Sounding the alarm on modern anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism

By Jeffrey F. Barken/JNS.org

Click photo to download. Caption: The cover of "Demonizing Israel and the Jews," by Manfred Gerstenfeld. Credit: RVP Publishers.

An assault on reason is taking place. As the world impatiently seeks a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, hearts and minds fall prey to agenda-driven media and the manipulation of history. Consequently, anti-Semitism is on the rise.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld sounds the alarm. His new book, “Demonizing Israel and the Jews,” consults a diverse selection of prominent authors, bloggers, politicians, psychiatrists, historians and other expert professionals, gauging the current climate.

This survey is extensive, and it is important. By highlighting his colleagues’ research, Gerstenfeld examines the roots of persistent old-world anti-Semitism and demonstrates how new, hate-fueled, uncompromising, and even genocidal ideologies propagate rapidly.

Rabbi Marvin Hier’s meeting with former French President Jacques Chirac in 2002, an encounter related in the foreword to “Demonizing Israel and the Jews,” is telling. The president “told us a story about a young Palestinian student living in France whom he had met on the campaign trail,” writes Hier, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

“When Chirac asked him what he was going to do after he completed his studies, he said he would be going back to Palestine. ‘And what will you be doing there?’ Chirac asked. ‘Killing Jews,’ he answered. ‘But why? Have they done anything to you?’ ‘Yes, they have humiliated our people…’ Then the president told us he doubted whether he was able to change the young man’s mind, but ‘it just goes to show how frustrated Arabs are,’” Hier writes.

According to Gerstenfeld and his colleagues, prominent European leaders naively interpret extremist rhetoric and actions as desperate measures indicative of conditions on the ground in Israel and in the disputed territories.

In her essay, noted psychiatrist Dr. Daphne Burdman indirectly refutes Chirac’s assumptions with concrete evidence of systematic genocidal indoctrination. “In both the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas-ruled territory of Gaza there are carefully planned, widespread campaigns of incitement of children,” she writes. “Due to this indoctrination, children even start viewing positively their involvement in terrorist actions in which they risk their lives.” What is interpreted to be a frustrated response to Israeli “occupation” is actually the calculated execution of long-term terrorist tactics, undermining long-term efforts toward peace.

The range of problems confronted in Gerstenfeld’s book is broad and complex. Grappling with the resurgence of anti-Semitism and the world’s willingness to embrace anti-Israelism presents a daunting puzzle. But Gerstenfeld casts a wide net. Turn to any page; the short interviews reveal shocking facts and offer gripping analysis.

The rapidly changing religious and political ideologies in Europe are of particular concern. “Since the Second World War, important developments have taken place concerning anti-Semitism,” Gerstenfeld writes in his introduction. “In this new century, it burst forth again with great intensity. One major manifestation of this can be seen in Hungary. The neo-fascist and anti-Semitic Jobbik Party received nearly 17 percent of votes in the 2010 parliamentary elections and became the country’s third largest party.”

Similar political parties have seized power in countries like Greece, Norway, Sweden and Finland, where economic conditions are ripe for a revival of pre-war fascist and racist ideologies. Likewise, the influx of Muslim immigrants to Europe has changed the demographics there, paving the way for Holocaust denial, renewed nationalism, and the incorporation of fanatic anti-Israel perspectives into the national dialogue.

How are these movements gaining momentum and access to power? Why has the world turned a blind eye? Gerstenfeld’s many sources connect the dots and provide definitive answers.


Another pivotal aim of the book is to confront the proliferation of lies damaging to Israel and to the reputation of the Jewish people. Gerstenfeld spotlights the exhaustive efforts of organizations that directly challenge distortions in the media.

Ronald Eissens, for example, reports a disturbing conversation that his Dutch NGO, Magenta Foundation, had with the European director of Facebook.

“He said, ‘We remove most of the postings on Holocaust denial.’ We said: ‘You should remove all of them.’ He replied: ‘There is also Holocaust denial which is not considered hatred.’ We laughed in his face and said, ‘The essence of Holocaust denial is anti-Semitism.’ Finally he said, ‘I’m sorry, but these are my American boss, Mr. Zuckerberg’s views,’” Eissens writes.

“The Internet has changed the dynamic, obviously, adding countless new voices to the discourse—some for the better and others for the worse,” writes Andrea Levin, executive director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). “CAMERA’s staff continuously post critiques on the CAMERA website and blog and write op-eds, letters, and articles that appear in newspapers, journals, and Internet sites, setting the record straight.”
 
These are only a few of the dialogues included in “Demonizing Israel and the Jews” that will intrigue and rattle audiences. Readers seeking a comprehensive explanation for the reappearance of virulent anti-Semitism will not be disappointed. The book’s essays and interviews coalesce as an eye-opening, convincing narrative that illuminates the history, philosophy and socio-political factors that confound the peace process and ignite so much hatred. Powerful and informative, Gerstenfeld’s work is a definitive academic source on the problem of modern anti-Semitism and the persistent Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Demonizing Israel and the Jews,” by Manfred Gerstenfeld. 226 pages. RVP Publishers, May 2013.

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Posted on August 26, 2013 and filed under Book Review, Israel.