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Emanuele Ottolenghi: "Europeans have seized upon the Palestinian intifada, or rather upon Israel's determined response to it, as an opportunity at last to turn the moral tables, a chance, however specious, to hold not themselves but the Jews to account."
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European intellectuals ponder: "Can the Disease that is Zionism be Cured?"
By Tom Gross  December 1, 2005
Reprinted with permission from Tom Gross Media.

An important new essay published in Commentary by Emanuele Ottolenghi, an Italian-born research fellow at St. Antony's College, Oxford, and a lecturer on Israeli politics, takes an in-depth look at how the European elites see Jews today, and how some Jews have adapted to please and placate those (sometimes anti-Semitic) elites.

"Europeans," writes Ottolenghi, "have seized upon the Palestinian intifada, or rather upon Israel's determined response to it, as an opportunity at last to turn the moral tables, a chance, however specious, to hold not themselves but the Jews to account."

Following "the alignment of European leftist and 'progressive' opinion behind the idea of Israel as the new Nazi Germany," a European Jew who supports Israel, says Ottolenghi, is "relegated to the category of racist until proved otherwise." On the other hand the so-called "good Jews," he notes, "mostly intellectuals or academics, have responded to the latest assault on the Jewish people by excusing it, justifying it, and in effect joining it." (Some might call them self-haters.)

Ottolenghi follows up on a theme I and others have repeatedly made in recent years: how the renewed rise of anti-Semitism in Western Europe correlates with the "incendiary and openly slanted way" that the mainstream European media have covered events in the Middle East during this time.

European authors have been quick to slander Israel in the media. For example, one writer in the British Independent newspaper in October 2002, claimed that Israel had "adopted tactics which are reminiscent of the Nazis." (The Independent, incidentally, is the only British daily paper edited by a Jew, albeit one that is hostile to Israel.)

Some European intellectuals, such as Barbara Spinelli, writing in the Italian newspaper La Stampa, have called on Europe's "good Jews" to denounce Israel.

Ottolenghi writes: "Today's ultra-nationalist Israel, Spinelli wrote, constitutes nothing less than a 'scandal.' And it is a scandal, above all, for Jews themselves ? since, as every European knows, Jews are the quintessential victims of modern nationalism (nationalism being, for Spinelli as for many other Europeans, virtually coterminous with Nazism). It follows, then, that Jews everywhere have a special duty to speak out against Israel, to apologize to its victims, and to do so in public."

Ottolenghi adds that this call has been answered. A critical moment in this response was when 45 prominent Jewish signatories "repudiated their right of return to the Jewish state on account of its racist policies" in a public statement released to The Guardian newspaper in August 2002.

As Ottolenghi points out, writing in Britain's weekly Spectator magazine earlier this year, Anthony Lippman issued a mea culpa Barbara Spinelli may have dreamed of. The son of a Holocaust survivor, who has converted to Christianity and become an active member of the Church of England, Lippman moved temporarily to reclaim his patrimony. Writing under the title, "How I Became a Jew," he averred that the "little band" of Holocaust survivors in Europe "has a terrible responsibility -- to discourage the building of walls and bulldozing of villages? and to reject the label 'anti-Semite' for those who speak out against Israel's policies in the occupied territories."

Another example is British academic Jacqueline Rose, who in her new book, The Question of Zion (2005) (which has been much publicized in left wing papers and on the BBC), undertakes to save Judaism itself from the curse of Zionism, which for her is the out-and-out betrayal of Jewish history.

Chief among the "good Jewish" politicians cited I the essay in Commentary are former British parliamentarian Oona King who, while reminding readers her mother was Jewish, compared Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto and spoke of her personal "shame" about this as a "Jewish person". (For more details on this, see the note in the dispatch on this list of June 24, 2003, titled "Mein Kampf sequel to be published in English.")

A year later, Gerald Kaufman, another member of the British Parliament, called for a boycott of Israeli goods: "As a person who was born Jewish, I am morally obliged to speak out against what is being done by the Zionist state of Israel to the Palestinian people," he said.

(Kaufman has been written about several times on this list, including in the article "Jeningrad" ( In the dispatch titled "For al-Qaeda maniacs, we are all Jews?" (June 25, 2004), my friend, the writer Simon Sebag Montefiore, describes Kaufman as "attention seeking", whose outbursts should be prefaced with the headline "British Jew well known only for attacking Israel attacks Israel again!")

These "good Jews" in Europe have been aided and abetted by some Israeli Jews (the so-called "New Historians") such as Avi Shlaim and Benny Morris. (Morris has now partially changed his position: see the dispatch "Benny Morris changes his tune," February 21, 2002.)

Shlaim, an Israeli teaching at Oxford University and a frequent contributor to the Guardian and various academic publications, says he sees it as his specifically Jewish duty to denounce Israel. Among other things, Shlaim was a proponent of a motion at a public debate in London this year that "Zionism is the real enemy of the Jews today."

There was also tremendous excitement in Europe over the declaration by 99 Israeli academics that their government was planning an imminent "fullfledged ethnic cleansing" of the Palestinian people (a charge that was not withdrawn when the alleged genocidal atrocity failed to occur).

Ottolenghi points out that these anti-Zionist European Jews require Israel to shed "its identity as a Jewish state" and agree to a "unitary, binational arrangement with the Palestinians."

One of the most salient questions asked in this essay is why "Europeans who expend such vast quantities of energy lecturing Israel on its supposed hypernationalist instincts give no thought whatsoever to ridding the Arabs of their own, rather more vivid, forms of nationalist sentiment."

The "notorious essay" in the New York Review of Books by Tony Judt, a British Jewish historian now living in the U.S., is quoted at length by Ottolenghi. Judt claimed that "Israel is truly an anachronism. And not just an anachronism but a dysfunctional one."

To read a response to Judt's essay please see the dispatch "European Poll Calls Israel the Biggest Threat to World Peace" (November 2, 2003). (Incidentally, the name Judt derives from the Dutch word for "Jew".)

For Ottolenghi, the guilty party is Europe itself: "What the enlightened sector of today's Europe would like Jews to do, in exchange for fully approved membership in the circle of approved opinion, is to renounce a core component of their identity: that is, their sense of Jewish peoplehood as expressed through their attachment and commitment to the democratic state of Israel and to the Zionist enterprise."

As a result even though these "good Jews" are "not many in number, and even though their arguments are invariably mendacious and easily refuted, they, and the many grouplets that have sprung up to represent them, enjoy great acclaim in today's Europe, and together they have done incalculable damage by lending a Jewish imprimatur to the anti-Israel cause."

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