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Jewish World Review Feb. 11, 2000 / 5 Adar I, 5760

Jonathan Tobin

Jonathan Tobin
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Eyes Wide Shut

Outrage over Haider ignores real source of anti-Semitism

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- IT IS CALLED selective outrage. Some things scare the dickens out of some of us, while we remain totally indifferent to similar threats that are just as bad, if not worse. The latest and most impressive example of this phenomena is on display in Vienna, Austria, these days.

No longer the imperial headquarters of the Hapsburgsí empire, that once great city of sacher torts and waltzes has become in the 20th century a political backwater remembered best for the throngs of people who came out to cheer Adolf Hitler during his triumphant entry into the city after Germany annexed Austria in 1938. That, and the photos of Viennese Jews being forced to scrub the streets by local Nazis.

For decades, much of the world accepted the myth that Austria was the ďfirst victimĒ of Nazi Germany. But that was always a lie. The Austrians, who have now elevated the xenophobic party led by Jorg Haider to members of their government, can be one scary bunch.

In response to Haiderís victory, the European Union and the United States are both preparing to impose serious political sanctions on Austria. For once, it seems, the civilized nations of the world are taking a principled stand against a crypto-fascist before something terrible happens.

I have only one problem with all of this wonderful and completely justified outrage ó its selectivity.

LOOK TO DAMASCUS, NOT VIENNA
Because, at the same time that Europeans are mobilizing against Austria as if a reincarnated Wermacht were warming up its panzers in Haiderís garage, they are silent about the major source of anti-Semitic invective of our time: the countries of the Arab/Islamic Middle East. Since the fall of the Soviet Empire ó which served for decades as the successor to the Nazis in terms of anti-Jewish propaganda ó the Arab world has become the clearinghouse for Jew-hatred.

Thatís the great irony. The same countries that are outraged about Haiderís watered-down brown-shirt routine donít give a damn about the vicious anti-Jewish propaganda and Holocaust denial emanating from Arab capitals. The place to go for the nastiest anti-Jewish propaganda these days isnít Vienna or Berlin. Itís Damascus, Teheran, Cairo or Gaza.

Schoolchildren in Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and, of course, in the Palestinian Authority, are taught contempt for Jews and intolerance for the right of Israel to exist.

Look at any study of the image of the Jew in Arab popular culture ó the movies and the television programs, as well as the school textbooks ó and youíll find that it is straight out of the old European model: rapacious, hook-nosed misers who seek to violate Arab women, with a touch of Israeli militarism thrown in.

Who can forget the incident in Egypt only two years ago which put that country in an uproar over the rumor that an Israeli-manufactured gum was causing Egyptian women to cast aside chastity? It would have been hilarious, except the story was taken seriously. The power of this anti-Semitic stereotype was so strong that the Egyptian government actually forced the recall of the gum.

Remember also, it was Syriaís government-run newspaper, not Austriaís, that last week officially endorsed Holocaust denial. That is a sentiment which has also been echoed many times in the official media of the Palestinian Authority.

If that isnít bad enough for you, consider this: The Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tílas actually has written a book in which he revived the ancient blood libel saying that Jews used the blood of gentile children to bake matzot for Passover!

Even worse, the same Europeans who are so outraged about Austria have been hammering Israel for years to make concessions to the same people and groups who have been saying things as bad, if not worse, than anything attributed to the odious Haider.

The governments of Western Europe say they donít want to share their continent with a country that would put someone who flirts with neo-Nazism in their cabinet. Fair enough. But why are they also just as convinced that the Damascus regime of Holocaust deniers ought to be handed the Golan Heights on a silver platter?

JEWISH TUNNEL VISION
Lest we blame it all on the hypocrites of Europe, letís also face the fact that it isnít only the residents of Paris and London who have their eyes wide shut to Arab Jew-hatred. A great many Jews have the same sort of tunnel vision.

For many of us, in Israel as well as the Diaspora, the facts about anti-Jewish propaganda and hatred in the culture of Arab countries are irrelevant. I have talked to officials in Israel as well as prominent Israeli journalists who all tell me the same thing. Sure, Arab anti-Jewish incitement is terrible, they say, but so what?

Indeed, those who have pointed out these inconvenient facts about the Arab world are routinely labeled as ďextremistsĒ by the supposedly more enlightened chattering classes.

For them, the peace process is so important that it cannot be jeopardized, even by confronting Israelís peace partners about their peculiar opinions about Jews.

Indeed, one Israeli in a government position told me, in an off-the-record conversation, he was glad that Hillary Clinton didnít confront Suha Arafat, the P.A. leaderís wife, last November after she accused Jews of poisoning Arab children. Had she done so, he said, it might have engendered Arab resentment and led to violence.

ANTI-ISRAEL HATE IS WORSE
Maybe so, but how much garbage is Israel supposed to take before somebody says something judgmental about Arab Jew-hatred? And, why shouldnít Israel take these sorts of incidents into account when it is asked to give up on its rights and sacrifice its security to Holocaust deniers so that theyíll sign a peace treaty?

The Israeli public will make up its own mind about the wisdom of giving up the Golan or establishing a Palestinian Arab state that will include parts of Jerusalem. But so long as Arab anti-Jewish propaganda isnít an issue for Europe or even the United States, please donít ask me to take all this tut-tutting about resistance to anti-Semitism too seriously.

Haider is a creep, but does anyone think that even in a worst-case scenario, he can do as much harm as Hafez Assad or Yasser Arafat?

For all I care, France and Sweden can go to war against Austria and good luck to them. Itís 60 years too late to save the slaughtered Jews of Europe, but not too late to support the living State of Israel. Until they start taking the latter more seriously, put me down as less than impressed by this new anti-fascist crusade.


JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

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