All surveys of American Jewry show anti-Semitism as its No. 1 obsession. Yet every objective measure of the attitudes of non-Jewish Americans demonstrates that obsession to be absurd, Buford Furrow notwithstanding.
Things Jewish are hip - Seinfeld, bagels, Yiddishisms, even "kabbala." Nothing more clearly demonstrates the acceptance of Jews than the willingness of non-Jews to marry them.
Old-fashioned racial anti-Semitism - the view that even a drop of Jewish blood contains and transmits some irremediable taint - is deep underground if it has not disappeared altogether. Yet American Jews persist in seeing anti-Semites around every corner, primarily as a psychological salve. To paraphrase Descartes: I am hated as a Jew, therefore I exist as a Jew.
So has anti-Semitism disappeared? Hardly. "Esau hates Jacob" is one of the fundamental spiritual principles governing our world, our Sages tell us. Hatred of Jacob may take many forms, but it will never go away.
Jew hatred today rarely takes the form of racial anti-Semitism. Rather it is directed at the idea of the Jews as a nation. And Israel, however imperfect a model of Jewish nationhood it may be, signifies to the world the assertion of Jewish peoplehood.
"To the Jews as individuals, everything; to the Jews as a nation, nothing," Count Stanislas de Clermont-Tonnere said, and today much of the world follows suit.
The UN's obsession with Israel is but one proof that something deeper than a concern with human rights or even national self-interest underlies the animosity towards Israel. The hijacking of the upcoming UN conference on racism to condemn Israel as founded on an ideology of apartheid is but the most recent example.
While Pol Pot was murdering two million of his own people, the international community devoted more time and energy to the status of Palestinian "refugees." Hutus and Tutsis chop one another's heads off with machetes in the tens of thousands with fewer calls for intervention than are heard after the death of one Palestinian in an Israeli retaliatory strike.
The double standards to which Israel is held further hint at the deeper source of the hatred of Israel. The BBC proclaims Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a war criminal, and Belgium would put him on trial for what he should have known about the murderous capabilities of the Christian Phalangists. Yet Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, whose hands are drenched in blood, including 241 Marines killed in a 1983 car bombing of their barracks in Lebanon, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Arafat fears neither arrest in Belgium nor that the BBC will document his crimes any time soon.
ISRAEL is threatened with economic sanctions while China, in which citizens are routinely executed for minor economic "crimes," religion is brutally suppressed, and couples are sterilized after one child, is awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics by the international community.
Every response by Israel to lethal attacks on its civilians and soldiers is condemned as "excessive force."
Compared to what?
The 1,000 Panamanian civilians killed by US forces in order to arrest Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega on drug-running charges? The hundreds of Somalian civilians, including many unarmed women and children, killed by US peacekeepers in 1993? Did the US have more important interests in Panama or Somalia than Israel has protecting its citizens from attack in its heartland?
No European state has yet explicitly called for an end of Israel. But make no mistake about it: The very legitimacy of the Jewish state is on the table. Already the British daily The Guardian has posed the rhetorical question: Is Palestinian suffering too great a price to have paid for the creation of Israel?
The same question is implicit in European attitudes towards the current conflict.
Note that the same argument made today against the settlements - a Jewish population has been imposed on a majority Arab population - can be turned against Israel itself. True, the UN voted in 1947 to create the State of Israel, but that is a mere legal technicality at the bar of morality before which Israel stands charged.
No matter where one draws Israel's borders, it is possible to demonstrate that more Arabs than Jews lived there at some point freeze-framed in time. Presto, the Jews are European colonizers of a native population.
In that freeze-frame, all context becomes irrelevant: Jewish historical ties to the land; the barren nature of the land during the entire period of Jewish exile; how the Arab population was attracted by renewed Jewish settlement; Jews' purchase of the land on which they settled.
That same stripping away of all context typifies the way the world views the current violence. For CNN, the BBC, The New York Times, the rights and wrongs of the past 10 months are all summarized in one box score: Palestinian dead vs. Jewish dead. Who initiated the violence and why? Were those killed deliberately murdered or killed in military confrontations? All irrelevant.
Increasingly, the world has come to view the conflict through Palestinian eyes - at Palestinian funerals, at Israeli checkpoints (again without wondering why such checkpoints are erected in the first place). And not just the past 10 months, but the entire conflict since al-Nakba, the catastrophe of Israel's creation.
No European government has gone so far as to deny Israel the right to self-defense. Yet the list of tools granted Israel turns out to be a null set. No Israeli response, apart from passive victimhood, has escaped condemnation.
Esau mocks Jacob by limiting him to his traditional tool: prayer. What should Israel do about suicide bombers who find safe haven in the Palestinian Authority? Answers the world: pray, Jew. Allow the bombers to be booby-trapped and sent on their way. Then pray they have second thoughts, or that the bombs go off prematurely, or that an alert bus driver miraculously disarms the bomber.
The only prescription offered Israel - return to the bargaining table and offer further concessions. Won't that inevitably lead to the end of Israel, as each new flareup of violence elicits further concessions, until there is nothing left to concede?
Of course. That's the point, you see.