Manfred Gerstenfeld, The War of a Million Cuts

, June 9, 2016

Manfred Gerstenfeld, The War of a Million Cuts: The Struggle against the Delegitimization of Israel and the Jews, and the Growth of New Anti-Semitism, Jerusalem: JCPA, 2015, 501 pp.

In the conclusion of his study of how a variety of information professionals, – journalists, academics, human rights activists, post-Zionists, – managed over the last two generations to turn Israel from the plucky David fighting against massive Arab aggression into a the bully Goliath oppressing the poor, weak Palestinian victims, Joshua Muravchik notes:

The opprobrium heaped on Israel whenever it finds itself in a confrontation with enemies who still, sixty-odd years after its founding, do not accept its existence, restricts its freedom of action, even though, more than perhaps any other state, its survival depends on its ability to defend itself militarily. No other country faces a near neighbor with the declared aim to ‘wipe it from the map’ or well-armed forces on two of its borders sworn to its destruction and doing what they can to make this happen … Should Israel’s enemies succeed, the result would be a second Holocaust. This would be a tragedy of unspeakable proportions for the Jews, but not only for them. The world would have lost one of its most creative countries, and the devastation of the Jewish people would cause incalculable harm to the spiritual life of the West and perhaps beyond (Making David into Goliath, 229, 234).

While Joshua Muravchik and Manfred Gerstenfeld would hope that those who read the statement above would be horrified. Others might read it and rejoice: “At last the militarily unbeatable Israel, source of global mischief and war, will be brought down by a war of a million cuts.” Who could have imagined such opprobrium, such “soft power,” especially among those that claim to represent progressive views?  Let us recall that in 2000 advocates of the Oslo Peace Process believed they were close to concluding a final agreement and Israel enjoyed international good will. Therefore, it seems preposterous that within fifteen years, well-documented studies argue that the very existence of Israel is in danger because of a campaign of a “million cuts” of criticism and slander and because the progressive left has adopted the narrative frame of the Israeli Goliath and the Palestinian David. Who could have argued with conviction that the Muslim “apocalyptic narrative” in which Israel is the global villain (Dajjal=Antichrist), would move from revolutionaries on the margins of Western discourse to the heart of the liberal progressive consensus?  While these myriad cuts and this inverted paradigm had been in existence for a long time, no one in early 2000 could have imagined that by 2015 Zionists would be writing books that document the way in which such attacks have attained a preponderance that threatens the militarily “invincible” Israel. Whether they either rejoice or despair at the news, neither side envisaged this outcome which happened so quickly.

The War of a Million Cuts places the events in the framework of an antisemitism of longue durée that had been latent during the first decades after the Holocaust, but resurfaced, especially in Europe, in the Twenty-First Century. Tracking the burning embers of antisemitism during the last half of the Twentieth Century (Chapter Two), Manfred Gerstenfeld identifies the new mutation that allowed for its revival, anti-Zionism, with its familiar antisemitic tropes and its shabbily disguised lust for demonizing Jews, in this case, autonomous Jews (Chapter One, 3-4). According to Gerstenfeld, global jihadis represent the reincarnation or the new avatar of Nazi, paranoid, genocidal hatred (Chapter Five). They have many admirers in Europe, particularly among the “global progressive left.”

The War of a Million Cuts deals with the question of how such hatred was able to attract a wide range of different types in the Western public sphere. He surveys the entire terrain on which this cognitive war against Israel has been taking place: the media (Chapter Seven); Christian supersessionists (Chapters Eight-Nine); academics and professors (Chapter Ten); educators (Chapter Eleven); lawyers (Chapter Twelve); the United Nations (Chapter Thirteen); Social Democrats, NGOs active in “human rights,” and other progressives (Chapters Fourteen-Fifteen). This study brings back bitter memories for those who have observed these groups during the past fifteen years. It contains copious footnotes (and the appropriate URLs). The documentation of these millions of cuts should be online with links and the dossier systematically expanded. Indeed, every chapter constitutes a volume in its own right, covering Western malice and folly, a twenty-first century Narrenschiff [ship of fools].

Two important chapters describe the demoralizing and debilitating effects of this campaign on Jews and Israelis (Chapters Eighteen and Nineteen). Like some Jews in the past, some Israelis and Diaspora Jews in academia and the media have been overwhelmed by the assault of a million cuts – the endless accusations, insults, and pervasive contempt from precisely those whom they admire. They internalize these sentiments and behave in a manner described by Tuvia Tenenbom:

It’s a mental problem…. For 2000 years Jews have been persecuted, for 2000 years they have been told taught they are the worst….Some people cannot handle it… and they say: ‘If everyone in the world says I’m bad, that I am ugly, a thief, a murderer, horrible shrewd person, a money grubber, I am. What can I do to cleanse myself of it?’ And what do they do? Catch another Jew doing wrong… that makes them feel better, makes their ugly skin feel better.1

Unfortunately, this encyclopedic tour de force lacks a chapter on the disastrous impact of this lethal campaign against Israel on Westerners. Gerstenfeld discusses the information professionals who have libeled a cultural ally in the fight of all freedom-loving people against Muslim supremacists and their armed wing, the jihadis. As a result, these purveyors of the Palestinian narrative, who view themselves as brave and moral activists, supporting the underdog and speaking truth to power, have been engaged in an extensive act of “own-goal” information warfare and repeatedly scored victories for their enemies. In his lengthy chapter on the news media, Gerstenfeld should have discussed the impact of the newly dominant school of “lethal journalism” on Muslim violence in Europe, from the Al-Dura affair in 2000 to Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

He concludes his study with two chapters on how to fight back (Chapter Twenty-Twenty-One) and suggests that Israel regard the cognitive war (not his term) as the effective equivalent of the military war. This requires massive funding and serious organization and must be done immediately by private contributors and the Government of Israel.  Gerstenfeld correctly argues that short-term solutions cannot address long-term ideological trends. For example, we must confront the “postmodern character of the assault on Israel,” that I have referred to as PoMo-PoCo (post-modern-post-colonial), along with the pervasive cowardice in the face of supremacist Muslim intimidation especially on the part of journalists. According to Gerstenfeld, it is necessary to undertake large-scale efforts involving research, monitoring, and “operations.”  In addition to ideas as to how to fight back, Israel needs a thorough knowledge of history and of the terrain of the battlefield in order to develop successful strategies and tactics. A good start would be the establishment of an online data base that includes all of the incidents so carefully analyzed in this book, with further elaboration by scholars. Otherwise, we are reacting to attacks instead of taking the initiative. Gerstenfeld points out that too many have become “verbal vegetarians” who are afraid of offending anyone.

Gerstenfeld’s work will not temper the fury of Israel’s enemies. Nor will it affect those who consider Israel a vicious animal because it “fights back when attacked.”  The War of a Million Cuts is intended to help the Zionist camp fight those who criticize the existence of the Jewish state and engage in demonization and lies against it that have revived virulent antisemitism. The book should be read by those who have and are being turned against Israel, who are badly misinformed, and who wish to stop consuming an “own-goal” war journalism that appeals to a type of moral Schadenfreude as far as the Jews are concerned.

At present, most Westerners do not seem to pay attention to the fact that the mainstream media are characterized by a groupthink that thoroughly complies with Palestinian demands that they invert reality. Likewise, many Europeans and Americans are not aware of the fact that important academics, NGO researchers, policy pundits and experts systematically abuse their professional principles in order to contribute to the million cuts that vilify Israel. In order to overcome the massive inertia of this assault on Israel and to wean Westerners from antisemitism disguised as progressive anti-Zionism, one must want to know the truth. This will happen only when the public realizes the destructive nature of this campaign not only for Israel and for Palestinians who want peace but also for the important institutions created by the post-Holocaust global community. The latter have been corrupted by their blind adherence to the Palestinian cause. These organizations include:  the UN and its various agencies, such as UNRWA, UNESCO and the UNHRC; the ICC; and the plethora of NGOs that deal with human rights that contribute to the “decay and disintegration of large segments of European society.”

Above all, those who believe in a free civil society that restrains the violent coercion of the powerful and seeks to create social order through voluntary association must understand that, taken to its logical consequences, the campaign against Israel to “destroy Israel for world peace” will have catastrophic consequences for the West. Throwing Israel to the jihadi wolves will vastly strengthen the supremacist strain among the 1.5 billion Muslims and enlarge the ranks of global jihad. Only the realization of this dangerous campaign against Israel can raise the consciousness of the wider public and reverse the paradigm of an Israeli Goliath vs. a Palestinian David.  Indeed, if one looks carefully at the words and deeds of the Palestinian David, it is clear that they are part of a larger message of triumphant jihad against democracy. After all, intifada does not mean “uprising/insurgency” as the post-colonial supporters of the Palestinian cause mistakenly think. It means the manner in which a great beast “shrugs off” a tiny, irritating fly. It is this perspective that has metastasized to a global jihadi movement that threatens Western nations that should command our attention. Manfred Gerstenfeld has shown us the way.

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Note

1 Interview with Tuvia Tenenbom by Daniel Seaman and Danielle Traub, on Voice of Israel, posted December 24, 2014 (italics mine); online: https://youtu.be/GcGwjoRZNBA?t=16m5s. The subject of the interview is Tenenbom’s book, Catch the Jew (Jerusalem: Gefen Publishing, 2015).

About Richard Landes

Richard Landes, a historian of the Middle Ages, was Professor of History at Boston University until 2015. He now lives in Jerusalem, is a Senior Fellow at the Center for International Communications at Bar Ilan University, and currently writing a book entitled They’re So Smart cause We’re So Stupid: A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st Century. He blogs at the Augean Stables.