Written by Farah el-Sharif
After countless festering cases of sexual abuse among Catholic Church clergy worldwide surfaced over the past month, Pope Benedict’s personal preacher compared attacks on the Church and the pope to “collective violence” against Jews. Needless to say, rabbis and Jews worldwide were appalled at the comparison of the Holocaust with allegations of recurrent acts of pedophilia. The comparison comes especially ironic, as the remarks came on the day that for centuries Christians prayed for the conversion of the Jews, who were once held collectively responsible for Jesus’ death.
While Jewish and sensible communities the world over have all the right to be outraged by this, tasteless, unfounded comparison, it is in fact not all out of place. In a post-Zionist world, pulling the “Anti-Semitism card” is not too far-fetched a defense on the Church’s part: after all, the term Anti-Semitism has easily become a catchphrase for Israeli exceptionalism and dodging the pointing fingers of accountability. The latest usage of the term reveals how “Anti-Semitism” has become a signifier for an overused carte blanche of getting away with injustice by assuming the role of the victim. The Church’s remarks thus cement the idea that “Anti-Semite” is so often used to mute any attempts to question injustice, and what’s more, demands that one goes on a guilt-trip after the mere thought of criticism.
Bandwagoning on the Anti-Semitism card is offensive to Jews (and Arabs, they are Semites too!) and those who are bigoted and hateful towards them, but the sad reality is that Zionist Jews have none but themselves to blame for letting “Anti-Semitism” become the cheapest, easiest indicator for garnering sympathy for predators. Like those who criticize the Church for its sexual abuse crimes, those who criticize Israel for its ethnic cleansing and apartheid activities against Palestinians are immediately dubbed as “Anti-Semitic”. The Church remains infallible and immune from error, and Israel remains the eternal, untouchable exception.
It is often overlooked that those who criticize transgressions of the Church or Israel or any other misdemeanor committed by any powerful entity do not mean to do so on racist, inherently hateful motivations. Rather it is usually an unshakable, sound conscience and a repugnance towards injustice that motivates people to hold these ivory towers at fault for legal accountability. Anti-Semitic sentiment must always be abhorred, but not when it is abused to justify or – worst still, cover up – other forms of discrimination and atrocity.
Away from the scurry over labels and denial, it is the victims of abuse that often remain nameless. Perhaps this unfortunate incident can also remind Jewish communities to be outraged by those in their midst who have long abused the “A word” themselves.