Daily Briefing: Activating Latent Antisemitism in Western Democracies (Aug 2, 2019)


Antisemitic graffiti in Klaipėda, Lithuania
(Source: Wikipedia)


Table Of Contents:


The New Anti-Semitism: Yaroslav Trofimov, WSJ, July 12, 2019

Antisemitism at German Editors’ Desks:  Remko Leemhuis, Algemeiner, July 23, 2019

Iceland, Israel, and the Jews: A Largely Negative History: Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Jewish Press, July 17, 2019


“No One Decides to Run for President Impulsively”: Marianne Williamson Explains Her Magical Thinking:  Sonia Saraiya, Vanity Fair, July 30, 2019



The New Anti-Semitism
Yaroslav Trofimov
WSJ, July 12, 2019

When France’s Yellow Vests began to protest weekly last November, it was about President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to raise fuel taxes. Within a few months, it also started to be about the Jews. Signs that labeled Mr. Macron as a “whore of the Jews” and a slave of the Rothschilds, a reference to the president’s past employment with the investment bank, became a fixture of the demonstrations. In February, several Yellow Vest protesters—since disavowed by the movement—assaulted the Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut on the doorstep of his Paris home, yelling, “You will die,” “Zionist turd” and “France is for us.”

“When there is a world-wide economic and social malaise, people look for scapegoats—and the Jews have always served as scapegoats,” said Francis Kalifat, the president of CRIF, the council uniting France’s Jewish institutions. “Anti-Semitism creates bridges between the far right and the far left: They have such a hatred in common that they come together.”

French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut arrives at a Paris courthouse on May 22 for the trial of a Yellow Vest protester accused of jeering at him and calling him a ‘dirty Zionist’ last March. In France and other Western societies, the proliferation of new political forces that challenge the established liberal order—from both the right and the left—has revived old patterns of vilifying the Jews as the embodiment of the corrupt elites supposedly responsible for society’s ills.

Meanwhile, unfiltered social media has pushed these anti-Semitic tropes, long confined to the fringes, into the mainstream of public debate. On any given issue—from economic inequality to the financial crisis to immigration and terrorism—old and new conspiracy theories blaming the Jews have gained new traction, abetted by the political polarization and general crisis of confidence permeating Western democracies. “Latent anti-Semitism is being activated,” said David Feldman, director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Birkbeck, University of London. “Populist politics is not inherently anti-Semitic, conspiracy theories are not inherently anti-Semitic, but both very easily lend themselves to an anti-Semitic turn and easily become anti-Semitic.”

This change comes after an unusual, postwar golden age that Jewish communities enjoyed across Western Europe and the U.S. over the past several decades. After the horrors of the Holocaust, a commitment to minority rights, religious freedom, an inclusive vision of nationhood and a human-rights-based liberalism seemed to be the bedrock of political life in Western democracies. While anti-Semitic prejudice persisted in some areas, overt anti-Semitism seemed taboo. ‘The trend away from liberal democracies is bad for the Jewish people, period.’ —Jonathan Greenblatt, Anti-Defamation League

“Liberal democracies have been good for the Jewish people. Civil rights have been critical to our success in societies which, in the absence of these rights, over centuries and millennia systematically discriminated against and marginalized Jewish people,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the director of the Anti-Defamation League in New York. “The trend away from liberal democracies is bad for the Jewish people, period.”

As anti-Semitic discourse again becomes normalized in the West, the number of incidents targeting Jews has surged in the U.S. and Europe.
Until the past few years, the biggest threat came from Islamists and disaffected Muslim youths, particularly in the troubled banlieues at the edges of French cities. France, home to Europe’s biggest Jewish community, has suffered a string of killings of Jews, including the deadly 2015 assault on a Paris kosher supermarket claimed by Islamic State. Anti-Jewish harassment remains commonplace in distressed neighborhoods where working-class Muslims and Jews live side by side. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]


Antisemitism at German Editors’ Desks
Remko Leemhuis
Algemeiner, July 23, 2019

An erosion of the post-war consensus on antisemitism in the Federal Republic of Germany is well underway, and Der Spiegel, the leading weekly German news magazine, is not helping. On July 12, Der Spiegel published an article with the headline “Lobbying in the Bundestag: How two organizations control Germany’s Middle East policy,” in both the print edition and SPIEGEL ONLINE. Although the title was subsequently changed, it perfectly reflected the spirit of the article and intent of the six reporters who wrote it, asserting that two small NGOs that combat antisemitism and promote German-Israeli relations control German Middle East policy.

The antisemitic canard that politicians are puppets of secret behind-the-scenes powers is abhorrent and timeless. The allegations of Jewish-Zionist influence in Der Spiegel followed the Bundestag’s clear condemnation of the antisemitic BDS campaign, which seeks the destruction of the Jewish state. The reporters who wrote the article claimed that the rejection of BDS across the political spectrum was due to the sinister influence of the two NGOs, and not because German politicians believe in combating antisemitism in all its forms, including BDS. Der Spiegel‘s message is clear: The Jews buy votes in the Bundestag.

This was not the magazine’s first attack on Jewish and pro-Zionist organizations. In June, in connection with a trip by Green Party Chairwoman Annalena Baerbock to the Middle East, SPIEGEL ONLINE reported, “Baerbock traveled to the Middle East for the first time, not counting a short stay in Israel with the American Jewish Committee, a lobby organization not exactly known for its differentiated views.” The reporter who wrote that piece has not yet responded to our question via Twitter about the basis of this judgement.

Such articles are alarming for both the political culture at Der Spiegel and German society in general. What does it say about a top German publisher when none of the six journalists working on the article, nor any other employee at the magazine, noticed that the piece openly spreads antisemitic ideas? Apparently, when it comes to Israel, Der Spiegel does not apply any journalistic, political, or moral standards.

But then, Der Spiegel‘s coverage of Israel has long been problematic. Headlines and articles regularly portray the Jewish state as aggressive, militaristic, and vengeful. Look at coverage of the second intifada, the 2006 Lebanon war, or clashes with Hamas in 2009 and 2014. Israel is always portrayed as the aggressor, the Palestinians as victims, and any peace initiative as having failed due to stubborn nationalists in Jerusalem.
Headlines regularly appear that do not accurately reflect facts on the ground. If, for example, Hamas attacks Israel from Gaza with rockets and Israel defends itself, then the headline reads: “Israel shoots targets in Gaza — four dead civilians.” Such headlines are unfortunately widespread in mainstream European reporting on the Middle East.

What more does it say about Germany’s largest political magazine that no one could believe German politicians fight antisemitism and strive for good relations with the Jewish state out of a genuine political and historical conviction? Just as problematic is the insinuation that some parliamentarians did not oppose the BDS resolution out of fear of being labeled antisemitic. The argument that one is not allowed to criticize Israel is simply another classic antisemitic trope. The authors should read their own magazine for an example on how “criticism” of the Jewish state is done often and regularly without any repercussions.

After the article was published, the authors and the magazine’s editors faced heavy criticism. This reaction is undoubtedly a good sign. Nevertheless, as far as the political culture in Germany is concerned, the fact that such an obviously antisemitic piece can be published at all is deeply troubling. Will the outcry be as strong when similar articles are published?
We know from historical experience that antisemitism does not poison society overnight. It is a process. But with every breach of taboos, the limits of accepted discourse are furthered. According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, nearly half of all young European Jews have experienced antisemitism firsthand. So, the next time someone asks how such a thing could happen in Europe in 2019, they should also take a look at the arsonists at the desks of editorial offices. Writing and ideas have consequences — consequences that the Jews in Berlin, Paris, and other European cities feel daily. LINK – Ed.]



Iceland, Israel, and the Jews: A Largely Negative History
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld
Jewish Press, July 17, 2019

Whenever the media mention Iceland in the context of Israel, it is usually to report negative news. One recent development is a petition going around the country not to participate in the Eurovision contest, which will be held next year in Israel. So far this petition has received 11,000 signatories. That is significant in a country with only about 350,000 inhabitants. (Apparently, the national broadcaster nevertheless intends to participate in the Eurovision program.)
It is difficult to find in Iceland’s history more than one substantial occasion when it played a positive role for Israel or Jews. The Icelandic representative at the UN, Ambassador Thor Thors, was the rapporteur for the 1947 Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). This committee recommended partitioning the British Mandate into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. In his autobiography, Abba Eban reports that Thors was “magnificent” in introducing the recommendation to the General Assembly where the vote would be taken.
In 2015, the city council of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, decided to boycott Israeli products. A week later, Reykjavik’s Mayor, Dagur B. Eggertsson, amended the proposal so that the city would be boycotting only those goods produced in the “occupied” areas. Council members said the boycott was a symbolic act designed to support Palestinian statehood and condemn Israel’s alleged policy of apartheid.
The Icelandic Foreign Ministry said the city council’s decision was not in line with the country’s policy. Yair Lapid, leader of the Israeli Yesh Atid party and a former finance minister, reacted by asking inter alia whether the boycott included Microsoft Office, cellphones, cameras, and Google, all of which contain elements that are produced in Israel. Lapid added that if the answer to all these questions is yes, he wishes them an enjoyable life until their sadly unavoidable heart attack, as pacemakers are also an Israeli invention.
For such a small country, Iceland has caused a great deal of international mischief this century. It made the international press in 2008 in a major way when it suffered a systematic banking breakdown. Bearing in mind the relative size of its economy, its financial collapse was the largest the world had ever seen. In 2011, Iceland’s parliament was the first country in Western Europe to recognize a Palestinian state. The foreign minister at the time, Ossur Skarphedinson, was extremely anti-Israel. Iceland’s Birgitta Jonsdottir was the first parliamentarian of any country to visit participants of the failed second Gaza flotilla.

Iceland’s attitude toward Jews, both recently and in the past, can be described as wretched. The latest indignity was a proposal this year to be the first country in Europe to ban circumcision. In addition to politicians, 400 doctors supported the bill.
Iceland attracted much negative international attention for this. Reinhard Marx, the cardinal of Munich and Chairman of the Commission of the Bishops Conferences of the European Community, denounced the bill as an attack on religious freedom. The bishop of the National Church of Iceland said the ban could criminalize Judaism and Islam in that country and result in the barring of individuals who adhere to those religions. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]


“No One Decides to Run for President Impulsively”: Marianne Williamson Explains Her Magical Thinking
Sonia Saraiya
Vanity Fair, July 30, 2019

Marianne Williamson, [a Texan Jew and] the author perhaps best known as Oprah Winfrey’s spiritual adviser, made a distinct impression during the first round of Democratic debates in June, as viewers either fawned over her old tweets or made fun of her “mid-Atlantic” accent. The 67-year-old became famous in the ’80s and ’90s for her work bringing the popular book A Course in Miracles out of the umbrella of Christianity, and for the past few decades, she has been leading thousands of her followers in secular spiritual workshops to manifest miracles across the country. Her brand of spiritualism carries all the markers of American evangelism coupled with the aims of progressive politics—be it support of the HIV/AIDS community through her nonprofit, Project Angel Food, or her showy, jaw-dropping mediated public apologies between black and white Americans.

Political commentators have described Williamson, somewhat derisively, as the left’s Donald Trump. She is, as journalist Lynda Gorov wrote in a 1997 profile, the “high priestess of pop religion,” a self-help guru whose writing is “hyperbolic and given to psychobabble.” But it’s precisely her moony politics that made Williamson such an unexpected hit during her first televised debate. Onscreen she was nothing like the other candidates, vehement about love and dismissive of policy proposals, exclaiming at one point: “If you think we’re going to beat Donald Trump by just having all these plans, you got another thing coming.” (As it happens, some of her words have been misattributed to Nelson Mandela.)

Recapping the debate for Vanity Fair, I called her an “odd duck,” adding that she offered the audience “the exact kind of rule-breaking unhingedness that Trump sold to Republicans, except promoted via the language of compassion, and possibly also healing crystals.” So it was a surprise to discover later that day that Williamson tweeted out my piece, with the cryptic words, “It was the best of nights, it was the worst of nights.” A smiley face emoticon was squished on the end. I reached out and found her happy to be interviewed.

Like so much else about Williamson, the whole series of events was just rather off the beaten path. The slight, silky-voiced, and unexpectedly forceful Californian once roomed with Laura Dern and in 1991 officiated Elizabeth Taylor’s wedding (at Neverland Ranch!) to her seventh husband, Larry Fortensky. Williamson has already received donations from Jeff Bridges, Dave Navarro, and Deepak Chopra. Alyssa Milano announced on Twitter that she would be attending a Williamson fund-raiser—and was quickly, as the kids say, ratioed.

Oh, yeah: Williamson called vaccine mandates “draconian” and “Orwellian” at a New Hampshire event, adding in June, “To me, it’s no different than the abortion debate. The U.S. government doesn’t tell any citizen, in my book, what they have to do with their body or their child.” (Previously, in 2015, Williamson said “the facts are in about measles,” but also advocated “a skepticism, which is actually healthy, on this issue of vaccinations.”) It’s a curious, potent mix of beliefs: she calls for at least $200 billion in reparations to the descendants of slaves, advocates for the creation of a Department of Peace, and has described herself as a “bitch for God,” but balks, at least at first, at mandatory vaccinations. (She’s since repeatedly tried to walk her words back, but the anti-vaxxer label has stuck.) … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]


On Topic Links:


The Left vs. the Crazy Left:  Kimberley A. Strassel.  WSJ, Aug. 1, 2019 — The nation has struggled to categorize the Democratic presidential candidates.

What’s Happening To European Jews Better Wake Up America:  Avi Abelow, Israel Unwired, July 18, 2019, Video. — Although antisemitism in Europe is nothing new, it has only gotten worse.

WATCH: Myanmar’s Tiny Jewish Community Determined To Keep Spirit AliveWorld Israel News, July 30, 2019 — The Jewish community of Myanmar, dating back to the mid-19th century, now has a tiny population of only 20, but they’re determined to remain and keep the Jewish spirit alive.

The Volunteer’ Review: A Noble Hero in a Savage New World:  Neal Bascomb, WSJ, July 12, 2019 — Few books have enthralled, incensed and haunted me as “The Volunteer” has done. There were times I felt compelled to set it aside.


Today’s Friday’s Weekly French-language Briefing is titled: “Communique: Comment Israël est Devenu la Startup Nation” (2 Aout, 2019)

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