Norman Finkelstein: A New "New Anti-Semitism" (Part 1)

November 25, 2015

In Blog News



Whenever Israel commits another atrocity, its propagandists stage a revival of the “New Anti-Semitism” extravaganza to deflect or squelch global condemnation.[2]Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s megalomaniacal leadership, climaxing in Operation Protective Edge during summer 2014,[3] Israel has come to rank among the most hated countries on Earth. A 2015 survey of British public opinion found that only North Korea was viewed more unfavorably.[4] As if on cue, the media are now saturated with dire speculations of the “world’s oldest hatred” rearing its ugly head again.

But maybe this time the orchestrated foreboding warrants concern. Although skeptical of the danger posed by Islamic extremism in Europe, respected Israeli diplomat and historian Shlomo Ben-Ami hews to the party line on resurgent anti-Semitism: “What is truly under threat in Europe is its Jewish community.”[5] He cites five incidents across Europe over a ten-year period. Even if accurately represented, they would hardly herald a tsunami of Jew-hatred. But were these in fact anti-Semitic incidents? Ben-Ami reports that “last April, a Jewish couple in a Parisian suburb were robbed, because, as the attackers put it, ‘Jews must have money.’” The female victim was also raped. Heinous as the crime was, one is hard-pressed to make out what makes it anti-Semitic. Jews in Western countries are disproportionately wealthy;[6] if the primary goal of the heist was monetary enrichment, it would have made sense to target Jews;[7]which is also why burglars stake out fancy villas and not homeless shelters. What provoked the criminal act, on Ben-Ami’s account, was not irrational hatred of Jews but rational pursuit of illicit gain.

[1] I am grateful to Ruth Bettina Birn, MarenHackmann-Mahajan, Jamie Stern-Weiner and Alfred de Zayas for their critical comments on an earlier draft.

[2] Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history (Berkeley: 2005; first paperback edition, 2008), Part One.

[3] Norman G. Finkelstein, Method and Madness: The hidden story of Israel’s assaults on Gaza (New York: 2014).

[4]Internationalism or Isolationism?The Chatham House – Yougov Survey (2015).

[5]Shlomo Ben-Ami, “In Defense of the Jews, Again,” Project Syndicate (2 February 2015).

[6]Whereas Jews account for less than two percent of the United Kingdom’s population, 20 percent of British billionaires are Jewish.  It’s not just a recent phenomenon.  Twenty years ago, whereas Jews accounted for about two percent of the US population, they comprised 16 percent of billionaires.

[7] It is unclear whether the perpetrators knew in advance that the victims were Jewish, or subsequently discovered it.