A fundamental theme of Israeli propaganda — and virtually its sole theme under the governments of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — has been that anti-Semitism is responsible for the growing criticism of or hostility toward Israel and its policies expressed in Europe and the United States (especially among college students and teachers, and liberal intellectuals generally).
Netanyahu has beaten this drum constantly in his campaign for his own and the Likud Party’s re-election in the parliamentary election that will take place in mid-March.
This is a fallacy. Much of what he calls anti-Semitism is simply justified outrage at Israel, and not only that of Muslims. Israel’s repression of the Palestinians whose land it occupies, and its brutal treatment of its enemies and their families, as in Gaza recently, and its unwillingness to settle the hatred its policies have engendered in its region have — since the beginning of the Netanyahu era — steadily and inexorably increased enemies for his country everywhere.
Netanyahu has made dramatic statements that European Jews — in particular French, Belgian, and (because of recent terrorist incidents) Danish and other Scandinavian Jews — are in danger where they live and must flee to Israel, the true homeland and the guardian of all the world’s Jews.
As evidence he cites the recent Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris and the subsequent attack on a kosher grocery. On Feb. 15 and 16, two people were killed in separate attacks in Copenhagen against a luncheon forum on free speech, connected with the publication in Denmark of caricatures of Mohammed, and the next day at a synagogue where a bar mitzvah ceremony was taking place. (In Alsace, on the same day, a Jewish cemetery was desecrated.)
Last year there was an attack on a Jewish museum in Brussels, and the perpetrator was later arrested in France. The year before, a young man, also of Islamic origin, shot three French soldiers of North African parentage (whom he accused of being traitors to Islam for serving in the French Army) and subsequently shot and killed a rabbi and three Jewish children at a Jewish school in Toulouse.
These four affairs all involved young Muslim men, European-born or residents, but except for the Brussels case the assailants’ primary focus was not Jews. They were directly or indirectly Islamist in origin and motivation.
The perpetrators were people converted to the jihadist cause by Islamist extremists they met in their own neighborhoods, or while in prison for petty crimes or on drug charges, or online. To call these people a threat to European Jews states the obvious.
But jihadism has many Western targets, including representatives of the police, armed forces, press and the general public. It has claimed the lives of European Muslims as well as others, and the ideology and the terrorists who espouse it have no support in any responsible quarter of European politics.
If you’re a European Jew and want to be safe from jihadists, you could consider emigration. You could move to Quebec if you are French, but Anglophone Canada and the United States are not so safe. You could be killed in Boston while watching the marathon. The Boston-bred terrorists there were the sons of a Chechen family in flight from Russian repression.
Living in America, you also risk getting into a road-rage fight with some patriot who is also a gun nut who listens to too much talk radio. Comparing gun homicide rates by nation, you would be better off staying in Europe.
You could certainly move to Israel, but as Netanyahu often warns, Israel lives in a dangerous and violent neighborhood. His government also does little to pacify it.
He has no grasp of what that really means, it seems. He is a bully but also a prevaricator, and among the supporters he has internationally, among the big-time moneymen, are blackmailers of the U.S. Congress. Some have already warned that any member of Congress who does not show up for Netanyahu’s forthcoming speech in Washington should consider his or her political career at an end.
The prime minister — unless he cancels his visit to his Republican congressional admirers and the impending AIPAC Policy Conference (which he would be prudent to do) — undoubtedly will warn his American friends that Iran must be crushed or within a year it will possess nuclear weapons and threaten the world.
This is what he said in 2012 in a speech at the United Nations. Now we know it was a lie. American National Security Agency information published this week in The Guardian reveals that the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, had warned Netanyahu in 2012 that there was no possibility that Iran could pose a nuclear threat within a year.
This is the same thing American intelligence and other credible Western agencies, doubtless including Mossad, are saying today. But Netanyahu believes that the U.S. Congress consists of dupes or bought men and women. To him, it’s proved true in the past. Why should anything have changed?
American journalist William Pfaff frequently writes on foreign affairs. © 2015 Tribune Content Agency