in denouncing Israel and rallying behind anti-Semitic curses and threats.
The unanimity of anti-Semitic prejudice among Muslim communities in the West, and its impact on the politics of Western nations, indicates that in the future, Western nations’ polities toward Israel may have more in common with the positions of Sunni Arab states than with those of the US.
Since the dawn of modern Zionism more than a century ago, Arab societies have united around the cause of destroying Zionism as a political force and Israel as a physical entity. As a result, the default position of Arab governments has been to support Israel’s destruction. They have advanced this goal through various means, including going to war against the Jewish state, supporting proxies and other irregular forces in their efforts to kill Jews and harm Israel, and using international organizations – first and foremost the United Nations – to institutionalize international anti-Semitism directed against the Jewish state and to criminalize Israel with the aim of expelling it from the international community.
In recent years, we have seen a gradual, quiet disassociation of various Sunni Arab regimes from the war against Israel as they viewed their interests as more aligned with Israel than with its battlefield foes.
The first time this occurred was during Hezbollah’s war with Israel in 2006. In the opening weeks of the war, Egypt and Saudi Arabia were demonstrably excited at the prospect of an Israeli rout of Iran’s proxy army in Lebanon. As they saw it, an Israeli victory over Hezbollah would deal a powerful blow to Iran’s hegemonic designs over the Persian Gulf and Egypt. It would end the Muslim Brotherhood’s romance with the mullahs in Tehran.
This Sunni Arab support for Israel only abated when then prime minister Ehud Olmert’s serial blundering in his leadership of the war convinced Sunni leaders that Israel would not score a strategic victory.
Over the past six weeks of Operation Protective Edge, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have been even more open about their preference for an Israeli victory, which they view as a blow to the Muslim Brotherhood. Today these regimes feel far more threatened by the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran than they did eight years ago. Indeed, so great is their desire for an Israeli victory over the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza that they are willing to publicly express their position for the first time.
It is not that “the Arab street” in Mecca and Cairo has stopped hating Jews. It is simply that the regimes are willing to neutralize the political influence of Jew-hatred in order to ensure their survival.
In the future, such a commonality of interests may be the only way for Israel to cultivate strategic cooperation with Western nations.
All of this is greatly disturbing. But at least today, it is not Israel’s most pressing concern. The political salience of anti-Semitism in the West will have no impact on how the fighting ends.
The only players in the game today are Israel, Egypt and the Obama administration. And Israel’s problem today is not the anti-Semitism of Western societies. It is the hostility of the Obama administration.
Unlike the situation in Europe, anti-Semitism is not a significant force in the US. Due in large part to Obama administration actions, there is a growing acceptance in Washington of the false, anti-Semitic charge that Israel dictates US foreign policy.
But the US public views Israel as an ally and a fellow democracy. And as a consequence, the majority of Americans consistently support Israel and expect the US government to support Israel in its wars against Islamic terrorists and its desire to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. This general view is in turn reflected in the predominant pro-Israel positions taken by the vast majority of members of both houses of Congress.
Due to the fact that his position is out of step with the US public, Barack Obama has not been able to break openly with Israel. But behind the scenes, since the outset of Operation Protective Edge he has used his administrative powers to help Hamas and its Islamist sponsors in Turkey, Qatar and Iran to the detriment of Israel and the Sunni Arab regimes.
In other words, whereas David Cameron felt compelled by domestic political realities to turn on Israel, Obama feels compelled by domestic political realities to hide the fact that he has turned on Israel.
As The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, Obama’s latest anti-Israel action was the institution last week of an unofficial arms embargo against Israel. Ignoring standard procedures adopted over the years in accordance with the US’s strategic cooperation accords with Israel, Obama has chosen to deny the US military the power to automatically approve Israeli requests for resupply of ammunition and spare parts. All such requests must now receive specific approval from the White House.
To hide the hostile nature of his action, Obama has sought to present it as a simple reassertion of presidential control over US foreign policy – and so resonate the anti-Semitic undertones of allegations of Israeli control over US foreign policy.
In fact, Obama’s actions constitute a presidential decision to abandon his own official policy of upholding the US’s alliance with Israel.
Obama took a similar path last month with the highly discriminatory FAA flight ban on Ben-Gurion Airport. The FAA has not instituted such bans on countries like Ukraine and Pakistan where civilian passenger flights have actually been shot down. Yet, citing “an abundance of caution,” the FAA instituted a flight ban on Israel where no civilian passenger jet was endangered.
As the administration presented it, the FAA decision to directly threaten Israel’s economic viability did not derive from hostility to Israel, but from a concern for the welfare of airline passengers.
In a similar fashion, last month US Secretary of State John Kerry sought to misrepresent the administration’s adoption of Hamas’s cease-fire terms as the US’s official position. Kerry claimed that he was merely amplifying the Egyptian cease-fire agreement that the administration claimed it supported, when he was actually abandoning it.
The massive destabilization of the Arab world in the wake of the Arab Spring has led many Israelis to reevaluate our region and the opportunities and threats it presents us.
With the rise of anti-Semitism as a political force in the Western world, and with the radical shift in US foreign policy under Obama, it is vital that Israel conduct a similar reevaluation of its relations with Western democracies.