From Refuge for Jews to Danger for Jews

The decision to open a broad front against outgoing Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad was not a conditioned reflex of politicians, but rather of professionals who rang the warning bells and proposed an all-out campaign against the relatively new anti-Semitic genie let loose in Asia.

The official reaction from Jerusalem to the public opinion poll showing that some 59 percent of people from 15 European Union countries believe Israel is the greatest danger to world peace was to be expected. Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky attacked the Europeans for "blaming the Jews for the world's troubles," and said the findings show that anti-Semitism hides behind political criticism of Israel. According to Sharansky and his colleagues in the government, one must be a European racist to find anything wrong with the behavior of a little Jewish state, under attack from terrorism, surrounded by enemies, as it defends its citizenry.

The professionals in the Foreign Ministry, following with mounting anxiety the rising trends in anti-Semitism, propose a more complex diagnosis. According to the professionals, 95 percent of the anti-Semitic incidents last year in Europe were by Muslim immigrants. Most of the incidents were meant as protest against the inequities of the Israeli occupation of the territories. The officials point to a direct connection between the dramatic rise in anti-Semitism to the frequency of the pictures of Israeli soldiers shooting at Palestinian children. The images of settlers putting up outposts in the heart of Palestinian territory emphasizes to the non-Jews the Jewish identity of the occupiers.

The decision to open a broad front against the outgoing Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, was not a conditioned reflex of politicians who turn every enemy's shadow into an enemy. This time it was the professionals who rang the warning bells and proposed an all-out campaign against the relatively new anti-Semitic genie let loose in Asia.

They warned that the "pure" East European anti-Semitism, and the West European anti-Semitism rooted in the radical left, are giving way to a serious case of hatred of Israel, the U.S., and the alliance between them.

The images of the war conducted by Israel in the occupied territories like the images of the war America is conducting in Afghanistan and Iraq is regarded by many Muslims worldwide as part of a Judeo-Christian plot to humiliate Islam. The huge amount of support the Americans give to the Jewish state's policy in its war against mostly Muslim Palestinians strengthens their view of the Bush administration as an enemy of Islam. The Jewish extraction and deep affiliation with Israel by some of the architects of the war in Iraq is simply "proof" that the Zionists "pushed" Bush into invading Iraq.

European anti-Semitism was born long before the State of Israel, let alone before neoconservative Jews rose to power in Washington. Many Israel haters don't need pictures of Jewish pilots bombing Muslim homes to nurture their hatred of Jews.

However, politicians who turn a local, national conflict into a global religious war bear a great deal of responsibility for the safety of Jews worldwide. But there are politicians in Israel whose comments intensify the local national conflict to the global-religious level, and they are responsible for the safety of Jews, as Jews, worldwide. Minister Sharansky himself recently wrote in this newspaper that the Temple Mount is more important than peace. Ministers Effi Eitam and Benny Elon don't make any attempt to hide their belief that we are in the territories because of a religious belief that the land of Israel belongs exclusively to the people of Israel.

When a government in Israel was finally serious about putting an end to the occupation, anti-Semitism waned, giving way in Europe - and even Islamic countries - to sympathy and support for the Jewish state.

It is much easier to claim the entire world is against us than to admit that the State of Israel, which rose as a refuge and source of pride for Jews, has not only turned into a place less Jewish and less safe for its citizens, but has become a genuine source of danger and a source of shameful embarrassment to Jews who choose to live outside its borders. Arguing it takes an anti-Semite to call the Israeli government's policies of 2003 a danger to world peace is a contemptible cheapening of the term anti-Semitism.