Monday, December 2, 2013

Anti-Semitism Becomes Respectable in D.C.

by Evelyn Gordon

Anti-Zionism, as Jonathan noted, is acquiring “an undeserved veneer of respectability in Barack Obama’s Washington”: The latest anti-Zionist screed to hit the bookstores will receive a prominent platform at an event organized by the New America Foundation, a prestigious Washington think tank headed by a former senior Obama administration official. But frankly, I don’t see why anyone should be surprised. After all, anti-Zionism is merely an offshoot of a much older evil, anti-Semitism. And since the original has become perfectly respectable in Barack Obama’s Washington over the last month, why be surprised that the offshoot is as well?

Exhibit A occurred at the Geneva talks with Iran earlier this month, when an unnamed senior U.S. official refused to condemn the latest rant by Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. Though many commentators found this silence disturbing mainly because Khamenei termed Israel a “rabid dog,” I was even more disturbed by the American representative’s tolerance of the part of the diatribe aimed at France, in which Khamenei used one of the oldest anti-Semitic tropes in the book.

Since France had singlehandedly thwarted what it termed a “sucker’s deal” in the previous round of talks with Iran, forcing its negotiating partners to make some significant (though still insufficient) improvements, it was understandably in Khamenei’s bad graces. But rather than admit that France could possibly have had its own concerns about Tehran, he accused it of simply “kneeling before the Israeli regime.” Paris was furious and condemned the remarks, but neither the senior U.S. official nor a spokesman for EU foreign-policy czar Catherine Ashton would do the same. The best America’s official representative could do was mutter that yes, such rhetoric is “uncomfortable,” but Americans also “say difficult things about Iran and Iranians” (is it any wonder he or she was too embarrassed to be named?).

The claim that Jews control the world–or in this case, France’s foreign policy–is classic anti-Semitism; this alone makes it worthy of condemnation. But the official’s silence was particularly outrageous because the target of this slur was America’s negotiating partner in the talks: France’s representative was on the same side of the table as the U.S. official and Ashton, with Khamenei’s representatives on the opposite side. If American officials aren’t willing to condemn anti-Semitic slurs hurled at their own negotiating partner by their mutual opponent while the talks are taking place, when would they be willing to do so?

Answer: Never, as proven by Exhibit B–the administration’s silence in the face of an anti-Semitic slur against some even closer allies that same week. I’m referring, of course, to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s outrageous assertion that lawmakers are siding with Israel against Obama on Iran not “from any careful consideration of the facts,” but “from a growing tendency by many American lawmakers to do whatever the Israel lobby asks them to do in order to garner Jewish votes and campaign donations.”

Not only is this another classic example of the anti-Semitic “Jews control the world” trope, but many of the lawmakers whom Friedman accused of blindly obeying Jewish dictates rather than thinking for themselves are President Obama’s fellow Democrats, who have loyally shepherded his domestic agenda through Congress. Yet even so, the administration couldn’t be bothered to utter a word in their defense.

When an administration doesn’t see fit to condemn anti-Semitic slurs even against its closest allies–its negotiating partner abroad and congressional Democrats at home–you know anti-Semitism has attained the height of respectability. My only question is when all the American Jews who voted for this administration are going to wake up and start objecting.

Evelyn Gordon


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