The Rise of the New anti-Semitism: A Causal Agent
Several authors, including David Toube, Howard Jacobson, Dennis McShane and Melanie Phillips have been pointing to the obvious emergence of a new form of anti-Semitism, in particular among the European Left but none of these authors have been able to point to a causal agent for this new infection. Instead they see the New anti-Semitism rather as a continuation of anti-Semitism itself. As an evidence-based person, I find this highly unsatisfactory. Here I will argue that a clear causal agent really does exist.
Once upon a time (and for a very long time) Europe was in the throes of a vicious form of racism against Jews, commonly referred to as anti-Semitism. Religious in origin, a centuries long smear campaign morphed anti-Semitism into something quite universal, with holders of that pernicious belief system pervading all layers of European society, from high to low, left to right, religious to atheist, a plague, like the Bubonic one, truly without borders or regards for class or status.
And so, to escape this persecution, European Jews started to form the plan of creating a Jewish Homeland. This plan gradually became accepted by various Western powers and by the first part of the 20th Century had gained enough momentum for a concrete implementation to be commenced. By the nineteen thirties the foundations of this Jewish state had been established in Palestine, mainly by Zionist Jewish European immigrants to the area.
Meanwhile in Europe, anti-Semitism had reached epidemic proportions, in particular in Nazi Germany, which started a systematic campaign firstly of persecution and isolation and later of deportation and extermination of European Jewry. In the ensuing systematic massacre, known now as the Holocaust, European Jewry was nearly wiped out.
Forces on the Left, traditionally opposed to oppression and racism, were unable to stop the rise of virulent anti-Semitism and the ensuing massacre. After Nazi Germany had been finally defeated, more European Jews, including many Holocaust survivors, immigrated to Palestine to join their Zionist brethren in the emerging Jewish state, which shortly thereafter declared independence, as the modern Nation State of Israel.
For multiple reasons not necessary to go into here the European Left were mostly ardent supporters of the new state. Plain sympathy with the oppressed and victims of a crime most horrific made the European Left temporarily abandon its traditional anti-colonial stance and see the Palestinian refugee problem created in 1948 through its fingers.
Then came the 1967 war and Israel captured much terrain: outside of Palestine the Sinai and the Golan Heights; inside of it Gaza and the West Bank. Under International Law Israel was not allowed to settle Israelis on these territories conquered by means of war (it considerably later returned the Sinai entirely to its rightful owners in a peace agreement with Egypt). But the Israeli state ignored this and gradually started a campaign of systematic and incentivated colonisation of the West Bank and Gaza. To this day, not a year has passed without expansion of the settlements in the West Bank (although to Israel's credit it did unilaterally remove all settlements from Gaza in a rather contentious move).
Meanwhile something completely unrelated happened around the same time (probably late sixties, early seventies): for reasons not entirely clear Western governments in Europe and the US had decided to complement drinking water with a substance, to this day unknown and undetected and thus referred to as Agent X. It is believed the purpose of the unknown substance to be similar to mild chlorination and fluorination of the drinking water: to stop the spread of some disease or decay in humans.
Agent X, for all we know, may have worked very well (as did 'Elephant Powder' in Europe, you don't see many of the blighters here, do you?) but it had a profound and strange side-effect: the European Left started to feel firstly ambiguous about Project Israel, then critical. These anti-Zionist (and thus anti-Semitic) feelings started to be vented increasingly and more and more openly.
By contrast, Agent X's side-effect on the American Right was almost completely the opposite: American Rightists started, for the first time ever, to actually take notice of the tiny Israel and they liked what they saw. Feelings of Judeophilia and strong sympathy for Israel began to emerge and became so popular that successive American administrations were forced to give in to demands for large scale donations to Israel. The US has never looked back since. On Hollywood too the effect was profound: they actually discovered the Holocaust and stared to commemorate it with a string of, albeit often schmalzy, popular movies and mini TV series. This of course further compounded the US's love for all things Zionist and Israeli.
In 1982 the Sabra and Shatila massacres took place in Lebanon and shortly before these events European Governments increased the dose of Agent X slightly, again for unknown, possibly classified reasons. Upon the escalation of the dosage of Agent X, the European Left's side-effects to Agent X consolidated: now open criticism of Israel was beginning to become the norm and even some previously pro-Zionist European Jews started to suffer from anti-Zionist hallucinations. 'Oppression and dispossession' of the Palestinian People were openly being decried and Israel was increasingly referred to as a 'colonial project' and an 'Apartheid regime'.
In the light of the pernicious side-effects of Agent X, it has to be assumed that rather untimely, European governments augmented the dose of the dreaded medicament once more, this time shortly before Israel's offensive on Gaza, early on this year. This unfortunately unleashed the vilest forms of the New anti-Semitism seen since the Holocaust, including mass demonstrations, calls for boycotts, sanctions and divestments and clamour for dragging Israel's finest through the courts for alleged war-crimes. Individual attacks on Jews, the daubing of Synagogues with anti-Semitic slogans and other acts of anti-Semitic behaviour have also been reported.
There is of course always an alternative theory (or 'third way', if you will) but it is so far-fetched and counter-intuitive that it can only be dismissed out of hand. For the sake of completeness I will briefly outline it here.
Detractors of the 'Agent X' theory and the 'criticism of Israel is the New anti-Semitism' theory claim that the European Left's slow turnabout with regards to Israel is driven by the same motivation and sentiment as its original warm embrace of Zionism: that sympathy for the oppressed and profound dislike of the oppressor (the Zionists) is what drives the increased criticism of Israel (thinly disguised New anti-Semitism). That the volume of this criticism seems to be directly proportional to Israel's alleged atrocities and the duration of the so-called 'Occupation' is too risible to entertain. Others still, claim that the American general public's support for Zionism is the result of the successive American administrations' desire to ally itself with Israel but that would really be putting the horse before the cart...
It was 'something in the water' after all...