When writing his memoirs about the Holocaust my father in law who was a survivor made the following observation about his fellow countrymen in the Ukraine (consisting of 10% Poles and 90% Ukrainians). Although they were always fighting each other they were united in their hatred of Jews. In essence he said 90% of the Ukrainian population were anti Semites.
This thought now frequently comes to mind as I watch the Middle East as we once knew it falling apart.
As I write these words the domino effect continues. One country after another is falling to grassroots protesters, some of them rioting, and in some cases even devolving into civil war. It seems that the citizens of Libya who have been led by the despotic dictator Muammar Gadaffi for an over 41 year reign are about end his murderous regime.
In every instance of rebellion the clarion call is ‘democracy’. Ordinarily this would be a welcome development. One after another these countries are finally being brought into the 21st century. But how does this affect the Jewish people – or more precisely the State of Israel? The answer is far from clear but I am not optimistic.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has noted that the one word he has not heard in this entire game-changing episode is ‘Israel’. I suppose what he meant is that for the very first time since the establishment of the State in 1948, Israel is not the focus of all their problems. Virtually all the rhetoric in the streets of protest is against the leadership they are trying to overthrow.
Does this mean that all the anti Israel rhetoric of the past in the Arab world was mainly from those in power? Is Libya anti Semitic only because of Gadaffi? Are the Egyptian people not inherently anti Semitic? And once they become a true democracy they will come to ‘love thy neighbor’ in the person of the Israeli people?
Hardly. The anti Semitism is as inherent in Arab culture as it was (and may still be) in the Ukraine. To me that has always been obvious. When ‘Mein Kampf’ can be found on bookshelves in Egyptian bookstores and ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ is still a best seller, it isn’t too hard to deduce that most Arabs – including their ‘democrats’ - hate the Jewish people.
For one brief moment, I thought that maybe regional political change in the Middle East will not necessarily spell trouble for Israel. Many of the more responsible Egyptians ( those with potential to become national leaders) have said they would maintain the peace treaty with Israel. But many of them also said they might condition it on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians or the creation of a Palestinian State. And these were the supposed moderates.
This does not even take into account the more organized and powerful Muslim Brotherhood – a group of fundamentalist Muslims whose attitude about Israel is about the same as Hamas. They are 25% of the population! It is not all that much of a stretch to predict that at some point after a democracy is set up and people will be able to choose their leaders, that the Muslim Brotherhood will be voted into power – much the same way Hamas was in Gaza.
Like Hamas - the Brotherhood are tremendous Baalei Chesed to their own people. They have free medical clinics set up for their poor and are very charitable to them in many other ways. Their Gemilas Chasodim for their own people rivals Satmar’s Gemilas Chesed for our people. That they are vehement haters of Israel has no meaning to fellow Egyptians one way or the other. They see a benevolent religious group who goes out of their way for each and every one of them… and that is all they care about.
That most Egyptians would not necessary want to turn their attention to Israel in hostile ways and instead concentrate on building their new democracy - does not mean they are opposed to the idea in principle. If the Brotherhood comes into power they could easily make hostility to Israel their number one priority. Breaking the peace treaty will be the least of Israel’s concerns.
What evidence is there that street hatred of Jews and Israel is so deeply ingrained into the Arab psyche? Ask Lara Logan. She is a very liberal reporter for CBS who tends to bend over backwards to understand the plight of the Palestinians and often focuses on them much more than she does on the problems Israel faces. Like indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza or Lebanon against innocent Israeli civilians.
While reporting on the Egyptian uprising she was sexually assaulted and brutally beaten by a 200 man Egyptian mob chanting ‘Jew, Jew’! So badly was she beaten that she had to be hospitalized.
Lara Logan is not Jewish. All that mattered to that mob is that they thought she was. It was all they needed. The Jewish Week noted that the anti Jewish aspect of this story was at first covered up - not mentioned at all by the mainstream media. The excuse has been that it was not verified. But after a while belief among media set in and they did start mentioning it in subsequent stories.
That was not the only incident of anti Semitism among the protesters:
According to a statement from Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, there have been “at least three … violent episodes,” including Logan, in which “the perpetrators accused the journalists of being Jewish, or of spying for Israel.”
Alexander Flax, associate director for media relations at the ADL, told The Jewish Week that in addition to Logan, two members of a Fox News crew were severely beaten and hospitalized after being accused of being Israeli spies. The online New York Times linked to that story but did not report it.
And a news team from Sweden was attacked and hospitalized with severe injuries, accused of spying for Israel. That story also was almost exclusively online in the United States, not in print.
Now I am absolutely certain that the media is not anti Semitic. They are just liberal wishful thinkers – the ‘monkey in the middle’ who prefers ‘not to see evil’. And ignore the potential devastating consequences for Israel that this upheaval may bring. God forbid.
All they see is ‘Democracy’. The smile on the reporters as they report among jubilant crowds says it all. How myopic of them! You would think that in the over sixty years since the holocaust they would become a little more suspicious about the ‘peace in our time ’that Arab democracies might bring. The Arabs of today are not much different than the pre-war Poles and Ukrainians – united in their hatred of the Jewish people.
The difference is that fundamentalist Islam allows for a kind of martyrdom that did not exist among Europeans. That religious fervor will almost certainly change the dynamic of these new regimes as democracy frees up fundamentalist groups like the Islamic Brotherhood to take power.
I have no way of predicting the future. But the one thing I do know is that since 1973 peace in the Middle East has never been more uncertain than it is now. And Israel has never needed to be more vigilant than it does now. I hope they are up to the task. Oseh Shalom Bimromov - Hu Ya’aseh Shalom Aleinu V’Al Kol Yiroel - V'Imeru Amen! May God protect us.