The following is a book review of the War of a Million Cuts by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. It appeared originally in Justice, the journal of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.
NOTE: This review is republished here with the author’s consent.
The War of a Million Cuts: The Struggle against the Delegitimization of Israel and the Jews, and the Growth of New Anti-Semitism
by Manfred Gerstenfeld RVP Press, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (2015). ISBN 978-1-61861-341-7
By now, many Jews and other supporters of Zion have experienced one or more of the million cuts inflicted by Israel’s enemies in their burgeoning and multifaceted asymmetrical war against the Jewish state.
I recall vividly the first of many painful blows I experienced myself, as one of the spokesmen for Jewish groups at the ill-fated United Nations World Conference against Racism that was held in Durban South Africa just before September 11, 2001.
I was speaking with a veteran Egyptian journalist who accompanied Anwar Sadat on his historic visit to Jerusalem, when a younger Arab journalist from Jordan happened to pass by. “Ahmed, come here, I would like to introduce you to someone from America.” In the middle of our handshake, the Jordanian abruptly pulled back. “Are you a Jew? Had I known you were a Jew, I never would have shaken your hand,” as he reached to “clean” his hand on his jacket. Throughout the next week, and in full view of over 3,900 NGOs from around the world supposedly united by the goal of “Civil Society,” we Jews were taught a brutal lesson: Israeli policies were not the issue—Israel’s very legitimacy as a state was under assault, led and validated by the official caretakers of global human rights.
Ever since, similar scenarios have played out in leading Protestant denominations, on university campuses, and throughout the media.
How did we get to the point where the memory of Kristallnacht in Germany generates more support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement than remembering the innocent Jews who suffered the Nazis’ pogroms, where Israel’s Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) is desecrated by “Israel Apartheid Week,” when First Amendment supporters of free speech in the U.S. can call for total boycotts of Israeli schools and academics?
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld’s definitive analysis of the current war on Israel and the Jewish people is a must for anyone who has suffered the indignity of such attacks and wants to develop strategies to defeat the haters.
Gerstenfeld begins with a historic overview of post World War II antisemitism and the mutation of medieval anti-Jewish motifs, and how they help sustain and legitimize highly discriminatory anti-Israel attitudes. The pivotal roles played by United Nations agencies, Arab and Muslim states, Muslims in the western world and the media are documented in a vivid and compelling way. Others include extreme leftist and extreme rightists, many social democrats, NGOs, trade unionists and a variety of mainstream politicians.
A short but critically important chapter provides an outline of one of the most insidious threats—“Lawfare”— where legal institutions and international law are manipulated to demean and delegitimize Israeli officials and cripple the Jewish state’s ability to defend its citizens from terrorist attacks launched by Hamas from literally behind the skirts of civilians in Gaza.
Gerstenfeld also touches a raw nerve in discussing the impact of the tsunami of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish campaigns. Jews have a heightened fear of antisemitic hate crimes. Some Jewish leaders in Europe caution their constituents not to walk in public with a “Chai” necklace or a kippah. Few synagogues in Europe can function without security. Meanwhile, many heavily biased media rarely give a platform to defenders of Israel. In Europe and in particular in France and in Scandinavia, many Jews have opted to hide their identities in public; many thousands in France and the UK have opted for Aliyah.
In covering a multiplicity of many other fronts of the newest forms of the world’s oldest hate, Gerstenfeld does not shirk from detailing the especially painful and harmful incitement by Israelis and Jews against the democratic state that is home to the world’s largest Jewish community. For these critics, the Jewish state can do nothing right and the Palestinians can never be held accountable for any atrocity, however heinous.
Throughout the book, Gerstenfeld asserts that he should have never had to be the one to write it; that it is the responsibility of the Jewish state to formulate proper strategies and tactics to battle and ultimately win this war.
We at the Simon Wiesenthal Center agree with the author that the State of Israel must create a single address to effectively counter the many fronts of this war. The toxic propaganda left unchallenged will not only weaken the Jewish state but also poison attitudes towards the Jews the world over. Gerstenfeld provides the overview of the enemies’ game plan. It is time now for Israel to approach this war as creatively and effectively as it has done in combating its enemies on the military front. The coherence of Gerstenfeld’s analysis and the compelling, if sometimes depressing, narrative of this definitive work, makes it a must read for Israeli officialdom and all lovers of Zion.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and a founding member of The Global Forum on Antisemitism.