Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Spark of Antisemitism

Apparently, it takes three drunk French people at a bar to get it started.
Fourth Musketeer wannabe John Galliano got suspended from Dior for allegedly hurling racial insults at a Jewish woman and an Asian man. It's all very confusing.
It turns out that the woman isn't even Jewish and furthermore, she works at the Institut du Monde Arabe. She filed the claim against Galliano because "she feels solidarity with Jews and Arabs".
To which I have to say: Gee thanks, pal. As usual, too much politically correct fervor paves the road to hell. Thanks to you, Yahoo News is now chock full of the vilest hate speech against Jews since the middle ages. Just scroll down to the comments section of the Galliano news story and let your stomach start churning. Anonymity allows pathetic losers to spew evil and inflammatory stuff in the internet.   Blood libels, conspiracy theories, anti-Zionist rants, "Hitler was right", "Henry Ford was right", poor, stupid "Helen Thomas was right" (she is now quite unfortunately in the company of the other two bozos), you name it. It's as if you put the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Mein Kampf, The International Jew, the anti-Israel hate brigade and the blood libels of yore in a shaker and stir.
Galliano is countersuing the attacked couple for defamation. And he should, if indeed they made the accusations up. This is as inexcusable as racially insulting people, maybe even worse. It is what in Jewish tradition is known as lashon hara, an evil tongue, a terrible sin which is not to be exercised by anybody.
The way the Galliano incident was reported in the media makes it seem that the hoopla is more about the antisemitism than about the other racial insults. I find this unfortunate, since both are equally racist and this gives the anti-Semites an opportunity to complain that the Jews are always kvetching about antisemitism. However, the fact that this happened in the Marais, a Jewish neighborhood, in a city that is still reckoning its collaboration with the Nazis, may have to do with the extra sensitivity. You can't walk two blocks in the Marais without running into a plaque commemorating the hundreds of Jewish people or schoolchildren who were deported to their deaths from those very homes. People in the USA have never seen their neighbors forcibly taken from their homes or attacked for ethnic reasons (except for Blacks in the South or if you were Japanese in the 1940s), so they think it's all an exaggeration.
So the new trope is that Jews are oversensitive, and that we overreact. I think it is true in some cases. But who is to decide what is an overreaction?  Because we have so much to complain about, we should not complain at all? Blacks have the same problem. Some people think they overreact. Who is to judge? How can anybody who doesn't share a history of persecution and humiliation, deem it an overreaction?
It's a delicate subject. Are we paranoid and oversensitive, or are we finely attuned to prejudice and hatefulness (not that we are not capable of it ourselves)?
I can tell you this: I know it when I see it. I feel it in my bones. And I can read between the lines. Sometimes it is carefully euphemistic and baroquely disguised (like Charlie Sheen's violent hatred of "Chaim Levine") and sometimes is outright nuts and transparent (see Yahoo comments). Many times it is an overly feverish disgust with Israel, as if Israel was the only country with behavioral issues in the world, but most of the time it's the banal, ignorant, prejudiced remarks about noses and greed and world domination.
I'm fucking tired of all of it, whatever its latest guise.

NEWS UPDATE: Here is evidence that Galliano did say horrible things. His defamation suit is bullshit. 

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