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The eternal struggle against Jew-hatred

Fighting the Palestinianization of everything.

An anti-Israel protest in London in June 2021. Credit: Loredana Sangiuliano/Shutterstock.
An anti-Israel protest in London in June 2021. Credit: Loredana Sangiuliano/Shutterstock.
Phyllis Chesler
Phyllis Chesler
Phyllis Chesler is an emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies at the City University of New York (CUNY).

I’m a Jew, a feminist, an author and an academic. I believe in universal human rights. I am not a multicultural relativist. I do not respect the postcolonial academy, which brought about the Palestinianization of intellectual reality and projected Islam’s apartheid practices on to Israel. I oppose the worship of victim status, identity politics and the balkanization of identity.

From the time I was eight years old in 1948, I can’t remember a time when Israel was not central to my imagination, both as a model for heroism and as a transcendent, miraculous reality. From childhood on, Zionism was an ever-evolving example of political, theological, historical and personal liberation.

I cannot keep quiet about the extraordinary rise—a tsunami, really—of Jew-hatred and demonization of Israel.

I was called to fight in a cognitive war and I must tell you that we’ve lost that battle. At least, we’ve lost this round; partly because Jews, including Israeli Jews, failed to understand how important this war really is; partly because the forces of hatred were greater than we could imagine.

So far, we do not have an Iron Dome against lethal propaganda. Thus, the global noose around the Jewish neck has grown ever tighter.

Today, we are up against dangerous demagogues on campus.

Would we allow a professor to teach that the earth is flat and reward him for teaching junk science? Now imagine that this professor has a following that demonizes and intimidates all those who believe that the earth is round.

Such behavior is typical of Islamists and Stalinists, but we are talking about the Western intelligentsia—the well-meaning “wokesters.”

For speaking truth about Israel rather than defaming and delegitimizing Israel, one loses one’s friends, relatives, neighbors, colleagues, publishers, funding and lecture invitations.

I had assumed that hatred and persecution of Jews had been defeated and the genocide of Jews would never repeat itself. I was wrong.

I began fighting for Israel in the early 1970s. I published books and articles, delivered speeches, solicited petition signatures, held press conferences, appeared in the media, brought journalists to Israel and battled for Israel at various conferences, including the U.N. Conference on Women held in Copenhagen, which was a precursor to the infamous Durban conference.

By the early 1980s, I knew that the bloody beast was back.

On Sept. 29, 2000, Yasser Arafat unleashed his well-planned second intifada. Over 1,000 Israelis were killed and thousands severely injured. On that day, I found myself drafted into a new kind of army. I became a full-time civilian fighting the cognitive war.

On Oct. 12, 2000, when Palestinian barbarians in Ramallah lynched two IDF reservists, the media’s talking heads did not flinch as they played and replayed this ghoulish event.

When the planes of 9/11 crashed into history and America, I understood: “Now we are all Israelis.” Airports everywhere would have to develop the kind of security procedures that only Israeli embassies, consulates, airports, synagogues and Jewish community centers were forced to pioneer.

Meanwhile, the Western academy and media became increasingly Stalinized and Palestinianized. Leftist feminists became obsessed with the alleged “occupation” of “Palestine”—a country that never existed—than they were with the global occupation of women’s bodies. They dared not focus on the occupation of women’s bodies in Muslim countries lest they be shunned as racists and Islamophobes.

Those in the West who benefited from free speech, women’s rights, human rights, gay rights and religious freedom refused to criticize the utter absence of such rights in the Muslim world. Instead, they decided that Israel was the worst possible nation on earth and that if Israel were abolished, justice would prevail everywhere.

In time, many Muslim, Hindu and Sikh feminists “of color” embraced my work on honor-based violence and honor killing/femicide. Yet while conservative intellectuals welcomed me, I continued to be viewed as a traitor by American feminists and intellectuals.

During 2001-2002, as Israeli civilians were being blown up in cafes, nightclubs, hotels, buses and supermarkets, I began writing around the clock. I documented classic Jew-hatred as well as Arab-Muslim attacks on Jews in Israel.

Even George Orwell would have been stunned by the linguistic reversals of reality and scapegoating of Israel in the Western media for the very crimes being committed by Arab Islamists.

I insisted that anti-Zionism was the new antisemitism and a “perfect storm” was underway, coming at us from an Islamic world allied with a politically correct Western intelligentsia.

I published the first edition of my book The New Anti-Semitism in 2003. It was barely reviewed in the mainstream media, which had praised all my previous books.

What was my “thought crime”? That I held the Western intelligentsia partially responsible for the war against the Jews? Or was it my failure to focus not only on right-wing or Christian Jew-hatred but also on Islamic and left-wing Jew-hatred?

Like others, I was a grassroots soldier, completely on my own. But how could I stop?

The fact that Jewish Israel dared to exist in the “Muslim” Middle East was considered an unforgivable crime. The war on Israel was a religious war, not a war over territory. No one wanted to believe this.

We heretics were writing that the West is not the only culture that has engaged in colonialism or slavery. Islam also has a long history of colonialism, gender and religious apartheid, black slavery, white slavery and sex slavery.

For saying this, we were denounced as extremists, alarmists and paranoid. Many of us were deplatformed long before the word became fashionable.

This is a small price to pay for the honor of defending fact-based truth, however. Other dissidents in the West have paid a far greater price than I have. They write under pseudonyms and live in hiding and exile with round-the-clock protection.

Me? I was just cast into a peculiar kind of gulag. My earned credibility and economic survival were compromised so that I could not be the kind of effective advocate for Israel and the West that this struggle requires. It is like having both arms tied behind your back as you engage in the battle of ideas upon which civilizations rise or fall.

In 2016, at an LGBTQ conference in Chicago, I watched footage of a surging, enraged LGBTQ mob on their way to silence and perhaps physically attack gay Jewish and Israeli panelists.

Russian-born gay activist Michael Lucas viewed the protestors as similar to “Nazis, chanting vicious slogans, screaming epithets, their faces distorted in hatred.”

The mob blocked those who wanted to hear the Israelis speak and held prisoner all those already inside the room.

We know that visible Orthodox Jews and Jews of every denomination at prayer have been attacked and murdered—right here in North America and all over Europe.

We know that anti-racism textbooks in America rarely include Jew-hatred as a form of racism.

From 2003-2004, I began hearing from pro-Israel professors about the hostility they encountered from their colleagues and student activists. Since then, generations of students have reported being traumatized by Jew-hatred among fellow students and the professoriate.

It has become increasingly dangerous to be visibly Jewish and/or pro-Israel in America, so why do so many Jews continue to fixate on Israel’s alleged imperfections? Do we think that history can never repeat itself? Are we that certain?

Given the centrality of the Land of Israel to Judaism, Jewish identity and Jewish history, why do so many educated and assimilated Jews in the Diaspora savagely criticize Israel and support the Palestinians so passionately? Is it now psychologically safer to target Israel than to take on antisemites? Are these Jews so sure that pogroms, even genocidal bloodshed, can never happen again?

Jew-hatred is racism. Today, it is the only acceptable prejudice among “anti-racists.”

Many fear that it is too late. But even if it is—and it may be—we can never give up.

Each generation has an obligation to combat evil, which always triumphs when good men and women do nothing.

We must remember that the Jews are an extraordinary people. But we must also shed our illusions—permanently. We cannot expect that conditions will always improve, or that one country or another will always be a safe haven for Jews. We have repeated our history too many times.

One cannot win a war of ideas if one refuses to fight it.

As Jews, as members of a nation holy unto God, we must understand and never forget that ours is an eternal struggle.

This is an edited version of a piece that first appeared at Docemet Productions.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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