The anti-Semite is obsessed with the Jew, even where no Jew exists. In the 19th century, the obsession manifested itself in the “Jewish Question.” Today, it is the “Israel Question.” The stateless Jew—nowhere at home and everywhere a pariah—posed several difficulties for the host country which he inhabited.
The “Jewish Question” first appeared with the emancipation of the Jews after the French Revolution: “Give everything to the individual Jew,” proclaimed Count Clermont-Tonnerre in 1789, “but nothing to the Jew as a nation.” This partial answer was the pathway for inclusion. In tsarist Russia, the “Jewish Question” was the jingle sung by anti-Semites who knew not what to do with this backward creature. The answer was the unleashing of a bloody wave of pogroms throughout Ukraine. Ping-ponging the stateless Jew, Europe finally responded with the Final Solution—the extermination of this rootless being. And when they buried this miserable creature, along with his phylacteries and prayers shawls, in ravines and forests of Eastern Europe, in gas chambers and ovens, the thorn, they thought, had finally been removed.
The culmination of the stateless European Jew was to strip him of his legal rights, to insert in the minds of the population that he is illegitimate and that ultimately, his right to exist must be called into question. We hear the echo reverberate in the halls of history when the world asks what to do with Israel, a country “born of sin?” This, then, is the “Israel Question” cooked by the Soviets in what was then a well-oiled propaganda machine that denounced Israel for the fabricated crime of apartheid and colonialism, and Zionism for the offense of racism. And just as the stateless Jew, with his filthy unwanted genes, was an affront to the European race, so Israel today is an affront to the world’s sensibilities.
“If the Jew did not exist,” writes the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, “the anti-Semite would invent him.” This, then, is the state of the Muslim world. There is no Jew in Jordan; there is no Jew in Egypt; there is no Jew in Indonesia; there is no Jew in Syria; there is no Jew in Gaza; there is no Jew in Libya; and so on. And yet, the Muslim mind is obsessed with him. The most popular book in Egypt is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forged document produced by the Russian tsarist regime in order to spread the pernicious lie that Jews control the world; the most popular myth on television in the Palestinian territories is the blood libel, an accusation that cost the Jewish people in medieval Europe their lives.
As a wave of Jew-hating terror spread across the world in the past two weeks, Jews in the United States, Canada, France, England and Germany are beaten for the “sins of Israel.” Let me be very clear, the Final Solution—the ultimate answer to the “Jewish Question,”—did not begin with the appearance of Adolf Hitler in 1933, nor with the Nuremberg laws in 1935 or with Kristallnacht in 1938. It took Europe nearly 10 years to be ready to exterminate the Jew. And it was done via a massive propaganda machine: Jews want to take over the world, Jews want to provoke war, Jews are untrustworthy, Jews are parasites intent on sullying the purity of race. If you can successfully convince an entire population that a segment of the population is demonic, untrustworthy and illegitimate, then you have successfully prepared the citizens of Europe for a genocide.
Today, the parallels are harrowingly similar. If you can successfully convince the world that a country is evil for apartheid is evil—and that Zionists are racists and colonialists, and that Israel’s very existence is promulgated on the theft of land—then you have prepared the world to answer the “Israel Question.” The anti-Semite poses the question not in the hopes of having a robust and nuanced discussion as to how to transition Israel’s government from an imagined “apartheid” to democracy, but with the goal of total annihilation. It is not for nothing that Hannah Arendt concluded that the final curtain of the “Jewish Question” is genocide.
Jews are no strangers to massive fabrication campaigns that result in the spilling of Jewish blood. The medieval blood libel, the tsarist conspiratorial Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Nazi dehumanization campaign, and the Soviet anti-Zionist lie that Israel is a Nazi state and Zionism is racism are alive and well, thriving in the halls of high schools and universities, spreading like wildfire on social media, reproducing in major news outlets and blasting from the U.S. House Democrats.
We would be remiss to neglect the warning signs. Today, the anti-Semite no longer asks the “Jewish Question” for the stateless Jew no longer poses a threat. Today, the anti-Semite asks the “Israel Question.” We know well the answers: They come in various hues of blood.
Naya Lekht is director of education for Club Z, a rapidly growing Zionist youth movement, where she has created a unique curriculum on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Zionism and anti-Semitism being taught to Jewish teens across the nation. She holds a Ph.D. from UCLA, where she wrote about Holocaust literature in the Soviet Union, where she was born.