This week, I visit with Giulio Meotti, an Italian author and a journalist with Il Foglio, a national daily in Rome. Meotti’s writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Commentary and in the Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth. Meotti graduated from the University of Florence, with a degree in philosophy. He has expertise on anti-Semitism, Israel, Islam, multiculturalism and the Middle East. His new book, “A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism,” is a fascinating look at the relentless attempt to make Israel disappear.
Writer’s Bloc: As a journalist based in Europe, what is your sense of anti-Semitism today?
Giulio Meotti: Europe is witnessing a wave of new and radical anti-Semitism and delegitimation of Israel’s right to existence. It’s a decade’s phenomenon involving parliaments and universities, free press and entertainment, religions and public opinion.
In Europe the Jewish State has become the object of unremitting demonology; Israel has become the purveyor of all ills; Zionists are considered the instigators of every type of disorder. Just a few examples: The new pro-Hamas flotilla had its official conference in the building of the Journalists Association in Rome. In Norway hundreds of cultural personalities are promoting the boycott of Israel. In Spain, the Gay Pride Parade has just banned the Israeli participants from joining the march. It’s impossible to make a list of the economic boycotts against Israel.
And let’s remember also Ilan Halimi, a Jewish young man from Paris like many others, kidnapped and martyred without anyone intervening in the surrounding apartments of the housing projects from which the kidnappers came and went. They heard the screams by Halimi, without saying a word. It has been set in motion a mass hatred that has precedents only in Nazism.
WB: You point out in your book that the media often portray Jewish victims in depersonalized terms, yet go to great lengths to humanize homicide bombers. Does this arise from a misunderstanding of Jews, or outright dislike?
GM: It’s an elegant form of anti-Semitism: The media delete the humanity of the victims in order to digest Israel’s end. The Israeli victims have never existed for them. It’s the same process of the Holocaust’s denial – the latest brief for the elimination of the Jewish people.
The Jews, say the Iranian deniers, have used the Shoah [Holocaust] to enlist the support and even complicity of the world in developing Israel. But since the Shoah never happened [they say], Israel has no right to exist. This is Ahmadinejad’s new theory, which he uses to posit himself as the leader of the next genocidal suppression of the Jews, the completion of the Holocaust by Hamas, Hezbollah and the atomic bomb.
The “civilized” world easily accepted the daily massacres during the Second Intifada and the unending waves of Kassam rockets, because Israel’s sins had to be washed away by Jewish blood. From the beginning of the Oslo Peace Process, about 2,000 Israelis were slaughtered by suicide bombers, shootings and rockets. Our newspapers and televisions boycotted the memories and the extraordinary stories of these innocent people, Jews killed simply because they were Jews.
My book, “A New Shoah,” is trying to re-establish some truth about the real story of Israel. People can now understand Israel in a very precise way, by reading the stories and the words of the families severely wounded by terrorism.
WB: Your book provides context behind the Baruch Goldstein massacre. Are you able to have conversations with fellow journalists about the context behind violence in the Middle East?
GM: These privileged observers, the Western journalists, seek only one thing: how to accuse Israel. My fellow journalists were trained in the universities and editorial offices of the 1970s and 1980s, where they were taught that Israel is the new colonialist white man’s burden. The Associated Press, Time, the BBC, the New York Times and others had artificially created the Israeli army “war crimes” in Lebanon and Gaza. The Guardian, the most famous leftist European outlet, has published an opinion piece entitled “Israel Simply Has No Right to Exist.”
The journalists fabricated the image of the settlers as devils, symbols of Jewish exploitation and imperialism. In “A New Shoah” there are two chapters about the Jewish victims in the settlements. The memory of the many who paid with their lives is almost everywhere in Judea and Samaria.
WB: How long did the research phase of your book take? How long did the actual writing take?
GM: I started the research in 2004, after the highest peak of attacks during the Intifada. I had to interview the families, build the archive of the stories, connect the lost wires of this horrible drama. I finished my work in 2009. Six years of work. “A New Shoah” is a microcosm of Jewish survival after the Holocaust.
WB: Briefly tell us your personal interest in this story of new waves of violence against Jews and Israel.
GM: The Jewish condition is again the focal point of an enormous battle of identities. I believe that the survival of Israel is the most important issue of our time.
Tiny Israel matters urgently to the Western world, especially for the Christians, because it has become its most imperiled member of our civilization. I wrote this book because I fear that this anti-Semitism signals the risk of the avalanche, perhaps even the fall, of the whole of Western society. The Jews are not marginal guests; the worst of all anti-Jewish persecutions, that of Hitler, almost marked the end of European history.
WB: How did your book project come to be placed with Encounter Books?
GM: Roger Kimball, the publisher of Encounter Books and hero of American conservatism, understood that this was a very important story. There were no books devoted to telling the story of Israel from the human perspective. And I doubt that someone else will decide to write on the same subject again.
I think that “A New Shoah” is a very rare and special document. We will read again and again these stories in the next 30 years, when Israel will celebrate its centennial anniversary.
WB: You write about the members of Sayeret Matkal, the elite Israeli commando unit. Do you feel the state of Israel itself gives Jews some sense of protection from their tormentors?
GM: Yes, Israel is the living shelter for all the Jews. Its unique army, called the Israel Defence Force, is holding firm to the categorical imperative of defense.
In the book there is long chapter about the stories of the young Israeli boys and girls killed during military duty. This is the greatest difference between the European democracies and Israel: The Jews are still sacrificing their sons in order to build the future.
WB: What did you take away from your investigation of the stories involving Jewish victims of terrorism?
GM: Even the most brutal details of death find a place in the book; it is necessary to tell the story. The smell of death pervades many pages of the book. The book will transmit Israel’s story to the future generations.
WB: What has been the reaction to the book?
GM: The Wall Street Journal has called the book “monumental.” Many other praises have been published in the U.S. newspapers and media outlets.
I got a lot of letters from Israel, testimonies of love and admiration, even by the Knesset’s chairman, Reuven Rivlin.
But I got also many attacks. I have been called “a hardcore Zionist dumba–,” “dispicable,” “rubbish Meotti,” “right-wing garbage,” “shylock” …
WB: I assume the research and writing took a toll on you?
GM: One cannot write a book like this without being condemned to solitude. I had very hard moments; I even thought to abandon the project.
I took inspiration from the immortal verse of Vladimir Jankelevitch: “He who has been, from then on cannot not have been: henceforth this mysterious and profoundly obscure fact of having been is his viaticum for all eternity.” Along with my son, the book “A New Shoah” is something that justifies my life.