July 15, 2004

ANTISEMITISM IN EUROPE: Some thoughts from Simon Montefiore:

Yet something has changed about the European attitude to Jewishness. One feels it everywhere: we have moved, as it were, from the world of Howard Jacobson back to Franz Kafka. This is connected to Israel, America, 9/11 and Iraq. For more than a decade now, Israel has been the fashionable bete noire of the chattering classes. The response to Israel in the European media, particularly the BBC and the Guardian, has long been prejudiced, disproportionate, vicious often fictitious.

A typical case of the media’s mendacity on Israel was the invented coverage of the Jenin “massacre” (not) by British news organisations, which were so anti-Israel that they popularised an event that they could not have witnessed, because it had not happened. They never apologised – because any Israeli “atrocity” is seen to illustrate a greater truth. Another example was the Israeli assassination of the man whom the BBC called Hamas’s “spiritual leader”: Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was actually a terrorist boss, about as “spiritual” as Osama Bin Laden.

Yet, in the British media, every Israeli sin is amplified, while those of the Arab world are ignored. The million dead of the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam Hussein’s 300,000 victims, thousands more massacred in Chechnya, the Arab militias killing black Sudanese, the torturing Middle Eastern tyrannies are ignored – but in Britain, every Palestinian death is reported like a sacred rite. Our media conceal the venom directed at Israel by Arab clerics, television and the internet, presenting Israeli complaints as propaganda. The Middle East commentator Tom Gross revealed in the National Review that when the “moderate” Saudi cleric Sheikh Abdur-Rahman al-Sudais visited Britain this month, the BBC hailed him as a brave worker for “community cohesion”. Yet his Friday sermons call for Jews – “scum of the human race, rats of the world” – to be “annihilated”. . . .

It is as if, in the mythical scale of 9/11, al-Qaeda had unlocked a forgotten cultural capsule of anti-Semitic myths, sealed and forgotten since the Nazis, the Black Hundreds and the medieval blood libels. Just words? But words matter in a violent world.

Read the whole thing. (Via Eugene Volokh).

UPDATE: This column by Mark Steyn on European double standards in hate speech law enforcement is worth reading, too, in this connection.

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