P. David Hornik: The War against the (Dead) Jews

Roundup: Talking About History

[P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Jerusalem. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.]

In a recent op-ed on “The New British Anti-Semitism” in Haaretz, Israeli historian Robert Wistrich remarks that “in absolute numbers, Great Britain is today second only to France in serious anti-Semitic incidents among European countries.” This has included “acts of vandalism in the months following the American invasion of Iraq, such as the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in the East End of London, where more than 400 graves were smashed. Last June, particularly ugly desecrations took place in Manchester and London cemeteries.”

While those incidents were serious enough, involving swastika daubings and the like along with headstone smashings, even they fell short of the May 1990 desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Carpentras, France, in which a Jewish man’s corpse was exhumed and impaled.

As Bernard Lewis notes in an article on “The New Anti-Semitism” in the current issue of The American Scholar, the main thing differentiating anti-Semitism from other forms of hatred is “the accusation against Jews of cosmic evil. Complaints against people of other groups rarely include it. This accusation of cosmic, satanic evil attributed to Jews, in various parts of the world and in various forms, is what has come to be known in modern times as anti-Semitism.”

Indeed, the cemetery desecrators are not the only ones for whom the uniquely, satanically evil Jews must be attacked and humiliated even after their deaths. Hamas, the terrorist organization that is now the elected government of the Palestinian Authority, recently got into the act with a video in which a suicide terrorist says in his parting statement:

“My message to the loathed Jews is that . . . we are a nation that drinks blood, and we know that there is no blood better than the blood of Jews. We will not leave you alone until we have quenched our thirst with your blood, and our children's thirst with your blood. . . . ”

This venture into cannibalism goes beyond even Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish’s exhortation to Israeli Jews, in one of his most popular poems, to “Dig up your dead!/ Take their bones with you/ and leave our land”—which was, literally, what Israel did as part of the disengagement from Gaza for fear of what would happen to any Jewish graves that were left behind.

The attack on dead Jews occurs on the largest scale, of course, regarding the Holocaust—as most recently manifest in the Iranian government’s simultaneous sponsoring of a Holocaust-denial conference and a Holocaust-cartoon contest. For contrast’s sake, today, as far as I know, there is no effort to deny that the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s happened or to humiliate the memory of the victims. The Jewish genocide, however, continues to evoke a strange mix of feelings in the anti-Semite in which aggression at live Jews for supposedly deriving too much political, economic, and moral power from the event coexists with aggression at the victims for their innocent status, or perhaps just for not being dead enough.

Meanwhile, in a supposedly more civilized corner of the world, a film that portrays two imminent mass murderers of Jews as sympathetic, sensitive souls is in the running for an Oscar. Paradise Now might be called a preemptive attack on dead Jews, since, even though the bus passengers haven’t yet been killed, we’re to know that it is not these anonymous, faceless oppressors who will merit our compassion but the killers.

Thus, 2006, six decades after the still much-solemnized Holocaust, finds much of the world plumbing new depths of anti-Semitic depravity and twisted attitudes toward Jews and Israel. Jews would do well to realize that they are in an all-out war for survival.

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