by Dexter Van Zile (January 2010)
Bruno Kreisky, the first (and only) Jew elected to serve as head of government of a German speaking country, had a problem.Soon after Kreisky was elected chancellor of Austria in 1970, renowned Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal reported that Hans Ollinger, a newly appointed cabinet member, had been a member of the Nazi party in the 1930s. Kriesky, who had lost 20 members of his family in the death camps during the Holocaust, needed to send a message to the people of Austria about how they should deal with their country’s Nazi past.
Kreisky sent a message, that’s for sure.
He denounced Wiesenthal as a “Jewish fascist” and defended Ollinger, stating he had never worked as a concentration camp guard, nor had he ever been a member of the Waffen-SS. Everyone had a right to make a political mistake, Kreisky stated, and the real problem was with Wiesenthal, who insisted on bringing up bad memories from the past. To drive his point home, Kreisky appointed another former Nazi to his cabinet, demonstrating just how committed he was to let bygones be bygones. (Ollinger resigned his post under “doctor’s orders.”)
The sight of a socialist Jew presiding over a cabinet that included a former Nazi was strange enough, but even more bizarre was Kreisky’s attack on Wiesenthal. In addition to calling Wiesenthal a “Jewish fascist,” he further smeared him by asserting that “one finds reactionaries also amongst us Jews as well as thieves, murderers and prostitutes.”
Kreisky attacked Wiesenthal again after his socialist party exceeded expectations and won handily at the polls in 1975. As a result of this victory, Kreisky could form a government without the help of an expected coalition partner, the “Freedom Party.” Robert Wistrich describes this party, led by Friederich Peter, as a former right-wing party that had abandoned its “extremism for a more liberal orientation.”
Wiesenthal’s sin was to reveal the day before the election that Peter had served as a tank commander in an SS unit that had committed war crimes during World War II. After the election – when it was clear that Kriesky did not need the Freedom Party to form a government – Kreisky described Wiesenthal as “the agent of an organized Israeli campaign ‘to bring me down,’” because of his failure to support Israel. Subsequently, Kreisky told a journalist “the man [Wiesenthal] must disappear.” Kreisky also falsely accused Wiesenthal of collaborating with the Nazis in order to survive the death camps.
Clearly, Kreisky was motivated, at least in part, by politics. One anonymous Austrian politician explained to Newsweek in 1975 that “there are 300,000 surviving ex-Nazis in Austria. They are the bulk of the swing vote, and no Chancellor can be elected without them.”
Kreisky’s self-serving actions, coupled with his tendency to equate Zionism with Nazism, his repeated condemnations of Israel, and public silence about the sins of Palestinians led to his being reviled by Jews throughout the world, particularly in Israel. The Jerusalem Post, for example, referred to him as “the grotesque Mr. Kreisky” in September 1978.
Kreisky remained hugely popular in Austria however, serving as chancellor until 1983 without ever having lost an election.By electing him, Austrians were able to prove (to themselves at least) that they had transcended their Nazi past (which Kreisky indicated wasn’t all that bad) and had no further obligation to assess their role in the Holocaust. Kreisky also legitimized contempt for Jews and even gave people leave to deny the very existence of Jews as a people. “If the Jews are a people, then they are an ugly people,” he said in 1975.Wistrich summarizes the role Kreisky played in assuaging Austria’s troubled conscience, and the popularity he enjoyed as a result, as follows:
During the Wiesenthal-Peter affair, Kreisky had acted as if the mass murder of European Jewry was merely a side issue and his main duty as Federal Chancellor was to whitewash Austrian consciences, liberating them from the sins of their fathers! The fact that a Jew played out this expiatory and apologetic role provided the Austrian population with a powerful alibi, acquitting them of the need for any serious confrontation with the Nazi legacy. Such unexpected absolution greatly enhanced Kreisky’s personal standing in Austria, despite the criticism to which he was subject in some circles.
Kreisky’s antics earned him the support of some pretty unsavory people. Wistrich writes:
By the end of 1975 Kreisky had been transformed into an honorary ‘Aryan’ par excellence in the eyes of German nationalists, who loudly applauded his repudiation of any loyalty to specifically Jewish concerns and his outbursts against ‘boundless Zionist intolerance’. The neo-Nazis had no doubt at all about the meaning of Kreisky’s attacks on Wiesenthal: ‘Kreisky wants a reconciliation with the ex-Nazis’, trumpeted the Deutsche National-Zeitung, delighted that some degree of social respectability had finally been attained thanks to the efforts of the Jewish-born Socialist Chancellor. The file, so it seemed, could at last be closed on the murky past between 1938 and 1945.
Kreisky was also popular with Arab leaders such as Yassir Arafat for his regular assaults on Israel and his unreflective support for the cause of Palestinian statehood. Robert Wistrich reports that Kreisky’s support for the Palestinian cause was “not balanced by any public disavowal of Palestinian terror against Israel or Jewish civilians.” Kreisky did condemn Arafat in private, but his public outrage was reserved for Jews and their homeland, not their enemies. Israel, in Kreisky’s public speech was, according to Wistrich, “a police state” run by men with “a fascist mentality.”
The irony is palpable. Kreisky portrayed his fellow Jews and Israeli officials as fascists while protecting bona fide Nazis on his cabinet and downplaying the sins of Yassir Arafat. In short, Kreisky helped short-circuit the collective intellect and conscience of the Austrian people as they contended with their own past and as they confronted the strategic and moral realities of life in the Middle East.
It Happens Here
A similar process is at work 30 years later in the United States. As elites in the West come to grips with the role Islamist extremism plays in fomenting violence in the Middle East, Spain, England, Scotland, the U.S. and India, a small but vocal group of Jews have achieved prominence by walking in Kreisky’s footsteps, by offering the same message he did in the 1970s: It’s the Jews – and not the people who hate them – who are the problem. Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas aren’t really so bad, it’s the Jews and their state we need to worry about.
They offer this story as part of an exchange with two categories of people, the first category being those who are predisposed to think badly of Jews. The second category consists of those intent on denying the existence of or appeasing jihadism, a religious-based authoritarian and expansionist mass movement whose leaders have used Israel and the Jewish people as scapegoats to explain the inability of Muslim and Arab countries in the Middle East to adapt to the modern world.
It’s hard to tell these two groups apart – there’s a lot of overlap – but nevertheless people in these two categories share an abiding interest in hearing Jews assert that it’s their fellow Jews and the institutions they run that are the source of the world’s problems. Non-Jews intent on hearing this narrative and Jews willing to offer it have, like Kreisky and the Austrian voters who supported him, worked out a mutually beneficial exchange that proceeds as follows:
Disaffected Jews who have little credibility or influence in the Jewish community in the U.S. or Israel are accorded adulation in the non-Jewish world by legitimizing the notion (detailed by Bernard Harrison) that Jews are “a malign and conspiratorial political entity” that must be combated or expelled “lest the host body politic be irretrievably harmed or corrupted or both,”and by portraying Israel as a monstrous nation intent on genocide or ethnic cleansing and the Jewish state as the cause of most, if not all of the problems in the Middle East.
By proffering this narrative, these Jews achieve, thanks to their non-Jewish allies, prominence and influence they were previously denied by their fellow Jews. In order to legitimize this exchange, these disaffected Jews portray their newfound Christian allies as morally, spiritually, and intellectually superior to the retrograde and hard-hearted (i.e., mainstream) Jews they condemn.
In addition to being the recipients of naked flattery as a result of this exchange, non-Jews experience the frisson of hearing and affirming (and the privilege of repeating) anti-Jewish rhetoric that has been rendered acceptable because it has come out of the mouth of a Jew. It also inoculates them against charges of anti-Semitism and gives them leave to ignore threats or hostility to Jews as unimportant.
Jeff Halper and Mark Ellis
This ugly dynamic was particularly evident when Friends of Sabeel North America held a national conference at Old South Church in Boston in October 2007. During this conference Jeff Halper, an American Jew who moved to Israel in 1973, offered some harsh criticism of Israeli leaders, obliquely comparing them to the leaders of the Nazi regime in the 1930s and 40s by suggesting Israeli leaders were intent on perpetrating genocide against Palestinians. After telling the audience that Israeli officials “don’t believe that peace is possible,” Halper continued:
The Israeli government has done the same thing that the Bush Administration is trying to do – mystify the conflict, to depoliticize it so that there’s no solution – the problem is them. [Applause.] And if the problem is them, then of course to put it in very harsh terms then of course the only solution is the Final Solution. [Emphasis added.]
To be sure, Halper’s rhetoric was (at least in this instance) restrained when compared to Kreisky’s, but the implication was obvious. Israeli leaders were behaving like Nazis toward the Palestinians (whose population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has, by the way, increased fourfold over the past 60 years).
Marc Ellis, director of the Center of Jewish Studies at Baylor University in Texas, followed in Kreisky’s footsteps by trafficking in the Jews-as-Nazis trope in a much more direct manner at the Sabeel conferences in the Denver and Chicago in 2005. At these conferences, Ellis displayed the following text of a letter written by his son to an Israeli diplomat:
If you are too ignorant to step out of your position for one second and see that the Israelis are using brute force to oppress the people, just as the Nazi regime once used against the Jewish people, then I don’t think you can be helped. 
If someone like Patrick Buchanan or David Duke were to speak in such terms, their commentary would be dismissed out of hand as anti-Semitic. (In fact, the Jews-as-Nazis trope is listed by European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia [EUMC] as one example of how anti-Semitism can manifest itself in public discourse.) Nevertheless, when Ellis and Halper used this rhetoric at Sabeel conferences in 2005 and 2007, they enjoyed the applause of large audiences of Christians.
Ellis and Halper are not the only Jews following in Kreisky’s footsteps. Mark Braverman, the grandson of a fifth-generation Palestinian Jews whose “grandfather was the direct descendent of one of the great Hasidic rabbis of Europe,” has also presented himself as part of the principled minority within the Jewish community. Jews, as Braverman depicted them at an October 2009 Sabeel event in Iowa, have ignored the teachings of the prophet Amos who warned ancient Israelites of impending punishment for their sins.
During his presentation, Braverman invoked Mark 10 from the New Testament which recounts the story of the young man who asks of Jesus what he must do to earn eternal life. In response, Jesus tells the young man to sell all he owned and give his money to the poor.
Braverman’s gloss on this story is that it describes the human need to control and to be in control and that people must “look inside and recognize how much we are run by our personal insecurity, or lack of trust that the world, God’s world bequeathed to us, will support us.” Modern Jews, as Braverman reports, have ignored these teachings by “fighting the self-evident truth of the Goldstone Report,” by “building the separation wall,” by “blaming the dispossessed Palestinian people for ‘intransigence’ and ‘eternal hatred of the Jewish people,’” and by taking away the right of return from the Palestinians while establishing the law of return for the Jewish people.
Apparently, in Braverman’s analysis, Jews, Israeli Jews especially, can show their fealty to God (and achieve physical safety) by ignoring the manifest errors (both factual and moral) of the Goldstone Report, allowing suicide bombers from the West Bank free passage into Jerusalem, denying the overt anti-Semitism embraced by groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and ultimately, and abandoning their commitment to the maintenance of a sovereign Jewish state. For Braverman, Jewish self-effacement and pacifism in the face of Arab and Muslim hostility is not only a religious act, but a strategic gambit.
From the mouths of Christians or Muslims, such magical thinking would elicit guffaws from Jews who fled Europe after the Holocaust or from oppression in Arab and Muslim countries. But when such a message flies from mouth of a Jew into the ears of Christians, it is the reenactment of great acts of prophecy from the Old Testament. Referencing Amos, Braverman looks into the hearts of Israel and American Jews and sees intransigence, indifference and moral blindness:
It is clear that we, the Jewish people, have lost our way. We have built the stone houses and planted the vineyards, but we do not live in them. We live behind a wall of our own construction, in the words of Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, in “Fortress Israel.” That wall not only exists in the hills of the West Bank but in the hearts of Israelis, and in the hearts of our own Jewish leadership here in the U.S.
Braverman, who in another essay admits that he questions “the very fundamentals of Zionist ideology and practice,”roots the continued existence of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the spiritual intransigence of his fellow Jews who are slowly but surely “getting a heart of wisdom.” Braverman undercuts this assertion by describing the negative response he admits he has gotten from his fellow Jews.
It’s slow, however, and this is not the mainstream, as you well know. When I returned from the West Bank in 2006, naively thinking that I would bring the message to my Jewish community, the reception, to put it mildly was not warm. I was accused of being – you know what I was accused of being. But a wonderful thing happened – the doors of the churches were flung open. My Jewish voice was welcomed, in fact I realized that there was a great hunger for it. And so it’s simple to say why that is so – because Christians know what’s right, they know what they are supposed to be doing. And the major barrier is the fear – well taught – of being perceived as anti-Semitic. Christians are even informed that to criticize the state of Israel is anti-Semitic. (Emphasis added.)
The flattery flows in two directions – at Braverman who portrays himself as a principled Jewish prophet ignored by his fellow Jews and at Christian peacemakers who (unlike the Jews) can tell right from wrong and as a result can help create a broad social movement capable of challenging Israel just as South Africa was challenged in the 1980s.
Tellingly, nowhere in his Sabeel talk did Braverman ask Christians for help in confronting Arab or Muslim misdeeds. He seeks Christian allies solely to confront Jewish intransigence. Again, it’s the Jews, not those who hate them, who are the problem. And Christian peacemakers are the answer. For Christians who have been taught to stand in opposition to the Pharisees, the Herodians and other adversaries of Jesus, this narrative is just too appealing to deny. It places them on the right side of a modern passion play – at the foot of a cross – which Braverman himself has ascended. This is not about peace, but sinful self-justification and aggrandizement on the part of Braverman and his Christian audience.
On a political level, Braverman’s testimony feeds into two central themes of mainline Protestant “peacemaking” – that Israel controls the violence directed at it by its Arab and Muslim adversaries and that Israeli Jews do not exercise this ability because of some flaw in their psyche. It also provides cover for the failure of these self-styled peacemakers to ignore the role Muslim theology regarding the Jewish people and the Holy Land plays in fomenting hostility toward Jews and Israel in the Middle East. If Braverman, a Jew, ignores these issues, then why should progressive Christians feel any obligation to address them?
Neve Gordon’s career as in American media outlets is another example of the exchange between disaffected Jews and their non-Jewish supporters. Gordon, a professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva, recently called for a boycott of Israeli goods in an op-ed that appeared in the Los Angeles Times. This call for a boycott was remarkable in that Gordon did not condemn (or even acknowledge) the hostility toward Israel expressed by Iran, or the violence perpetrated by its proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah. In his piece, Gordon expressed greater disappointment with the behavior of his fellow Israelis than he did with Palestinian leaders who have responded to Israeli withdrawals with increased violence and continued calls for Israel’s destruction. Not surprisingly, Gordon’s piece was posted admiringly on the white supremacist website, Stormfront.
Gordon had written similarly biased pieces during his ten-year stint as a columnist at National Catholic Reporter. For example, in the Feb. 8, 2009 issue of the publication, Gordon accused Israel of starving the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, writing, “The experiment in famine began on Jan. 18. Israel hermetically closed all of Gaza’s borders, preventing even food, medicine and fuel from entering the Strip.”
Apparently, it was a short-lived experiment. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported the following on Jan. 19, 2009 (the day after Gordon’s alleged “experiment in famine” began):
The Kerem Shalom, Karni, Nahal Oz and Erez crossings operated today in order to enable humanitarian movement and convey humanitarian goods in to Gaza.
Throughout the day 195 trucks laden with 4,946 tons of supplies, at the request of various international organizations, donated by Jordan, Egypt and the Israeli organization Latet all made their way to Gaza. Following a successful pilot yesterday of direct access from Egypt to Gaza, 10 trucks with an Egyptian donation of 198 tons of flour entered directly into Gaza though Kerem Shalom. Also, the ICRC facilitated the transfer of ten ambulances from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, in order to reinforce the ambulance fleet in Gaza. Further medical movements included 33 Palestinians who left Gaza for medical treatment in Israel, including eight cancer patients en route to Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem.
In one of his last articles in NCR (“Why I live in Israel,” May 30, 2008), Gordon tacitly admitted his coverage of Israel was pretty one-sided. In the piece, Gordon reported that one of the editors at the newspaper asked him why he didn’t just pack his bags and leave Israel in light of what he wrote about the country.
It’s a fair question to an Israeli who, in 2003, defied IDF orders “which forbade his entry into Ramallah” to serve as a human shield for Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat, who himself had praised suicide bombers. (Jerusalem Post, Sept. 25, 2009).
With this question, the unnamed editor at NCR implicitly acknowledged that Gordon’s writing was not merely a forceful and continuous critique of Israeli policies, but a de-legitimization of the country itself. No decent person could, in good conscience, remain in the country Gordon described in the pages of NCR.
In response, Gordon likened himself to Amos and Martin Luther King – prophets who tried to change the societies in which they lived.
Amos and MLK however, did not stand in solidarity with those who lauded the murder of their fellow citizens. They also got their facts straight.
“An Honest Jewish Pundit”
The most extreme example of Kreisky’s imitators is Seattle writer Richard Silverstein who writes for the Guardian (at Comment is Free) and his blog Tikkun Olam (which Silverstein informs us, is Hebrew for “making the world a better place”). In both these venues, Silverstein portrays modern Israel as a blight on the international system, Israel’s supporters as intellectual and moral monsters, and Arab and Muslim hostility toward the Jewish state as either a consequence of Jewish wrongdoing or a figment of the imagination of his ideological opponents. Silverstein’s writing is so hostile toward Israel and his fellow Jews that David Duke, the well-known anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, republished one of his articles and described Silverstein as “an honest Jewish pundit.” (Kreisky had his fans, so does Silverstein.)
Duke was praising a piece originally published by the Guardian on Sept. 30, 2009 in which Silverstein asserted that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had never talked about exterminating Israel and that he had never said his country would attack Israel. In Silverstein’s version of history, it was Israel who was the aggressor and John McCain who was at fault for pandering to the worst fears of American Jews about the Holocaust. “Provoking fears of Israel’s destruction should have no place in US politics,” Silverstein wrote.
If Silverstein really has a problem with provoking fears of Israel’s destruction, he should lay the blame where it belongs – on Iranian leaders like Ahmadinejad who, despite Silverstein’s evasions, have routinely spoken glowingly of Israel’s hoped-for destruction. Ahmadinejad did, according to one translation, assert that Israel (which he called “the occupying regime” should be “wiped off the map.” Another translation indicates that Ahmadinejad affirmed that Israel “must be eliminated from the pages of history.” Elsewhere Ahmadinejad has stated that “Zionists are the true manifestation of Satan,” that “Very soon, this stain of disgrace [Israel] will be purged from the center of the Islamic world – and this is attainable,” and that “They (Israelis) should know that they are nearing the last days of their lives.”
Nevertheless, Silverstein is more offended by those who insist that the Iranian regime has ill-intent toward Israel than he is by Iranian leaders who express this intent.
Similarly, Silverstein is bothered by people who insist on portraying Hamas as seeking Israel’s destruction. In December 2008, Silverstein complained that New York Times reporter Ethan Bronner portrayed Hamas as rejecting Israel’s right to exist and as remaining “doctrinally committed to its destruction.” Silverstein puts it plain and simple for Bronner: “Hamas currently does not reject Israel’s right to exist nor is it committed to its destruction (and for those of you out there who are anti-Palestinians partisans clamoring to bring up the Hamas charter, please point me to any evidence that any Hamas leader pays any attention whatsoever to it).”
No one in Hamas, Silverstein asserts, pays any attention to the organization’s charter, and anyway, long time Hamas consultant Azzam Tamimi is working on a new and revised (and less hateful) version of the document. Basing his hopes on a 2006 article in the Jerusalem Post, Silverstein wrote that maybe we’re witnessing “a very gradual change in emphasis and softening of tone in discussing these issues.” If the positive developments continue, Silverstein writes, “we’ll know we’re traveling in the right direction. If they don’t we’ll know we’ve reached a dead end with Hamas.”
Silverstein’s assessment notwithstanding, Hamas leaders have made it clear all along that religious hostility toward Jews and their state is a central aspect of their agenda. For example, in March 2007, senior Hamas leader Mahoud Al-Zahar, who was then serving as the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, told a crowd gathered at a mass rally that the Koran promises “the liberation of all Palestine” which clearly means the destruction of Israel. No one can deny it, he said. “One who denies it must check his faith and his Islam.”
The contempt with which Hamas holds Israel and Jews is also readily apparent in a statement issued by the organization on the 60th anniversary of the UN vote to partition the British Mandate into a Jewish and Arab state. According to Haaretz, a Hamas spokesperson called on the UN to rescind the 60-year-old vote:
"It is not shameful to correct a mistake. Palestine is Arab-Islamic land from the river to the sea, including Jerusalem, and Jews have no place there," [Army Radio] quoted a Hamas statement as saying.
And Azzam Tamimi, the man who Silverstein hopes will rewrite Hamas’ charter has prophesized the destruction of Israel at a rally in London in January 2009, yelling “Israel has dug its grave. Zionism has dug its grave.” He also stated that people can “count the years” until the Israeli embassy will be replaced by a Palestinian embassy. “The Zionists, the Zionist flag will come down and the flag of Palestine will go up.” This from the man who Silverstein hopes will bring Hamas into a new era of reconciliation.
The extent that Silverstein is willing to go to downplay hostility toward Jews is particularly evident in a piece (“Exploiting Mumbai’s Tragedy”) he penned after Muslim extremists killed the residents of the Chabad House in Mumbai in November 2008. Yes, Silverstein admits, the attack was “anti-Israeli” but “not necessarily anti-Semitic.”
Insisting the attack was motivated by anti-Semitism, Silverstein asserts, only allows Israeli politicians to “piggyback their own cause onto the Western jihad against radical Islam.” Such leaders, Silverstein writes “conveniently label Palestinian militants as radical Islamists or jihadis, when Palestinians themselves largely do not recognize or accept the terms. While it is true that Gaza is ruled by Hamas, which is a movement with a religious identity, most Hamas leaders eschew the language of religious jihad to portray their struggle.”
As much as people might like Silverstein’s assertions to be true, they are quite simply false. Talk of jihad has been, and remains, a persistent and salient aspect of Hamas' rhetoric. According to an October 2008 article published in Haaretz, Hamas has created a website similar to Youtube (called AqsaTube) that features information about jihad. Haaretz reports:
The website describes itself as, "the first Palestinian website specializing in Islamic and jihad audio-visual productions."
"This site shows the latest Palestinian and Arab audios and videos about politics, sport, jihad and many things that it would take so long to list here," the site says.
More recently, Reuters reported that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh recently reaffirmed his group’s refusal to accept Israel’s existence, telling a “huge rally” “Hamas will not retreat from Jihad and resistance until it achieves freedom and independence for our people.” This is not the rhetoric of a leader who “eschews the language of religious jihad to portray [his] struggle.”
Silverstein reveals just how badly he wants to downplay the hostility of the Mumbai attackers toward their Jewish victims when he writes that “every fibre of [his] being” wishes that reports of the Chabad victims being tortured and “mutilated more severely than the other victims” are false because if these reports are true, Jewish-Muslim relations will be set back for “years, if not decades.” Moreover, this news will “further confirm Israeli Jews in the conviction that it simply impossible to live in peace with the region’s Muslims.” In short, it was Silverstein himself who exploited the attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai by using it as a springboard to emphasize the intransigence of Israeli Jews. (It’s the Jews, remember?)
Silverstein did the same thing when white supremacist James Von Brunn murdered a security guard at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., in June 2009. After the killing, Silverstein attacked Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, in a manner reminiscent of Kreisky’s attacks on Simon Wiesenthal:
People like Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, live for tragedies like this. Tomorrow, or the next day, he’ll be holding a press conference with the security guard’s wife telling the world that African-Americans and Jews must make common cause against the vast anti-Semitic conspiracy. If he’s really feeling his oats that day he might even work in a reference to an evil Iranian president who denies the Holocaust as well. Mark my words, it’s coming.
In reality, the ADL issued two press releases. In the first press release Foxman expressed concern for both the family of the victim and of the attacker and stated “words of hate matter.” In the second release, the ADL stated the attack was part of a “wave of hate” that included a plot to bomb a synagogue in New York, the shooting of two soldiers in Arkansas, and shooting sprees in Brockton, Mass. and Pittsburgh.
The ADL’s response was measured and reasonable; it was Silverstein, not the ADL who exploited the tragedy at the U.S. Holocaust Museum.
The willingness of these and other Jewish writers to participate in the demonization of Israel is part of a larger phenomenon detailed by Kenneth Levin in The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege (Smith and Krause, 2005). Levin, a psychiatrist and a historian details how some Israeli and Diaspora Jews embrace a narrative of Jewish self-reform and Israeli concessions leading to peace. They do this to achieve a sense of mastery over circumstances over which they have no control – intractable Arab and Muslim hostility toward Jews and Israel.
In response to this enmity, American and Israeli Jews sometimes embrace the belief that Israeli policies as are the sole source of the conflict, thereby giving Israelis the power to end the conflict unilaterally through self-reform and peace offers. Levin writes:
Both the self-deprecating and the grandiose distortions of reality have a common source: A wish to believe Israel to be in control of profound stressful circumstances over which it, unfortunately, has no real control. Genuine peace will come to the Middle East when the Arab world, by far the dominant party in the region, perceives such a peace as in its interest. Israeli policies have, in fact, very little impact on Arab perceptions in this regard, much less than the dynamics of domestic politics in the Arab states and of inter-Arab rivalries. Israeli strength may deter Arab assaults and fend them off when deterrence fails and assaults occur, but it cannot force peace. This is a painful reality that does cast its shadow over life in Israel. Some Israelis are so pained by it that they prefer to take refuge in delusions of Israeli culpability, the subtext of which is that the proper self-reforms and concessions by Israel can and would suffice to win peace, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Levin reports that in addition to exhibiting a tendency to exaggerate Israel’s sins (and by extension, its ability to bring about an end to the conflict), the desire to maintain the illusion of control prompted many Jews to condone or minimize Arab expressions of hostility and actual violence against Israel in the 1990s. This tendency was particularly evident in the 1990s when Israeli peace activists shouted down those who tried to draw attention to Yassir Arafat’s calls for Israel’s destruction even as he was negotiating with Israel. Anything that would contradict the notion that Israel was in control of the hostility directed at had to be excluded from discussion. Consequently, people who insisted on taking Arafat’s double-dealing seriously were “enemies of peace.”
The same habits of mind and patterns of speech are clearly evident in the commentary of the writers detailed above. This explains why they are so often welcomed at Sabeel events in the U.S. where Israel and its supporters are portrayed as the cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict and where the religious and ideological component of Arab hostility toward Israel and Jews are downplayed or ignored altogether.
The popularity enjoyed by Kreisky’s successors in the U.S., particularly in mainline Protestant churches, demonstrates that the Oslo Syndrome is not a Jewish phenomenon, but a fact of human nature, a point that Levin makes clear.When confronted with the prospect of conflict with a determined adversary, human beings oftentimes look for an easy out, a quick escape through which they can “finesse” the impending confrontation. To achieve this escape, people oftentimes embrace a narrative of self-reform as way to defuse the conflict. Embracing this narrative is a convenient, but ineffective, response to a sustained ideological assault.
One impact of this exchange between disaffected Jews and their non-Jewish supporters in the U.S. (and Europe) is to help render elites in the West unable to name and confront the threat posed by the authoritarian and expansionist ideology espoused by political and clerical elites in the Middle East and by their apologists in the rest of the world.
While many progressive thought leaders in the United States routinely bemoan (and exaggerate) the impact of Christian Zionism on American foreign policy and portray the millennial beliefs of Evangelical Christians as a great threat to world peace, these same commentators downplay acts of murder by Islamic terrorists. For example, when Major Malik Nadal Hasan murdered 13 soldiers and injured 31 others in Fort Hood Texas, Rev. Chuck Currie, the house blogger for the United Church of Christ, adopted a stance similar to that of Richard Silverstein, portraying people who insisted on acknowledging Hasan’s religious motivations as “religious bigots.”
To be sure, it is important to speak about these acts, and the ideology that motivates them in precise terms, but the ideology that motivates these acts can no longer be ignored. Responsible leaders must come to terms with this ideology. Barak Obama made this clear in his Nobel Prize Acceptance speech: “Negotiations cannot convince Al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”
But just as Kreisky’s anti-Jewish polemics, coupled with his Jewish identity gave the Austrian people leave to ignore their Nazi past, the unhinged screeds of his intellectual inheritors in the U.S. gives peace activists and their thought leaders in the West leave to ignore the threat posed by Islamic expansionism and its impact on international politics and human rights in the Middle East.
By telling the story they do, these Jewish commentators have given false and unreasonable credence that it is Jewish sovereignty (and ultimately, Jewish identity) that represents a threat to world peace.
In fact, it is intolerance toward religious and ethnic minorities of all stripes, Jews especially, that is the source of suffering in the Middle East.
Instead of promoting religious and ethnic tolerance, political and clerical leaders in the region demonize the Jews and their state and call it “resistance.”
The source of disruption is not the Jews, who number approximately 13 million throughout the world; it is the world’s obsession with them. Sadly, there are some disaffected Jews who, instead of combating this obsession, legitimize it. Non-Jews who lionize Kreisky’s children to further their own agendas are not intent on providing a comprehensive or accurate view of the world as it is, but are intent on transforming the problem of human sin and imperfection, which affects us all, into a story of Jewish perfidy and obduracy.
Societies that embrace such a narrative cannot long endure.
Dexter Van Zile is the Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
 Robert Solomon Wistrich, “Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: The Case of Bruno Kreisky,” Analysis of Current Trends in Antisemitism, The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, (No. 30, 2007), page 2.
 Fay Willey and Lilan J. Kubic, “Digging up the Past,” Newsweek, Dec. 1, 1975.
 Wistrich, 2007, page 21.
 Ibid, page 21. Wistrich also reports that one poll taken at the end of 1975 “almost 60 percent of the Austria population supported Kreisky’s position at the end of 1975 as against only 3 percent who were in favour of Wiesenthal, with the rest either neutral or unconcerned.”
 Robert Solomon Wistrich, “The Kreisky Phenomenon: A Reassessment,” in Austrians and Jews in the Twentieth Century, Robert Wistrich, ed,, (St. Martin’s Press, 1992), p. 243.
 Wistrich, 2007, page 25.
 Bernard Harrison, The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel and Liberal Opinion (Roman and Littlefield, 2006), pp. 27-28.
 Bernard Harrison, describes the “idées reçues [about the Arab-Israeli conflict] among educated people in the universities and elsewhere” as follows: “[T]hat the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most important international issue facing the world today; that the problem is wholly the fault of Israel, and that no responsibility whatsoever attaches either to the Palestinians themselves or to the Arab states; that Israel by its nature is a “racist” or “apartheid” state; that the crimes committed by the Israelis against the Palestinians far exceed the crimes committed by the Nazis; that although the Israelis use the sympathy generated by the Holocaust both to justify the existence of Israel and to blind people to the iniquity of their treatment of the Palestinians, they have not only “learned nothing from” the Holocaust, but have become Nazis, or worse than Nazis, in their turn, and have turned Israel into a Nazi state; that all Jews are alike in supporting Israel and being ready to justify any act of any Israeli government; and that the “the Jews” are either plotting, or are in the process of carrying out, a “Holocaust”—that is to say, genocide—against the Palestinians.” (Harrison, 2006, page 7.)
 The text of this letter appeared on page 81 of the September/October 2003 issue of Church & Society published by the Presbyterian Church (USA).)
 Kenneth Levin, The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of aPeople Under Seige (Smith and Krause, 2005),page xv.
 “The inclination to retreat to delusions of transgression, and of salvation through self-reform and concessions, is common, even endemic, within communities under chronic siege.” Oslo Syndrome, page XVI.
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