Walter Russell Mead on the Persistence of Antisemitism

An indispensable post from Mr. Mead:

The truth is that anti-Semitism is alive and well and not even particularly rare; it's just that many of today's anti-Semites like to think of themselves as enlightened, modern people and get all huffy and hissy if anyone accuses them of prejudice in any form.  Many who in past times would have been open and honest about their anti-Semitism, now try to hide the truth even from themselves.


Since Hitler's death, the world has defined anti-Semitism down. Nurturing ancient fantasies of secret Jewish cabals that control the media and play politicians like puppets on a string, and making political judgments based on these fantasies isn't sort of or almost anti-Semitic. To believe that Jews control public discourse and the media and bend the gentile masses to their sinister agenda is the essence of old fashioned anti-Semite.   In some countries these beliefs are so common that they are no longer recognized as an aggressive and communicable mental disease. These ideas have become so widely accepted that they are seldom questioned or examined; when that happens, a whole society is poisoned and distorted.

The remarkable thing about Egypt -- and the thing that keeps me from an uncomplicated embrace of the people's revolution there -- is that most political leaders, and most parties, are, by our standards, casually antisemitic. This doesn't mean there isn't merit to the cause of the Arab Spring, and I do believe that openness over time could lead to the reduction of antisemitism (to wit: a society that is allowed to openly investigate the sources of its travails might settle on a more sophisticated answer than: The Jews), but as a Jew, and as a human, it is depressing to travel through the Arab world and hear the sort of antisemitism one associates with Henry Ford of Charles Coughlin. And what is truly depressing is the number of the times the book "The Israel Lobby," by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, has been cited to me by the crudest antisemites in order to justify their beliefs.