By Fern Sidman/JNS.org
Any Jew holding a copy of Dr. Phyllis Chesler’s updated book, “The New Anti-Semitism,” can breathe a sigh and exclaim, “this tome hasn’t come a minute too soon.” Thanks to the excellent research and prophetic analysis of this acclaimed author, lecturer, and activist, the reader is afforded the necessary context and perspective with which to understand the invidious phenomenon of contemporary Jew-hatred.
Written more than a decade ago (2003) in a compelling, easy-to-read, and free-flowing style, Chesler’s premise was and still is that classical anti-Semitism as espoused by such nihilists and evil madmen as Hitler and the scores that preceded him has now been deemed to be “politically correct” by the trendy denizens of the Western academy and the “intellectual” crowds. Chesler was among the first to have seen and denounced the suicidal alliance between the Western intelligentsia and fundamental Islam. The anti-Semite needed a new and more acceptable veneer, and the little place on the globe known as Israel would serve as the perfect subterfuge. Thus, Zionism does not equal racism, but anti-Zionism does. In fact, it is part of what makes the new anti-Semitism “new.”
There is no doubt that the second intifada and the traumatic events of 9/11 served as an impetus for Chesler to originally publish this book, as she naturally drew a correlation between the kind of terrorism that had become endemic to the state of Israel and the jihadist terrorism that was let loose upon the world. “War and a new kind of anti-Semitism had been declared,” she writes.
In the decades prior to 9/11 and the emergence of al-Qaeda, Chesler was acutely aware of the festering anti-Semitism that now appears to be increasingly ubiquitous with each passing moment. She details major events that she personally encountered during her years as part of the vanguard of the second-wave feminist movement, and the reader can easily connect the proverbial dots to see and feel the palpable resentment of those who championed the politically correct cause against Israel, now known as liberalism.
Always sensing a strong undercurrent of such bigotry in the various human rights movements that came to define her raison d’etre, Chesler is most disheartened when women’s conferences and forums such as Copenhagen and a pre-Durban one were hijacked by Jew hating agendas. She justifiably laments the fact that some important conferences are cancelled because of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel bias. “Women, you see, cannot be accused of racism—unless, of course, they are Jewish women,” she sardonically writes.
Since she is keenly aware that anti-Semitism may start with the Jews but never ends with the Jews, she makes the logical connection between the opprobrium that is harbored for both America and Israel by those who assign blame to all forms of human oppression in terms of colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism. “The Palestinian uprising has increasingly been seen as the uprising of all oppressed peoples against their colonial oppressors, that is, Jews, Zionists and Americans,” she ruefully observes. And, she notes, few understand that Muslim history is one of imperialism, colonialism, conversion by the sword, gender and religious apartheid, and slavery. Only the post enlightenment Judeo-Christian West are seen as mighty sinners.
Unlike other authors who have offered works of this genre, Chesler’s meticulous research is beyond impeccable as she explores the genesis of post 9/11 Islamic terrorism specifically directed against the West and their global interests. Israel, of course is viewed as the little Satan by the retinue of pro-Palestinian apologists and their Western lackeys and Chesler takes the Big Lies and bold propaganda to task by exposing their motives. Case in point: The unfortunate Muhammed Dura incident and the use of “fauxtography” are given more than an ample dose of good old-fashioned sunlight as she reveals one of the most egregious anti-Israel hoaxes ever sold to the public, however deceptively.
While reading this book, we now imbibe a seemingly endless litany of horrifying anti-Israel and anti-Jewish events at university campuses. It should come as no surprise that the BDS movement and physical and verbal violence against pro-Israel Jewish students has gained a dangerous degree of momentum, power, and economic viability in institutions of higher learning. Chesler cites the palpable but surreal bellicosity that has become an endemic part of campus life for Jews who wish to express pro-Israel sentiments—physical attacks, heckling of speakers, academic boycotts, incendiary street theater predicated on distortions, and the annual Jew-roasting better known as “Israeli Apartheid Week,” just name a few. “The New McCarthyism on campus consists of the anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian point of view. No other view will be tolerated,” she writes.
Chesler is under no illusions and does not even attempt to sugarcoat the obvious. European anti-Semitism is at pre-World War II levels and the flames of destruction are being consistently fanned not only by the “usual suspects” but also by the formidable fourth estate. The European media, she writes, “have continuously held Israel accountable for Palestinian terrorism, and justified human homicide bombing as a function of Palestinian ‘despair.’”
This book is easy to read, yet it is filled with a voluminous amount of facts and is definitely driven by concrete and verifiable data. What causes the words to leap off the pages, however, and to embed themselves in our collective psyche are the nuanced and urbane analyses proffered both by Chesler and an extensive array of experts. Frightening as it may be, they provide us with the kind of perspective we need to tackle anti-Semitic diatribes.
Yes, Chesler cautions us to grant this matter the gravitas it deserves and not to dismiss it as mere blather. In the expanded last chapters of the book, she prodigiously confronts the Big Lies and blood libels as she challenges the sheer mendacity of pseudo and rather lethal Palestinian narratives in ways that are both comprehensible and thought-provoking. On an uplifting note, she provides us with ways in which each of us can support Israel and Judaism, either through economic empowerment against boycotts of Israeli-made products and development of community and college based pro-Israel programs connecting with individual Israelis as part of our families.
In one of her final exhortations, Chesler has stumbled upon what may be the most important component in staying afloat as a people as we navigate the turbulent tide of anti-Semitism. She writes, “Dare I say it? I must. I implore Jews to stop fighting with each other. Even if we disagree, we must try to do so respectfully, soulfully. … We are an eternal people engaged in an eternal struggle with evil.”
Definitely words to heed.
Fern Sidman is editor of The Jewish Voice newspaper of Brooklyn, NY. “The New Anti-Semitism” is available on Amazon here.