Who’s an Anti-Semite?


Two weeks after two Orthodox Jews were attacked in Berlin, this week a Jewish woman was beaten up in the German capital by men who tore the Star of David necklace off her neck and punched her in the face.

Forward, April 19

The anti-Semites during the ages had excuses, they’ve had different disguises. The new anti-Semitism has its centrality in the attacks against the existence of the Jewish state.

—Rabbi Michael Melchior, Israeli deputy foreign minister, Forward, April 19

On the front page of the April 19 New York Sun: “NYU’s President Honors Student Who Circulated an Anti-Jewish Diatribe of David Duke.” One of 100 students or groups receiving an award for leadership, Nadeem Al-jijakli, a former president of Arab Students United, had put on its Web site an article David Duke, considered by many to be a racist, wrote after September 11.

When NYU’s pro-Israel group, TorchPac, protested, the university had her take the commentary off. So much for free speech at NYU. Al-jijakli said that if she’d known who David Duke is, she would never have sent it out. But the author is of less significance than the message. Duke wrote:

“The primary reason we are suffering from terrorism in the United States today is because our government policy is completely subordinated to a foreign power: Israel and the efforts of worldwide Jewish Supremacism.”

I can understand a young student these days being unaware of Mr. Duke, but what is one to make of another e-mail by Ms. Al-jijakli to her membership urging a presidential vote for Ralph Nader because “he DOES NOT have a Jew running for vice president.” She didn’t say “Israeli.”

In an e-mail on April 18, The New York Sun reported, Ms. Al-jijakli wrote: “I have already apologized for the accidental posting of the Nader article.” What was the nature of the accident?

NYU’s conception of student “leadership” is just a footnote to the vicious waves of undeniable anti-Semitism in Europe that caused The New York Times in an April 20 lead editorial “to wonder whether, six decades after the Holocaust, we are witnessing a resurgence of the virulent hatred that caused it.” The Times went on to remind Europe that “it has a special responsibility to be cautious. Its cultures are drenched in a history of anti-Semitism.”

And from long before the Revolution, has American culture not abounded in anti-Semitism? An April 14 story in the Jerusalem Post reminded me of my own history, and of my discovery that the poisonous offshoots of European prejudice—sometimes included here in identity politics—still live on in America.

The article reported that, after marching down Kiev’s main street, shouting, “Kill the Jews!” 50 youths attacked the central synagogue, “beating worshippers with stones and bottles.” Tsvi Kaplan, rector of the yeshiva, was knocked to the ground and stoned. Said chief rabbi Moshe-Reuven Azman: “I call this a pogrom.”

When my mother was a child in Minsk, my grandmother, hearing that the cossacks were coming to gratify themselves with yet another pogrom, popped her daughter into the oven. Fortunately, for her and me, it was not lit. My mother’s family escaped to America, where surely there were no pogroms. My father, a teenager, left his town in Russia for America, also under the illusion that he would not be in danger here just for who he was.

My parents found jobs in Boston, which when I grew up was the most virulently anti-Semitic city in the country. So popular in the city were the Sunday-afternoon radio broadcasts of Father Charles E. Coughlin from the Shrine of the Little Flower Church in Royal Oak, Michigan—national audience: some 40 million—that high school football games were suspended so that parents could get to the radio. Our family listened, as we also listened faithfully and fearfully to CBS broadcasts from the Third Reich.

Coughlin, with a musical Irish brogue (though he was not born in Ireland), revealed Jews to be simultaneously insatiable capitalists stealing widows’ mites and the leading members of the Soviet Politburo. His weekly newspaper, Social Justice, warned his readers of the ever malignant reach of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fictitious document, forged by the Russian secret police under the czar, that proclaimed a Jewish conspiracy to control the world. A few years ago, I saw a respectful reference to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in a black student newspaper at a college in Illinois, and now, by inference, I see it at NYU. It’s easily available throughout the Arab world these days.

Social Justice was discussed at many family Sunday dinner tables in Boston; and later in the week, youths would roar into the Jewish ghetto, with a special eye for elderly Jews whom they would push into the gutter, somewhat like in the newsreels from Berlin that I saw in the movies.

Jewish kids out at night were also sought after by these avengers of the death of Jesus. I lost only a few teeth, but a boy a few blocks away wound up with an ice pick in his head and was never the same.

My first job as a journalist (unpaid), when I was 15, was at the four-page, mimeographed, muckraking Boston City Record. The publisher, editor, and sole writer was Frances Sweeney, a saloon keeper’s daughter, a devout Catholic, and passionate enemy of anti-Semitism. One of my assignments was to secretly take notes at a meeting of upscale Aryan supremacists, and I’ve covered the anti-Semite beat ever since.

On ABC-TV’s Nightline (April 18) Elie Wiesel said: “You can be critical of Israel’s policies and not be an anti-Semite.” But, he added, through the centuries, people have hated Jews as Jews.

Others are not anti-Semites, but in speaking of the Israeli devastation in the Jenin refugee camp, they somehow do not mention that 23 suicide bombers came from Jenin, where Hamas and Islamic Jihad were hiding, and where houses, alleys, cupboards, even handbags were booby-trapped; where snipers were ready, and some Palestinian youngsters had bomb belts at their sides.

David Gelertner (in the April 25 Weekly Standard) tells of Anna Freud, desperately trying to get the Gestapo in Austria to let her family escape, and finally saying to her father: “Wouldn’t it be better if we killed ourselves?” Said Sigmund Freud: “Why? Because they would like us to?” My mother would have said the same thing.