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Why Is Antisemitism So In?

Borat the movie was not only the funniest movie of '06 but also the most prescient. He exposed an undercurrent of polite antisemitism in America which shocked as well as entertained. When Jay Leno put to Borat that many people found his movie "offensive, racist, and homophobic," he replied, "Why, thank you."

After Mel we now have Judith. Allegedly, Ms Judith Regan, the highly successful
publisher at HarperCollins, blamed a "cabal" of jewish publishers for her recent downturn in fortunes at the Murdoch-owned media empire. Her lawyer claims the word Jewish was not used and cabal is not offensive to him, a Jew. So, that's all right then. Who knows whether this is true or not.

Having said that, I think it is marvelous that U.S. publishing has such diversity. I think it is wonderful that non-Jews are allowed to work in the media. Talk about diversity. Bravo to Judith for doing so well as a minority.

The fact is that antisemitic jibes are clearly de nos jours. When I was a kid and there were Holocaust survivors around, anti-Jewish comments were much more guarded. Even in cosy UK where antisemitism exists in polite forms like, "Oh, i didn't know you were Jewish. You don't look it," desecration of Jewish cemeteries is nearly a weekly occurrence.

I used to prefer the Adminejad school of anti-semitism. Better out than in. At least we know our enemy; when he says "Let's wipe the Jews off the face of the Earth," you kinda know he ain't joking. From Nasser of Egypt to Bin Laden of Bora Bora, you know where you stand. The coded, discreet and euphemistic technique of diplomatic antisemitism of the Post War period was much trickier, in my view. Now, I'm not so sure. I'd quite like them to shut up and keep the demons in the bottle. Blame someone else. Like Bush. Or Martha Stewart.

Books mentioned in this post

Jonny Geller is the author of Yes, But Is It Good for the Jews?

10 Responses to "Why Is Antisemitism So In?"

    Brockman December 20th, 2006 at 10:43 am

    But why now, Jonny? Being Jewish, perhaps you have always been aware of anti-semitism and haven't feel any kind of ebb. I actually remarked to a friend a few years ago that nobody seems prejudiced against Jews anymore (in hindsight, a laughably naive pronouncement for which I must have completely overlooked the entire Middle East).

    But now, all of a sudden, Mel Gibson and Judith Regan launch semi-public tirades... or is it really not sudden at all?

    Dougc December 20th, 2006 at 12:19 pm

    I'm always surprised when I hear antisemitic statements, but not so much the Gibson/Regan tirade as the quiet "observations" made by coworkers. I grew up in a fairly Jewish neighborhood in West L.A., went to synagogue, had a bar-mitzvah, and promptly forgot all about being Jewish. Going to work after high school suddenly brought me in contact with people who didn't know too many Jewish people. I heard comments like, "I had a Jewish boss once. He was okay." If that statement doesn't feel a little creepy, change it to, "I had a Black boss once..." Then there was the comic book retailer who, when I brought up post-apocalyptic themed comics, thought I was referring to the Holocaust, and replied that he didn't really think it happened. Then there's all those millions of evangelical Christians who speak of the Jews as the chosen people, but also believe that the only good Jew is a completed Jew, that is, one that has been born again. Look at how supportive Pat Robertson is of Israel, but mostly because the existence of Israel fits into his apocalyptic doctrine. Drunken and angry rants by celebrities don't surprise me or depress me as much as the everyday assumptions, cliches, and stereotypes, the same kinds of things that exist for Blacks, Hispanics, Gays, and others. I do think Israel is guilty of some of the same sins (if you'll pardon the expression), albeit in the name of national survival. Oh, and Iran's conference on the Holocaust is pretty depressing, too.

    Mark Weller December 20th, 2006 at 12:27 pm


    I don't think its a coincidence that anti-semtic feelings have come out more openly since 9/11. That kicked up a lot of mud in the Middle East and refocued attention on things like the Israel-Palestine conflict. Just look at all the comments Powells got for that book review about the girl who got killed in the Gaza Strip! There are a lot of feelings running around now that were kind of buried during the 90's, not all of them favorable to Jews.

    ThomK December 20th, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    after "schindler's list" a lot of people were more sympathetic to the jews for a while - but that never lasts, so now people are coming back to the old stereotypes and prejudices. we forget so easily.

    Dougc December 20th, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    By the way, Borat? Oh my god. Running of the Jew? My jaw really did drop. When did a movie start so well and just keep going?

    jonny geller December 20th, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    Why now? post 9/11 it has become acceptable in parts of the fundamentalist world to be overtly antisemitic (iranian president, hamas, hezbollah have all made public statements about jews rather than israelis). This trickles down to everyone eventually if you hear it enough. Remember Nasser issued copies of Mein Kampf to his Egyptian soldiers before the Suez War. Talk about confusing two separate issues!

    If Israel behaves badly, it is an assumption (false) that all Jews are supportive. There is no nuance left in this argument. Some jews who are deeply critical of israel are too scared to voice the concerns and some jews pretend they are supportive no matter what.
    The point about borat was not that america is full of racists or antisemites, but lack of thinking belies bigotry.

    T. Beckett December 20th, 2006 at 5:09 pm

    I agree with some of the earlier posts that the Anti-Semitic dimension of the Borat film is dangerous. This film works on two levels. It works on the level of informed intellectuals around the world (plus the Israelis, who are laughing just as they did with La Vita e Bella) and it also works on the level of simple teenage minds who laugh at the trivial jokes, and possibly do not doubt the negative portrayals. It's a good thing that the film was banned in Russia, it could be potentially explosive in weaker democratic cultures such as that. I have come across a funny new blog which is developing a journal in Borat's voice, but without all the negative stuff (www.boratswritings.com). Look at it if you have time. Oh and by the way, I think Baron Cohen could have made just as much money without adding the Jewish and Gypsy bashing stuff into his script.

    Brockman December 20th, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    Uh, T. Beckett — I don't think there were any "earlier posts" claiming the Borat film was "dangerous." My survey of these comments tells me everyone who's posted thus far thought it was hilarious.

    rabbi samuel hurt October 26th, 2009 at 10:12 am

    The truth must be manifested about Israel!
    Why does the media hide the fact that the "Israeli Modern Day Eastern European Jew" does'nt have a legitimate claim to the Land of Israel. They being of Ashkenazic heritage, descendant of the Khazar Empire comprising, Poland, Armenia, Turkey, Russia, etc., chose judaism as opposed to becoming christian or muslim. They in fact worshipped satan in the early synagogues! Yet some, today wear their jewishness on the outside, but inwardly have the character of satan!

    How can they say that they have returned to the home land Israel, when they never left Israel? When they arrived in Israel in 1948, it was through imposed occupation! They not being of the blood line of Abraham, expunges their fradulent claim to the Land of Israel.

    Even though the torah allows all people to go through conversion, just as Abraham did, the torah emphacizes that G_D chose the Hebrews as His people. When the prophet Moses approached Pharaoh instructing him to let G_D's people go, Moses referred to G_D, as the G_D of the Hebrews (Yud Hay Vuv Hay)!

    Eastern European Jewry is the underlining cause for unrest in the middleeast! Terrorism is the world wide result of their false occupation! Yes, they have a right to worship the G_D of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! But, it must be in truth!

    How long will the world continue to protect the Ashkenazic false claim to the Land of Israel not given to them or their descendants! Peace will not be achieved until the world denouces them as a fraudulent occupier, allowing peace to have a chance!

    Rabbi Samuel Hurt September 5th, 2013 at 11:32 am

    In the aforementioned comment in order to have left the land, and to have a right of return, they would have had to been there and left! They were never there! The land of Israel was never theirs! The land was given to the children of Israel, which they were never part of!

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