As President Obama seeks to rekindle the formerly formidable black-Jewish alliance (remember the joint outreach efforts on Martin Luther King Day?), at least one black leader hasn’t gotten on board. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan this week charged that the “Israeli lobby controls the government of the United States of America” and that Congress is “terrorized” by this lobby.”
While Farrakhan has a long history of anti-Semitism, the real worry here is that he felt free enough now to make this hateful remark, seizing on a political climate that appears to be ripe for expressions of this kind.
Last week, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Pat Oliphant distributed a syndicated cartoon about the conflict in Gaza, clearly using anti-Semitic imagery to make his point. According to Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism – who is urging newspapers not to publish the cartoon – the portrayal of a fanged Star of David chasing down a Gazan woman “hearkens back to the vicious anti-Semitic propaganda of World Wars I and II. [It] will only add fuel to the proverbial political fire and stoke the flames of anti-Semitism.”
According to a recent JTA report, the global financial crisis has provided yet another excuse for anti-Semitic remarks. “Jews run the world,” said far-right Hungarian leader Draskovics Andras, decrying the Jews’ alleged murderous intentions, while German neo-Nazis “never fail to mention that Jews are to blame for the economic downturn,” according to Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. A study released last month by Lower Saxony’s criminal research institute showed that roughly one in 20 15-year-old German males is a member of a neo-Nazi group.
And in Venezuela (see page 22) – once friendly both to Jews and to the state of Israel – events have also taken a dangerous turn. Not only has President Hugo Chavez aligned himself with Iran, but, under the cloak of anti-Zionism, attacks have been directed at Venezuelan synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses.
Jews have never fared well in hard times, so it behooves us to be increasingly vigilant in these economically and politically challenging times. While there is no reason to become unduly alarmed, it would be irresponsible to ignore anti-Semitic outbreaks such as those cited above. It is to be hoped, however, that as the economic outlook brightens, these dark spots will fade.