Abbas says some Israeli rabbis called for poisoning Palestinian water


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israeli rabbis on Thursday of calling for the poisoning of Palestinian water, in what appeared to be an invocation of a widely debunked media report that recalled a medieval anti-Semitic libel.

The remarks drew strong condemnation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who termed them a “blood libel”, in a statement issued by his office.

Abbas's remarks, in a speech to the European parliament, did not appear on the official transcript issued by his office, suggesting he may have spoken off the cuff as he condemned Israeli actions against Palestinians amid stalled peace talks.

“Only a week ago, a number of rabbis in Israel announced, and made a clear announcement, demanding that their government poison the water to kill the Palestinians,” Abbas said.

“Isn't that clear incitement to commit mass killings against the Palestinian people?”

The Israeli statement said that Abbas had “showed his true face in Brussels,” adding that “by refusing to meet with the Israeli president and with … Netanyahu for direct negotiations, and by spreading a blood libel in the European parliament, his claim that his hand is outstretched for peace is false.”

Abbas's remarks were made as Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin, made a parallel visit to Brussels. Rivlin's office said Abbas had declined a European proposal that the two meet there. A spokesman for Abbas said any such meeting would require more preparation.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.

Abbas, who received a standing ovation from EU lawmakers after his speech, gave no source for his information — and there has been no evidence over the past week of any call by Israeli rabbis to poison Palestinian water.

Israel said in the statement that it “awaits the day when Abu Mazen (Abbas) will stop spreading lies and be involved in incitement. Until then, Israel will continue to protect itself from the Palestinian incitement which generates acts of terror.”

MASSACRES

Reports of an alleged rabbinical edict emerged on Sunday, when the Turkish state news agency Anadolu said that a “Rabbi Shlomo Mlma, chairman of the Council of Rabbis in the West Bank settlements”, had issued an advisory to allow Jewish settlers to take such action.

The same day, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, on its website, cited what it said was a water-poisoning call from a “Rabbi Mlmad” and demanded his arrest.

Reuters and other news outlets in Israel could not locate any rabbi named Shlomo Mlma or Mlmad, and there is no listed organization called the Council of Rabbis in the West Bank.

Gulf News, in a report on Sunday, said a number of rabbis had issued the purported advisory. It attributed the allegation to Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organization of veteran soldiers critical of the military's treatment of Palestinians.

A spokesman for Breaking the Silence told Reuters the group had not provided any such information.

For Jews, allegations of water poisoning strike a bitter chord. In the 14th century, as plague swept across Europe, false accusations that Jews were responsible for the disease by deliberately poisoning wells led to massacres of Jewish communities.

Palestinian non-profit belatedly apologizes for blood libel article


A Palestinian non-profit organization has removed an article from its website that accused Jews of using “the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover.”

The Miftah organization, founded by Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi and funded by European and Western governments, reportedly apologized for publishing the article, after first refusing to apologize and condemning the Jewish bloggers who publicized the article.

The apology was first reported by Adam Kredo at the Washington Free Beacon.

The apology expressed the organization's “sincerest regret.”

“It has become clear to us after investigating this incident that the article was accidentally and incorrectly published by a junior staff member. The said staffer has been reprimanded and all our staff has been informed as to the disgusting and repulsive phenomena of blood libel or accusation, including its use against Jews. Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, as founder, has nothing to do with the day to day management at MIFTAH and was no way involved in this incident,” the apology issued Monday said.

The original article in Arabic by Nawaf Al Zaru was first exposed by the Elder of Ziyon blog. It criticized President Obama for his tribute to Passover, by holding a seder in the White House. 

“Does Obama in fact know the relationship, for example, between ‘Passover’ and ‘Christian blood’..?! Or ‘Passover’ and ‘Jewish blood rituals?!’” read the article posted March 27. “Much of the chatter and gossip about historical Jewish blood rituals in Europe are real and not fake as they claim; the Jews used the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover.”

Miftah on March 30 defended the publishing of the article in a statement on its website, calling it a “smear campaign.”

Miftah receives government funding from countries including Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Germany, Ireland, and Norway, and from U.S.-funded NGOs that receive government funding, NGO Monitor reported.

Son of Syrian general of ‘blood libel’ notoriety defects


A top Syrian general and the son of a notoriously anti-Semitic former defense minister reportedly has defected from the Assad regime.

Reports Thursday said that Manaf Tlass, a brigadier general in the elite Republican Guards, had defected and was on his way to France.

Tlass’ defection would be the first from the close circle of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad since an uprising began in the country in 2011.

Tlass’ father, Gen. Mustafa Tlass, was the defense minister from 1972 to 2004, and was a key ally of Assad’s late father, longtime Syrian strongman Hafez Assad.

The elder Tlass earned notoriety in the West in 1983 for publishing a book attempting to prove the falsehood that Damascus Jews had murdered a priest in 1840 to use his blood for matzah.

The original rumors instigated a pogrom against the city’s Jews, and helped spur modern Zionism among European Jews.

Hungarian lawmaker claims Jews implicated in blood libel


Hungarian Jewish leaders issued a strongly worded protest against a speech by a far-right lawmaker who claimed that Jews had been implicated in a notorious blood libel case in northern Hungary 130 years ago.

In a five-minute speech before parliament Tuesday night, Zsolt Barath of the extreme-right Jobbik party cited the 1882 blood libel case in the village of Tiszaeszlar in which 15 local Jews were accused of murdering a Hungarian girl, Eszter Solymosi. The case triggered widespread anti-Semitic hysteria, but the Jews were acquitted after a lengthy trial.

In his speech Barath questioned the outcome of the Tiszaeszlar trial and said the culprits had never been determined.

“As we can see, there is no clear explanation, we do not know what happened to Eszter,” he said. “Nevertheless, there is one point common to the known variants: The Jewry and the leadership of the country were severely implicated in the case.” He said the verdict acquitting the Jews had been due to “outside pressure.”

No one stopped Barath from speaking, but government representative Janos Fonagy condemned him.

”Mention of the Tiszaeszlar blood libel opens up wounds of entire centuries,” Fonagy said.

In a protest letter Wednesday to the parliamentary leadership, the senior leaders of Hungary’s umbrella Jewish organization, Mazshisz, called Barath’s speech “straight from the dark Middle Ages” and demanded that government authorities “immediately take such legislative and other steps” to prevent and penalize such speeches.

Warning against the “growing threat” of mounting anti-Semitism, they said the Hungarian parliament must not allow lawmakers to hide behind their parliamentary immunity in order to make “openly racist, anti-Semitic remarks.”

The right-wing government parties and their leaders, they said, had the direct responsibility to ensure that such openly anti-Semitic manifestations were not tolerated.

Oppostion parties called on Barath to resign.

Smoking gun


Palin defends ‘blood libel’ accusation, says she understands its meaning


In her first interview since the Arizona shooting, Sarah Palin defended her use of the term “blood libel” and said she understands its meaning.

“Blood libel obviously means being falsely accused of having blood on your hands, and in this case that’s exactly what was going on,” Palin told Sean Hannity in an interview Monday on Fox. Palin is a Fox guest contributor.

Historically the term refers to accusations that began in the Middle Ages that Jews used the blood of murdered Christian children to make matzah for Passover. But in recent days, Palin’s defenders, including some prominent Jewish figures, say the term is also used more generally now along the lines described by the former vice presidential candidate.

In a video statement released last week, Palin defended herself against criticism in the mainstream media that a map on her website that used images of gun crosshairs to indicate districts targeted in last year’s midterm elections helped lead to the violence. The district of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot and critically injured in the Jan. 8 shooting attack, was one of the marked districts.

“Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible,” Palin said in the video statement.

Palin, who would not discuss her future political aspirations, but is thought to be a potential 2012 presidential candidate, pointed out to Hannity that The Wall Street Journal had used the term in a headline just days earlier. She said she does not believe her use of the term makes her politically “toxic.”

Palin offered her condolences to the victims of the shooting and their families, quoting from the book of Jeremiah.   

The map was removed from her website by the paid graphic designer following the shooting, which Palin said she believed was appropriate. She also said the use of crosshairs on a political map was not an original idea. 

Giffords’ condition was upgraded from critical to serious on Monday. She is no longer on a respirator and a feeding tube has been put in its place.

Debate rages on over Palin’s ‘blood libel’ claim


The post-shooting debate over political civility is cooling down, but passions are still raging over Sarah Palin’s claim that critics were guilty of perpetuating a “blood libel” against her.

Palin’s initial use of the term, in a Jan. 12 video message, drew sharp rebukes from liberal, Jewish groups and even some conservatives. Since then, however, several Jewish notables, including Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and former New York Mayor Ed Koch have defended Palin’s use of the term.

Palin weighed in again Monday during an interview on Fox News—her first since the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) that also left six dead and another 12 wounded. Palin defended her use of the term “blood libel” and said she understands its meaning.

“Blood libel obviously means being falsely accused of having blood on your hands and in this case that’s exactly what was going on,” Palin told Sean Hannity in the interview.

Palin, a Fox guest contributor, also used the interview to condemn the shooting and other acts of political violence, and to offer prayers for the victims.

The most recent Palin-related controversy echoes previous scrums revolving around the potential GOP presidential candidate, with critics arguing that she lacks the judgment, demeanor and smarts of a commander in chief, and her defenders seeing such slams as validation that she is just the right person to put the liberal elites in their place.

Palin shows no signs of ceding the spotlight, but it was liberal politicians and commentators who were quick to put her in the center of the story following the shooting. Critics held Palin up as a prime example of violent political rhetoric that could have contributed to the gunman’s rampage, pointing to a map on her website that used images of gun crosshairs to indicate districts targeted in last year’s midterm elections.

Giffords, who was shot and critically injured in the shooting attack, was the incumbent in one of the marked districts.

During her Jan. 12 video message, Palin defended herself, insisting that “especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.”

Palin seemed to be conflating generic calls to tone down the rhetoric—including one from Clarence Dupnik, the Pima County sheriff who was leading the investigation—with a number of attacks directly accusing her of responsibility. In fact, the debate about rhetoric subsequent to the shooting did not hew to party lines, and liberal pundits were among those vigorously defending Palin’s right to use strong rhetoric, while conservatives were among those who suggested she needed to dial it down.

Palin’s reference to the ancient fiction that Jews killed children to drink their blood as part of a ritual—one that has inspired pogroms, massacres and attacks on Jews throughout the centuries and even today is referenced as fact in parts of the Arab world and the former Soviet Union—set off alarm bells.

Jewish reaction ranged from outraged to uncomfortable to defensive.

“Instead of dialing down the rhetoric at this difficult moment, Sarah Palin chose to accuse others trying to sort out the meaning of this tragedy of somehow engaging in a ‘blood libel’ against her and others,” National Jewish Democratic Council President David Harris said in a statement condemning her remark. “Perhaps Sarah Palin honestly does not know what a blood libel is, or does not know of their horrific history; that is perhaps the most charitable explanation we can arrive at in explaining her rhetoric today.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League refused to endorse the notion that her actions may have contributed to the shooting, but they criticized Palin’s use of the term “blood libel,” saying it was offensive to Jewish sensibilities.

Jews for Sarah, a pro-Palin group, defended Palin, a potential Republican presidential candidate for 2012.

“Gov. Palin got it right, and we Jews, of all people, should know a blood libel when we see one,” Jews for Sarah said. “Falsely accusing someone of shedding blood is a blood libel—whether it’s the medieval Church accusing Jews of baking blood in Passover matzahs, or contemporary Muslim extremists accusing Israel of slaughtering Arabs to harvest their organs, or political partisans blaming conservative political figures and talk show hosts for the Tucson massacre.”

Within days, Dershowitz, Boteach and Koch also defended Palin, supplying her allies with grounds to argue that Jewish opinion was divided on her use of the term.

Whether Palin was justified in using the term, even some conservatives objected to her releasing the video on the same day of the nationally televised service in Tucson to mourn the victims, pray for the wounded and cheer the bystanders who tackled the gunman and aided the injured.

Palin’s video did call for “common ground,” setting a tone that would have jived perfectly with the unity message President Obama delivered at the event—if not for the blood libel remark.

Obama’s speech earned widespread praise.

“What we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other,” Obama said. “That we cannot do. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

The Anti-Defamation League said it was inappropriate to blame Palin after the Tucson shooting and that she had every right to defend herself.

But, the organization noted in a statement, “We wish that Palin had not invoked the phrase ‘blood libel’ in reference to the actions of journalists and pundits in placing blame for the shooting in Tucson on others. While the term ‘blood-libel’ has become part of the English parlance to refer to someone being falsely accused, we wish that Palin had used another phrase, instead of one so fraught with pain in Jewish history.”

The question, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications expert at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School, was whether using a charged term like blood libel reinforced Palin’s legitimate argument at the unfair targeting of the right wing in the days after the shooting, or whether using the term undercut the point.

“It distracts from her argument, which is thoughtful,” Jamieson told JTA. “If you are trying to get an audience to rethink, you don’t inject this particular historic analogy.”

The fallback defense for Palin’s acolytes and others who defended her was that while the use of the phrase might be overwrought, she is hardly the first to commit this sin. Jim Geraghty, a correspondent at the conservative National Review, cited an extensive list of its uses over the past 10 years, though practically no elected officials were on it.

Jamieson, who conducted a similar search, found that invoking the term in political argument is usually the province of bloggers and polemicists, not those who have held high political office or aspire to it.

Voices across the Jewish religious and political spectrums, from the Reform movement to the Orthodox Union, and from liberals to conservatives, echoed the ADL’s statement.

“The term ‘blood libel’ is so unique, and so tinged with the context of anti-Semitism, that its use in this case—even when Ms. Palin has a legitimate gripe—is either cynically calculated to stimulate media interest or historically illiterate,” Noam Neusner, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, wrote on Pundit Wire. “It is therefore distracting to Ms. Palin’s underlying message, which is one of sympathy for the victims and outrage that she and others are being accused of inspiring a mass murderer.”

On the other hand, Koch and Dershowitz—two Jewish Democrats—defended her.

In a column this week, Koch declared that Palin had “defeated her harsh and unfair critics,” and argued that these days the “blood libel” term can “be used to describe any monstrous defamation against any person, Jew or non-Jew.”

Koch framed the controversy as part of the wider debate over Palin, writing that “the fools in politics today in both parties are those who think she is dumb,” though he quickly added that she is “not knowledgeable in many areas and politically uninformed.”

“Many women understand what she has done for their cause,” wrote Koch, who has endorsed Republicans for president, but says he is “scared” of Palin.

“She will not be silenced, nor will she leave the heavy lifts to the men in her party. She will not be falsely charged, remain silent and look for others—men—to defend her. She is plucky and unafraid.”

Palin’s ‘blood libel’ remark overwhelms message


It was a well-crafted message preaching unity—and mined with a “blood libel” that blew it all apart.

Sarah Palin’s video message Wednesday, her first substantial commentary since Saturday’s shooting in Tucson that critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and killed six others, at first appeared to succeed in reconciling two American precepts that have seemed irreconcilable in recent days: a common purpose and a rough-and-tumble political culture.

“Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions,” said the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate. “And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere.”

But barely a breath later, Palin painted herself the victim of a “blood libel”—a notorious term fraught with Jewish historical and emotional significance.

“Journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn,” Palin said. “That is reprehensible.”

Palin’s casual reference to the ancient fiction that Jews killed children to drink their blood as part of a ritual – one that has inspired pogroms, massacres and attacks on Jews throughout the centuries and even today is referenced as fact in parts of the Arab world and the former Soviet Union—set off alarm bells.

Jewish reaction ranged from outraged to uncomfortable to defensive.

“Instead of dialing down the rhetoric at this difficult moment, Sarah Palin chose to accuse others trying to sort out the meaning of this tragedy of somehow engaging in a ‘blood libel’ against her and others,” National Jewish Democratic Council President David Harris said in a statement condemning her remark. “Perhaps Sarah Palin honestly does not know what a blood libel is, or does not know of their horrific history; that is perhaps the most charitable explanation we can arrive at in explaining her rhetoric today.”

Jews for Sarah, a pro-Palin group, defended Palin, a potential Republican presidential candidate for 2012.

“Gov. Palin got it right, and we Jews, of all people, should know a blood libel when we see one,” Jews for Sarah said. “Falsely accusing someone of shedding blood is a blood libel—whether it’s the medieval Church accusing Jews of baking blood in Passover matzahs, or contemporary Muslim extremists accusing Israel of slaughtering Arabs to harvest their organs, or political partisans blaming conservative political figures and talk show hosts for the Tucson massacre.”

Palin made the video to push back against claims by some liberal commentators that she played a role in the hyper-partisan rhetoric in Giffords’ district before the election in part by putting out a map with a gun-sight target over Giffords’ congressional district as one Palin wanted the Republicans to win in 2010.

Her video calling for “common ground” set a tone that would have jived perfectly with the unity message President Obama delivered in Tucson later Wednesday, if not for the blood libel remark.

By contrast, Obama’s speech earned widespread praise.

“What we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other,” Obama said in Tucson. “That we cannot do. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

The Anti-Defamation League said it was inappropriate to blame Palin after the Tucson shooting and said she had every right to defend herself.

But, the organization noted in a statement, “We wish that Palin had not invoked the phrase ‘blood libel’ in reference to the actions of journalists and pundits in placing blame for the shooting in Tucson on others. While the term ‘blood-libel’ has become part of the English parlance to refer to someone being falsely accused, we wish that Palin had used another phrase, instead of one so fraught with pain in Jewish history.”

The question, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications expert at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School, was whether using a charged term like blood libel reinforced Palin’s legitimate argument at the unfair targeting of the right wing in the days after the shooting – or whether using the term undercuts the point.

“It distracts from her argument, which is thoughtful,” Jamieson told JTA. “If you are trying to get an audience to rethink, you don’t inject this particular historic analogy.”

The fallback defense for Palin’s acolytes was that while the use of the phrase might be overwrought, she is hardly the first to commit this sin. Jim Geraghty, a correspondent at the conservative National Review, cited an extensive list of its uses over the past 10 years, though practically no elected officials were on it.

Jamieson, who conducted a similar search, found that invoking the term in political argument is usually the province of bloggers and polemicists, not those who have held high political office or aspire to it.

Voices across the Jewish religious and political spectrums, from the Reform movement to the Orthodox Union, and from liberals to conservatives, echoed the ADL’s statement.

“The term ‘blood libel’ is so unique, and so tinged with the context of anti-Semitism, that its use in this case—even when Ms. Palin has a legitimate gripe—is either cynically calculated to stimulate media interest or historically illiterate,” Noam Neusner, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, wrote on Pundit Wire. “It is therefore distracting to Ms. Palin’s underlying message, which is one of sympathy for the victims and outrage that she and others are being accused of inspiring a mass murderer.”

Palin slammed for using ‘blood libel’ term [VIDEO]


Rabbi Marvin Hier calls Palin “Over the top.” Read why here.

Sarah Palin’s use of the term “blood libel” to decry blaming conservatives for the Arizona shooting has raised the ire of the Jewish community.

In a video statement released Wednesday, Palin said that “Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them. Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”

The blood libel refers to accusations that began in the Middle Ages that Jews used the blood of murdered Christian children to make matzah for Passover.

“The blood libel is something anti-Semites have historically used in Europe as an excuse to murder Jews—the comparison is stupid,” Hank Sheinkopf, a Jewish New York-based Democratic political consultant told Politico. “Jews and rational people will find it objectionable. This will forever link her to the events in Tucson. It deepens the hole she’s already dug for herself. … It’s absolutely inappropriate.”

Palin has been criticized since the shooting for using images of a gun crosshair to identify vulnerable districts in the November elections, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot in the head and seriously injured in the Jan. 8 attack at a Tucson shopping mall that left six dead and at least a dozen injured.

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami criticized Palin’s use of the term blood libel.

“We hope that Governor Palin will recognize, when it is brought to her attention, that the term ‘blood libel’ brings back painful echoes of a very dark time in our communal history when Jews were falsely accused of committing heinous deeds,” he said in a statement. “When Governor Palin learns that many Jews are pained by and take offense at the use of the term, we are sure that she will choose to retract her comment, apologize and make a less inflammatory choice of words.”

David Harris, the president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said that “All we had asked following this weekend’s tragedy was for prayers for the dead and wounded, and for all of us to take a step back and look inward to see how we can improve the tenor of our coarsening public debate. Sarah Palin’s invocation of a ‘blood libel’ charge against her perceived enemies is hardly a step in the right direction.”

Where to Draw the Line


Is condemnation of Israel in the current Middle East conflict often tainted with anti-Semitism? The discussion of this sensitive issue has generally focused on anti-Israeli sentiment in Europe. Recently, it was brought close to home by Harvard University President Lawrence Summers, whose Sept. 17 speech expressing concern over the resurgence of anti-Semitism drew national attention, both positive and negative.

Among the domestic manifestations of this worrisome trend, Summers cited anti-Israeli rhetoric at anti-globalization rallies and the campaign, at Harvard and more than 50 other college campuses, urging universities to divest from corporations that do business with Israel.

While Summers was careful to note that "there is much to be debated about the Middle East and much in Israel’s foreign and defense policy that can be and should be vigorously challenged," some have accused him of seeking to stifle legitimate debate on these issues by equating criticism of Israel with bigotry. Pro-divestment activist Maryam Gharavi, a senior at UC Berkeley, has lamented that it’s "intellectually dishonest" and "dangerous" to label "a campaign for Palestinian rights" as anti-Semitic. Certainly, one can criticize Israeli policies without being anti-Semitic, just as one can criticize U.S. policies without being anti-American, or the Catholic Church’s position on abortion without being anti-Catholic. But where does one draw the line between criticism and racism?

Several points are worth pondering. One is the sheer hatefulness of much anti-Israel rhetoric — which, in much of the Arab and Palestinian press, has morphed into overt anti-Semitism indistinguishable from Nazi propaganda: references to Jews as animals or vermin, recycling of grotesque myths about Jewish conspiracies and use of gentile blood in Jewish rituals, crude ethnic caricatures of the hook-nosed Jew. Anti-Israel commentary in Europe not only winks at this virulent anti-Semitism (and refuses to consider it as the context for Israel’s actions) but sometimes stoops to hateful language of its own. British poet and Oxford professor Tom Paulin has said that American-born Jewish settlers on the West Bank "should be shot dead." Sometimes, this rhetoric unabashedly substitutes the term "Jews" for "Israelis" or "Zionists."

Even on college campuses in the United States, the anti-Jewish "blood libel" has resurfaced in posters of cans labeled "Palestinian children’s meat, slaughtered according to Jewish rites under American license."

Far more common is the ploy of equating the Israelis with the Nazis: posters depicting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with a swastika armband, comments about "the Zionist SS," comparisons of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the Holocaust. One can disagree with Sharon’s policies, but comparing the head of the Jewish state to Hitler, who sought to exterminate the Jews, is beyond obscenity. Israel-bashers lambaste a "Holocaust industry" that exploits the Nazi murder of the Jews to justify Israeli imperialism — a tactic New York Observer columnist Ron Rosenbaum calls a "polite form of Holocaust denial."

Anti-Israel attitudes overlap with anti-Semitism in yet another way: Jews who live in Europe or America are commonly seen as a knee-jerk — and, in the case of America, inordinately powerful — pro-Israeli lobby.

Responding to Summers’ remarks, UC Berkeley education professor John Hurst, who supports divestment from corporations that do business in Israel, has told the Contra Costa Times that the campaign is not anti-Semitic because attacking Israel is not the same as attacking Judaism. But it’s naive at best to reduce anti-Semitism to anti-Judaism. Hitler viewed Jews as a race, not members of a religion. Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, where Jews were almost universally nonobservant and culturally assimilated, also focused on Jewishness as ethnicity.

Whether anti-Semitism plays a central role in hostility toward Israel (especially in Europe) is a complicated question. Sympathy for the Palestinian struggle — even when it takes the form of violence targeting civilians — stems largely from the knee-jerk instinct to romanticize the "wretched of the earth," the "oppressed" of the Third World. Perhaps, too, as Rosenbaum argues, demonizing Israel is partly a way to assuage Europe’s collective guilt over letting the Holocaust happen. And some may use Israel-bashing as a respectable smoke screen for socially unacceptable anti-Semitic bias.

But ultimately, motives matter less than consequences. "Traditional" anti-Semitism, too, often involved motives other than simple hostility toward Jews as Jews — including anti-capitalism, since the Jews were seen as the epitome of the money-grubbing bourgeoisie. For whatever reason, extremist anti-Israeli rhetoric today has become, all too often, a vehicle for the kind of Jew-bashing that one might have hoped was extinct in the civilized world. For drawing attention to this issue, Summers deserves praise.


Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine and a columnist at The Boston Globe.