anti-Semitism in Europe AP
A woman passes by a Jewish memorial, desecrated with Nazi symbols, at a cemetery in Dortmund, Germany in 2005. Photo by Archive / AP
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Sports purists insist that the beautiful game isn't what it used to be. Today's multimillionaire footballers playing for teams owned by multinational corporations, Russian oligarchs and Arab oil sheikhs have forgotten how to play the game for its own worth. Tickets to many games are out of the reach of most supporters and the major networks have stultified our enjoyment of soccer on television.

But thanks to the Internet and social networks, an entire counterculture has sprung up in which each of us can not only be a fan and a viewer, we can finally also have our say. So if the latest Argentine wunderkind striker with 10-karat diamonds in his ears has forgotten just why he gets paid hundreds of thousands of euros every week, you can rely on the worldwide division of armchair commentators to douse him with creative vitriol using Twitter, Facebook and the comment sections on websites.

Language is being put to whole new uses in the service of cutting the soccer demigods down to size. One word in this lexicon has recently gained attention - the "Jew-goal." For those of you who have not yet come upon this phrase, it means an attack on goal in which one enterprising player does all the running, dribbling and feinting around defenders. And just when he comes up against the keeper, he passes to a teammate who scores the goal with next to no effort.

There you have it, the Jew-goal, glory and riches to a player who has done nothing but stand aside placidly while his teammate has done all the hard work.

Apparently, another J-word is now making the rounds. Did you know that some people have christened that popular smartphone "the JewBerry"? Why? Simply because BlackBerry's messaging service is free, and you know who is always quick to pick up on those freebies.

There is a new-old meaning for "Jews" in our age of financial uncertainty - at least that's what those who are constantly on the watch for manifestations of anti-Semitism want us to believe. Apparently a Jew is synonymous with that hated class of investment bankers, those men (and women ) who enjoy million-dollar annual bonuses while the rest of us deal with straitened circumstances, those who continue to reap the benefits, even when the banks they manage are being bailed out with taxpayer money.

So when a politician, journalist or Occupy Wall Street rabble-rouser can be heard railing against "the bankers" growing fat off normal decent people's sufferings, are we merely hearing a 21st-century version of that ancient refrain? Since we can't enter the minds of those who blame the bankers for all of society's ills (many of whom themselves are Hebes), it is impossible to answer that question.

Google "Jewish bankers" and you will encounter hundreds of openly anti-Semitic websites plying their trade in cyberspace. Every month or so, a survey crops up in one country or another showing that 50 percent of the respondents believe that Jews are good with money. Does that mean that half the world is anti-Semitic? Is the entire Occupy Wall Street movement racist because of one lone kook holding a placard claiming that Jewish bankers rule Wall Street?

Perhaps they are right? Maybe being skillful at making a buck or a million quick is actually a Jewish trait? And maybe believing this to be the case does not actually make you an anti-Semite? There is no evidence that a soccer supporter tweeting "Jew-goal" over his "JewBerry" is an anti-Semite, not even that he means it in a negative way. And if he does, why should we allow some bigoted idiot to define Jewishness for us? A Jew-goal is a glorious display of sporting chutzpah and a JewBerry is a cool phone.

And what makes a good goal scorer if not opportunism? And what makes a good banker? How does a financier distinguish himself from the rest of the pack? In one phrase: being in the right place at the right time, spotting investment opportunities before everyone else and realizing the best moment to offload that investment - just about 10 seconds before it starts going pear-shaped. What if by some process of Darwinist survival of the fittest, centuries of persecution developed within the Jewish psyche the ability to seek out the best methods of amassing liquid assets, the kind that could be easily carried off when the Cossacks came?

If that is the legacy of pogroms and blood libels, should we not be proud of it? In the 1960s, there was a debate in Britain over one of the definitions of Jew in the Oxford Dictionary. A Jew was not only a member of the Hebraic persuasion but also someone who drove a hard bargain, and a usurer. Finally, the linguists backed down and agreed to make it clear in all subsequent editions that this was a derogatory usage, which may have cropped up many times in English literature but was to be frowned upon henceforth, never to be heard again in polite society.

In a similar way the N-word would become taboo a decade or so later. Has anyone heard the verb "to Jew" uttered by a figure of respect in living memory? And if so did that person emerge unscathed?

Maybe in another generation Western anti-Semitism will make a real comeback. For now, it is a largely dormant strain of an ancient illness with little real danger. Those afflicted by it are social degenerates, and while it does occasionally plague more mainstream characters, they are forced to hide it. When it breaks to the surface, as it did last year with veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas, the poor benighted victims are ostracized and forced to resign. In some cases anti-Zionism and Christian evangelism may be used as a smoke screen, but in using such covers, the perpetrators have to work so hard at proving they're not actually Jew-haters as to render their anti-Semitism totally ineffective.

Saying that Jews are good with money is simply affirming what seems to be an empirical fact, an affirmation of our business acumen. It's something to be proud of just like the disproportionate number of Jewish Nobel Prize winners. And it has nothing to do with right- or left-wing politics or prejudice, especially in the United States where Jewish billionaires finance both the ultra-left and far-right.

Yes, Jews are out there, making money by the billion and putting that money to good use. Stating that fact is no more anti-Semitic than saying Jews are sexy or write fantastic newspaper columns. Now if only Israel's national soccer squad could get the hand of scoring Jew-goals, maybe there would be a chance of us being in the next World Cup.