Saturday, June 11, 2005

A Miniature Manifesto

Harry's Place, a British blog run by Real Leftists, is one of my must-reads. A key reason why is this post, which alerts us to MEMRI's recent outing of an anti-Semitic screed (transcript here) given to Qatar TV by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Al-Qaradawi is an Islamist cleric who, among many retrograde things, endorses Female Genital Mutilation and the murder of pregnant Israeli women (lest their babies grow up to be IDF soldiers). Earlier this year, and predictably, Ken Livingstone, the socialist Mayor of London, found in al-Qaradawi a kindred spirit. This didn't sit well with Harry and company.

Qaradawi's interview is a real gem. He pronounces the entire Jewish people (save a negligible remainder) "Zionist", and therefore unclean. "May they choke on their food," he says, and rather than shake hands with a Jew, one should "wash his hands seven times, once with earth", a reference to a hadith, or reported saying, of Muhammad, in which the Islamic prophet described the way in which one must purify one's bowl if a dog should lick it (Sunan Abu-Dawud, Book 1, Chapter 38, 73; Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 4, 173).

From time to time, I find myself on other blogs writing little executive summaries of why I invest so much energy in analyzing the New Anti-Semitism. I wrote the following in response to Benjamin, a Harry's Place commenter who, seemingly inured to the tragic irony of someone like Livingstone rallying behind someone like al-Qaradawi, questioned Harry's frequent concern with bigotry against Jews. I think it serves well as a miniature manifesto for what I do.

This blog seems concerned almost exclusively concerned [sic] about prejudice against Jews. I was always taught that the fight against anti-racism and prejudice is broad one and that's how it should be fought.

I won't speak for the authors of this blog, but I will explain my own intense interest in a particular prejudice against Jews, which judging from the attention they pay the issue, may overlap with the motivations of Harry and company.

I think the world is extremely well trained to discern and combat anti-Semitism of the colloquially "right-wing" variety. That is to say, it is very easy for us to recognize the Christian anti-Semitism of a Hutton (and, to a lesser extent, Mel) Gibson; and it is similarly simple to clock the Jew-hatred of the febrile "racialist" type. What is new (or New, as people like me would have it), is the articulation and propagation of a left-wing, or New, anti-Semitism, a political iteration of the "oldest hatred".

Some of us (including Harry and company) come from a left-liberal tradition, and as such we are alternately fascinated and appalled that history finds us combating, in our own ideological milieu, a "human rights" animus against Israel and Jews. This is not something I would ever have anticipated when I was a young altruist eager to carry the left-liberal torch into the 21st Century.

In light of the Holocaust, that apotheosis of illiberal inhumanity, I can think of no more liberal cause than opposing the sorts of fascism that have trundled over Jews. And I find it perverse that the strongest enablers today of the legatees of Hitler in the Third World -- the Iranian mullahs, Hamas, al Qaeda -- are to be found among the ranks of "progressives".

At least in my case, that is why I focus disproportionately on this particular prejudice against Jews (not "prejudice" against them, as you broadly conceive it). I care about the Jewish people tremendously, but in some ways there are even deeper truths to unearth for the human stake in the "fight against anti-racism and prejudice". Determining why we're losing this round may give us the key to winning the overall battle.

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