April 1, 2009
By: Phyllis Chesler
Who would ever have believed that Jews would be in such danger again? That Israel and Zionism would become such dirty words in the world, despised by western intellectuals and Islamist mobs alike?
Who would ever have predicted that the United Nations would remain ineffective in all things except one: the legitimization of Jew-hatred? And that so many members of international human rights organizations and the mainstream western media would join Muslim leaders to accuse Israel of running an apartheid Nazi state bent on genocide?
Who would ever have thought that the Islamic jihad against Jews, which long preceded the establishment of the state of Israel, would still be going strong – a jihad that began during Muhammad’s reign when he slaughtered the Jewish tribes of Arabia?
Who would ever have suggested that the largest refugee story in the Middle East – 750,000-800,000 Jews expelled from Arab countries – would be forgotten and replaced with a Palestinian-only persecution narrative that would seize the imagination of the world? That Israel, which absorbed its refugees at its own expense, would be demonized and that Palestinian leaders, including terrorists who devote themselves to the destruction of Israel, would be glamorized as righteous and noble victims?
Who would ever have dreamed that Israel would be condemned for trying to defend its civilians? Or that Israel would reap hatred for exercising restraint in its treatment of Palestinian civilians? Or that Israel’s terrorist enemies would be praised for hiding behind their own women and children or would themselves be counted as civilians (even as they fire rockets at Israel) because they craftily choose to dress as such?
Who would ever have imagined that such Big Lies would be championed by western intellectuals, academics, journalists, students – not a few of them Jews and even Israelis?
Orwell would laugh. Or cry.
When the intifada of 2000 broke over Israel’s head, I could no longer keep silent. After 2001, I knew we were now all Israelis. By 2002, I had embarked upon a book about the new anti-Semitism.
What is new about this anti-Semitism? The old, mad virus never entirely disappeared, but now anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism. Now, the very existence of the Jewish state is being used as the justification to attack Jews everywhere.
The Arab world continues to accuse Jews and Israelis of spreading cancer and AIDS, of poisoning Palestinians, of perpetrating apartheid and genocide against the Palestinians. The reality, of course, is that Islam is the largest practitioner of apartheid in the world.
Demonizing Israelis as “worse than the Nazis” allows Europeans to resume wallowing in the Jew-hatred that has defined their history while it provides them the illusion that by doing so they render themselves safe from fundamentalist Muslim hostility. It is also a way of scapegoating Jews and Israel for the crimes of European racism and colonialism.
Sixty years ago, would anyone have been pessimistic enough to fear that Jews would once again be physically menaced and verbally attacked, or that synagogues, community centers, cemeteries and schools would become targets in countries all over the world? That Jewish students would be attacked on campuses and at pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the West?
I know I never foresaw that pro-Israel sentiment and general truth-telling about the Middle East would be marginalized, censored and mocked – and that those who held such views would not only be discouraged or even disallowed to share them, but that in many cases those who wish to speak positively about Israel on campus would require armed protection.
When I started research for my book about anti-Semitism in 2001-2002, I had to dig for examples. That has changed. Now, the surreal level of both Jew- and Israel-hatred, its global reach, its sickening synchronicity, is being well documented by many organizations, each with a variety of interpretations. Every day I receive dozens of articles on this subject.
What’s different about the new anti-Semitism is that Israel, Jews, and Judaism are being condemned by those who view themselves as politically correct anti-racists and multicultural relativists. They condemn Israel for being too nationalistic while they praise the so-called national liberation movements of tyrants. They condemn Judaism (and Christianity) as misogynistic but give a free pass to Islam. They refuse to criticize an imperialistic, intolerant, slave-holding religion in whose name terrorists are blowing up civilians around the world, especially if the perpetrators live in areas formerly colonized by the West and their skin color ranges from olive to black.
Jewish skin color ranges from white to olive to black, but his does not seem to matter.
From early 2004 I have been saying in the pages of The Jewish Press that we are potentially looking at another Holocaust. This level of hatred and demonization never ends without the mass murder of Jews. Anything is possible. The surreal can become real in an instant.
In many ways Jews today face a graver threat than they did in the 1930s because much of the world, rather than just one or two nations, is now involved in the demonization of Israel.
So what must be done?
We must understand that anti-Semitism is an illness – a madness – something evil that is not caused by Jews. We may not be able to appease those who are afflicted with it any more than we can please Hamas or al Qaeda, but we must defend ourselves against it – in every way possible.
But we also must 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.
Our ancestors suffered in exile for nearly two thousand years, and while we are privileged to live in a time when our homeland has been restored to us, it was foolish to have thought that Jew-hatred would suddenly become extinct or that Israel would not remain under permanent siege.
As Jews, as Israelis, as members of a nation holy unto God, we must understand, and never forget, that ours is an eternal struggle.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler, an Emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies and co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology and the National Women’s Health Network, is the author of many works including “Women and Madness” (1972) and “The New Anti-Semitism” (2003). This essay is based on a speech she gave earlier this month at Temple Judea in Doylestown, Pa.
Dr. Chesler can be contacted through her website, www.phyllis-chesler.com.