Castro to Ahmadinejad: End the Antisemitism

Cross-posted from Alan A on Harry’s Place

Interesting interview by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic:

He began this discussion by describing his own, first encounters with anti-Semitism, as a small boy. “I remember when I was a boy – a long time ago – when I was five or six years old and I lived in the countryside,” he said, “and I remember Good Friday. What was the atmosphere a child breathed? `Be quiet, God is dead.’ God died every year between Thursday and Saturday of Holy Week, and it made a profound impression on everyone. What happened? They would say, `The Jews killed God.’ They blamed the Jews for killing God! Do you realize this?”

He went on, “Well, I didn’t know what a Jew was. I knew of a bird that was a called a ‘Jew,’ and so for me the Jews were those birds.  These birds had big noses. I don’t even know why they were called that. That’s what I remember. This is how ignorant the entire population was.”

He said the Iranian government should understand the consequences of theological anti-Semitism. “This went on for maybe two thousand years,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything.” The Iranian government should understand that the Jews “were expelled from their land, persecuted and mistreated all over the world, as the ones who killed God. In my judgment here’s what happened to them: Reverse selection. What’s reverse selection? Over 2,000 years they were subjected to terrible persecution and then to the pogroms. One might have assumed that they would have disappeared; I think their culture and religion kept them together as a nation.” He continued: “The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust.” I asked him if he would tell Ahmadinejad what he was telling me. “I am saying this so you can communicate it,” he answered.

Anybody listening?

The thing is, most Jews want to live as full citizens, safe and secure, within open and liberal societies.

Israel is full of Jews for whom that was simply not possible, in the various Middle Eastern, European or African countries of familiar origin.

There’s a line of thought that Jewish self determination – that is, Zionism – is giving in to racism. It is effectively an acceptance that the sort of religious themes that Castro rehearse are so deeply rooted in World culture that Jews will never be safe. Far better, so the argument goes, that Jews should stay and fight antisemitism, and join with broader progressive currents which will transcend and reverse the cultural and philosophical traditions of religiously inspired Jew hatred.

I’m sympathetic to that argument, strongly so.

My problem with it, however, is that I see absolutely no sign at all that Jew hatred has been defeated in Europe, still less in the Middle East where it is rampant. What I find particularly disturbing is the way that what we might euphemistically call “traditional perspectives on Jews” are still part of political discourse – even that of liberal and progressive and supposively post-religious states – but generally speaking aren’t recognised as such. The notion that Zionists – or as the European Trade Commissioner accidentally put it, Jews – have the power to control governments and the press, the prominence of allegations of child killing, and so on, has power because it resonates with commonly held perspectives on Jews which are 2000 years old. And they are still, very common.

The response of many people who regard themselves as politically progressive is to attack Jews for pointing this out. Jews are accused of “crying wolf” and of using their own persecution as political cover for the persecution of others. At the same time, the cynical and political use of antisemitism against Jews by Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and so on is completely ignored by many on the Left, or excused or understood.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Jeremy Corbyn is a far Left Labour MP. He actively defended Abou JahJah, a man who had published a cartoon that denied the Holocaust, and lobbied for his admittance to the United Kingdom, when he was barred by his own party.

Could Corbyn be persuaded to express a single world of concern about Abou JahJah? No – he wouldn’t even answer a straight question as to whether he was continuing to lobby for his entry into the United Kingdom.

The Jerusalem Post posed these questions to Corbyn, and asked if he was still pursuing justice for Abou Djahjah and why he continued to defend him, even though he had been banned from entry to the UK because of his record of racism.

“I have not maintained contact with anyone who I consider to have questionable views on race at all, and would not wish to,” Corbyn told the Post. “I stand by my total opposition to racism of any form, be it anti-Jewish or Islamophobia and am proud to represent a multicultural community where respect for all faiths and cultures is practiced.

All forms of discrimination are abhorrent and cannot be tolerated.”

Compare that to Castro’s clear explanation of the nature of the problem.

UPDATE:

Castro may be of Jewish descent.

Gene adds:
Goldberg also reports that Castro “endorsed unequivocally” Israel’s right to exist.

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