Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jew-hatred is incompatible with liberal democracy

Lara Logan pictured moments before 200 Egyptian protesters attacked her

As more details emerge of the terrible ordeal of the CBS News reporter Lara Logan , whipped and sexually assaulted at the hands of 200 frenzied Egyptians on 2nd February to shouts of 'Jew! Jew!', the Jewish Week asks whether there has been a media cover-up of antisemitism during the Egyptian protests. Such public expressions of Jew-hatred the western media finds embarrassing. It shows that 'not everyone in Tahrir Square that night had democracy on their minds.'

Lara Logan's case was not the only one: it was just the most dreadful. Of the scores of foreign journalists beaten up during the disturbances in Egypt, many were accused of being Jews or Israeli spies. But the antisemitism accompanying the assault on Logan, who is not Jewish, shows that Jew-hatred has reached stratospheric proportions of paranoia. This is hardly surprising after decades of state-sponsored incitement, most notably, after Egypt signed its peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

Of course the problem can be explained, as Andrew Bostom does, as residing deep in the culture of Islam*. Others would argue that conspiracy theories and Nazi-style anti-Jewish images is a modern import from Europe, set in motion by Nasser and the thousands of German war criminals who were given refuge in Egypt in the 1950s.

With Egypt's 80,000 Jewish community reduced to a mere handful, the average Egyptian's chances of meeting a Jew in the flesh are virtually zero. But if Egypt is to build a genuine liberal democracy in the future, antisemitism must have no part in it.

Robin Shepherd ponders the question on his blog. Do read the whole post.

"Q) Why is mass anti-Semitism incompatible with genuine liberal democracy?

"A) Because anti-Semitism represents an emphatic rejection of the universalist principles which underpin liberal-democracy. This is why anti-Semitism can emerge as a mortal danger to non-Jews as well as Jews. The social, cultural and political forces unleashed by anti-Semitism are inherently antithetical to the classical liberal values of the Enlightenment. They are also antithetical to reason itself. All polities dominated by virulent anti-Semitism will therefore struggle to produce liberal-democratic outcomes. Some will produce extreme tyrannies. Christopher Hitchens was hinting at precisely these thoughts in the following remarks made in an article for Slate in February 2006: “…only a moral cretin thinks that anti-Semitism is a threat only to Jews. The memory of the Third Reich is very vivid in Europe precisely because a racist German regime also succeeded in slaughtering millions of non-Jews, including countless Germans, under the demented pretext of extirpating a non-existent Jewish conspiracy.”

"Q) So, given the presence of both mass anti-Semitism in Egypt and, in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood, a major political movement ready to hone down and exploit this anti-Semitism, is liberal-democracy impossible in Egypt?

"A) It depends on whether and to what extent anti-Semitism becomes a dominant theme in the political discourse in the manner that it has long been a dominant theme in the cultural and religious discourse. But given the near ubiquity of anti-Semitism in mainstream society, the great danger is that anti-Semitism will become an ideological mainstay of whatever new regime emerges. Here’s how it might unfold: The Muslim Brotherhood becomes part of a government dominated (initially) by Egyptian nationalists. Anti-Semitism emerges as the common denominator holding these two forces together. In political terms this leads to a much more hostile approach to Israel. During a flashpoint, like Operation Cast Lead for example, the Islamists demand direct support for Hamas. The nationalist constituency opposes such a move thus handing the initiative to the Brotherhood which discredits its opponents by portraying them as agents of the US-Zionist conspiracy. At this point we get an Islamist takeover.

"Clearly, all of this is scenario building. I do not have a crystal ball. But I challenge anyone to say that this is not one possible outcome of the process of change now underway in Egypt."

*with thanks: Independent Observer

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