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Anti-Semitism's global comeback

By PHILIP GAILEY, Times Editor of Editorials
Published October 26, 2003

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad recently told an Islamic conference: "The Europeans killed 6-million Jews out of 12-million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them." He urged Islamic nations to unite against being "defeated by a few million Jews." The delegates gave him a standing ovation.

To his credit, President Bush condemned the prime minister's anti-Semitic remarks as "wrong and divisive." But French President Jacques Chirac shrugged them off and blocked passage of a European Union resolution expressing disapproval.

Later, Mahathir said criticism of his remarks only proved his point - that Jews control the Western media.

Unfortunately, anti-Semitism, which has never been very far under the surface in the post-Nazi world, isn't limited to the Islamic world. This old hatred is making a comeback, wearing a new face and finding new venues of expression around the globe. It feeds on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the "blood libel" that Jews murdered Jesus and the false and obnoxious stereotype of rich Jews exercising inordinate political and financial power in the world.

But there's something new in the resurgence of anti-Semitism in recent years. It is riding piggyback on the antiwar movement, the rising tide anti-Americanism and the backlash against globalization. It's scary.

In the latest issue of Foreign Policy, Mark Strauss, a senior editor at the magazine, writes: "Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the oldest hatred has been making a global comeback, culminating in 2002 with the highest number of anti-Semitic attacks in 12 years. Not since Kristallnacht, the Nazi-led pogrom against German Jews in 1938, have so many European synagogues and Jewish schools been desecrated. This new anti-Semitism is a kaleidoscope of old hatreds shattered and rearranged in random patterns at once familiar and strange. It is the medieval image of the "Christ-killing' Jew resurrected on the editorial pages of cosmopolitan European newspapers. It is the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement refusing to put the Star of David on their ambulances. It is Zimbabwe and Malaysia - nations nearly bereft of Jews - warning of an international Jewish conspiracy to control the world's finances. It is neo-Nazis donning checkered Palestinian kaffiyehs and Palestinians lining up to buy copies of Mein Kampf."

Historically, Jews have been scapegoats during economic hard times, and that poison has seeped into the war against globalization - the movement of ideas, money and jobs across borders. The anti-Semitism of some of the movement's activists is on vivid display at their rallies. At the World Social Forum, an antiglobalization event in Porto Alegre, Brazil earlier this year, Strauss reported, protesters carried signs reading "Nazis, Yankees and Jews: No More Chosen Peoples!" Some wore T-shirts with the Star of David twisted into Nazi swastikas. Jewish activists within the movement were beaten for displaying an Israeli flag. The New World Order was denounced as the "Jew World Order."

It would be wrong to suggest that the antiglobalization movement has been hijacked by anti-Semitic forces, but, as Strauss writes, "it helps enable anti-Semitism by peddling conspiracy theories." Some of the conspiracy theories would be laughable if so many people didn't believe them. For example, the Canadian-based Center for Research on Globalization sells books that claim the 9/11 terrorist attacks were "most likely a special covert action" to "further the goals of corporate globalization." People who believe that will believe anything, including the garbage about Jews being the hidden hand controlling the global economy.

It is disturbing that so few leaders of the antiglobalization movement have spoken out against the ugly displays of anti-Semitism within its ranks. "The very same antiglobalization movement that prides itself on staging counterprotests against neo-Nazis who crash their rallies links arms with protesters who wave the swastika in the name of Palestinian rights," Strauss writes.

The backlash against globalization has united the far right and the far left, environmentalists and anticapitalists. Dan Dinar, a historian at Hebrew University, told Foreign Policy: "People are losing their compass. A worldwide stock market, a new form of money, no borders. Concepts like country, nationality, everything in doubt. They are looking for the ones who are guilty for this new situation and they find Jews."

This is ugly stuff. Make no mistake - seeds of hatred are being sown and a day of bitter harvest will come.

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