It must be springtime for Hitler, for this week was chock full of anti-semitic tirades. By now you’ve probably heard about the most vile bromide, the one by laureled Christain Dior designer John Galliano. In case you missed it, a couple dining next to him in a Paris restaurant caught him in a drunken stupor hurling praise for Hilter and his wish that, if the couple was Jewish, "People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f****** gassed."
Then there was Charlie Sheen’s cutting insults at his boss, the Jewish producer Chuck Lorre, who suspended Sheen’s hit show "Two and A Half Men" because of Sheen’s drug problems. Sheen jabbed at Lorre by calling him "Chaim Levine." It was deplorable, if not quite as vile as Galliano’s remark.
But that wasn’t enough. This week had Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, telling newspapers that Jewish journalists were attempting to smear his name after the British paper The Private Eye published a report saying that one of Assange’s associates, Israel Shamir, was a Holocaust denier.
Last, we had our reliably absurb idiot, Glenn Beck. This week on his radio show, he said said complaints about his incessant comparisons of liberals to Nazis were spurred by Reform rabbis–who are "almost like radicalized Islam."
Beck’s comments were predictably absurb, but his point was that Reform rabbis are not really interested in faith, but politics, unlike the Orthodox. It’s an asinine thought, but I don’t quite think it’s anti-semitism.
So here’s the one thing I’ll contribute to the discussion of the week’s anti-semtisim is this: the first three comments, by Galliano, Sheen and Assange, are certainly anti-semitic, and they should be roundly rebuked for them. If there is any silver lining, it may be that at least all three of these figures are, at the moment at least, by and large considered to be nuts. That doesn’t excuse their anti-semitism, but it does quell the deeper concern that their tirades are somehow the stuff of reasonable chatter. They’re not; what’s scary is when you see reasonable people casually make anti-semitic comments. That’s scary.
Which brings us to back to Beck. I don’t think he’s reasonable, but many millions do. That’s why his failure to acknowledge his own repeated insensitive use of Nazi analogies is worrisome. Beck actually does have a major following, and if he’s vehemently deplored in some corners–mine included–he’s wholly welcomed in others. His Nazi-fetish, however, isn’t really anti-semitic, in the sense that it doesn’t reveal any real poignant disdain for Jews, but rather, Nazis.
But to me, his hatred for Nazis is also a major problem, as it only reflects his own ignorance. He uses the term "Nazi" as if he believes that to be a "Nazi" all you have to do is disagree with him–or simply, liberal.
What his latest comments reveal–the one about Reform rabbis-moreover, is not his anti-semitism, but his Islamophobia. After all, he wasn’t demeening Reform rabbis by likening them to Jews–it was by likening them to Muslims.