Dr.Gerstenfeld gave this interview with some new views on the demonizing issue to Andrew Tucker, first published here, I republish it with full permission from the interviewee.
Interview With Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld about “Demonizing Israel and the Jews”
By Andrew Tucker.. Q1 You have written many books about anti-Semitism and other topics. What led you to write the book Demonizing Israel and the Jews?
A1 For a long time, I was looking for a simple and effective way to expose the extremely multi-faceted contemporary anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism. Thereafter I began to publish interviews with experts on specific aspects of this hate-mongering in a number of different languages.
Having done this for over a year, I thought that a collection of many interviews – in this case 57 – would offer a first impression of the many ways anti-Semitism and in particular its anti-Israelism mutation, manifests itself in Western societies and how extensive and intense the hate-mongering has become.
This collection had to be preceded by an introduction which explained basic issues such as how classic religious and ethnic-nationalist forms of anti-Semitism overlap with antiIsraelism. The core motif that Jews and today Israel, are considered by many to be “absolute evil,” had to be detailed. Some statistical data also had to be included to indicate that we are talking about a major phenomenon which does not come only out of the extreme right, far left and Muslim margins of society. Anti-Israelism in particular, is part of the European mainstream today. That is howDemonizing Israel and the Jews was born.
Q2 Nathan Sharansky once referred to the “three D’s of anti-Semitism – demonization, double standards, and delegitimization.” Your book is about “demonization.” What do you mean by the term “demonization,” and how does it differ from other forms of anti-Semitism?
A2 There are many ways to express classic anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism. There are various gradations of this hatred. Using the word ‘Jew’ as an expression of being despicable, as is frequently the case in Europe, is clearly anti-Semitic. So is calling someone a “lousy Jew.” This is hate-mongering and insulting, but not necessarily “demonization.” And I wouldn’t call someone who doesn’t want to live next to a Jew, “demonic” He has prejudices, believes in stereotypes and is an anti-Semite. However, when one agrees with statements like ‘Israel is a genocidal’ or ‘a Nazi state,’ that is not only anti-Semitic, but also demonic. If Israel were a Nazi state, there wouldn’t be a Palestinian left anywhere in Israel or in the West Bank in the public domain for many decades already.
Q3 The book catalogues a huge variety of anti-Semitic propaganda in the media in many different countries. What in your view, are the most significant findings in the book?
A3 For the first time, a book provides statistical figures on the number of European adults who harbor demonic views about Israel. I made a very conservative estimate on the basis of polls published, that this concerns 150 million out of the 400 million adult citizens of the European Union. Another major aspect of the book is that never before have so many aspects of contemporary classic anti-Semitism and its new mutation anti-Israelism, been treated in one publication by so many experts.
Q4 Is “demonization” of Israel and the Jews on the rise? Why?
A4 There are no statistics on the development of demonization of Israel. The polls on hate and discrimination usually pose questions about anti-Semitism and sometimes about anti-Israelism. An important 2013 study by the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) on discrimination and hate crime against Jews in the European Union confirms the increase in anti-Semitism in Europe. It found that 76% of Jews across ten European countries report that anti-Semitism has increased in their country within the past five years.
The demonization of Israel has been built up over the past decades by propagandists of the Palestinians and by other people who largely look away from the enormous ideological criminality in large parts of Palestinian society which is often glorifying murderers and promoting genocide. It is in line with similar attitudes of many people in the Arab and Muslim world. The Palestinians and other Arabs did not accept the U.N. two-state resolution in 1947 and proclaimed the resolution of the 1967 Khartoum conference which stated: “No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”
Regarding anti-Israelism in the West, the continuous hate campaigns from many circles such as Muslim governments, Muslims in Europe, biased Western media, mainly those who falsely call themselves “progressive,” politicians – mainly leftists and socialists, several mainly liberal churches, NGOs, trade unions, academics, etc., continue to spew hate against Israel yet at the same time, largely ignore not only the massive crimes and discrimination – ideological and other – in the Muslim world. All this has to be seen in the context of a reality that it is far easier to promote hatred than to fight it.
Q5 The book could be seen as suggesting that criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is “demonic.” Is that the case? And where is the line between justified criticism of Israel and “demonization?”
A5 For eight years the FRA and its predecessor the EMUC, had on their website a very clear definition of which type of criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. It included issues such as denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, applying double standards against it, using symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis, drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis and holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the State of Israel. The definition also states that criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country, cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.
However, last year the FRA definition was suddenly removed from their website. I can only interpret this as that it had become uncomfortable for the E.U. leadership because then it would have to admit that from time to time it committed anti-Semitic acts itself. The removal doesn’t help the E.U. much, because a slightly more expanded definition of anti-Semitism including anti-Israelism remains on the website of the U.S. State Department.
Q6 What has been the response to your book?
A6 There were a substantial number of interviews, book reviews and columns in 11 languages about Demonizing Israel and the Jews. It got significant attention in the Jewish media in many countries. Also in the United States and even more so in Canada, the book got substantial publicity in the non-Jewish media. In Europe, the book was almost entirely ignored, even if journalists of major papers interviewed me, because their editors didn’t want to publish their articles. One journalist said something like: “The editors are afraid that these facts will insult their readers.” One Dutch TV station came with a cameraman to my home. When the interviewer realized what these facts were, he decided not to film and walked out.
Even more important than the publicity however, is that the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) has used Demonizing Israel and the Jews to confront European politicians with the book’s findings and asked them to order a study on how this climate in Europe was created. The SWC views this as the beginning of a campaign to be continued on the “150 million” issue. One politician approached by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the SWC, was Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Lodewijk Asscher, who called the findings of the many Dutch people with genocidal views on Israel “worrisome” and “unacceptable” in the Dutch Parliament. He now has to answer Rabbi Cooper about whether the Dutch government will order a study on who caused these extremely hateful perceptions of Israel in the Netherlands. There have also been questions posed in Parliament about this by the Christian SGP party.
Nina Rosenwald, President of a New York based think tank, the Gatestone Institute has started to approach politicians in the E.U. on the “150 million” issue. I hope other organizations will follow her lead. Can an author desire anything more than that his book leads to action – political or other? I hope these and additional organizations will carry this battle forward into more countries.
Q7 Your book distinguishes between demonization of Israel, and demonization of Jews? Can you explain the difference?
A7 There are people who will say more or less, “Jews are ok, but Israel and the Israelis are Nazis.” There are also others who admire how Israel deals in a way which is relatively democratic under the circumstances with Palestinians, yet they have and still are promoting hatred against the Jews .
Q8 Is there not a risk that defending Israel and the Jews against “demonization” could have the opposite effect than intended – i.e., it could fuel a negative attitude towards them – because it strengthens the perception of Jews as persecuted and self-defensive?
A8 One characteristic of anti-Semitism is that whatever Jews and nowadays Israel are doing, or not doing, can and will be used against them by hate- mongers. This is the reality in totalitarian societies such as most Arab and Muslim ones and also, albeit to a much lesser extent, in the part-time democratic societies of Western Europe. If you conduct a poll in Europe asking whether Jews themselves are largely responsible for anti-Semitism, I am pretty sure that you would get tens of millions of Europeans who agree with that false statement.
My own approach is that while I do defend Israel and Jews, I mainly expose the ugly sides of the hate perpetrators. This is a basic strategic rule in military, business and politics. You fight your enemies on their own territory and do not limit yourself mainly to defensive measures.
Q9 To conclude: what do you think lies at the root of anti-Semitism, and do you think it can and will be eradicated?
A9 Anti-Semitism has been propagated for centuries, initially by the Catholic Church, later by Islam and after the Middle Ages, by some Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther and their followers. Thereafter, it was picked up by both nationalists and early socialists. Anti-Semitism is an integral part of European history which culminated in the genocide of the Holocaust. Due to the prominent place of anti-Semitism in European history and the many interactions of the Jews with the non-Jewish population, it is also an integral part of European culture. That is however, different than saying that most Europeans are anti-Semites, which is not the case.
Anti-Semitism cannot be eradicated, at best it can be contained. Prostitution has also been fought for many centuries and has not and will not be eradicated. Because it is being fought and contained, the brothels are not found on the main squares opposite the royal and presidential palaces in European countries. Similarly, one must fight to contain classic anti-Semitism and its newest mutation, anti-Israelism.