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Jewish World Review April 30, 2002 /18 Iyar, 5762

Nat Hentoff

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Anti-Semitism springs eternal | Before the Passover suicide bombing, Yasser Arafat, the Moses of his people, said, "We would like to say to the Jews, Happy Passover."

Would you trust him as a negotiator? When my mother was a little girl in Minsk, her mother suddenly popped her into the oven. The Cossacks were coming, bringing another pogrom.

Fortunately, the oven was unlit, and the family escaped to America. My father, as a teen-ager, left Wolkowysk in Russia, looking for work where he could be free.

My parents settled in Boston, Mass., where I grew up at a time when it was the most anti-Semitic city in the country. The national Sunday radiobroadcasts of The Rev. Charles E. Coughlin from the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Mich., were so popular that referees stopped high school football games so parents could get to the radio in time. He told of Jews who simultaneously were the most predatory of capitalists, but also were high in the Soviet Politburo.

Across the country, Coughlin had 40 million listeners. In his newspaper, Social Justice, he featured "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," the mythical Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. In my neighborhood, boys who ventured out at night were in peril from visiting hooligans avenging the death of their Christian Lord. I lost several teeth.

My children, now adults, experienced none of this growing up in New York, a multicultural city before the term became fashionable. But, as if I were back in my boyhood, I recently read about 50 youths in Kiev, the Ukraine, beating Jews with stones and bottles in the city's central synagogue. Said the chief rabbi, Moshe-Reuven Azman, "I call this act a pogrom." As an obbligato, attackers shouted, "Kill the Jews," not "Kill the Israelis." The police, of course, denied the assaults were anti-Semitic.

In Eastern France, 20 graves at a Jewish cemetery were vandalized, spraypainted with swastikas. In New York's Jewish weekly newspaper, Forward, David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, wrote on April 12 of "an attempt to set fire to a Jewish school in Nice (France). A fire at the Jewish cemetery in Strasbourg. The burning of a synagogue in Marseilles. Shots fired at a kosher butcher shop in Toulouse."

And Jews are being beaten in Germany and Belgium. My mother, no longer here, would not be surprised. And she would probably remember her girlhood if I could tell her of the centuries-old "blood libel" in the Saudi government daily, Al-Riyadh, by the respected columnist Dr. Umayma Al-Jalahma of King Faysal University. He tells of how Jews, before the holiday of Purim, bake "very special pastries" filled with Christian or Muslim blood. And before Passover, "the blood of Christian and Muslim children under the age of 10 must be used."

This distinguished citizen of our ally in the war against terrorism does not speak of Israelis. To him and many others, a Jew is a Jew, wherever he or she lives. The editor of the paper says he was away when the article appeared. But there was a second part of the "blood libel."

Meanwhile, at college campuses in this country, students are demonstrating against Israeli military operations in Palestinian cities and refugee camps. Like equally outraged members of the Untied Nations Security Council, they omit mentions in their posters and shouts of the suicide killers, as Elie Wiesel rightly calls them.

Also joining in the chorus of condemnation is the European Union which, in addition to excoriating Ariel Sharon, supports the Palestinians' "right of return." In the New York Observer, Ron Rosenbaum cites the "astonishing hypocrisy of European diplomats and politicians" in calling for a mass return "when so many Europeans are still living in homes stolen from Jews they helped murder (as shown in a story on Jedwabne, Poland during the March 24 episode of CBS' "60 Minutes").

Yossi Klein Halevi, writing from Jerusalem in the Los Angeles Times, says, "How is it possible, we ask each other, that after suffering an unprecedented terrorist campaign, we're portrayed as bullies for finally trying to uproot the threat?"

Among American students protesting the undeniable suffering and civilian deaths of the Palestinians under this uprooting operation, few mention that 23 homicide bombers had come from the Jenin refugee camp where houses, alleys and homes were boobytrapped, with snipers waiting. And Jenin was a hiding place for Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

I wonder if some of the American students expressing their rage and contempt for Israel actually are unable to differentiate between Israelis and Jews wherever they are, including here in the United States.

And, as a longtime supporter of an independent Palestinian state, I wonder at the future of a state that will have been built on the dehumanization of a community that uses its young as suicide bombers, whose deaths are celebrated by their parents.

JWR contributor Nat Hentoff is a First Amendment authority and author of numerous books. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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