Israel's wars tend to bring anti-Semites out into the open, and the current one is no exception. What is interesting, however, is the degree to which anti-Semitism has migrated from its traditional haunts.
One still finds traces of the older Jew-hatred among Catholic traditionalists like actor Mel Gibson and pundit Pat Buchanan. But more fascinating is the social acceptability of anti-Semitic talk on the left.
Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Bill Clinton, cites in The Wall Street Journal, an unappetizing sampler of comments posted on the Web sites supporting Ned Lamont over Sen. Joseph Lieberman in last week's Democratic primary in Connecticut. One blogger calls for Lamont to "define what it means to be an American who is not beholden to the 'Israeli Lobby.' "
Still another made fun of Lieberman for not shaving during the three weeks before Tisha B'Av.
"Lieberman is a … religious bigot," opined another; "Lieberman cannot escape the religious bond he represents. … [H]is wife's name is Haggadah … or Diaspora or something you eat at Passover," reads one post at HuffingtonPost.com.
When it comes to vitriolic hatred of Jews and Israel, however, the American left cannot compare to the Europeans. Few European newspapers will ever again make the mistake of publishing a cartoon noting the fatal attraction of followers of Mohammed for suicide bombs. But cartoons equating Israelis to Nazis remain commonplace.
Jostein Gaarder, one of Europe's best-selling novelists, employed all the classic anti-Semitic tropes in a recent diatribe in the Norwegian daily Aftenposten. "To act as God's Chosen People is not only stupid and arrogant, but a crime against humanity," he writes.
If Gaarder is like most of his countrymen, he probably has not seen the inside of a church in decades, but that does not prevent him from singing the praises of Christianity over the beliefs of the Jews, with their taste for the "blood vengeance that comes with an 'eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' "
The State of Israel no longer exists, Gaarder proclaims. It is now without defense. In his Christian magnanimity, he calls for mercy on Israeli civilians as they prepare to enter yet another Diaspora.
Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, resorts to the same slur about primitive Jewish bloodlust, by portraying Israeli bombing in Lebanon as motivated by nothing other than a desire for revenge, and not as part of an effort to protect Israeli civilians. "An eye for an eye — or more accurately in this case 20 eyes for an eye — may have been the morality of some more primitive moment," Roth writes in The New York Sun in condemnation of Israel.
Of course, anti-Semitism on the left is not exactly a new phenomenon. Karl Marx himself was a master anti-Semite. And his follower, Joseph Stalin, was planning a major bloodletting of Jews at the time of his death.
Quite simply, Israel and the wars that it must continually fight against those who've vowed to wipe it out prevent Western intellectuals from engaging in their favorite fantasy: the belief in a rational world, in which men of good will can iron out their differences over the conference table. It is a worldview that denies the existence of irreconcilable goals, and sees all conflict in terms of interests that can be compromised.
There is no place in this worldview for Islamic jihad bent on subjugation of the world to Islamic law. So the world denies the threat, just as it once denied Hitler's threat. Europeans prefer to believe that the jihadists are motivated by grievances that can be assuaged, just as they once imagined that Hitler would be satisfied if German "grievances" were answered and the Sudetenland returned.
Israel's crime is that it will not go along with the plan as Czechoslovakia did.
Jonathan Rosenblum is director of Jewish Media Resources, a Jerusalem-based Orthodox organization.