The Jew as spider? Yes, and as octopus, rat, snake, pig,-- virtually any repulsive creature in the bestiary. The Jew is also depicted as a vampire, and as a (sort of) man with a huge, ugly hook nose, in Chassid garb, spilling blood, and killing babies.
Joël Kotek, a political scientist, discusses this zoomorphic dehumanizing of the Jew in Manfred Gerstenfeld's new book, Demonizing Israel and the Jews, recently published by RVP Press. Dr. Gerstenfeld, a prolific Israeli author and scholar, has here edited a collection of 57 brief essays, a primer, really, on the recrudescence of anti-Semitism in various parts of the world.
Whether in its phony disguise as political anti-Israelism, or without the mask, as outright loathing ("Unmasked Judeophobia," as filmmaker Gloria Greenfield calls her documentary), anti-Semitism has again become a terrible reality. Gerstenfeld's book in essence asks the salient questions---what, why, how, and where--to the first two receiving unpersuasive answers because they are unanswerable.
The malignancy festers predominantly on the left, says Andrei S. Markovits. The European left's hatred of Israel, as he writes, "has become much more potent over the last 15-20 years for one crucial reason: it is the left's language and discourse--not the right's--that have been adopted by the European mainstream." Indeed, "antipathy toward Israel" tops the list of the progressive's favorite hot topics, right up there along with environmentalism and gay rights.
However, the left-wing opposition in Sweden, according to Ilya Meyer, "finds itself with the strangest of bedfellows: Moderate hardliners..., fanatic Islamists working to spread Sharia, neo-Nazi groups that hate Jews and Muslims with equal fervor, and anarchist fringe groups. They all unite against Israel."
As apparently has the entire European Union--with its restive Muslim underclass--which recently decided to boycott Israeli products from the "occupied West Bank." But Dr. Gerstenfeld includes interviews indicting individual European countries as well, including Norway, Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and France.
In France, as Richard Prasquier notes,
"Leftist anti-Semitism has ancient roots. In the nineteenth century, there was strong anti-Semitism among precursors of socialism. Nowadays, left-wing anti-Semites falsely compare the Israeli attitude to the Palestinians to that of France in its former colonies. They see Palestinians as victims of a nonexistent Israeli 'colonialism' and project their own guilt feelings upon Israelis."
And Nidra Poller describes the bias of the French press:
"Grotesquely twisted narratives about the 'Israeli-Palestinian' conflict are presented as documentaries. Doctored photos of alleged atrocities committed by Israeli soldiers or 'settlers' find their way onto front pages and prime-time news. Days later, when the hoax is revealed, the media don't mention it."
A similar media phenomenon prevails in Great Britain. Robert Wistrich points to "the long-standing bias in BBC reporting and commentary about the Jewish world and Israel in particular." Anti-Semitism is old stuff in Britain, "around for almost a thousand years," as Prof. Wistrich notes. But as in other countries, it is also being fed by "jihadi radicalism," which Prof. Wistrich feels is more "violent and dangerous" in Britain than in any other Western society.
Mitchell G. Bard sees a variant of this "jihadi radicalism" in the United States as well, richly endowed by the "Arab lobby," with a bottomless supply of money from Saudi Arabia. The Saudis' "principal concern is to ensure that the heads of the [Saudi] royal family stay on their shoulders." But through the years they have also been active supporters of terrorists such as the PLO, with the United States government looking the other way. "The American public never understood the Saudi role in terrorism until 9/11."
Dr. Bard also incriminates academia, "mainly from Middle East studies departments," and virtually the entire UN. And he points at the so-called "human rights" non-governmental organizations (NGOs). NGOs are the specialty of Gerald Steinberg, head of the research association NGO Monitor. Prof. Steinberg explains:
"Among Israel's many attackers, non-governmental organizations...are the least subject to external monitoring. These anti-Israel NGOs claim to promote human rights and humanitarian aid, yet are characterized by a lack of professionalism and a postcolonial ideological agenda. In some cases, theological anti-Semitism is an additional factor.... NGO Monitor has documented anti-Israel acts in the Israel-related activities of [such] NGOs as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, Christian Aid, and many other organizations."
What Prof. Steinberg calls "classic Christian theological anti-Semitism and replacement theology" may play a part in the hostility toward Israel shown by American Protestant churches and supported by its umbrella organization, the World Council of Churches (WCC). An example of this is provided by Dexter Van Zile,
"In 2005, the WCC's Central Committee expressed support for the anti-Israel divestment campaign in mainline American Protestant churches. After the Presbyterian Church (USA's) General Assembly passed a divestment resolution which stated that Israel's 'occupation' was at the root of violence against innocents on both sides of the conflict--as if anti-Semitic incitement in Palestinian society had nothing to do with the conflict--the WCC issued a minute lauding the decision. 'This action is commendable in both method and manner, uses criteria rooted in faith, and calls on members to do the things that make for peace (Luke 19:42).'"
The WCC, continues Mr. Van Zile, is concerned about the Copts in Egypt and Christians in other Muslim countries. Unfortunately, the WCC's "obsession with Israel" has blinded them to the religious cleansing being perpetrated under Islam. And yet, of course, as Justus Reid Weiner notes in his essay, it is only in Israel that Christians may find safe haven; indeed, since 1948, the "Christian population has risen by more than 400 percent," while "tens of thousands of Palestinian Christians have [fled] their ancestral homes" in Muslim-controlled territories. Notwithstanding the fact that "the human rights crimes against the Christian Arabs in the disputed territories are committed by Muslims...many Palestinian Christian leaders accuse Israel of these crimes rather than the actual perpetrators." As does the Israel-obsessed WCC, and other Christian leaders in the Western world, concludes Atty. Weiner.
Little need be said in a slim volume such as Dr. Gerstenfeld's about Islamic violence in Israel itself, but he makes an exception for what may be one of its most grotesque aspects: the indoctrination of Palestinian children. According to psychiatrist Daphne Burdman,
"This incitement of Palestinian children has led to widespread hatred and an urge to violence. Palestinian leaders incite children to undertake such violent actions against Israelis even when it is likely that they will be injured or killed. They are promised to become martyrs who will be admired as heroes in Palestinian society and will find a place in Paradise with Allah."
Iran is of necessity discussed in the essays selected by Dr. Gerstenfeld, as are Libya and Egypt, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of the current demonizing of Jews and Israel is the number of Jews--European, American, and Israeli--who figure--prominently-in this growing threat. Psychiatrist Kenneth Levin, author of The Oslo Syndrome explains:
"This phenomenon reveals great similarity, at the level of human psychology, to the response of children subjected to chronic abuse. Such children tend to blame themselves for their suffering."
Thus, he continues, "those segments of the Jewish community who live and work in environments hostile to Israel, commonly embrace the anti-Israel bias around them. And they often insist they are being virtuous by doing so." This pathology is "no less delusional than that of abused children who blame themselves for the abuse they experience." But, he concludes, the result is awful:
"All too often such children doom themselves psychologically to lives of self-abnegation and misery. In the case of Jews indicting Israel for the hatred directed against it, the misery they cultivate goes far beyond themselves, and ultimately undermines Israel's very survival."
Janet Tassel is a freelance writer in the Boston area.