Jerusalem & Babylon / Assange, Galliano and Sheen Prove anti-Semitism Is a Liability

One thing I understand about the Galliano affair is that anti-Semitism in the 21st century, despite what certain august bodies such as the ADL tell us, is simply unfashionable.

My only fashion-conscious friend tried to explain to me this week why John Galliano is such an important figure and why we should be so concerned with his rants when he’s had one too many.

She made a valiant attempt, but I still don’t understand why a 50-year-old man in pigtails who can’t hold his liquor is such a world figure. One thing I do understand, though, and that is that the Galliano affair has proven what I have been saying in this column for the past three years: that anti-Semitism in the 21st century, despite what certain august bodies such as the Anti-Defamation League tell us, is simply unfashionable. In fact, it’s so uncool that when the slightest suspicion of judeophobia settled on the most famous fashion designer of our age, he immediately became too tainted to continue working at the House of Dior.

galliano - Reuters - February 25 2011

But first, a recap for those of you who have been following more mundane matters this week, like the tide of revolution still sweeping the Arab world.

John Galliano, a gifted if somewhat eccentric fashion icon, was, until Tuesday, the head designer of Dior. Last weekend, he embarked upon a drunken tirade in a Parisian bar in the historically Jewish Marais district, berating a woman for having “a dirty Jew face,” and dragging in her partner and his Asian features for good measure. When the affair hit the headlines, a cell phone video surfaced documenting a previous encounter in which an inebriated Galliano shouted “I love Hitler.”

And now for my favorite part: The CEO of Dior who suspended and then canned Galliano is a Moroccan-born businessman by the name of Sydney Toledano, and the face of Dior perfume, who pointedly refrained from wearing a Galliano-designed gown to the Oscars on Sunday night, is our very own Israeli-born Natalie Portman.

As I say, anti-Semitism has gone out of fashion − but who says that the Jews don’t rule the world? Which leads us to the next celebrity closet anti-Semite.

As if Julian Assange did not have enough to deal with, what with his imminent extradition to Sweden to face rape charges, the WikiLeaks founder has allegedly been mouthing off about a “Jewish” conspiracy against him and his website. The Assange affair is more sinister in my eyes than Galliano’s drunken outburst.

For a start, Assange has influence in a sphere that is potentially far wider than the world of haute couture; also, he was sober when he spoke to the editor of the British satirical magazine Private Eye, Ian Hislop, about a cabal of “Jewish” journalists seeking to discredit him. On the other hand, he immediately and totally denied the allegations, saying in a statement that “we treasure our strong Jewish support and staff, just as we treasure the support from pan-Arab democracy activists and others who share our hope for a just world.”

Whom to believe? Hislop has no recording or other proof of his version of the conversation, but I can’t see what motive he has for presenting the story in this way, aside for hunger for a scoop perhaps, but he isn’t really that kind of journalist. And while Assange has not been implicated in the past in anti-Jewish utterances, he certainly believes in conspiracy theories, and his connection with the Holocaust-denying anti-Semitic writer Israel Shamir, who is WikiLeaks’ representative in Russia, does leave him with a lot to explain.

Whether or not Assange did attribute his troubles to a modern-day Elders of Zion, his panicked instant denial once again shows not only that even the suspicion of anti-Semitism can damage a public figure, but also that there is nowhere to hide. If you don’t like Jews and think they are secretly plotting your downfall, don’t drink in public places or have unguarded conversations with anyone; we will find you and run you out of town.

And certainly don’t text your wife saying that you want to execute your manager “like the stoopid jew pig that he is,” because that’s the first thing she will use against you when your marriage founders and you end up in court. Charlie Sheen has been accused of beating his now-estranged wife, Brooke Mueller, and he claims the U.S. government was behind 9/11, but the anti-Semitic text was what finally got CBS to fire him from “Two and a Half Men,” the sitcom that made him the most highly paid television star in the world.

Nowadays, being accused of anti-Semitism is such a liability that even the most powerful Catholic in the world feels he has to preempt the threat. How else can one explain the publication of a new book by Pope Benedict XVI this week that exhaustively proves that the Jews are not to blame for the crucifixion of Jesus?

As a professor of theology, Joseph Ratzinger must know that the Second Vatican Council cleared us of that particular charge 45 years ago. When I first saw the headline this week that “Pope finds Jews not to blame for death of Jesus,” I was convinced it was a spoof. But no, it seems that even the pope is afraid of being tarred with the brush of Jew-hatred. And if anti-Semitism has the pope running scared, I think that means something.