When they say Israel, they don’t actually mean Israel

anti semitism mediaeval

I am of that unusual middle generation, the post-Holocaust period of Jewish acceptance in the West, which is now being followed by a return to the days of pre-War Europe. My mother’s photo album at home showed a picture of some relative dead upon the sofa, having been murdered during a pogrom in Poland sometime just after World War I. We’re not there yet, but those straws in the wind inside that Kosher butcher shop in Paris are signs of something evil stirring. That is why I find this article so interesting. It comes with the title, The ideological roots of media bias against Israel, but it is not just about Israel. But if you get to its conclusion, and it is a long article, it ends on an upbeat note. And it’s not just about the media, but it does tell you quite a lot about the media that is worth understanding, if you appreciate that the media are a stand-in for the intellectual class, who are a problem all on their own.

The cult’s priesthood can be found among the activists, NGO experts, and ideological journalists who have turned coverage of this conflict into a catalogue of Jewish moral failings, as if Israeli society were different from any other group of people on earth, as if Jews deserve to be mocked for having suffered and failed to be perfect as a result.

Most of my former colleagues in the press corps aren’t full-fledged members of this group. They aren’t true believers. But boycotts of Israel, and only of Israel, which are one of the cult’s most important practices, have significant support in the press, including among editors who were my superiors. Sympathy for Israel’s predicament is highly unpopular in the relevant social circles, and is something to be avoided by anyone wishing to be invited to the right dinner parties, or to be promoted. The cult and its belief system are in control of the narrative, just as the popular kids in a school are those who decide what clothes or music are acceptable. In the social milieu of the reporters, NGO workers, and activists, which is the same social world, these are the correct opinions. This guides the coverage. This explains why the events in Gaza this summer were portrayed not as a complicated war like many others fought in this century, but as a massacre of innocents. And it explains much else.

So prevalent has this kind of thinking become that participating in liberal intellectual life in the West increasingly requires you to subscribe at least outwardly to this dogma, particularly if you’re a Jew and thus suspected of the wrong sympathies. If you’re a Jew from Israel, your participation is increasingly conditional on an abject and public display of self-flagellation. Your participation, indeed, is increasingly unwelcome.

What, exactly, is going on?

Observers of Western history understand that at times of confusion and unhappiness, and of great ideological ferment, negative sentiment tends to coagulate around Jews. Discussions of the great topics of the time often end up as discussions about Jews.

In the late 1800s, for example, French society was riven by the clash between the old France of the church and army, and the new France of liberalism and the rule of law. The French were preoccupied with the question of who is French, and who is not. They were smarting from their military humiliation by the Prussians. All of this sentiment erupted around the figure of a Jew, Alfred Dreyfus, accused of betraying France as a spy for Germany. His accusers knew he was innocent, but that didn’t matter; he was a symbol of everything they wanted to condemn.

To give another example: Germans in the 1920s and 1930s were preoccupied with their humiliation in the Great War. This became a discussion of Jewish traitors who had stabbed Germany in the back. Germans were preoccupied as well with the woes of their economy – this became a discussion of Jewish wealth, and Jewish bankers.

In the years of the rise of communism and the Cold War, communists concerned with their ideological opponents talked about Jewish capitalists and cosmopolitans, or Jewish doctors plotting against the state. At the very same time, in capitalist societies threatened by communism, people condemned Jewish Bolsheviks.

This is the face of this recurring obsession. As the journalist Charles Maurras wrote, approvingly, in 1911: ‘Everything seems impossible, or frighteningly difficult, without the providential arrival of anti-Semitism, through which all things fall into place and are simplified.’

The West today is preoccupied with a feeling of guilt about the use of power. That’s why the Jews, in their state, are now held up in the press and elsewhere as the prime example of the abuse of power. That’s why for so many the global villain, as portrayed in newspapers and on TV, is none other than the Jewish soldier, or the Jewish settler. This is not because the Jewish settler or soldier is responsible for more harm than anyone else on earth – no sane person would make that claim. It is rather because these are the heirs to the Jewish banker or Jewish commissar of the past. It is because when moral failure raises its head in the Western imagination, the head tends to wear a skullcap.

One would expect the growing scale and complexity of the conflict in the Middle East over the past decade to have eclipsed the fixation on Israel in the eyes of the press and other observers. Israel is, after all, a sideshow: The death toll in Syria in less than four years far exceeds the toll in the Israel-Arab conflict in a century. The annual death toll in the West Bank and Jerusalem is a morning in Iraq.

And yet it is precisely in these years that the obsession has grown worse.

This makes little sense, unless we understand that people aren’t fixated on Israel despite everything else going on – but rather because of everything else going on. As Maurras wrote, when you use the Jew as the symbol of what is wrong, ‘all things fall into place and are simplified.’

The last few decades have brought the West into conflict with the Islamic world. Terrorists have attacked New York, Washington, London, Madrid, and now Paris. America and Britain caused the unravelling of Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of people are dead there. Afghanistan was occupied and thousands of Western soldiers killed, along with countless civilians – but the Taliban are alive and well, undeterred. Gaddafi was removed, and Libya is no better off. All of this is confusing and discouraging. It causes people to search for answers and explanations, and these are hard to come by. It is in this context that the ‘Cult of the Occupation’ has caught on. The idea is that the problems in the Middle East have something to do with Jewish arrogance and perfidy, that the sins of one’s own country can be projected upon the Western world’s old blank screen. This is the idea increasingly reflected on campuses, in labour unions, and in the media fixation on Israel. It’s a projection, one whose chief instrument is the press.

Jews understand this very well, or at least some do. But if you wish to be a self-identifying Jew, this is now a reality you face. Two other reminders, both on video. First this, which took place in New York City’s Council Chamber.

And then this, which is what it is. You can watch it here if you want.

As to the picture at the start of this post, it is from The Return of Anti-Semitism by Jonathan Sacks in The Wall Street Journal on 30 January. The caption runs, “two Jews, kneeling at right, about to be put to death by the sword as revenge for the death of Jesus, who looks on at top left. Manuscript illumination, c1250, from a French Bible”. But as the story makes all too clear, that is not much of an illustration of the issue as the twenty-first century begins. This is closer to it:

According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, an Egyptian cleric, Muhammad Hussein Yaqub, speaking in January 2009 on Al Rahma, a popular religious TV station in Egypt, made the contours of the new hate impeccably clear: “If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not. We will never love them…They are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies even if they did not occupy a thing…You must believe that we will fight, defeat and annihilate them until not a single Jew remains on the face of the Earth…You will not survive as long as a single one of us remains.”

And then there is the President of the United States, for whom most American Jews have voted for and would no doubt do so again if given the chance. This article from the latest Commentary is titled, America’s Anti-Israeli President, but anti-Israeli is again a synecdoche. Here are the concluding paras:

Mr. Obama wouldn’t be the first world leader to have an irrational animus against Israel. He’s not even the first American president to have an irrational animus against Israel. (See: Jimmy Carter.) But it is fair to say, I think, that no American president has been this consistently hostile to Israel while in office or shown such palpable anger and scorn for it and for Israel’s leader.

Perhaps given President Obama’s history–including his intimate, 20-year relationship with the anti-Semitic minister Jeremiah Wright–this shouldn’t come as a surprise. But that doesn’t make it any less disturbing.

Sinister and very disturbing, but what is to be done? No answers really come to mind.

Leading the Boxer Rebellion

From out of nowhere there was a column on the editorial page of The Australian on Friday by Angus Taylor of whom I had never heard, but for whom I now have great expectations. He is the Liberal Member for Hume. The headline is a bit misleading – Andrew Leigh shows little is left of Labor’s Hawke-Keating legacy – but how often do you see such sense leap off the page. Yes, the aim of the article was to refute the leftist nonsense that had been trotted out by Andrew Leigh in an article the day before, but there are ways to think about these things of which some are better and others are worse. This was in the category of much better. This is what I especially liked:

New Labor’s central economic assumption is that you can cut the pie differently and it won’t shrink. Tax productive businesses, tax hardworking people, crowd out private sector spending and middle Australia will keep working just as hard and as smart. Like Boxer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the aspirational middle class is too busy to realise what is happening to it. Boxer finished up at the knackery. This is lunacy. The economy is not a draught horse that keeps working regardless of the weight saddled on it.

Australia’s long-term prosperity, characterised by high real wages and low inequality, has come from rewarding great people and great businesses, not taking the rewards of hard work and squandering them on harebrained schemes — pink bats, cash for clunkers, school halls and cash handouts to the deceased.

Our success as a nation has come from rewarding clever investment, innovation and ideas. We have sustained high real wages throughout our history by encouraging growth and avoiding a flood of unskilled immigrants which fuels rampant inequality. This is in stark contrast to the US with its early history of slavery and its more recent influx of Hispanic immigrants.

It also says that Angus Taylor “was a partner at McKinsey and Port Jackson Partners and studied postgraduate economics at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar”. Let me tell you, it shows. So let me add just this to add to what he wrote.

One of the keys to following economic events is to separate out the stocks from the flows. We have a massive capital structure (a stock of assets) to which we add a small increment each year (the flow of newly produced goods and services, badly measured by GDP). It’s not spending that makes an economy richer, but first how much capital you already have and then, second, what you end up spending on. The problem at the heart of pink bats, cash for clunkers, school halls and cash handouts to the deceased – and please don’t forget the NBN and the billions blown on green energy – is that you draw down on your capital but, unlike with genuine value adding activity, do not replace what you have used up. Once you make the question whether some expenditure is value adding, that is, whether it will add more to the economy than it uses up, a great deal of clarity is added to the policy process. Welfare draws down with no intention of replacement which is fine if you can afford it; capital outlays are needed to maintain our ability to provide that welfare along with allowing each one of us to make our own individual way in the world.

The PM discusses IR reform

There is a difference between fixing our industrial relations problems and merely throwing out the system we have had since just after Federation. The first most assuredly must be done, but is not the same as the second. Let me quote the Prime Minister, who was trying to get people to understand the difference. The story from The Australian is headed, Abbott defends Fair Work Commission’s ability to set penalty rates. He does not deny that they are too high, only that there is a mechanism for adjusting penalty rates to a rate that will allow employment to grow. From The Oz:

TONY Abbott says he will defend the Fair Work Commission’s ability to set penalty rates, as Joe Hockey called on Labor to “stop scaring people” over industrial relations. . . .

Mr Abbott, speaking in Colac, southwest Victoria, set out a “statement of principle” that industrial relations reforms should aim to achieve “more jobs and better paid workers”.

“If the Australian workforce earns more and is as productive as possible that’s going to be good for everyone. Good for jobs, good for families, good for business, good for prosperity, and that’s what I want to see,” he said.

“In terms of penalty rates, we have a very well-established system in this country — it … began back in about 1903, as I recollect — and under our system it’s the Fair Work Commission which sets these rates, that’s how it is, that’s how it was, that’s how it will be.”

I think giving HRH an Australian knighthood was a distraction and made the government an easy target for its enemies. But this is not why I would or wouldn’t vote for some government. But knowing that the only way to fix our industrial relations problems is to go through our established system of labour relations is what needs a more clear-headed understanding by everyone on this side of the fence. On this, he had the vocal support of the Treasurer so we can see that the PM was speaking for the entire government.

On a related note: what does John Howard have in common with Sir Stanley Bruce? The answer to that might help you clear your head.

Capitalism and its absence in the third world

This from J.R. Dunn on The Elites bow to Mecca. Worth reading in full, but this is the most salient point:

The reigning ideology of the leftist segment of the elite class — which sets the tone for the moderates (whoever the hell they may be) and the wet conservatives, is multiculturalism. This can be stated as the contention that all whites are guilty of oppressing all nonwhites and must constantly be prepared to atone for it.

It used to be that the working class was the salt of the earth, until it turned out that they liked what capitalism had created for them. Now it is the people for whom the capitalist system remains unreachable, and therefore remain in deepest poverty, who are the recipients of socialist solicitude. Except that these same third world people have shown a very strong attraction to the capitalist system. And if the system cannot be brought to them, they are determined to make it to capitalist countries, where even the crumbs from such a bountiful system leave them better off than would anything else they might have done back in the places they have departed from.

Obama and the Israeli election

Obama has only one enemy in the world, American’s closest ally in the Middle East. From Drudge today:

White House ratchets up criticism of Netanyahu…
Inside HQ of ex-Obama staffers’ campaign…
Iran Targets Netanyahu Children for Assassination…

In case you are not keeping up with the latest from the White House, this is where we are:

A U.S. State Department-funded group is financing an Israeli campaign to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and has hired former Obama aides to help with its grassroots organizing efforts.

U.S.-based activist group OneVoice International has partnered with V15, an “independent grassroots movement” in Israel that is actively opposing Netanyahu’s party in the upcoming elections, Ha’aretz reported on Monday. Former national field director for President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign Jeremy Bird is also reportedly involved in the effort.

He would probably send in the troops if he thought he could. We are dealing with such insanity that it is hard to understand why this remains so low key. Is this now how things are. The stories that the CIA brought on the dismissal back in 1975 is a story that won’t go away, but that, at least, was supposed to have been clandestine. This is right out in the open, and as public as you could wish.

MORE ALONG THE SAME LINES: From Victor Davis Hanson: Can Israel Survive?

The Jewish state has always depended on three unspoken assumptions for its tenuous existence.

First, a democratic, nuclear Israel can deter larger enemies. In the Cold War, Soviet-backed Arab enemies understood that Israel’s nuclear arsenal prevented them from destroying Tel Aviv.

Second, the Western traditions of Israel — free-market capitalism, democracy, human rights — ensured a dynamic economy, high-tech weapons, innovative industry, and stable government. In other words, 8 million Israelis could count on a greater gross domestic product, less internal violence, and more innovation than, say, nearby Egypt, a mess with ten times more people than Israel and nearly 50 times more land.

Third, Israel counted on Western moral support from America and Europe, as well as military support from the United States.

Israel’s stronger allies have often come to the defense of its democratic principles and pointed out that the world applies an unfair standard to Israel, largely out of envy of its success, anti-Semitism, fear of terrorism, and fondness of oil exporters.

Why, for example, does the United Nations focus so much attention on Palestinians who fled Israel nearly 70 years ago but ignore Muslims who were forced out of India, or Jews who were ethnically cleansed from the cities of the Middle East? Why doesn’t the world worry that Nicosia is a more divided city than Jerusalem, or that Turkey occupies northern Cyprus, or that China occupies Tibet?

Unfortunately, two of these three traditional pillars of Israeli security have eroded.

When the United States arbitrarily lifted tough sanctions against Iran and became a de facto partner with the Iranian theocracy in fighting the Islamic State, it almost ensured that Iran will get a nuclear bomb. Iran has claimed that it wishes to destroy Israel, as if its own apocalyptic sense of self makes it immune from classical nuclear deterrence.

Obama is not expected to meet with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will address Congress in March. An anonymous member of the Obama administration was quoted as calling Netanyahu, a combat veteran, a “coward” and describing him with a related expletive. Another nameless administration official recently said Netanyahu “spat in our face” by accepting the congressional invitation without Obama’s approval and so will pay “a price” — personal animus that the administration has not directed even against the leaders of a hostile Iran.

Obama won’t meet with Netanyahu, and yet the president had plenty of time to hold an adolescent bull session with a would-be Internet comedian decked out in Day-Glo makeup who achieved her fame by filming herself eating breakfast cereal in a bathtub full of milk.

Jews have been attacked and bullied on the streets of some of the major cities of France and Sweden by radical Muslims whose anti-Semitism goes unchecked by their terrified hosts. Jewish leaders in France openly advise that Jews in that country immigrate to Israel.

A prosecutor in Argentina who had investigated the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 — an attack widely believed to have been backed by Iran — was recently found dead under mysterious circumstances.

Turkey, a country whose prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was praised by Obama as one of his closest friends among world leaders, has turned openly non-secular and is vehemently anti-Israel.

Until there is a change of popular attitudes in Europe or a different president in the United States, Israel is on its own to deal with an Iran that has already hinted it would use a nuclear weapon to eliminate the “Zionist entity,” with the radical Islamic madness raging on its borders, and with the global harassment of Jews.

A tiny democratic beacon in the Middle East should inspire and rally Westerners. Instead, too often, Western nations shrug and assume that Israel is a headache — given that there is more oil and more terrorism on the other side.

Obama is what he is. A leftist anti-Semite who ruins anything he goes near. It is the Jewish “anti-Zionists” I find the most disgusting, and they truly do disgust me.

Most people don’t like hard decisions

This is the story from today’s Australian, Queensland election 2015: ‘some people don’t like hard decisions’.

QUEENSLAND Premier Campbell Newman has put his party’s dramatic fall in the polls to “hard decisions” he made that “some people didn’t like”.

The Liberal National Party (LNP) annihilated Labor in the state election three years ago, scooping 78 seats in the 89 seat parliament.

The opposition was left with just seven seats, but polls suggest the LNP and Labor are now neck and neck.

This is how politics seems to work. There is one side who wrecks things and the other side who tries to put them back together. Think of the following pairings: Whitlam-Fraser; Keating-Howard; R-G-R-Abbott. But because the wreckers had their heart in the right place, and will almost never be attacked by the media, we keep going. The interesting part of the latest is that Shorten has misunderstood his own part in the process, and is stopping the Coalition from repairing what everyone agrees is broken (see W. Swan). If Labor wins at the next election, it will be just in time to have to deal with all of the worst fiscal horrors left behind by R-G-R, and they will no longer stop the boats.

I don’t think it is the case that people don’t like hard decisions, but they certainly don’t like not having things explained to them in ways that bring to the surface the nature of our emergency. When you have a PM who thinks he needs to leave his imprint on knighthoods and our literary awards, and leaves economic policy for others to sort out, you have a problem, with the even bigger problem to come, that the spending party may return to government before the party of restraint has actually fixed things up.

Spadina Avenue

You can always tell if someone is really from Toronto by asking them to pronounce “Spadina”. I won’t give away the secret but you will only know how if you actually know how. I have had these pictures sent from another friend from those long lost days, David Klug, who I have known almost as long as David Kwinter who sent me the photos of Toronto in the 1910s. But these photos of Spadina Avenue take me right back to the very neighbourhood I grew up in.

The first of these is of Knox Church, where I was sent to nursery school ages 4-5. I genuinely do attribute my Presbyterian take on life to those days. I am a firm believer in give me the child for the first seven years of his life and I will give you the man. They only had me for two of those seven, but they did make a difference. The picture is from 1956 when I might have been right there when the picture was taken.

knox church

There is then the Scott Mission around 1960. If you continue left around the corner you will come to my first grade school, Landsdown Public (which was also my parents’ school), so I knew this place very well. And if you look really really close, you will see the queue of people who used to line up outside the building each day, since it was a charity whose mission was to feed the hungry. Always and only men, but always a line that stretched more than the length of the building. A very working class area, but not something I have ever really thought about since it was also home. It’s a shame they don’t have pictures of the old Borden’s Dairy building which was also on Spadina, and just across the back fence from the house I lived in. Today where I lived would be seen as undesirable – a manufacturing plant just outside your back door – but I thought of it as wonderful, a real adventure playground.

toronto scott mission

The last picture is College and Spadina in 1870. I guess there had to be a time when there was nothing there, but it is astonishing to realise how relatively recent that time was. My grandfather used to tell me how he had run into the Two Boys from College Street (“the tzvei boy-es fin College Street” – accent supplied upon request) and what they had been up to. Really, only now as I write, do I appreciate how inventive he must have been since undoubtedly every one of those stories was a story he made up himself to tell me.

toronto college and spadina

Life is short. These pictures are an entire lifetime away from me now, but I remember them like yesterday, better than yesterday.