Libels and Politics
Here we go again. Baroness Jenny Tonge of Britian's Liberal Democratic party called recently for a serious investigation of charges that Israeli rescue teams were in Haiti to harvest organs. In the ensuing firestorm, she has been removed from her role as "health spokesman" for her party in the House of Lords.
What is going on here? It is one thing for Hamas to fling about heinous lies. Among Western elites, "Israel-bashing" seems too thin an explanation for the mounting eruptions of lunatic forms of anti-Semitism, unhinged from even the most severe criticisms reasonable people might make of Israeli policies. Are we witnessing, as some suggest, a new genre of "postmodern conspiracy theory": a pathological inversion of Western self-criticism in which Jews, as ever, have been picked to play the key role?
And what should be the response? Standing up to anti-Semitism and fighting it politically is the prime imperative; so, concomitantly, is a refusal to disengage from the struggle. For Jews and perhaps especially for Israelis, withdrawal into a cocoon of self-protective isolation, an abiding temptation, is a sure path to paralysis and moral disarmament. If the aim is to build or rebuild civil societies—an urgent necessity for Jews as for others—both Jewish historical experience and classical Jewish sources, in conversation with other political traditions, have much to offer.
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