Dr.Gerstenfeld’s article New Intellectual and Ideological Currents Show Interweaving of Antisemitism with Western Culture was published first by Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Affairs (BESA), and republished here with the author’s consent.
NEW INTELLECTUAL AND IDEOLOGICAL CURRENTS SHOW INTERWEAVING OF ANTISEMITISM WITH WESTERN CULTURE
It is not difficult to prove that antisemitism is an integral part of Western culture. To be clear: that is radically different from saying that all Europeans are antisemites. Yet Western politicians or other leaders almost never admit this evident reality about their societies’ cultures.
One of the rare Europeans who has stated the truth clearly is the Archbishop of Canterbury – Justin Welby. In 2016 he wrote:
“Antisemitism is an insidious evil. The habits of antisemitism have been burrowing into European and British culture for as long as we can remember. In England, during the late mediaeval period, the Jewish community faced constant persecution: Shylock, the great villain of the Merchant of Venice, was a cliché of his time. By the time Cromwell reopened England to Jewish settlement under the Commonwealth in the 1650’s, antisemitism had mutated within common parlance and culture. It is a shameful truth that, through its theological teachings, the church, which should have offered an antidote, compounded the spread of this virus.”1
The centuries old interweaving of antisemitism with Western culture shows up in many ways. Contemporary antisemitism doesn’t only contain major elements of medieval antisemitism, but also many newer manifestations. One way among several to prove this is: in many new ideologies and movements or intellectual currents, sooner or later expressions of antisemitism come to the fore in parts of it. This hatred may focus on Jews, or on Israel. A number of brief mentions from a variety of areas illustrate this.
Antisemitism can be seen very clearly in the human rights arena. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is at the top of the list of promoters of the newest type of antisemitism, backing hatred of Israel. Many of its member states are dictatorships.2 Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, summarized it: “The United Nations Human Rights Council, located in Geneva, has a standing agenda item against Israel. Israel is the only country specifically targeted at every meeting. Not even major human rights abusers like China, Cuba, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria or Zimbabwe are subjected to such treatment.”3
Feminism is another movement where antisemitism frequently manifests itself. Gradually trends of Israel-hatred develop in this movement of egalitarianism for women. American emeritus professor of psychology and women studies Phyllis Chesler, a feminist herself, shared such an experience. In 2003 she was invited to speak to a mainly African-American and Hispano-American feminist audience at a conference at Barnard College. She was asked where she stood on the issue of women in Palestine. Chesler answered that Islam is the largest practitioner of gender and religious apartheid in the world. She backed up her statement by mentioning forced veiling, arranged marriage, polygamy, honor-based violence and honor killing in Palestinian society. Chesler says “A near riot broke out. I was hustled out for my safety. These feminists didn’t care about Palestine, but about demonizing Israel.”4
Another example: the American academic and feminist Angela Davis, a former Black Panther and communist, is an extreme anti-Israel inciter. She is among those who have compared the killing of an African-American man by a white policeman in Ferguson, MO to entirely unrelated Israeli actions in Gaza.5
The platform of Black Lives Matter, another egalitarian movement, accuses Israel of genocide.6 Yet other egalitarian movements focus on the rights of the LGBTQ communities. Israel’s enemies in these circles often accuse Israel of pinkwashing. This means that the country’s giving equal rights to the gay community is a way to divert attention from its discrimination of Palestinians.7 Much publicity was given to the discriminatory fact that the 2017 Chicago gay parade organizers expelled marchers carrying flags with the Star of David.8
The vegetarianism and veganism populations are increasing in strength. Their ideological elements seem to be growing even faster. The comparison of the suffering of animals to the Holocaust is a recurring theme. Ingrid Newkirk, founder of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) organization claimed already in 1983 in Holocaust distorting terms that animals are similar to humans: “A rat is a pig is a boy” and “Six million people died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses.9 The term “animal Holocaust” recurred in later years in PETA material. Occasionally PETA apologized for this abuse.10
Then National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Abe Foxman analyzed it stating:
“The effort by PETA to compare the deliberate systematic murder of millions of Jews to the issue of animal rights is abhorrent. PETA’s effort to seek ‘approval’ for their ‘Holocaust on Your Plate’ campaign is outrageous, offensive and takes chutzpah to new heights…Abusive treatment of animals should be opposed, but cannot and must not be compared to the Holocaust. The uniqueness of human life is the moral underpinning for those who resisted the hatred of Nazis and others ready to commit genocide even today.”11
The animal rights movement in Europe has succeeded in banning Jewish ritual slaughter in several European countries. The newer cases are more complex because they focus mainly on Muslim ritual slaughter. The Jews in this case suffer from collateral damage. The children rights movement often attacks non-medical circumcision.12
In opposing the threat of genocide from the use of atom bombs, a common expression already in the mainstream, is that a “nuclear Holocaust” has to be prevented. In his 2007 statement, U.S. President George W. Bush said that Iran’s nuclear program threatened to put “a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.”13 One can find a list of films on the internet about the nuclear holocaust14 as well as nuclear holocaust fiction on Wikipedia.15 This comparison radically distorts the uniqueness of the Holocaust which was preceded by a complex neo-industrial process of discrimination, robbing and physical abuse of Jews.
In academia, post-colonialism has become a popular new intellectual category. At some point Israel’s enemies started calling it a colonial power. This new expression of antisemitism has gained traction and is often referred to by leftists, when talking about Israel. There is hardly anything to compare Israel’s behavior to the massive crimes of the Belgian, British, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish scrimes in their past colonies over the centuries.16
Western powers had invaded and conquered their colonies to make money from them. Yet the Jewish people did the opposite. They invested money in mandatory Palestine and later Israel. The total lack of comparison did not hinder Israel’s enemies in academia.
Anthropologist Philip Carl Salzman, who teaches at Montreal’s McGill university, summarized: “post-colonialism does not so much illuminate the peoples, places, and times of which it speaks, but rather imposes its discourse and attempts through ad hominem and partisan arguments to silence all others.”17
Another new concept is intersectionality. This mainly tries to unite the oppressed and victims in contemporary societies for reasons of ethnicity, gender and class. The nineteenth century left wing anthem the Internationale called for workers to unite. Intersectionality calls for minority victims to unite. That with the exception of the Jews, the victimized minority par excellence in the previous century.
Many human rights promoters, feminists, vegan ideologists, academics promoting post-colonial theory and so on are not antisemites. Yet the fact that in all these unrelated issues there is place for major antisemitism, links these new hate elements of culture to the previous ones.
Interconnected to all this is the concept of absolute evil in contemporary society: to commit genocide or be like Nazis. It is yet, one more extreme manifestation of how interwoven antisemitism is with Western culture. About 150 million out of 400 million adult EU citizens consider that Israelis behave toward the Palestinians like Nazis or intend to exterminate them.18
All this profuse use of semantics has been summed up by French linguist Georges-Elia Sarfati. He said that the equivalences used against Israel “are so evil because they attach the four major negative characteristics of Western history in the last century – Nazism, racism, colonialism and imperialism – to the State of Israel. They relate to a collective memory and are easily memorized.”19
4 www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/18876 //phyllis-chesler.com/articles/the-brownshirts-of-our-time
7 www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Ilhan-Omar-Rashida-Tlaib-respond-to-Palestinian-LGBTQ-ban-on-Twitter-599139 //en-law.tau.ac.il/sites/lawenglish.tau.ac.il/files/media_server/Law/NowheretoRun,%20Michael%20Kagan%20%26%20Anat%20Ben-Dor%20(2008).pdf
9 James M. Jasper and Dorothy Nelkin, The Animal Rights Crusade (New York: Free Press, 1992).
10 Ingrid Newkirk, “Apology for a Tasteless Comparison,” IsraelInsider.com, 5 May 2005.
11 ADL, “Holocaust Imagery and Animal Rights,” Press Release, 2 August 2005.
13 “N Korea ‘May End’ Nuclear Pact,” BBC News, 22 March 2002