Remarks from Charles Krauthammer,
syndicated columnist, The Washington Post
To the Anti-Defamation League
On his acceptance of the Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize
ADL Shana Glass National Leadership Conference
April 23, 2006, Washington, D.C.
I'm really honored to receive your award. Hubert Humphrey was one of my political heroes. He and Henry "Scoop" Jackson were great American senators that I've always loved and admired. They did God's work, as does the ADL and all of your colleagues here today. And I salute you for that work. And I bear bad news to you, that your work is not done. In fact, you've been at it for almost 100 years, and I think it gets a lot harder now.
I think where we are now is at the end of a half-century period, an abnormal period, a 50-year hiatus of when we enjoyed quiescent anti-Semitism. I know it's hard to believe. You've been battling it all your life during that half century, but this has been an abnormally benign half century for the Jews, and I think that period is over.
It's over because the era of the Holocaust, the guilt and the shame that it induced, created this hiatus and abnormal historical era, and as that generation is passing and as the memory is passing, the shame and the guilt and the memory wash away, and what is left is the age-old eternal residual anti-Semitism.
During this Golden Age of the last half century, Irving Kristol, another one of my heroes, wrote, only half in jest, that the problem for Jews today is that they don't want to kill us any more, they want to marry us, which creates its own problems.
But I think that we're living now in an era where killing us, not American Jews, of course, but our cousins and co-religionists around the world, and particularly in Israel, is now openly declared to be the goal, even of major states.
So now we return after this period to the normal situation of the last 2,000 years, which is widespread, virulent anti-Semitism.
Now, I think it's best to start with a definition. And Bernard Lewis, in a brilliant lecture he gave on the new anti-Semitism about a year ago, tried to distinguish anti-Semitism from the normal hatred, resentments, disdain of one people for another.
He gave a rather interesting example. He spoke of Denmark, which of course had been occupied by Germany in the Second World War, and Sweden had not behaved, at least in the eyes of the Danes, terribly well. Sweden, as you know, was neutral during the war, profited rather well from the war, so in the post-war era, the Danes had an expression: A Swede was a German in human form. And that he characterized as your normal antipathy of one people for another.
But what makes anti-Semitism different is that it is not this kind of casual, off-handed disdain of one people for another. It's an attribution to the Jewish people, uniquely, of a kind of cosmic evil. That's the phrase that Lewis used, "Cosmic evil," in which Jews are the agent of the corruption of all human activity.
And that is the kind of thing that you see in “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and in a more recent version, in an article on the Lobby with the "L" capitalized, by a pair of rather distinguished professors, about the Jewish lobby in America, and how through deception, manipulation and all kinds of powers, almost supernatural, the Jews have managed to beguile and manipulate the greatest power in the history of the world into serving the interest of Jews over the interest of that great country, namely, the United States.
Or, as Alan Dershowitz put it, "attributing to the Jews the possession of occult powers and participating in secret combinations that manipulate institutions and governments."
That's the core of this kind of cosmic evil attributed to Jews by this new kind of anti-Semitism.
Now, historically, cosmic evil is that which is guilty of a cosmic crime. The history of anti-Semitism for the last 2,000 years has largely been the Jews as the committer of the cosmic crime, and for the first 18 or 19 centuries, that crime was deicide, where anti-Semitism was rooted in the Christian idea of Jews as the killers of Christ.
Now, as you had the waning of that kind of Christian ideology and the rise of more secular ideologies in the 20th century, that was replaced in the first half of the 20th century with the Jews as a committer of another kind of crime, also cosmic but not religious -- these are ideological crimes.
So for half of the world in the eyes of the Communists, the Jews were the anti-Christ, the capitalist, sucking the life out of the proletariat, and for the other half, in mid-century, in the Nazi part of the world, the Jews were the other kind of anti-Christ. They were the communists, the parasites, the polluter of the pure races.
Well, history has ended those two experiments in ideology, and yet anti-Semitism remains. And what remains today is a new kind of crime attributed to the Jews -- to the one Jewish state on the planet -- and that again is the cosmic crime, it's the ultimate crime of the post-colonial age: racism. The Jewish state was the only state uniquely declared a racist state in and of itself intrinsically, by its own very existence, in the famous resolution at the United Nations.
Now that resolution was ultimately repealed but we know that the sentiment remains. We know that at the subsequent Durban conference in South Africa that charge was revived, and that kind of charge, as Israel as a racist state -- uniquely on the planet -- shows up even, for example, in the document I mentioned earlier, the paper by Mearsheimer and Walt, in which they say, for example, that Israel is a country where citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship, which of course is simply false. Easily checkable, but the idea that Israel is a state where blood is a determiner of citizenship fits nicely in that idea as Israel as a racist state.
Of course it's not so. Almost a fifth of Israel’s population is Arab, and there are no blood requirements for citizenship.
Another example in that same document is the statement of the offer Israel made at Camp David in the Camp David summit of 2000 to settle the Arab-Israeli dispute. In this document, Ehud Barak’s offer is characterized as giving the Palestinians only a disarmed set of Bantustans, meaning, of course, the South African apartheid idea of breaking up the non-white areas into small states that could be controlled by the racist neighboring state --again, making the analogy of Israel with a state, which, in fact was a racist state, namely South Africa before its liberation of the 1990s.
So what we have in the history of anti-Semitism is the history of a people accused in each age of the ultimate crime of that age. In a religious age, it's literally the killing of God. In an ideological age of communism and fascism, it's the ultimate crime from that perspective, and then in the post-colonial age, in which peoples have been liberated and racism fought all over the world, it's the accusation that the one Jewish state is uniquely racist.
Now, what's interesting is that that kind of charge was relatively muted in the first two decades of Israel's existence. Where the real anti-Zionism and ultimately anti-Semitism emerges, is in 1967, and if you want to give it a date, it's the 27th of November, 1967. Charles de Gaulle was angry with Israel for not having listened to his advice, which would have been to permit itself to be strangulated and ultimately destroyed by the Arab moves in May of 1967. Israel instead decided it had to save itself and it went to war. De Gaulle accused the Jews, as “an elite people sure of themselves and domineering.”
Now that kind of language about Jews had not been allowed in the first 25 years after the Holocaust. It was beyond the pale. With de Gaulle's pronouncement, that kind of prohibition was shattered, and it began an era in which this kind of vilification of the Jews became more respectable.
And what was it exactly that happened in 1967? What happened in 1967 is that the Jews, as represented in the Jewish State, stood up and took history into their own hands. Now, of course, that had started with the War of Independence in the '40s, but that was in the shadow of the Holocaust, and was tolerated. As the Holocaust memory began to erode, and of course, as Israel emerged in 1967, remarkably and unexpectedly strong and victorious, this kind of proud successful unapologetic Jew who stands up for his own existence and takes an action to defend himself, began to become intolerable.
After the Holocaust, the world had come to love dead Jews, and it developed a kind of a Holocaust fetish, in which even enemies of Israel, and particularly the enemies on the left, communist, Soviets and others, would make a point of elaborating on the Holocaust, bending a knee to the dead of the Holocaust, as a way to pretend that there was no anti-Semitism, that they had nothing against the Jews as Jews, but were only anti-Zionist.
In other words, on the one hand, they would bend a knee to the memory of the destruction of a great Jewish civilization in Europe, as a way to allow themselves to advocate policies which would ultimately lead to the destruction of the new successor civilization of the Jews, centered of course in Israel.
And it turned out that if you couldn't have dead Jews, who were preferable, because you could honor them and their victimhood and their weakness, then the next best thing were passive Jews. Jews would be tolerated as long as they would agree to remain the objects of history, even the victims of history, but not if they became the subjects of history, historical actors who take history into their own hands. And that's what was offensive, and that's what helped to revive the old anti-Semitism.
Why is Zionism and Israel, among all the movements of national liberation in the world, of which Zionism was one, and why is Israel, of all the states on the planet, uniquely attacked and vilified?
The amount of paper spent at the United Nations in attacking Israel from every possible perspective is simply staggering.
Is it because the Jews allegedly took land from others? Is there a nationalism on the planet that has not taken land from others? And unlike the takers of land, who established Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and countless other countries who are not attacked as racist plunderers, the Jews had an extremely powerful claim to the land that they ended up in, namely Israel -- a historical claim. Because unlike all the others, the Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, the Argentineans, they were returning to their land, a land that they had inhabited and been sovereign over for hundreds of years. And having returned, the Jews had then repeatedly offered to divide the land amicably with those who had settled there in their absence
No, it's the idea of the Jew as a historical actor, with a Jewish army, a Jewish state, an independent Jewish presence and voice, which was so offensive and which would help to revive the old anti-Semitism.
Now, it draws on the hatred of ages, but the form and the shape today is of course focused on the new center of Jewish civilization, namely, Israel, and the almost criminal impudence of this expression of Jewish autonomy.
Anti-Semitism today occupies three radiating circles. The first, of course, is in the Islamic world, where there is not even pretence in the anti-Semitic literature of a distinction between Israelis and Jews.
If you look, for example, at the Charter of Hamas, it's all about the Jews. It's all about how they've infiltrated all the institutions on the planet, including the Rotary clubs, in their attempt to take over the world. (An odd way to approach that project, by the way.) The Hamas Charter is a perfect example of a raving anti-Semitic paranoia -- reconstructing “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” It shows how completely this kind of Arab and Islamic extremism has absorbed the racial and religious stereotypes of Christian Europe, and in particular the Nazi stereotypes. Today, the Islamic world is the greatest producer of anti-Semitic literature on the planet.
The second circle of anti-Semitism, somewhat diminished, of course, is in Europe. In the first circle, Iran, for example, is openly dedicated to the utter destruction of the Jewish state and the genocide of the Israeli people. In Europe, we're talking about a different order of magnitude, but there is, as all of you know who've worked in this area, an alarming revival of the old anti-Semitism -- the attacks in France, the recent stabbings in Russia, the desecrations of graves - you all know about that.
Which brings us to the third circle, which is the United States. What is happening here? And of course, here, the level and intensity of anti-Semitism pales in comparison. America is a remarkable island of relative tolerance in this rather dismaying sea of resurgent anti-Semitism. What's remarkable about America is that the American exception is in this respect, as in many others, as old as the Republic, and goes all the way back to the Founders. One of the most amazing documents in the history of tolerance is George Washington's letter to the Newport Synagogue, which I'm sure many of you know, in which he said to the Jews who established that synagogue that we do not speak of tolerance, which implies a superior civilization tolerating inferiors. What the American people, uniquely at that time, were offering to the Jews was equality. In Europe for a century or more, when the Jews were emancipated and allowed into society, it was always in that sense of being tolerated.
Well, that never existed in American society and in the American ethos, and it shows to this day. That does not mean, of course, that there is no anti-Semitism in America. It's just that in the mainstream culture, it is still considered something that one does not do and that is a remnant of the European past.
However, there are disturbing signs even here in the United States. And, again, I refer to this most recent document, the Mearsheimer-Walt document which essentially is accusing the Jews of betraying their country and placing their own sectarian interest above that of the United States.
And you have to ask yourself why this comes out now. People on the extremes have long been saying this. Indeed, David Duke endorsed the report. But now it has the imprimatur of a couple of professors, and rather distinguished institutions, which is why it will cause a lot of damage in the future.
And the question is why it happens now. And I think that has to do with the Iraq war. When war is going on, the country is at war, especially when the war is not going well, countries look for scapegoats.
Let me read you something: "Instead of agitating for war, Jews in this country should be opposing it in every way, for they will be the first to feel its consequences. Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government."
That's Charles Lindbergh, Des Moines, Iowa, 1941, the famous speech in which he said there are only three groups trying to get America into war--the Roosevelt Administration, Great Britain and the Jews.
Now, 50 years later almost to the year, that was repeated by Patrick Buchanan who said, the only people who want to get us into the Gulf War, was the Israeli military and their "amen corner" in America. And we know who says "amen."
And then he went on and he named four Americans -- all Jews. Henry Kissinger was one of them. I was another dragging America into war. In fact, everyone knew that the people "dragging us into war" were George Herbert Walker Bush, Brent Scowcroft, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney and James Baker. Hardly enough to establish a minyan in any synagogue in the world. And, in fact, I don't think any of them would qualify.
The Lindbergh charge disappeared at Pearl Harbor. The Gulf War charge, and its attendant anti-Semitism, sustained itself until the war, at which point the great and swift success wiped it away.
But, of course, Iraq is different. And one of the themes of the Mearsheimer-Walt article is that, in fact, Iraq was a war concocted by Jews to protect Israel, which itself is absurd on about eight levels. But the ultimate refutation is the simple fact that the war was devised and planned and conceived by a war cabinet whom we all know--George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet, and if I could add someone from outside that, the other well-known Jewish neoconservative, Tony Blair.
So here we have a fairly interesting repetition of this proposition of cosmic evil -- the fantasy of the anti-Semite, almost an article of faith, that Jews have the kind of power (to use again Dershowitz's phrase), " occult powers to beguile and swindle and deceive and hypnotize national leaders into acting against their own interests."
So that's where we are after these 50 years, with a dismaying new development, which here in America is tied to an unpopular war. Abroad it is tied, particularly in Europe, to the end of the memory and the restraining influence of the Holocaust. In the Islamic world it's tied to the very existence of an autonomous Jewish state. Which means that we are in for difficult times. The golden age, which we have all enjoyed for this half century, is over, and now there's a lot of work to do. And I commend you for undertaking it.
Thank you very much.
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