Friday April 20, 2007

Imus: Same old anti-Semitism, repackaged

by james d. besser

Radio shock jock Don Imus didn’t get fired last week for saying crude things about Jews— this time it was black women.

Although Imus is known as an equal opportunity spewer, the affair casts a harsh spotlight on how a key goal of Jewish organizations that fight anti-Semitism is being undermined.

And the lack of response from Jewish groups to the Imus affair suggests something else: Jewish leaders, increasingly focused on a “new” anti-Semitism based on hatred of Israel, are turning inward and forgetting strategies that have worked over the decades.

For many years, a broad coalition of civil rights groups worked with remarkable success to banish overt expressions of bigotry from socially acceptable discourse. Bigotry still runs deep in American society, but these groups helped create new norms of conduct that started the more difficult process of changing attitudes.

A stellar cast of Jewish organizations were leaders in that effort because they believed anti-Semitism could be curbed only by fighting every last expression of bigotry and attempt to legitimize it.

Anti-Semitism was seen as a particularly pernicious symptom of a broader social affliction. Fighting anti-Semitism was not just about the Jews, Jewish “defense” agencies believed …