A ‘New anti-Semitism’ or Much Ado About Nothing?

A ‘New anti-Semitism’ or Much Ado About Nothing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Post-Blog

A Critique of Tony Lerman’s Why a ‘new antisemitism’ was invented


Photo posted in an ADL blog, Vitriol and Violence in European Anti-Israel Demonstrations as an illustration of ‘undeniably anti-Semitic expressions’ though it didn’t classify them as ‘new’, merely a manifestation of the old antisemitic Europe.

Tony Lerman was a founder
member of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research and its Director, until
witch-hunted out by the movers and shakers of the Jewish establishment, like Tory
capitalist Sir Stanley Kalms, for being a free thinker and not adhering to a
Zionist script. In particular Tony’s challenging of the nostrum that
anti-Semitism=anti-Zionism was unacceptable since this was the equivalent of
the tablets of stone.  The purpose of the
IJPR was to provide the evidence! During his time at the IJPR Tony was an
innovative and independent thinker who challenged the increasing orthodoxy of
community leaders who redefined anti-Semitism as anti-Zionism.

Tony’s article, reproduced below,
is comprehensive contribution to understanding what ‘new anti-Semitism’ is,
where it has come from and how it has developed, notwithstanding the caveat
that Tony makes that he is painting with a broad brush which may lack nuance. I
do, however, have some criticisms, of Tony’s thesis and it is in a spirit of
friendly criticism that I make them, as we both share the basic assumption that
the ‘new anti-Semitism’ is an artificial concept that has no real existence,
outside the realm of propaganda.
The old anti-Semitism – 5 Jews at the Belzec death camp – barely 4 Jews survived from this most secret of extermination camps
Pessimism
My first disagreement with
Tony is that he is unduly pessimistic. He highlights the campaign to try and
prevent Brian Klug speaking at the Berlin Jewish museum in 2013 by a Clemens
Heni. What Tony doesn’t say is that this effort, in the most pro-Zionist
country in Europe, fell flat on its face. The list of ‘scholars’ Heni produced
in support of his campaign included people like Richard Millett and Jonathan Hoffman, both propagandists without an
iota of scholarly erudition, Gerald Steinberg of ‘Stand with us’, a Zionist pressure group whose
contribution was that Klug was ‘an immoral anti-Zionist’. Or Col. Israel Kedar, an academic securocrat, whose
main claim to fame is to advocate raping the mothers and sisters of
‘terrorists’ as a weapon of war [Israeli scholar: ‘Only raping the sisterof a terrorist can deter him’ 
Anti-Semitism as most people understand it – The Nazis take pleasure in cutting the beard of an Orthodox Jew in Poland
On a personal level, I have
also spoken at many universities and campuses and almost without exception the
Zionist Union of Jewish Students has attempted to prevent me speaking. On no
occasion, apart from one instance at UCL, where they physically invaded the
lecture hall, have they succeeded. At most universities and colleg

es they
merely helped build my meetings and at the LSE, having failed to persuade the
Labour Club that I was anti-Semitic, they ended up accusing Labour activists of
being anti-Semites and fascists! [Beaver, paper of the LSE Union 10.11.86.]

‘New anti-Semitism’ transforms anti-Semites into ‘friends of Jews’
The fundamental criticism
that I have of Tony’s analysis is that it fails to understand the ‘new
anti-Semitism in a wider context and therefore fails to see its weaknesses,
which I suggest are a product of its weakness and internal contradictions. Has
it gained traction, who with, has it been successful and what is the role of this
pernicious ideology? The primary point that Tony makes, viz. that the ‘new
anti-Semitism’ does not depend on any of the traditional measures of
anti-Semitism is true. You don’t have to hate Jews, or believe in medieval
blood libels, Jewish conspiracies or caricatures of Jews. What Tony doesn’t go
on to say is that as long as you demonstrate your support for Zionism and the
Israeli state then such peccadilloes are easily forgiven and forgotten. Indeed
support for anti-Semitism can transform an anti-Semite into a ‘good friend of
the Jews.’ This I would suggest is its fatal weakness.
Bernard Lewis – one of Zionism’s Arabists argues that the new antisemitism — what he calls “ideological antisemitism” — has mutated out of religious and racial antisemitism.
Tony Lerman is correct to point out that the vast majority
of the European far-right sees Israel as the most effective fighter against the
Muslim tide that they see washing over Europe. The ‘new anti-Semitism’ does
indeed present Muslims and Black people as the Other. But it is also the case that
the same far-Right movements have not changed their spots. The British National
Party has always subscribed to holocaust denial and in his infamous appearanceon Question Time, leader Nick Griffin refused to say that he believed that the
Nazis had exterminated the Jews of Europe, the Final Solution. Griffin also
denied that the BNP was anti-Semitic, pointing to the BNP being the only party
to support Israel’s attack on Gaza. 
As Board of Deputies spokesperson, Ruth Smeed, accepted ‘‘‘The
BNP website is now one of the most Zionist on the web – it goes further than
any of the mainstream parties in its support of Israel’
. Guardian 10.4.08. 
real anti-Semitism – Jews of Lukow before deportation to Treblinka
In ‘REDEFINING ANTI-SEMITISM – The False Anti-Racism of the Right’ [Return Magazine No. 5,
December 1990]   ‘There is nothing that the real anti-Semites, the
cemetery desecrators and swastika daubers, want more than to dress their
actions up in the guise of anti-Zionism and support for the Palestinians. Those
who deliberately confuse anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are, wittingly or
otherwise, legitimising anti-Semitism.’
the old (or real) anti-Semitism – execution of woman in Mizocz ghetto
Another example of this phenomenon
of far-Right or neo-Nazi support for Zionism and Israel is Glen Beck, the
former Fox News TV presenter, who even Fox eventually fired because of his
anti-Semitism.  Whilst still at
Fox, Beck had openly recommended the work of Nazi sympathiser Elizabeth
Dilling, who had spoken of “Ike the kike
and Kennedy’s New Frontier as the “Jew
Frontier
.”  Beck devoted an entire
show to a conspiracy theory on bankers such as the Rothschilds, interviewing
the anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist G. Edward Griffin, who described the
notorious anti-Semitic forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion “as accurately describing much of what is
happening in our world today.
”  [GoodRiddance to Glenn Beck, The Propagandist,]  His attacks
on George Soros, a favourite target, as the personification of the Jewish
financier, were a classic example of traditional anti-Semitism.
real anti-Semitism – Jews used as horses in warsaw
Beck was too much even for
Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, one of the most slavish adherents of
the ‘new anti-Semitism’ who described Beck’s claim that the Jews killed Jesus
as ‘one of the
top four most destructive
of anti-Semitic lies.’  None of this prevented Beck from addressing
Israel’s Knesset as a distinguished guest. 
Beck’s reception was akin to a “rock concert.” MK Michael ben-Ari, an
ex-Kahanist said afterwards: “I think Glenn Beck should take my seat in the
Knesset.”
  [Ami Kaufman, 11.11.11]

the old anti-Semitism — destroyed synagogue Inowroclaw_Poland
Pastor John Hagee,
President of the powerful evangelical Christians United for Israel, was however defended against charges of anti-Semitism by Abe Foxman.  Hagee, stated in a sermon that Hitler was a
hunter” sent by God to drive the Jews to Israel. [CBS News, 23.5.08. Hagee:Pro-Israel, Anti-Semitic] John McCain, the
Republican Presidential candidate was forced to dissociate himself from Hagee.  Foxman proclaimed, “We are grateful that you
have devoted your life to combating anti-Semitism and supporting the State of
Israel”
TheNew York Jewish Week, 18.6.08.   Support for Israel and Zionism excuses
anti-Semitism. 
An example of the ‘new anti-Semitism’
Nearer home the neo-con
Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, has gone out of his way to
defend the anti-Semitic Euro MPs Michal Kaminski of Poland’s Law & Justice
Party and Robert Zile of Latvia’s LNNK. 
Kaminski opposed a national Poland apology for the burning alive by
Poles, in 1941, of over 300 Jews in the village of Jedwabne.  Zile contents himself with marching every
year with the veterans of the Latvian Waffen SS, who manned the extermination camps.  To Pollard though Kaminski was ‘one of the
greatest friends to the Jews in a town [Brussels] where anti-Semitism and a
visceral loathing of Israel are rife’
. Guardian 9.10.09.   
Pollard’s conclusion was
that “Far from being an anti-Semite, Mr Kaminski is about as
pro-Israeli an MEP as exists
.”  [David Miliband’s insult to Michal Kaminski iscontemptible’ Jewish Chronicle 1.10.09.   Through the eyes of the ‘new anti-Semitism’ support
for Israel washes away traditional anti-Semitism.
One of the examples of ‘new anti-Semitism’
It is almost trite to
observe that throughout history, those who hated Jews the most, were invariably
supporters of Zionism.  Theodor Fritsch, Heinrich Class, Eduord
Drumong to say nothing of the Nazi party which was riddled with supporters of Zionism,
from Alfred Rosenberg and Reinhardt Heydrich to Eichmann himself.  Zionism was favoured at the same time, between
1933 and 1939 as anti-Zionist and non-Zionist organisations were
suppressed.  As the ardently pro-Zionist
historian, Francis Nicosia wrote 

The Zionist Organization was the only
Jewish organization of a political nature which was allowed to continue functioning.  In a 1957 interview, Dr. Hans Friedenthal,
former chairman of the Zionistische Vereinigung fur Deutschland, revealed that
the Gestapo did all it could to promote Jewish emigration to Palestine, thereby
rendering considerable assistance to the Zionist cause.’
 

[Zionism in
National Socialist Jewish Policy in Germany, 1933-39, The Journal of Modern
History, Vol. 50, No. 4 (Dec. 1978)
Norman Finkelstein writes that anger at “Israel’s brutal occupation has undoubtedly slipped over to an animus against Jews generally,” which he describes as “lamentable” but “hardly cause for wonder.”
The Political Context and Role of ‘new anti-Semitism’
The ‘new anti-Semitism’ has
nothing to do with anti-Semitism, apart from the name.  It borrows from the memory of anti-Semitism
to whitewash Israel and its murderous record. 
It functions as a means of rationalising and defending Israel’s role, as
the outrider of western interests and imperialism, by resorting to the language
of anti-racism.  It provides the ruling
elites with a progressive sugary coating to sweeten the bitter reactionary taste
underneath.  It has little or no internal
logic and this I believe is one of the crucial errors of Tony Lerman’s
argument.  The ‘new anti-Semitism’ is the
Emperor without clothes.  When called out
it is easy to demolish.   The only group where it has gained traction,
apart from the elite circles of opinion makers and Washington think tanks is in
the Jewish community itself.
It is in this sense and
only in this sense that the ‘new anti-Semitism’ is a self-fulfilling
prophecy.  It works by associating Diaspora
Jews with Israel’s every act of barbarity.   Unsurprisingly there are some people, often Muslim
youth, who accept what Zionism’s propagandists say, viz. that all Jews support
Israel’s actions and they believe that in carrying out anti-Semitic attacks
they are somehow striking a blow against Israel.  In fact they achieve the exact opposite.  The Jewish community however only sees the
resulting attacks and therefore comes to accept the ‘new anti-Semitism’ thesis.
The continuing failures of ‘new anti-Semitism’
Tony Lerman mention the
Fraser v UCU employment Tribunal case when a Zionist member of the Universities
College Union tried to take his union to a Tribunal alleging racial
discrimination.  He failed miserably.  Firstly because the law was against him.  Discrimination cases can only be mounted if
you are discriminated against or harassed on the grounds of a protected
characteristic.  Being Jewish, which is
defined as a race, is a protected characteristic.  The Tribunal found that Zionism is not integral
to being Jewish and therefore not protected.  Fraser’s case was not
helped because his expert witnesses, John Mann MP and Dennis McShane MP, were
unable to defend their anti-Semitism thesis under cross-examination.  As the Tribunal observed in its Judgment 

And when it came to
anti-Semitism in the context of debate about the Middle East, he announced,
“It’s clear to me where the line is …” but unfortunately eschewed the
opportunity to locate it for us. Both parliamentarians clearly enjoyed making
speeches. Neither seemed at ease with the idea of being required to answer a
question not to his liking.’
[Para 148.  ET Case Number: 2203290/2011]

Nor were the MPs alone.  The cream of new anti-Semitism’s academics,
Professor Robert Wistrich of Tel Aviv university, fell to pieces under the
cross-examination of Mehdi Hassan in one of the most interesting, and
enjoyable, spectacles on TV that I’ve witnessed.  Zionism’s Professor of ‘New Anti-Semitism’ Humiliated in Debate.  

One of the major
problems for the advocates of ‘new anti-Semitism’ in Europe is overcoming the
provisions of ss.10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.  In the judgment (para 46) of Sheriff Scott at Edinburgh Sheriff’s Court on 8 April 2010
if persons on a public march designed to
protest against and publicise alleged crimes committed by a State and its army
are afraid to name that State for fear of being charged with racially
aggravated behaviour, it would render worthless their Article 10(1) rights.
Presumably their placards would have to read, “Genocide in an unspecified part
of the Middle East”; “Boycott an unspecified State in the Middle East”, etc. [Procurator Fiscal-v-Napier & Others – D13/4553 cited in Fraser v UCU   ].
It had
been argued that criticism or boycott of Israel is by itself discrimination on
the grounds of race (one of the definitions of which is ‘nationality’ or
‘national origins’).  This would have rendered
illegal any international solidarity!  In 2008 the five accused
had disrupted a performance by the Jerusalem String Quartet at the Edinburgh Festival shouting
They’re Israeli army musicians”, “Genocide in Gaza” and “Boycott Israel”.  They were charged with pursuing a racially
aggravated course of conduct, i.e. harassment or behaving in a racially
aggravated manner. The basis for the charges was not Jewishness but Israeli
nationality. Ironically, the Israeli Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that
there is no such thing as Israeli nationality in Tamarin v State of Israel [1972] and Uzi Ornan v SOI [2013].
Boycotts
are, almost by definition, (unless they are State sponsored sanctions against
Iran or Israel’s siege of Gaza) something that is seen as an interference in
the free market.  This was as true of the
boycott of Apartheid, when Thatcher and Reagan supported ‘constructive
engagement’ as when the Roosevelt Administration, alongside the Zionist
movement, opposed the Jewish boycott of Nazi Germany because Hitler represented
the ‘element of moderation’ in the
Nazi Party and a Boycott Campaign
would undermine his position! [Edwin Black, Ha’avara – The Transfer Agreement,
p.19.]
The present Tory government can therefore dress up
their support for Israel, as part of their policy of slavishly following United
States foreign policy, by claiming that ‘Faith
leaders have expressed alarm at such policies fuelling anti-
Semitism’
giving as an example the isolated instance of supermarket workers taking kosher
food from supermarket shelves.  Government press release 3.10.15.
Tony Lerman notes that the
Fundamental Rights Agency dispensed with the Working Definition on
anti-Semitism which endorsed the ‘new anti-Semitism’ thesis.  Under criticism it was simply indefensible.  What is true, is that it has gained an
increasing acceptance among the Jewish community itself, but that is a product
of the move to the right and also the upwards social mobility of that
community.
In other words the ‘new
anti-Semitism’ operates at the level of ruling class ideology but it isn’t, in
Gramskian terms, hegemonic. Sections of the ruling class themselves reject such
a definition, not least because it would limit their own room for
manoeuvre.  To most ordinary people,
including Jews, anti-Semitism is seen as the old, traditional Jew hatred.  The ‘new anti-Semitism’ operates to forgive
this form of anti-Semitism because it posits racism as being a form of state
hatred, hatred of an inhuman structure.  In
other words it transforms the Israeli State into a supra-human being.  It is a level of state worship that belongs
to the realm of fascism for which the highest form of a nation is the
State.  Thus we have the spectacle of the
fascist English Defence League attacking a stall of Birmingham Palestine
Solidarity Campaign, with an Israeli flag in one hand and giving Hitler salutes
on the other!  The Fascist EDL Attacks Birmingham Palestine Solidarity Campaign Stall
In ‘Redefining anti-Semitism’,
I referred to ‘left anti-Semitism’ and Tony Lerman has highlighted the emphasis
on ‘Muslim anti-Semitism’ as part of Zionism’s contribution to anti-Muslim
racism in Europe today, with its hitch-up with Gert Wilders and co.  ‘New anti-Semitism’ operates under a number
of guises – ‘left’ anti-Semitism, third-world anti-Semitism and Black
anti-Semitism.  They are all in their own
way variants of the ‘new anti-Semitism’ but also operates in the context of for
example painting a government unfriendly to the USA, such as Hugo Chavez in
Venezuela, as ‘anti-Semitic’ or in the case of Black anti-Semitism, threats in
the American ghettos to the domination of white upper middle class Jews by Black
people.
On one minor matter I
disagree with Tony Lerman that The most significant
development in antisemitism after 1945 was the rapid emergence of Holocaust
denial’
.  Following an order by Himmler in April 1945,
the Nazis sought to destroy all evidence of the Final Solution.  However there was very little attempt in the
immediate aftermath to deny what had happened. 
Eichmann and Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz, boasted of what had
happened.  They didn’t deny it.
The first prominent holocaust denier was
Paul Rassinnier, a French socialist MP for 2 years and an inmate of Buchenwald
concentration camp, which did not have gas chambers.  But it really only came into its own in the
1970’s.  National Front deputy Chairman
Richard ‘Harwood’ Verrall published ‘Did Six Million Really Die’ and in
1979 Willis Carto of the Liberty Lobby incorporated the Institute of Historical
Review into his Liberty Lobby.  I consider
that the impact of holocaust denial is marginal.  In the Arab world it is repeated by those who
know nothing about it, as a means of denying the legitimacy of Zionist claims.  It has no deep social roots.  A rather stupid stance.  Since the holocaust is easily provable it
undermines their own case.  But perhaps
the definitive proof is that of some of the SS guards present at Auschwitz and
in particular the testimony of Oskar Gröning, the ‘Auschwitz accountant’
who voluntarily spoke out to denounce Holocaust deniers stating:
I would like you to believe me. I saw
the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria. I saw the open fires. I was on the ramp
when the selections took place. I would like you to believe that these
atrocities happened because I was there.
Laurence
Rees, Auschwitz: The Nazis & The “Final Solution”, p. 301.
London: BBC Books, 2005].  This is one reason, incidentally, that I consider the recent prosecution of Oskar Groning in Germany to be pointless and vindictive.  Apart from the fact that he hadn’t participated personally in the atrocities.
Zionism unfortunately has a
vested interest in inflating holocaust denial. 
Ironically this is exactly what they were guilty of.  Throughout the war, they denied despite the
evidence they possessed, that the Nazis were engaged in a systematic
extermination of the Jews of Europe.
Despite these criticisms
and observations, Tony Lerman’s article is a very useful summary of the history
and gestation of ‘new anti-Semitism’.
Tony Greenstein

Why a ‘new antisemitism’ was invented

Manifesting a new antisemitism? Protests in New York at support given by NY politicians for Israel during its 2014 attack on Gaza, July 2014. Photo by Lucas Jackson / Reuters
Tony Lerman

There
are many Jews who actively sympathise with an anti-racist political vision. But
the ‘new antisemitism’ complicates how the organised Jewish ‘community’ could
identify with such an enterprise.

Antony
Lerman, openDemocracy
September 29, 2015
Assessing
the complex political implications of the ‘new antisemitism’ in a short paper
is quite a challenge. Inevitably, I must paint with a broad brush and,
therefore, apologise for any loss of nuance as a result. It is also important
that I make clear from the outset that I do not accept the validity of the
concept of the ‘new antisemitism’, a term I will use in quotes throughout.
Nevertheless, as this article is not about the validity or otherwise of the term,
I will not enter into the arguments for and against the term itself.
Discussion
about the ‘new antisemitism’ very often dwells on the bitter and extreme
disagreement between many of those who accept that there is such a thing and
many of those who fundamentally question the validity of the notion.
Nevertheless, although this state of affairs exemplifies just how politicised
practically all discussion around the question of the ‘new antisemitism’ has
become, placing the extreme differences centre-stage often results in a failure
to interrogate or understand fully the political, or for that matter the
contemporary historical, context of the emergence of ‘new antisemitism’
thinking.

The term ‘new antisemitism’ is actually not very new
The
term ‘new antisemitism’ is actually not very new and has been applied to a
variety of rather different phenomena. But from the late 1970s onwards the term
was increasingly applied, somewhat loosely, to forms of criticism of – and
hostility to – Israel, especially that which emanated from the Arab world.

Irwin Cotler, [L] Canadian  professor of law and former minister of justice in the 2003-  2006 Liberal government
However,
in the last few decades, and especially since the  beginning of the
twenty-first century, those who use the term  to describe what they
believe is an actually existing  phenomenon have tended to identify with a
far more specific  understanding of what it means. Irwin Cotler, [L]
Canadian  professor of law and former minister of justice in the 2003-
 2006 Liberal government, describes it in the following way:
 In
a word, classical anti-Semitism is the discrimination against, denial of, or
assault upon the rights of Jews to live as equal members of whatever society
they inhabit. The new anti-Semitism involves the discrimination against, denial
of, or assault upon the right of the Jewish people to live as an equal member
of the family of nations, with Israel as the targeted ‘collective Jew among the
nations’.
This
definition, which appeared in this particular formulation in the National Post
on 9 November 2010, has been publicly proclaimed countless times by Cotler, one
of the key figures involved in disseminating the term since the 1970s.

The ‘new antisemitism’ and anti-Zionism
Image produced by Michael Behar, a pro-Israel activist  in Seattle who blogs in ‘The Mike Report’.
The
‘new antisemitism’ is seen by most – but by no  means all – of those who
give it credence and promote its  use as synonymous with anti-Zionism. As
such, they find  it not only in the Arab world but also in the political
left,  anti-globalisation movements, jihadist and Islamist movements as
well as the Muslim world more generally, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign,
the left-liberal press, anti-racist groups – the list continues.
The
“Working Definition of Antisemitism”, published by the now defunct EU
Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) in 2005, was central in
providing the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’ with legitimacy and is taken by
its proponents to be the European Union definition of antisemitism. This
514-word document contains a key passage giving examples of critical discourse
about Israel that it says ‘could’ be seen as antisemitic.
One
of the main drivers behind the formulation of the ‘new antisemitism’ idea was the
passing, in 1975, of UN General Assembly resolution 3379 (revoked in 1991),
which equated Zionism with racism. It is important to remember that, at the
time, support for Zionism and Israel was still broadly seen as a progressive
and liberal cause in the west. Quite a number of the African and non-aligned
countries that voted for resolution 3379 had good, if fairly low-key relations
with Israel, as a result of the efforts of Israel’s then socialist government
to improve its international position.
So
the apparent snub to Israel by these countries, and the perception among Jewish
and non-Jewish supporters of Israel in the West that Israel was losing its
status as a progressive cause, provoked much soul-searching and consternation.
In Jewish and Israeli circles the dominant response was not to see any flaws in
Zionism but rather in those attacking it and Israel. As a result, one of the
main questions being asked was: What is the relationship between anti-Zionism
and antisemitism?
While
some writers, academics and commentators were convinced from early on that Arab
hostility to Zionism and Israel was antisemitic, during the 1970s and 1980s
there was considerable debate and reasoned disagreement about the validity of
the charge. Political and ideological considerations played a relatively small
part in the growing numbers of conferences and seminars taking place to discuss
the issue.

But
what began largely as a series of intellectual and academic discussions
gradually changed character as pro-Israel advocacy groups, the World Zionist
Organisation, multi-agenda major American Jewish organisations (such as the
Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee) and Jewish communal
organisations monitoring and combating antisemitism took up the matter.
Mounting international criticism of Israel began to have a major impact on
their work.

What
started organically, morphed into a planned campaign
What
started organically, therefore, morphed into a planned campaign to create a
coalition of mostly Jewish activist academics, pro-Israel and national
representative bodies in the Jewish diaspora and the aforementioned major
American Jewish organisations to take the discussions in an increasingly
political and ideological direction, linking anti-Zionism and antisemitism ever
more closely.
A
key player in – and growing influence on – this campaign was the Israeli
government, which pursued a new policy from the late 1980s through the newly
established Monitoring Forum on Antisemitism. The policy aimed to establish
Israeli hegemony over the monitoring and combating of antisemitism by Jewish
groups worldwide. This was coordinated and mostly implemented by Mossad
representatives working out of Israeli embassies. The policy served to bind
diaspora communities more closely to Israel, their self-appointed ‘defender
against external threats’, to promote Zionist immigration by using highly
problematic data on antisemitic manifestations to stress the fragility of
diaspora Jewish communities, as well as to portray Israel as being equally in
the firing line of antisemitic attack by increasingly linking any criticism of
Israeli policy with antisemitism.
Jewish march in solidarity with Gaza, NY City, July 24, 2014. Photo by Martyna Starosta, Forward [We have taken this photo from Islamique magazine which posted it with the caption “Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of Nazi genocide unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza”.]
During
the 1990s there was some ambivalence about and opposition to this policy in
diaspora communities, largely because of growing evidence that traditional
antisemitism was declining, which meant that effective challenges to ‘new antisemitism’
thinking could still be mounted. Moreover, the policy was suspended by prime
minister Yitzhak Rabin during the few years of optimism surrounding the Oslo
Accords. Rabin did not want to be constrained by too close a relationship with
the increasingly right-wing American Jewish Israel lobby in negotiations which
were taking place to achieve rapprochement with the Palestinians.

The
‘new antisemitism’ discourse was now in the ascendant
However,
at the start of the twenty-first century, deepening disillusionment about Oslo,
as well as events such as the outbreak of the second intifada, the Durban UN
Anti-Racism conference and 9/11, led many to conclude that ‘new antisemitism’
was rising exponentially, driven by perceived Muslim hatred of Jews expressed
largely in the form of anti-Israel sentiment. This became the dominant
narrative among Jewish and Israeli leaders and the wider, growing
neo-conservative commentariat, which included prominent journalists and
columnists, as well as prominent academics.

The
most significant development in antisemitism after 1945 was the rapid emergence
of Holocaust denial
The New Anti-Semitism: the current crisis and what we  must do about it, Phyllis Chesler, pub. John Wiley 2004
The
Israeli government, reflecting the political drift to the far right in the
country, again very publicly linked Israel’s fate with Jews worldwide and stepped
up its leadership role on the antisemitism question. This time it had more
cooperation from diaspora Jewish leaders, many of whom were more in sympathy
with Israel’s harder line political direction than they had been when the
country was under Rabin’s control. In these circles, the ‘new antisemitism’
discourse was now in the ascendant.

In
practice, what this meant was that in discussion, debate  and argument
about the state of contemporary  antisemitism, ‘new antisemitism’ thinking
occupied centre-  stage and was rapidly acquiring the status of a new
 orthodoxy. This was not only in political forums, the media  and
public debates, but also in academic conferences,  seminars, academic
articles and books.
Inevitably,
being so intimately connected to a  controversial political issue – the
Israel-Palestine conflict – discussion of the issue of antisemitism
 became more politicised than ever before. Virtually no discussion of the
phenomenon could take place without Israel and Zionism being centre-stage. And
hardly any discussion about the Israel-Palestine conflict could take place
without reference to the ‘new antisemitism’.
There
have always been disagreements about the definition and use of the word
antisemitism, but during the first three or four decades after the Second World
War there was, broadly speaking, a common understanding of what constituted
antisemitism. This linked it to the classical stereotyped images of ‘the Jew’
forged in Christendom, adopted and adapted by antisemitic political groups in
the nineteenth century and further developed by race-theorists and the Nazis in
the twentieth century. That process of reformulation and revision did not end
with the Holocaust. The most significant development in antisemitism after 1945
was the rapid emergence of Holocaust denial.
Interestingly,
while it seems that some referred to this as ‘new antisemitism’, most
researchers and academics analysing and writing about the phenomenon had no
difficulty in seeing it as essentially a new manifestation of a consensually
defined antisemitism. But by the early to mid-2000s, the consensus had broken
down.

The irresistible rise of ‘new antisemitism’ discourse
The
acceptance of ‘new antisemitism’ thinking means that antisemitism has been
fundamentally redefined, so that a discourse about Israel and Zionism can be
labelled antisemitic even though it contains none of the classic stereotypes of
‘the Jew’ that were previously widely understood to be essential to expressions
of the phenomenon.
In
addition, in the writings of many of the ‘new antisemitism’ theorists and
propagandists, as well as in political and communal support for some Jewish
communal leaders, columnists and clergy, there is a confrontational and
racialised approach towards Muslims and Islam. It is not only Jihadists and
Islamists who are seen as responsible for the ‘new antisemitism’, but also the
collective mindset of the ‘Muslim community’ and the ‘unreformed’ nature of
Islam as a religion.
The
‘collective Jew among the nations’ definition of ‘new antisemitism’ licenses
this approach, which represents a form of stereotyping of the Other that is
incompatible with the consensual understanding of antisemitism that has been
fractured and undermined by ‘new antisemitism’. It is also the case that, since
international bodies like the UN, human rights and humanitarian relief
organisations, the EU, some churches and the ‘left’ are seen as responsible for
disseminating ‘new antisemitism’, despite long-standing traditions of Jewish
support for social justice, many Jewish communal leaders and commentators have
distanced themselves from the promotion of human rights and anti-racism.
Although
the concept of ‘new antisemitism’ emerged from serious discussions about the
relationship between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, its ubiquity by the
mid-2000s was a direct result of a concerted campaign to get individual
governments, parliamentary bodies, the Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe and others to accept the validity
of the notion.
Despite
the fact that significant proportions of diaspora Jewish opinion distanced
itself from Israel in recent years, this campaign resulted from a much closer
nexus between Jewish communal leaderships, national and international Jewish
organisations, pro-Israel advocacy groups, institutional arms of the Israeli
government and academics and researchers promoting the idea of the ‘new
antisemitism’.

The acceptance of ‘new antisemitism’ thinking means
that antisemitism has been fundamentally redefined
The
ongoing confrontation between proponents and opponents of the EUMC’s “Working
Definition of Antisemitism”, irrespective of the fact that the EUMC’s successor
organisation, the Fundamental Rights Agency, has now abandoned it, is a major
example of this. It is perhaps expressed most sharply in the recent case
brought against the University and Colleges Union in the UK by Ronnie Fraser,
backed by Anthony Julius and the law firm Mishcon de Rea, which Fraser and
Julius comprehensively lost. Supporters of Fraser have spun the result as, in
effect, an antisemitic conspiracy between the Tribunal panel and the UCU.
The
de-coupling of the understanding of antisemitism from traditional antisemitic
tropes, which thereby made criticism of Israel in and of itself antisemitic,
necessarily made the opposite – support for Israel – into a touchstone for
expressing sympathy with Jews. This opened the door to the phenomenon of Jewish
support for far right, anti-Islam, anti-immigrant parties keen to whitewash
their pasts and sanitise their anti-Muslim prejudice by expressing support for
Israel and seeing the country and its Jews as the front line against Islam’s
‘incursion into Europe’.
It
is not surprising, therefore, that acceptance of the ‘new antisemitism’ theory
has contributed to the exacerbation of tensions between Muslims and Jews in the
UK (and elsewhere in Europe). There is, however, mutual pre-existing
misunderstanding and mistrust, while negative images of Jews unrelated to the
Israel-Palestine conflict are common among some Muslims.
The
scale of the problem from the Jewish side can be gauged from the results of the
survey, commissioned by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, of Jewish opinion on
antisemitism in eight European countries, which was devised, managed and
analysed by JPR and released on 9 November 2013. This shows a marked tendency
to blame Muslim populations in Europe for the perceived worsening of the antisemitic
climate. It is interesting to note that these results were released on
Kristallnacht commemoration day. This was no coincidence, but rather another
example of the inextricable link between research on and politics of
antisemitism and the battle to control historical memory.

We are faced with a community presenting itself as
under siege at a time when the position of Jews in British society has never
been so good
Brian Klug, senior research fellow in philosophy at St Benet’s Hall, Oxford argues that the new prejudice is not antisemitism, new or old; nor a mutation of an existing virus, but “a brand new ‘bug’.
When
considering how to neutralise and reverse the impact of ‘new antisemitism’
thinking within the Jewish community, the problem is made more acute by the
fact that the discourse employed by the proponents of the concept shows
remarkable similarities with antisemitic discourse itself, especially in its
demonisation of Jews who question the validity of the concept. One example is
the attack by more than 20 ‘new antisemitism’ proponents, orchestrated by
Clemens Heni of the self-styled Berlin International Centre for the Study of
Antisemitism, on Brian Klug when he was invited to deliver an address on
antisemitism at the Berlin Jewish Museum’s 2013 Kristallnacht commemoration
event.
When
this occurs at the same time as prominent Jewish figures, aided and abetted by
significant commentators, academics and politicians – some Jewish, some not – who
are constructing and legitimising anti-Muslim racism, we are faced with a
community almost presenting an image of itself as under siege at a time when
the position of Jews in British society has never been so good, objectively
speaking.
Clemens Heni – Zionist propagandist who led campaign to get Brian Klug disinvited
My
pessimistic conclusion is that although there are still very many Jews who
would actively sympathise with the aim of building an anti-racist political
vision, the influence of ‘new antisemitism’ thinking, among other factors,
makes it very difficult to see how what we understand as the organised Jewish
‘community’ could be persuaded to identify with such an enterprise.

Antony
Lerman is an Honorary Fellow at the Parkes Institute for the Study of
Jewish/non-Jewish Relations,  Southampton University. He is also a member
of the Black-Jewish Forum, a member of the Advisory Committee of the Holocaust
Exhibition at the Imperial  War Museum and a founding member of the Jewish
Forum for Justice and Human Rights and the Independent Jewish Voices steering
group. He is a JfJfP signatory. He is the author of The Making and Unmaking of
a Zionist: A Personal and Political Journey (Pluto Press 2012). He tweets
@tonylerman.

Notes
and links
Below,
a few of the publications proclaiming ‘the new anti-Semitism’.

The
New Anti-Semitism
, Forster and Epstein, McGraw Hill, 1974
Rising
From the Muck: The New Anti-Semitism in Europe,
Pierre-Andre Taguieff and (trans) Patrick Camiller,
pub. Ivan R. Dee, 2002, 2004. [ Pierre-André Taguieff cites the following early
works on the new antisemitism: Jacques Givet, La Gauche contre Israel? Essai
sur le néo-antisémitisme,
Paris 1968; idem, “Contre une certain gauche,”
Les Nouveaux Cahiers, No. 13-14, Spring-Summer 1968, pp. 116–119; Léon
Poliakov, De l’antisionisme a l’antisémitisme, Paris 1969]
The
New Anti-Semitism : The Current Crisis and What We Must Do  About It
, Phyllis Chesler, John Wiley, 2004

Those
Who Forget the Past
,  Ron Rosenbaum brings together a
collection of powerful essays about the origin and nature of the new
anti-Semitism.Random House, 2004.
The
New Anti-Semitism
, What it is and how to deal with it, by Rabbi
Lord Jonathan Sacks, Jewish Chronicle, 2006.

Globalising
Hatred: The New Antisemitism
,
Denis MacShane Phoenix, 2009

The
most significant development in antisemitism after 1945 was the rapid emergence
of Holocaust denial.

 

 

 

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