At this point there's no excuse to stay put rather than go to Israel. Not only does America have its own bad-for-the-Jews moments, but now it's a trillion degrees out here in NYC. I don't typically blog about the weather, but it's remarkable when the subway platform in the summer seems at least relatively shady. Tonight, I did the unthinkable and ate in my bedroom. For whatever reason, eating in either a bedroom or a subway offends my delicate sensibilities, but not as much as does eating in a non-airconditioned room.
But back to the Jews.
Christopher Hitchens, a man who ought to know about such things, remarks, "One does not abruptly decide, between the first and second vodka, or the ticks of the indicator of velocity, that the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion are valid after all."
Does drinking merely amplify whatever you thought while sober? Is there veritas in vino? That's always been my assumption, along with what would frighten me about the more serious mind-altering substances--it's one thing to kill a few brain cells, but another to warp the way you think about things in general.
But that's not what interests me about the Mel Gibson story. What's amazing about it is how it highlights the tension between the idea that Jews cry "anti-Semitism" and thus stifle free speech at the slightest perceived insult, and the remarkable refusal of many these days to admit that anything anyone does actually fits the definition of anti-Semitism.
When Ilan Halimi was tortured and killed by a gang in France, the leader made it clear that Halimi was targeted because he was a Jew, but not because this gang hated Jews, but because Jews are supposed to have money. Many argued that this was not in fact anti-Semitism, because where's the Jew-hatred there? It was just an honest miscalculation, as if someone picked the only black kid for their basketball team in a high school gym class, only to find out that he was frightened of the ball.
When Walt and Mearsheimer used academic jargon to make Mel Gibson's point, about the Jews being behind all the wars, this was not anti-Semitism, but scholarly analysis, courageous scholarship, at that.
And now, Mel Gibson, poor soul, has a disease. He's an alcoholic. While liquor can make otherwise moderate drinkers belligerent, an alcoholic surely experiences something different, say, a need to speak words he himself doesn't have any control over or even believe.
But enough of this already. Anti-Semitism is real, and cannot be fought if it is not understood. All manner of people--Herzl included, and anyone walking through Bloomingdales against their will--have felt inklings of anti-Semitism. Every Jew relieved to be told he doesn't "look" or "seem" Jewish, every non-Jew relieved that a new Jewish co-worker has a Christmas tree, these folks are all, in some sense, anti-Semitic. But these are the symptoms, or at any rate not the driving force. That remains classic anti-Semitism, the belief that no matter what evidence otherwise, Jews have it better, and thus deserve to be punished. In the strange world we live in, the only anti-Semitism not called just that is that which is the most forceful.