Category Archives: anti-Semitism

Izvestia crosses into Der Stürmer territory

You may recall the Russian writer Alexander Prokhanov, the notoriously anti-Semitic, Stalinist ultranationalist who has of late migrated from the margins of Russian public life to the officially approved mainstream. He caused something of a stir back in March when he opined on Russian state TV that the Jews were “bringing a second Holocaust on themselves” by backing the Maidan revolution in Ukraine (prompting the host of the program to remark that “they brought on the first one, too”).

Well, now he’s at it again, this time in the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, with a surreal article about the common struggle of Donetsk and Gaza as “hero cities, martyr cities, twin cities”–“two stumbling blocks in the path of universal evil.”

Universal evil, apparently, has a rather specific character:

Netanyahu and his spiritual brother Kolomoisky, both stiff-necked, merciless, obsessed with a monstrous messianic idea, are incinerating mosques and churches, hospitals and maternity wards.

It’s rather remarkable that Prokhanov pairs Netanyahu with Kolomoisky–not a head of state but merely a regional governor, and not even the governor of the Donetsk region, who plays no role in the anti-insurgent operation. Why not Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine, or Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the Prime Minister? What do Netanyahu and Kolomoisky have in common? If you’re thinking “they’re both Jews,” you’re correct: Kolomoisky is the most prominent openly Jewish Ukrainian politician. (Actually, Yatsenyuk has a partly Jewish background, but he identifies as a Christian and downplays his Jewish origins.)  A later paragraph does mention Poroshenko, but again in conjunction with Kolomoisky, whom Prokhanov evidently regards as the real leader of post-Maidan Ukraine.

The rest of the article is a bizarre ode to “the heroes of Hamas and the warriors of Donbass,” concluding with a gloriously demented vision of “the day when the people of Gaza and the people of Donbass reunite at a victory celebration, clasp each other in a fraternal embrace, and glorify God’s truth in their verses and songs.” There’s even a mention of red and white roses. But what’s most remarkable about this rhapsody is the virtually undisguised stench of anti-Semitism in an article published in a leading, quasi-official Russian newspaper. Apparently, “Jew-haters of the world, unite!” is an acceptable slogan in today’s Russia.

 

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Hate speech

Paul Krugman thinks the recent murder of abortion doctor George Tiller and yesterday’s shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC are related to an upsurge in extremism caused by irresponsible, inflammatory, Obama-is-leading-us-into-fascism rhetoric from the right, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

Let me make it clear: I despise the “fascism is coming!” scaremongering.  That said, I think it’s ludicrous to suggest that 88-year-old neo-Nazi James von Brunn — who, as Jonah Goldberg puts it in his NRO column, was “considered a dangerous nut even within the dangerous-nut community” — was inspired by the likes of Limbaugh, O’Reilly, or Glenn Beck.  Von Brunn no doubt regards the conservative establishment as controlled by the Jews (The Weekly Standard was reportedly on his hit list).

Trends in anti-Semitic hate crimes make it hard to speak of a pattern linked to overall political trends.  However, it’s fair to say that a lot of anti-Semitism in recent years has been linked to, and fueled by, left-wing rhetoric against Israel and its supporters.  I think Jonah goes too far in suggesting that swipes at “neocons” are usually code words for anti-Semitism, but the connection, in many cases, does exist.  Discussions of “the Israel lobby” on the Internet certainly do draw the Jew-haters out of the woodwork.

That aside, Krugman’s a good one to talk about political hate- and panic-mongering, after eight years of hysterical warnings from the left about Republican fascism.  Remember Naomi Wolf’s “Fascist America” screed, followed by a book called The End of America?  Wolf was given a voice in such respectable venues as the Colbert report and National Public Radio, and her paranoid rants about Sarah Palin as “the muse of the coming Rovian police state” were hosted by The Huffington Post.  And that’s just one example.  Hate and hyperbole have become an endless cycle in American political discourse, and while there are stylistic differences between the left and the right, no one is innocent.

(Cross-posted to RealClearPolitics blogs.)

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Filed under anti-Semitism, left and right

Parsing Obama

So, here comes Barack Obama’s long-awaited speech to the Muslim world, to decidedly mixed reaction.  I am not going to dwell at the moment on the specifics of his Israel policy (for a very pessimistic assessment see this post by Ron Radosh, though there are many Israel supporters who do not share Ron’s endorsement of the settlements).  I also agree that the part of the speech dealing with Iran was rather weak, full of lofty sentiment signifying nothing.  But some of the scathing criticism directed at Obama strikes me as rather misguided.  For instance, Charles Krauthammer found it to be infected by “self-absorption”; but was Obama’s talk of the aspects of his personal story that were relevant to the issues at hand all that different from what, say, Ronald Reagan did?

Does it really matter that Obama never used the words “terror” or “terrorism,” referring instead to “violent extremism”?  The power of the T-word has been somewhat diluted by overuse; besides, to many (non-terror-sympathizing) Muslims it is undoubtedly a red-flag word, due to their common belief that the West looks at a Muslim and sees a terrorist.  I think it was a positive thing to say, and drive home the point, that terrorism by any other name would smell as foul.

The President’s powerful affirmation of the memory of the Holocaust, and firm condemnation of Holocaust denial, was a key part of the speech.  Some believe that, by transitioning immediately to the plight of displaced Palestinians, Obama drew a moral equivalence between the Holocaust and Palestinian displacement.  Re-reading the speech, I see no such equivalence (though someone who wants to believe the two tragedies are equal could read it that way).  I think Obama was simply saying that the Palestinians have their own history of suffering which cannot be denied.  Should he have said more to acknowledge the Palestinian (and Arab) leaders’ own responsibility for perpetuating this suffering?  Probably.  Did he go too far in suggesting that each side’s view of the conflict was equally valid?  Probably.  But here’s an important point: the speech was intended as outreach to the Muslim world.   To say “Israel is 100% right and the Palestinians bear 100% of the blame,” even if it were true (and I don’t believe it is) would not be very productive.  Confronting a Muslim and Arab audience with the fact that Israel’s stiff-necked stance has something to do with “the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond” is a pretty good start.

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Filed under anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, Barack Obama, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Muslims, religion, religious freedom, September 11, terrorism, US foreign policy, West

What Russia’s battle against “WWII revisionism” is really about

In my Forbes.com article, I talk about efforts by the Russian government (and its servile media) to combat “revisionism” about World War II and alleged attempts to either tarnish or hijack Soviet Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany.  The Duma is now considering a bill that, while harmless and even worthy on its face — it’s titled “On combating the exoneration of Nazis, Nazi war criminals and their accomplices in independent states which were formerly republics of the USSR”  — may, some fear, be used to silence “patriotically incorrect” discussions of the Soviet Union’s conduct and role in World War II and its aftermath.  (Some of the issues include the USSR’s brutal treatment of its own soldiers as well as the postwar enslavement of Eastern Europe and the Baltics.)  

Are those fears unfounded and paranoid?  Well, last night I stumbled on an item in a major Russian daily, Komsomolskaya Pravda, that gives a good insight into what kind of things some people in the Russia — not crazies but people well within the mainstream — regard as unacceptable “revisionism” about the war.   (Hint: it includes the recognition of Holocaust victims.) Continue reading

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Filed under anti-Semitism, Russia, Stalinism, World War II

Speak of …

… I was going to say “the devil,” but then, I wouldn’t want the person in question to claim I had called him the devil.

The person in question is Eric Alterman, with whom I had an infamous spat nearly four years ago after I zinged him in my Boston Globe column for suggesting that it’s outrageous to expect Muslims and Arabs to pay tribute to the memory of Holocaust victims when so much of their suffering is caused by Jews. The occasion was the British Muslim Council’s decision to boycott the ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz because equal time was not given to Palestinian victims of Israeli “genocide.” Alterman and I had a caustic exchange on the Reason blog, Hit & Run, and Alterman also encouraged readers of his blog not only to pepper me with angry emails (about half of the ones I got were supportive), but also to call my then-editor at the Globe, Nick King. At some point, he also made the bizarre suggestion that I attacked him out of a personal vendetta because he had once defended my ex-boyfriend against unfair attacks (huh?); see more about it from John Tabin, who once greeted me at a party as “Eric Alterman’s Zionist white whale.” As I recall, Alterman continued to take gratuitous swipes at me and/or Nick King on his MSNBC blog for at least six months after this incident; here’s a particularly bizarre one.

Well, just the other day, I was recounting this saga to some people at dinner at the NAS conference and joked about how I felt neglected after the Alterman mentions finally stopped. And, lo and behold… here is Eric Alterman in the newest issue of The Nation, describing his suffering at the hands of the “Middle East Thought Police.” Continue reading

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Filed under anti-Semitism, Eric Alterman, Israel, Middle East