Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Labeling Jewish goods: then and now - Ari Soffer

by Ari Soffer

The EU's decision to label Jewish goods from Judea and Samaria coincides almost to the day with the anniversary of Kristallnacht. What an unhappy, yet utterly appropriate coincidence.

Anti-Semitism is a curious thing. Unlike other forms of bigotry, which maintain the same tropes and characteristics throughout the ages, Jew-hatred has an uncanny ability to evolve over time to capitalize upon the prevailing popular discourse, both in its pretexts (from "Christ killers" and "racial impurity," to "Jewish bourgeois" and "Israeli occupation") and in its manifestations (Christian fanaticism, Nazism, Communism, radical Islam or anti-Zionism).

And yet, at the same time, anti-Semitism always follows the same basic patterns; beginning with systematic dehumanization of the Jews, intended to bring about their eventual isolation, and - if left unchallenged - ending in ethnic-cleansing or genocide.

Kristallnacht, the anniversary of which was marked just yesterday, is a graphic case in point. After years of escalating anti-Semitism - until then mostly non-violent in fact - Jewish businesses in Germany were marked out with Stars of David or the word "Jew," to "inform" others of the undesirable nature of those unwanted Jewish businesses and allow them to take action accordingly - be it via boycotts or through violence. 

The orgy of extreme violence which ensued marked the beginning of the genocide of the world's largest Jewish community - European Jewry -and saw previously respectable people, by then thoroughly infected by the contagion of anti-Semitism, commit ugly, unspeakable acts. Interestingly, in the initial stages it was only specifically German Jews who were allowed to be targeted, while Nazi regulations forbade harming those with foreign citizenship for political reasons until later on in the holocaust.

In those days "anti-Semitism" was worn as a badge of honor by the Nazis and their supporters. It was not a dirty word. The evening after the pogrom, Joseph Goebbels wrote an article in which he lauded the "healthy instincts" of his compatriots: "The German people is anti-Semitic. It has no desire to have its rights restricted or to be provoked in the future by parasites of the Jewish race," he wrote proudly. Language which today can be found only in the furthest, most insane political fringes was then a part of the mainstream. Some disagreed, others vehemently agreed, while the decisive majority were somewhere in between.

Compounding the utter degradation of German Jews, authorities then fined the Jewish community for the damages wrought by the anti-Semitic mobs - essentially placing blame for the violence on the victims!

The "anti-Zionism" paradigm

Today, in Europe, another labeling campaign is being launched. It may look different - and in many of its details it is - but it is part of a chillingly familiar pattern of behavior.

Once again, its premise is to simply "alert" the consumer to goods produced by certain Jewish "undesirables," to enable them to take action accordingly - though its main instigators see it as just the beginning of a far broader boycott campaign (and are already insisting that it doesn't go far enough.) Once again, it is a policy endorsed at the highest levels. And once again, it is only part of a wider campaign to isolate and force to its knees the largest Jewish community in the world: the State of Israel. 

Its immediate objective, at least for now, is to ethnically-cleanse Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and much of Jerusalem of their Jewish population. Some may find placing things in such terms somewhat jarring, yet if we are honest with ourselves that is precisely what is being called for. The proponents of this campaign are so utterly taken by their own narrative that they do not see the slightest irony in admitting as much in public. And why should they? The popular discourse has been so effectively desensitized to the notion of ethnically-cleansing Jews, as long as it is dressed up in terms such as "ending the occupation" or "dismantling the settlements", that even when the mask slips and the true meaning of such platitudes becomes apparent nobody notices or cares.

The timing of the European Union's decision to label Jewish "settlement" goods could not be more appropriate. Apart from coinciding almost exactly with the anniversary of Kristallnacht, it also takes place at the height of a campaign of terrorism waged by Arab anti-Semites against Jewish Israelis. It is a terrorism of knives, guns and mob violence targeting Jewish men, women and children alike, egged on by blood libels about Jews "executing innocent children," harvesting organs, and plotting to "destroy Al Aqsa Mosque," with the end goal being to solve the Jewish Problem in all of "historic Palestine." 

By issuing this edict now, the European Union makes sure that, once again, we Jews are being forced to "pay" for the violence visited upon us - which we of course are responsible for by virtue of us not agreeing to ethnically-cleanse ourselves.

Twenty-first century Europe has effectively outsourced the sharp end of its Jew-hatred to those on the front lines of the struggle against Jewish self-determination. The modern-day Arab storm troopers act with impunity, while European tut-tut-tutting is focused entirely on their Jewish victims. 

Today, the Jews' antagonists have replaced the banner of racial anti-Semitism with that of political anti-Zionism - that is, a fundamental objection to Jewish dignity, strength and freedom in our ancestral homeland, rather than to our perceived racial identity. 

But while the details may be different, the endgame is more or less the same: Jews out.
The key difference this time, however, is that we are no longer at their mercy.

Unlike 1930s German Jewry, the Israeli Jewish economy being "marked" by European powers does not rely on them for its survival. Although many in Europe seem blissfully unaware, the world is far, far bigger than they; if self-righteous western Europeans prefer not to buy certain Jewish goods - or yes, even to boycott Israel entirely - our economy won't wither and die as they might wish. There are many other lucrative markets, including countries untainted by the apparently incurable virus of anti-Semitism. And even if the damage were to be significant, it will never be enough to force us to commit national suicide.

And unlike the defenseless Jews living in Europe and the Arab states during the early twentieth century, we are not doomed to face death at the hands of a stronger foe. Today, in Israel, our Jewish soldiers and Jewish Border Police strike fear into the hearts of our enemies and frustrate their plans again and again and again. Even our hardy Jewish civilians give them a serious run for their money. The Jews just don't die quite so easily any more - they fight back and win. 

Which is, ironically, precisely why the State of Israel has become the new obsession of the contemporary anti-Semites. The one and only fundamental obstacle in the way of those who wish to replicate the sins of the past is the fact that the Jewish people are no longer a stateless, vulnerable people at the mercy of their whims.

The State of Israel, and the Zionist revolutionary movement which spawned it, are the expression of the Jewish people's legitimate, historic right to self-determination - but they are also the cure to the scourge of anti-Semitism. Not for the anti-Semites themselves of course - after 2,000 years it should be apparent just how right the Sages of the Talmud were when they proclaimed that the adage "Esau hates Jacob" is "a cardinal law of reality" - but for the Jews, the primary victims of anti-Semitism.

Europe may well return to its bad old ways - or maybe it will somehow be salvaged, who knows? But the miracle of Zionism means that finally, after two millennia, we are no longer its defenseless victims. We are free.

Ari Soffer


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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