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The New Anti-Semitism
Last uploaded : Wednesday 24th Dec 2003 at 00:49
Contributed by : Carol Gould


The New Anti-Semitism
By Phyllis Chesler
Jossey-Bass (Wiley Imprint)


This superb book could not have been more timely. In fact, it was written earlier this year before the unprecedented rise in violence against Jewish targets in Turkey and across the world this autumn and winter, making it something of a prophecy. One could venture so far as to call it ‘The Book Of Phyllis ‘

Chesler’s volume provides a thorough history of anti-Semitism, including a vivid account of the Dreyfus affair . How many times has this reviewer tried, on the streets of London, to explain to fuming Israel-haters the history of Zionism and of the dream of Theodor Herzl? In recent weeks the Thursday gatherings outside Marks & Spencer in Oxford Street have become noisier and nastier, the Palestinian supporters shouting epithets about ‘apartheid’ and ‘genocide’ at the small crowd of Israel supporters who congregate there every week. The venom in the eyes of the anti-Israel crowd is frightening and visceral: just replace ‘down with Israel’ with ‘Down with Jews’ and you have a mob that matches those of the Dreyfus melee.

Chesler, a distinguished feminist and historian never known for right-wing or Zionist tracts, has been as deeply affected as this reviewer over the past three years by the rise of anti-Semitism across the globe. What I find particularly intriguing is her perception of this hatred from an American vantage point. I first began detecting the ‘I am not an anti- Semite if I criticise Israel’ syndrome three years ago when the Intifadah exploded at the al Aqsa Mosque. The violence in Israel , invariably seen by the British media as cause-and-effect (Israel always causes all evils, supported by that Zionist-run evil empire the USA) has become a useful excuse for Jew-haters to bash us without impunity.

Phyllis Chesler divides her book into sections that examine institutional double standards (yes, the United Nations and its failure to condemn other nations as it does Israel) ; what we can do to combat fictions perpetrated on a daily basis about Jews and Israel; the damage done by European intellectuals who have risen to the forefront of condemnation of Israel and ‘The Betrayal of Truth’ that characterises the worldwide obsession with ‘evil Israel.’

This book had already hit the shops when the British Cartoonists’ Society selected the Independent’s Phil Brown as the recipient of the award for the Political Cartoon of the Year in a lavish ceremony. A former British Cabinet minister presented the award, for a cartoon depicting Ariel Sharon biting off the head of a Palestinian baby. When the cartoon had first appeared in early 2003, it had caused consternation. Frankly, I found it obscene. The fact that it was passed for use by the Independent’s Jewish Editor, Simon Kelner, gives pause.

Chesler urges Jews to unite against the rising tide of Jew-hatred and Israel-loathing that is permeating every dinner party and academic gathering around the world. She is unequivocal in declaring that those who accuse Israel of genocide and apartheid -- protesting that they are not Jew-haters -- are anti-Semites. Her admonitions to readers about recognising Jew-hatred in its many forms are manifold and make the chapter ‘Questions and Answers’ a brilliant lexicon for Jews trying to cope in a world full of screamers bellowing at us about our ‘grotesque’ little homeland.

Her book is a meticulously -researched volume with prodigious resource material and should be required reading in schools. It should be in every home; sadly it will not find its way into the homes who need to read it most. That is what is so scary.


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