A new hatred?

A collection of case studies shows how anti-Semitism is manifested in different countries.

Anti Semitism 390 (photo credit: Reuters)
Anti Semitism 390
(photo credit: Reuters)
The rise of new types of anti-Semitism as well as the continuity of old types of hatred of Jews is a startling phenomenon. It has gained greater exposure in the last decade, as various scholars and popular writers have struggled to come to terms with why enmity towards a tiny minority group is so persistent in the world, whether it is the odd popularity of books on Hitler in India, statements by Malaysian leaders to the effect that Jews control the world, or acts of vandalism in old Jewish graveyards in France.
Alvin Rosenfeld, who holds the Irving M. Glazer chair in Jewish studies at Indiana University, is founder of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism.
He is thus excellently placed to edit Resurgent Anti-Semitism: Global Perspectives, a new volume that seeks to address this phenomenon. As he notes in his introduction, “One can recognize commonalities in anti-Jewish actions and utterances wherever they appear, but these unfold differently in Oslo and Paris than in Istanbul and Tehran.”
He claims that the taboos that once made anti-Semitism rare or hidden in Europe are being loosened “and no longer seem to exercise the protective power they once had.” Jews who live in some European cities are afraid, Jewish communal institutions require greater security. Rosenfeld also seeks to focus attention on the Muslim world, where “anti-Jewish sentiments are pervasive.”
This is a major study and it includes 19 chapters, primarily case studies on different topics. These range from examinations of British intellectual anti-Semitism, to a study of hatred of Jews among young Muslims in Europe, to examinations of anti-Semitism on campus. Philosophy Prof. Elhanan Yakira of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem tackles the difficult subject of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
He notes that “when the state whose legitimacy being questioned is a democratic state, or a state that presumably is seen as legitimate by the majority of its citizens, as is Israel, its alleged illegitimacy is nonsensical.” Yakira argues for looking behind the jargon, and see that in denying Israel’s right to exist, one is in essence creating a “license to kill.” Therefore, “the delegitimizing discourse does nothing but give false intellectual respect to what is wholly disreputable and shameful.”
Eirik Eiglad tackles the issue of anti- Semitism in Norway. The country is interesting because it has a very small Jewish population. Eiglad, an activist, looks at anti-Semitism through the lens of anti- Zionist and pro-Palestinian discourse there. He shows how pro-Palestinianism emerged in the 1960s with the New Left, and highlights several figures popular in the movement. For instance, writer Jostein Gaarder argued in a 2006 op-ed in Aftenposten that Israel’s invasion of Lebanon had made the country “history… we no longer recognize the State of Israel. There is no way back.” Eiglad includes personal stories from the 2009 riots in Norway, which began as mere anti-Israel demonstrations but included shouts of “Death to the Jews” in Arabic. It was “unmitigated anti-Jewish hatred.” And yet Eiglad argues that the media and politicians were unable to detect the hatred, did not condemn it sufficiently and didn’t even seem to acknowledge it.
What about Turkish anti-Semitism? Rifat Bali, a Turkish author and editor, tackles this interesting question by looking at the roots of the modern republic. He shows how Turkish nationalism always favored Muslim Turks over minorities such as Jews. However, what is most interesting it that though the nationalists and their founding father, Kemal Ataturk, may have discriminated against Jews, it was the rise of Islamism that helped drive anti-Semitism.
For instance, Islamists invented the theory that Ataturk was a Donme, a member of a group of Jewish converts to Islam.
Thus, the nationalists who founded Turkey were viewed as secularizers and closet Jews intent on deracinating Turkey from its Islamic roots. According to this theory, as Bali explains, the Islamists conjure up a history whereby the Zionist movement created Ataturk in order to overthrow the Turkish sultan, who had denied Jewish demands for land purchases in Palestine.
This was part of “world Jewry’s grand plan to establish a second or ‘reserve’ Jewish state, the Jewish Republic of Turkey.” Bali doesn’t pull any punches in his analysis, noting that Turkey’s newspapers “harbor and propagate the same sort of Jew-hatred nurtured by the Nazis.”
One of the most important chapters in the book is Ilan Avisar’s examination of anti-Semitism in Israel. A lecturer at Tel Aviv University, Avisar investigates a shocking phenomenon, namely that “some of the harshest critics of the Jewish state are former Israelis who vilify Israel at any opportunity.” Unfortunately, the analysis of the Israeli “scene” is lacking.
He argues that Israelis have been at the forefront of critique of Zionism, then posits that artists and filmmakers have played a major role in this. “Israeli filmmakers prefer to bathe in the glory of awards ceremonies and to ignore the possible political damage,” Avisar writes. This is interesting, but it isn’t about anti-Semitism.
The author doesn’t look deeper to see if there is actual anti-Semitism in Israel, for instance in anti-haredi cartons portraying them as parasites, or in some articles in Israeli newspapers that claim that “the Jewish lobby has a stranglehold on American policy.” There are some typical anti- Semitic images and ideas expressed by a minority in Israel, but unfortunately this examination doesn’t examine them and judge them accordingly.
Resurgent anti-Semitism is an important study and includes numerous interesting voices, not merely academics, but also activists and writers. It is important to continue researching the phenomenon of anti-Semitism. The question is whether much of the research is sinking in among the states where progressive governments can use texts like this to combat this phenomenon.