Editor's Note:
Here at Viewpoint we receive hundreds of articles a week to sift through. The one thread that you will see run through every issue is the universal application of principles. You will not see one essay or article that promotes racism. Today we have a gem from the venerable Alfred Lilienthal. He has been writing on the Middle East topic for over 50 years. If you wish to be acquainted with more of what he has written, search for his name at Google.com.


-By Dr. Alfred M. Lilienthal

An op-ed piece by Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, entitled "Europe's Anti-Israel Excuse" appeared in the Washington Post on June 26, 2002. Foxman claims to believe that the growing criticism in Europe of Israeli misconduct somehow equals a resurgence of anti-Semitism similar to the dark Hitler era. For that matter, he makes an even far wider claim that this supposed new rise in the old anti-Semitism is somehow central to all human experience:

"Throughout history a constant barometer for judging the level of hate and exclusion vs. the level of freedom and democracy in any society has been anti-Semitism -- how a country treats its Jewish citizens. Jews have been persecuted and delegitimized throughout history because of their perceived differences. Any society that can understand and accept Jews is typically more democratic, more open and accepting of 'the other.' This predictor has held true throughout the ages."

Here in Foxman's own words, we have a prime example of the kind of egocentric and grandiose preoccupation with his Jewishness that tends to give other Jews a bad name. What hogwash that throughout all of human history and throughout all the societies that have ever existed, the world has somehow revolved around the status of "The Jews!"

This claim of unique Jewish specialness is preposterous and offensive. If the Irish, the Chinese, the Arabs, the Catholics, the Buddhists, or any other ethnic or religious group made such a ridiculous universal claim about themselves, we would likely find it both disgusting and laughable. Foxman makes this absurd statement, but if we dare to say it is absurd, immediately he would counter that we are anti-Semitic to say so.

A half century ago there were only a few of us Jews in America who were willing to be openly anti-Zionist and publicly question Israel's brutal conduct toward the Arab inhabitants of Palestine. Rabbi Elmer Berger and I used to tangle with the Anti-Defamation League even way back then. We were labeled self-hating Jews, and our criticisms of Zionism were thus largely dismissed. Berger passed on from this world in 1996, but I am still around to attempt to refute the many distortions of Abraham Foxman and the present ADL.

Fortunately, I am no longer alone in my old age to make these challenges! Younger Jewish people in America and Europe and throughout the world are now bravely and eloquently speaking out. The Washington Post printed on July 6, 2002 the following Letter to the Editor by a Board Member of "Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel":

As an American Jew, I am outraged by Abraham Foxman's irrational conclusions from the Anti-Defamation League's poll on anti- Semitism in Europe [op-ed, June 27]. Although attacks on synagogues are undoubtedly troubling and cause for concern, Foxman's assessments of the trends associated with these attacks are so contrived as to be utterly puzzling.

If 45 percent of those Europeans polled think that most Jews have a strong loyalty to Israel, they are right -- from an early age, we are taught that Israel is a homeland to Jews, and thus most Jews develop a strong connection to it. This perception being accurate, how is it that those who have noticed can be categorized as anti-Semitic?

By the same token, Foxman reports that 62 percent of those polled see the outbreak of violence against Jews as a result of anti-Israel sentiment, not anti-Jewish feelings. Yes, criticism of Israeli policies is on the rise. But how is this tantamount to anti-Semitism? If I criticize the government of Zimbabwe, am I somehow a racist?

Many Jews, myself included, are highly critical of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's policies, as they feed into an endless cycle of violence that threatens Jewish and Arab lives. We are long overdue for a serious intellectual inquiry as to how the president of a leading American Jewish organization can falsely equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, or, as I prefer to more accurately call the phenomenon, anti-Jewish sentiments. Our cousins the Arabs are Semitic too.

Foxman made other charges that call for further challenge:

"During the past year and a half a troubling epidemic of anti-Jewish hatred, not isolated to any one country or community, has produced a climate of intimidation and fear in the Jewish communities of Europe. Never, as a Holocaust survivor, did I believe we would witness another eruption of anti-Semitism of such magnitude, in Europe of all places. But the resiliency of anti-Semitism is unparalleled. It rears its ugly head in far-flung places, like Malaysia and Japan, where there are no Jews."

You don't say! Foxman doesn't even bother to ask himself why, all of a sudden out of the blue since sometime late in the year 2000, there has been this supposed outburst of what he sees as a dramatic rise in anti-Semitism. Could it by any chance have anything to do with the vicious policies of Ariel Sharon -- beginning with his armed intrusion in September of 2000 to lay symbolic claim to the "Temple Mount" area upon which the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock have been built for centuries? Of course some Palestinians as well as Muslims in other regions would perceive Sharon's intentional provocation as equivalent to an act of war against Islam. Foxman also dares not look too closely at the fact that Malaysians and Japanese would indeed have no reason to have a negative opinion of Jews whatsoever unless they were witnessing the misbehavior of "The Jews" in Israel and in the Occupied Territories toward the Palestinians. What is on the rise is a clear worldwide condemnation of Israeli war crimes and Sharon's diabolical plans for ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank.

Next we see Foxman refer to "the incredibly biased reaction against Israel seen in the poll -- despite the fact that Israel under former prime minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians an independent state... " How many more times do we have to continue to be bombarded by this outrageous Zionist lie about the "generous offer" that Barak supposedly made and that Arafat supposedly refused at Camp David! Professors Francis Boyle and Jeff Halper have written extensively about these deceptions for anyone who cares to know the truth.

Finally Foxman says, "It is time for Europe to assume responsibility for a situation of its own making. The combination of significant, openly expressed anti-Jewish bias together with irrational anti-Israel opinions creates a climate of great concern for the Jews of Europe. It is not surprising that in such an atmosphere Muslim residents feel free to attack Jewish students and religious institutions not because they are Israelis but because they are Jews."

Rather I say: It is time for Zionists to assume responsibility for a situation of their own making. Once they enter aggressively into the political realm as Foxman has done and turn their whole religion into a debating society over the rights and wrongs of Israel, they should expect people to criticize! And I don't think the anti-Israel opinions of many European leaders and their countrymen are at all irrational. People do have the right to oppose both Israel and the Zionist Jews in Europe and America who support Israel as if it were their own nation.

Of course Jews are likely to be resented when they appear to go against the best interests of the country in which they are living in favor of the interests of another country. Because the Zionist Jews are responsible for mixing up religion and nationality in this abnormal manner, even non-Zionist Jews may find our loyalty to our own nations questioned. I warned about this danger long ago in my article, "Israel's Flag Is Not Mine," which appeared in the Reader's Digest in 1949.

Again, any time that we hear that Jews are "suddenly" being persecuted, we have to ask what is really going on. Are their opponents attacking them only because they are Jews? Or is the anger directed at them as promoters of Israel? The more that the media identifies the state of Israel as "the Jewish state," all the greater is the probability that innocent Jews in Europe and other regions will be unfairly blamed for the wrongs of the present Israeli government and military.

Activities of the state of Israel are wide and complex, and some of them deserve severe condemnation. Immediately the Zionist organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League label any opposition to Israeli misconduct as anti-Semitism. It is not anti-Semitism that is growing by leaps and bounds against Jews for being Jews. It is anti-Israelism that is on the rise! And rightfully so.

My advice is that Jews, who think like Foxman does about their unique Jewish specialness, should rejoin the human race. We need to stop isolating ourselves and relating ourselves to "The Jews" down through the ages, or to "The Jews" who happen to live in Israel, or to "The Jews" who have set up the illegal settlements on Palestinian land. When other Jews are wrong, we should say so. When Israel is wrong, we should say so. Only from this commitment to truth and justice will peace eventually come to the Middle East.

Alfred Lilienthal is a Jewish historian, a US military veteran and an life-long critic of Zionism.

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