by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
Most Western Jews, or more specifically, American Jews, believe that anti-semitism is a thing of the past. For the most part, overt anti-semitism is definitely no longer acceptable in the United States (with the big bold exception of calls for death to Jews in the context of support for Palestinians on US college campuses).
But it seems that anti-semitism disappeared only for an eye blink. It's starting to pop up again in the oddest of places. The halacha that "Esav hates Yaakov" is as eternal as every other halacha. While perusing some sites I follow after Shabbat, I came across this from journalist Michael Totten, reporting from Serbia...
“What do most Serbs think of Americans now?” I asked Filip David.
“Very bad!” he said and laughed. “There is very messy propaganda, you know. Here there is no private opinion, only public opinion. During Milosevic they said for four years that there was no alternative to war. And after Dayton, the next day, they said that peace has no alternative. Everyone changed their mind overnight. The influence of the media is very very strong. And now they say Americans are our enemies.”
“They actually use the word enemies?” I said.
“Yes,” he said. “You also have some kind of stereotypes. The first is that there is an international conspiracy against Serbia, and that behind that are Americans and Jews with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
“Oh, you're kidding,” Sean said. He spent six months in Denmark while I was in Lebanon, and he never heard that kind of thing there.
“Really,” David said. “They say Jews control America.”
Sean couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity.
“And the second,” David said, “is that all independent journalists and non-government members are traitors who are paid by the West. These two stereotypes exist now, in this moment. I am against this, you know, because I am Jewish.”
“Is that a problem for you here?” I said.
“It's an attack on international Jews,” he said, “not Jews here, because, you know, in Serbia there are only 2,000 Jews. A lot of people who attack Jews and are anti-Semites, they have never seen in their lives any Jews. In this moment, we have over 100 anti-Semitic books. A lot of them are reprinted books that were written during the Nazi occupation of Serbia during the Second World War. They are trying to explain how it's possible that Serbia lost all its wars. They are saying that it's an international conspiracy. And people believe it. You know, the bombing of Belgrade. It's true that in the American administration you have lots of Jews. But they are Americans, they act like Americans, not like Jews. I think so.”
“And the honest truth,” Sean said, “is there aren't that many.”
“Most are Christians,” I said.
“Henry Kissinger,” David said. “Hal Holbrook, Wesley Clark.”
“Wesley Clark isn't Jewish,” I said. “He's Christian.”
“He's not a Jew,” Sean said.
General Wesley Clark was NATO's Supreme Allied Commander of Europe when the U.S. went to war against Yugoslavia – which was really just a war against Serbia since what was left of Yugoslavia at the time might be better described as the Serbian Empire. (Yugoslavia was derisively described by many of its citizens as Serboslavia even long before the rise of Milosevic.) It wouldn't be reasonable to expect many Serbs to admire Wesley Clark, but accusing him of being a Jew seemed a bit much.
“Yes,” David said, “but he was born a Jew and adopted by some family. It's not important whether it's true or not. People here say someone is a Jew when they don't like him.”
I decided to fact-check this just in case I was wrong. And according to Wikipedia, Wesley Clark has a Jewish great-grandfather. That doesn't make him Jewish according to Jewish law, but it does make him Jewish according to Hitler's definition and, apparently, according to the Serbian definition as well. When General Clark ran for president in the Democratic primary in 2004, the American media let this factoid languish in relative obscurity because hardly anyone in the United States would find it interesting or relevant.
I assumed it was nonsense because Belgrade's propaganda industry has been manufacturing lies about its enemies for a long time. Republican Senator Bob Dole was widely accused in Serbia of being secretly an Albanian Muslim, for instance. Kosovo's current prime minister Hashim Thaci, who really is a bit sketchy, was recently and absurdly accused of harvesting and selling Serb body parts. When you throw The Protocols of the Elders of Zion into the mix, it’s a good idea to fact-check what you hear – which is frankly good advice in the Balkans in general, not just in Serbia.
“Everybody tries to make their identification with Palestine or with Jews to explain what happens here in Serbia,” David said. “People very often can't understand what happens here. We who live here can't always understand. During Tito's regime there wasn't any kind of anti-Semitism. Tito had good relations with Israel. But with the rise of nationalism everywhere we have the rise of anti-Semitism everywhere. In Slovenia they have maybe 50 Jews, but they have problems with anti-Semitism when there are problems with the economy.”
“So basically,” Sean said, “anti-Semitism is used here, right now, in the exact same way it was used in Nazi Germany.”
“That's the problem,” David said.
“What do Serbs think of Israel?” I said.
“It's mixed,” he said. “Sometimes they praise Israel and say we too must defend ourselves with arms. But other times they say We are like Palestinians, and that Israel is an extension of the United States.”
“So sometimes Serbs identify with Palestinians,” I said. That comes across just from walking around. I saw three Serbs wearing Palestinian keffiyehs downtown just that morning. At the same time, Serbia is the most violently anti-Islamic country in Europe.
“But it's also not so simple,” he said, “because Palestinians are Arabs. And they don't like Arabs because Arabs are Muslims. That's why I say there is so much confusion here about political life, cultural life, and economic life. You can be very surprised by what people say here, and the next day they will say the exact opposite.”
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BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא