The "New Anti-Semitism" Smear Is Getting Old
Last week began with former AIPAC flack Josh Block accusing writers at two progressive think tanks in Washington of advancing the "new" anti-Semitism, conflating their criticisms of Israeli policies with straightforward Jew-hatred. "Either they can allow people to say borderline anti-Semitic stuff,” Block told Politico, “and to say things that are antithetical to the fundamental values of the Democratic party, or they can fire them and stop it." By the end of the week, Block was feverishly denying ever accusing anyone of anti-Semitism and was reportedly hanging on by a thread to his own jobs at two Beltway policy institutes.
This week began with Thomas Friedman sending the self-appointed defenders of Israel into a petulant frenzy. "I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby," Friedman wrote. Like clockwork, Friedman came under heavy fire from Jennifer "Round Up His Captors" Rubin, Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Elliot Abrams, and Jonathan Tobin.
While Tobin explicitly accused Friedman of trafficking in the "New Anti-Semitism," Abrams did so implicitly, falsely claiming that Friedman had "refer[red] so nastily to the 'Jewish Lobby.'" (In fact, as Jim Lobe noted, Friedman never used the phrase "Jewish lobby.") Thus Friedman, that fierce anti-Zionist crusader who once warned of "a trend, both deliberate and inadvertent, to delegitimize Israel," was branded by two of America's most prominent neoconservatives as a dangerous Jew hater.
The two pathetic episodes crystallized an encouraging trend: the "New Anti-Semitism" smear is finally getting old.
Led Zeppelin cover bands don't claim to represent the new thing in rock (although members of the group "Dread Zeppelin" may have introduced some fresh styles to the world of fashion). But pro-Israel activists continue to recycle a tacky, discredited canard from the early 1970's while howling of a new, existential danger to the Jewish people. They seem to have nothing left in their rhetorical arsenal. Like pull-string Krusty the Clown dolls set to "evil," they are unable to respond to factual criticisms of Israel with anything more than a limited, preset selection of hackneyed phrases that usually include the charge of anti-Semitism.
The concept of the "New Anti-Semitism" first emerged in 1973 when Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban wrote, "Let there be no mistake: the New Left is the author and the progenitor of the new anti-Semitism.... Anti-Zionism is merely the new anti-Semitism." A year later, the Anti-Defamation League published the first book on the topic, accusing Palestinian rights advocates of advancing an ulterior, anti-Semitic agenda. Today, books warning about the existential threat of a "New Anti-Semitism" comprise a cottage industry, with pro-Israel politicians and activists producing a new title almost every year.
In honor of the upcoming 39th anniversary of Eban's historic screed, I decided to revisit the greatest hits of the eternally new "New Anti-Semitism" genre:
- A farewell to Al Akhbar and Assad's apologists | Jun 20 2012
- "There will be no Palestinian state" - Q&A with Palestine Papers whistleblower Ziyad Clot | Jun 05 2012
- Giulio Meotti: Serial Plagiarist or Common Hasbarist? | May 18 2012
- Another major conflict of interest for NY Times' Jerusalem Bureau | May 03 2012