21st century anti-Semitism

From columnist Melanie Philips:

On Holocaust Memorial day, Sky’s Adam Boulton three times asks Britain’s Chief Rabbi if Israel’s policies have anything to do with causing antisemitism. No, Adam: it’s the Big Lie reporting of Israel by media outlets like Sky News, painting Israel utterly falsely as brutal and illegal occupiers and inhuman child-killers, which has helped foment this resurgence of open Jew-hatred in Britain and the west.

Indeed, images of Palestinians in the rubble of Gaza were shown even while the Chief Rabbi was talking, under the item’s rubric of “Auschwitz remembered”. Vile, and vicious.


A NYC councilman calls out the anti-Semitism of the BDS movement


Background: The NYC council is a democratically elected body of local government and is considered one of the most liberal and progressive in the country. Council members have been under pressure from BDS activists to boycott a planned trip to Israel. The council was discussing a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz when anti-Israel activists disrupted the proceedings with shouts and protest, claiming later that they “shut down the meeting”. A group called NYC2Palestine that is an umbrella organization of groups including Occupy Wall Street and Jewish Voice for Peace took responsibility for the protest. Councilman Greenfield is the grandson of Holocaust survivors and made these remarks afterwards.

Speech by Councilman Greenfield:
Thank you Madam. You know I’ve waited my turn here, I followed protocol in the NYC Council and haven’t spoken out because I respect this chamber. I have to tell you that I’m still shaken to my core, I’m upset, I’m angry. But I’ll tell you honestly I’m actually somewhat pleased at what we saw here today. If you’re wondering why I’m saying that it’s because for the last few weeks we’ve heard from people who’ve said “Oh we don’t dislike Jews, we only dislike the state of Israel. We have no problem with Jews, we simply don’t want you to go to Israel”. But we know that’s not really at the core of what they were saying and today they proved it. While we were discussing a resolution regarding the murder of 1.1 million human beings; I will point out that 90% were Jewish but the other 10% were political dissidents, they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, they were gays. Those were the people who were being killed together in Auschwitz-Birkenau. While we were discussing that, they had the nerve, the chutzpah, the temerity to unfurl a Palestinian flag and to yell at us while we were discussing that. And so the reason I am pleased is because we can stop pretending that this is about Israel when the reality is that every Middle East country that is in existence today is not democratic and persecutes people of other faiths, and persecutes gays, and persecutes people who disagree with them, and persecutes people on twitter, and persecutes women who drive except for one country which is the State of Israel. And so what you saw here today was naked, blind anti-Semitism. That is what you saw and that’s what you watched and that’s what you witnessed. People who are upset for one reason. You want to know why they’re angry? You want to know why they are unfurling that flag today? Because Hitler did not finish the job, he only wiped out half of my family. And only by the grace of God is the other half, me, the grandchild, still alive today. That’s why those people are upset. Shame on them. Shame on them for hating Jews. Shame on them for hating people. Shame on them for disrespecting the most diverse democratically elected body in the United States of America and that is why we go to Israel. We go to Israel to make a message that is clear. That we will not be cowed by this fear and by this hatred that we have where these are people who would celebrate the death of Jews rather than mourn the death of innocents. I am embarrassed at what happened here today but I am pleased that we finally see what this is all about. Good old-fashioned anti-Semitism. Thank you.

Palestinian boycott of Israel is misguided


“Last week I went to the Soda Stream factory in Mishor Adumim, where I found out that 500 Palestinian workers had almost been fired and another 400 were on their way to being fired. I asked Basel Ja’afar (25), who got fired in 2014: “If you were face to face with one of the BDS activists, what would you say to him or her?” He answered, “I would ask him what the alternative is.” Basel used to draw NIS 6,000 in monthly salary at Soda Stream, but now, under the PA, must get by on a salary of NIS 1,450.”

“We live here, we will continue to live here and we don’t have anywhere else to live – neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis.”

Quote from Bassem Eid, Human Rights Activist, Political Analyst and Commentator on the  Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


Honor their memories


From Rabbi Steinsaltz, head of the Mekor Chaim high school, where two of the boys were students:

“People will light memorial candles, recite prayers, and attend vigils. Our boys were killed al Kiddush Hashem, because they were Jews. Therefore, to best honor their memories – indeed, to confront evil – we must act always as proud Jews, in our deeds and through our lives.”


Klal YisraelTo reiterate. This is not political. This is not regional conflict. It is anti-Semitism.


Read more here and here.




Very sad today

There are only 1.6 million Arabs in the Middle East who have full political rights, complete religious freedom and the ability to reach their full capacity as human beings. Not to mention quality health care and the longest life-expectancy of any Arab population.

All the Arabs who enjoy these freedoms live in the Jewish state of Israel. Israel is a boon to the Arabs of the Middle East, an thriving oasis in a region of dysfunctional failure on every level.

It is time to draw a line under the idea of a “two-state solution”. The second Palestinian state already exists. Jordan is the Palestinian state.  There is no moral, geopolitical or legal reason to create another Arab country.


Kidnapping teenagers is evil. Calling for, facilitating, financing, and celebrating this heinous act happens because Arab society is saturated with racist, Jew-hating ideology. It is very difficult for the average person to fathom such deep racist hatred. As a psychological coping mechanism every desperately wants it not to be true. But the evidence is before us and we have to confront it.

The Palestinian Arabs have received aid from the international community equivalent to several Marshall plans (the financial aid that rebuilt Europe after WWII). Money has made the leaders fabulously wealthy but hasn’t benefited the average person.

It is obvious that there is one proven solution to benefit the Palestinian Arabs. That solution is Israel. Long may the Arabs of Israel thrive and prosper.


I hope Americans are not naive enough to image that these are unsolvable conflicts in far away countries that the US should just leave alone. Although it is true that the first target of the Iranian nuclear weapon will be Israel, the next one will land in the United States. Why? These are not “ancient hatreds”. America is a relatively young country. Both Israel and America are built on core values of individual freedom and self-determination. It is the existence of such freedom that is intolerable to totalitarian philosophies. The racism just puts the Jews in first place.

For a detailed perspective, Dr Andrew Bostom discusses Iran’s Final Solution for Israel.



J’accuse Peter Gelb

Met balcony

An open letter to the New York Metropolitan Opera general manager

Dear Mr. Gelb,

I am incredibly sad that The Metropolitan Opera has chosen to perform Alice Goodman and John Adams’ “The Death of Klinghoffer” and, worse, to simulcast it to 2,000 theaters in 66 countries where it can reach hundreds of thousands of people with its biased propaganda.

The opera justifies terrorism by its soft-focus potrayal of the Palestinian terrorists who hijacked the Achilles Lauro cruise ship in 1985 and murdered the elderly disabled Jewish man, Leon Klinghoffer. It distorts the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict and is marked by anti-Israel propaganda, misinformation, and anti-Semitic canards that are explicit in the libretto. As has been noted (http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=3&x_outlet=126&x_article=2721), the very title, “Death of Klinghoffer”, avoids the word “murder” and sets the tone for the euphemisms and fake moral equivalences that are so characteristic of political propaganda apologists for terror.

Great art provokes and disturbs too, and can be similarly amoral. The difference is that a great masterpiece is characterized by the ability to project the audience in multiple directions in a manner that is not explicit or expected. Great art can transcend the stated goals of the creator. The libretto and plot line of this opera do not reach the standard of great art. The Death of Klinghoffer harnesses great artistic skill with the explicit political propaganda goal to bring the audience to a simplistic political view of the ongoing Arab war against Israel. It fits into the same category as Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will”; interesting for the historical record and artistically influential (being generous), but not worthy of the prominence of the world’s most important opera house.

I also want to distinguish crude propaganda from artistic interpretation. A couple of years ago, we sat through a performance of Aida at Glimmerglass that was clearly intended to be a commentary on the policies of George W. Bush, complete with an onstage portrayal of waterboarding. I was uncomfortable and it provoked me, but I certainly wouldn’t condemn it. I draw a distinction between being exposed to a particular interpretation, no matter how political or contrived, of an opera that is truly a great masterpiece, designed to transcend, and a work that from its conception is designed to lock the audience into a single political view. “The Death of Klinghoffer” relentlessly and explicitly hounds the audience towards the creator’s viewpoint of moral murkiness. This pseudo-sophistication provides a convenient vector for audiences to justify anti-Semitic biases.

This opera’s inflammatory bias is well-documented. At its 1991 performance in San Francisco, groups picketed; the Los Angeles Opera and the Glyndebourne Opera Festival cancelled scheduled performances despite the fact that they were among the co-commissioners of the work. After 9/11, performances were cancelled in Boston and elsewhere because of the opera’s sympathetic portrayal of terrorists. The daughters of Leon Klinghoffer have also expressed their outrage. Despite the guise of presenting different points of view, this opera spreads anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views. Opera is a synthesis of text, acting and music. If the text and storyline are false propaganda, it is difficult to understand how a Met performance is justified, no matter how exquisite the music may be.

I urge you to reconsider the decision to broadcast the opera worldwide. I also call on you to publish, in every program handed out at the Met and in the sheet given to each movie attendee, the statement issued by the daughters of Klinghoffer. This will help the audience to be aware that the “artistic masterpiece” is a straight-up serving of propaganda and will show respect to the feeling of the living victims:

“We are outraged at the exploitation of our parents and the coldblooded murder of our father as the centerpiece of a production that appears to us to be anti-Semitic. While we understand artistic license, when it so clearly favors one point of view it is biased. Moreover, the juxtaposition of the plight of the Palestinian people with the coldblooded murder of an innocent disabled American Jew is both historically naive and appalling.”

There are terrific modern operas out there, I might humbly suggest that Harrison Birtwistle’s opera “Gawain” is truly a masterpiece and worthy of the Met’s attention. Attracting excitement through “controversy” is a classic publicity move. There is a long Western intellectual tradition of romanticizing or excusing “political murder” To paraphrase Orwell, this is “an idea so morally stupid that only the greatest of intellectuals could believe it”. The ideas promoted in this opera are not original, this is not great art but fancy window-dressing of tired clichés no different to the näive college student who sports a T-shirt of Che Guevara. The juvenile crassness of this piece tarnishes the reputation of the Met.

I am a loyal long-time opera attendee and supporter of the Met. No more, my hitherto passionate support of this institution is shattered. By making the decision to stage this opera you broke faith with me and your public.

J’accuse Peter Gelb. You push the institution of the Met over the red line of racism. With high art, you pour fuel over the fire that enables age-old blood libels against Jews to be cast in modern form. It is shocking and depressing to contemplate.



Met outside

Heidegger is a duck

Anti-semitic sentiment, Jew hatred, is not uncommon amongst Intelligent, highly educated people.

However, if somebody expresses an anti-Semitic view does this make that person an anti-Semite? Given that many people are unaware of the implications of uttering a view that is, particularly in Europe, fairly standard (see this debate), there is usually a strong self-denial about being an anti-Semite, especially when there is a stigma against being labeled as such. Typically the anti-Semite offers an alternative explanation, they have Jewish friends, they are proud of their Jewish ancestors, is “only” criticizing Israel, was just making an innocent “gesture” of friendship, youthful indiscretion and so forth. Sadly, even the fact of being Jewish oneself does not rule out the possibility of being an anti-Semite.

When one moves through the haze of rhetoric it can be tricky to determine if there is unambiguous evidence that would justify labeling a person as an anti-Semite (let’s say from a person who is “merely hostile” to Jews) . A masterful example of this is the recent analysis of Max Blumenthal by Petra Marquardt-Bigman of the Brandeis Center. After you read her exhaustive review of the evidence and insightful discussion, one is left in no doubt that applying the term anti-Semite to Max Blumenthal is entirely justified.

Most people would take the sensible viewpoint that if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

The influential German philosopher Heidegger has always looked like a duck, in spite of significant personal relationships with two Jewish women, one of whom prominently and publicly defended him against charges of anti-Semitism as a “hapless victim of malicious slander”. New evidence not only unambiguously identifies his anti-Semitism, it puts his anti-Semitism at the heart of his contributions to philosophy.

Beyond the intellectual satisfaction of the duck being proven to be a duck, this new information is significant. Heidegger’s philosophy underpins much of European thinking. Yet it is now coming into view as bogus humbuggery. Its power to influence perhaps rested on his academic celebrity status, reinforced by his acolytes. Heidegger’s writing could be fertile ground for thinkers because it was so obtuse, enabling one to authentically draw a variety of different ideas out of the text and claim Heidegger’s “influence” as a form of academic legitimacy.

In other words we might call this a scam. There may be some unanticipated benefits by happenstance although any benefits can’t be claimed to have a secure (and certainly not a moral) grounding.

Fast forward to the current time where we have another celebrity academic, Judith Butler. To quote from her wikipedia page, she has had “significant influence on the fields of feminist, queer, and literary theory, philosophy, political philosophy, and ethics” and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards. At face value, this is impressive. On the other hand, we do know that she is a duck. And, like Heidegger, her convoluted unintelligible prose cannot stand on its own without its admirers who convey its meanings according to the intellectual debates du jour.

As a scientist I fully admit that philosophy is not my area, which disqualifies me from commenting on Professor Butler’s academic work. My expertise though is in the life sciences and I can categorically state that her assertion that gender is solely “performative” is factually wrong. Wrong in the plain old-fashioned meaning of 100% incorrect. I would venture that it is Judith Butler’s good fortune to be around in an era where discussions about gender are potent. This, combined with charisma and marketing savvy creates the academic celebrity that has vaulted her into a position of influence. Once ensconced in celebrity status, it becomes difficult to say that the Emperor has no clothes. But the logical conclusion of the fact that Professor Butler is a duck indeed suggests that the Emperor is naked.

I am struck by the strange irony in the fact that position in the European Graduate School occupied by Judith Butler is the Hannah Arendt Professorship. Plus ça change.




ETA Here’s another classic example of an individual who walks and talks like a duck but claims to be a footballer. Personal testimony versus factual evidence.