Murdoch on Anti-Semitism
The Press Magnate Warns of a War Against the Jews
Editorial of The New York Sun | October 14, 2010
It will be some time before a major public figure confronts the question of anti-Semitism in a speech as to the point as that delivered last night by Rupert Murdoch to the annual banquet of the Anti-Defamation League in New York. The honoree of the evening, he noted that the League has been so successful that a few years ago some people were beginning to say, “Maybe we don’t need an ADL any more.” That, he said, “is a much harder argument to make these days” when, as he put it, “we live in a world where there is an ongoing war against the Jews.”
The war has, moreover, entered what the world’s most successful newspaper magnate called a new phase. The first phase had been “conventional in nature,” with the goal “to use military force to overrun Israel.” He described the approach as having failed, even before the Berlin Wall came down. Phase two was terrorism, targeting Israelis both home and abroad — “from the massacre of Israeli athletes at Munich to the second intifada.” He noted that the terrorists “continue to target Jews across the world” but observed that they haven’t succeeded in bringing down the government of Israel or weakening Israel’s resolve
The new phase of the war is what Mr. Murdoch called “the soft war that seeks to isolate Israel by delegitimizing it.” It’s a war in which, he said, “[t]he battleground is everywhere,” such as the press and broadcasting, multinational organizations and non-governmental organizations. The aim is the same, “to make Israel a pariah.” The result, Mr. Murdoch said, “is the curious situation we have today: Israel becomes increasingly ostracized, while Iran – a nation that has made no secret of wishing Israel’s destruction – pursues nuclear weapons loudly, proudly, and without apparent fear of rebuke.”
What worries Mr. Murdoch most is what he called “the disturbing new home that anti-Semitism has found in polite society — especially in Europe” and the way “violence and extremism are encouraged when the world sees Israel’s greatest ally” — America — “distancing herself from the Jewish state.” He asserted today it seems that the “most virulent strains” of anti-Semitism “come from the left,” often dressed up “as legitimate disagreement with Israel.”
He quoted Lawrence Summers’ warning, back when he was president of Harvard: “Where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing populists, profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent.”
Mr. Murdoch, however, did not reserve his warning merely for the university elites. He warned that anti-Semitism today “enjoys support at both the highest and lowest reaches of European society — from its most elite politicians to its largely Muslim ghettoes. European Jews find themselves caught in this pincer.” He quoted a European Commission trade minister who declared that peace in the Middle East is impossible because of the Jewish lobby in America — and, savvy editor that he is, went on to deconstruct the minister’s language, which was:
“There is indeed a belief — it’s difficult to describe it otherwise — among most Jews that they are right. And it’s not so much whether these are religious Jews or not. Lay Jews also share the same belief that they are right. So it is not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East.” Quoth Mr. Murdoch: “This minister did not suggest the problem was any specific Israeli policy. The problem, as he defined it, is the nature of the Jews.”
Mr. Murdoch took on the Swedish mayor who responded to riots against a visiting Israeli tennis team by equating Zionism with anti-Semitism “and suggesting,” as Mr. Murdoch put it, “that Swedish Jews would be safer in his town if they distanced themselves from Israeli actions in Gaza.” He noted that the Norwegian government “forbids a Norwegian-based, German shipbuilder from using its waters to test a submarine being built for the Israeli navy.” He also noted that Britain and Spain are boycotting an OECD tourism meeting in Jerusalem and that in the Low Lands, police are reporting a 50% increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents.
For Mr. Murdoch, what this underlines is the importance of good relations between Israel and America. “Some believe that if America wants to gain credibility in the Muslim world and advance the cause of peace, Washington needs to put some distance between itself and Israel,” he said. “My view is the opposite. Far from making peace more possible, we are making hostilities more certain. Far from making things better for the Palestinian people, sour relations between the United States and Israel guarantees that ordinary Palestinians will continue to suffer. The peace we all want will come when Israel feels secure — not when Washington feels distant.”
The most significant part of Mr. Murdoch’s speech, by our lights, came toward the end, when the man who owns the biggest newspaper in Britain reached down deep and spoke of the testimony presented to a British commission back in 1937 by the Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky, who urged Britain to open up what Mr. Murdoch called “an escape route for Jews fleeing Europe.” He quoted Jabotinsky, who went on to write a famous book called “The Jewish War Front” and emerged as one of the Founding Fathers of Israel, as saying that only a Jewish homeland could protect European Jews from the coming calamity. Then, calling Jabotinsky’s words “prophetic,” he quoted one his most famous formulations: “It is not the anti-Semitism of men. It is, above all, the anti-Semitism of things, the inherent xenophobia of the body social or the body economic under which we suffer.”
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It is still the anti-Semitism of things, and it is a radical, a newsworthy speech to say so. And it is something — we would even say inspiring — to think that the most powerful press lord on the planet can take the stage on this head and reach deep into history and conclude that Jabotinsky is a prophet for our times. Mr. Murdoch was not saying that we are on the brink of another Holocaust. “The world of 2010 is not the world of the 1930s. The threats Jews face today are different,” he said. But he was marking that we are in a serious moment. “These threats are real,” he concluded. “These threats are soaked in an ugly language familiar to anyone old enough to remember World War II. And these threats cannot be addressed until we see them for what they are: part of an ongoing war against the Jews.