Review Essay: What’s “New” – and what’s not – about the New Antisemitism?

, March 21, 2004

Jewish Political Studies Review 16:1-2 (Spring 2004)



Books Discussed in this Essay:

Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism, by Abraham H. Foxman, New York: HarperCollins/HarperSanFrancisco, 2003, 305 + xii pages.

The Return of Anti-Semitism, by Gabriel Schoenfeld, San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2004, 240 pages.

The Case for Israel, by Alan Dershowitz, Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2003, 264 pages.

The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It, by Phyllis Chesler, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003, 305 + ix pages.

History, Religion, and Antisemitism by Gavin I. Langmuir, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000, 380 pages.

Toward a Definition of Antisemitism by Gavin I. Langmuir, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1990, 417 pages.

Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair, editors, The Politics of Anti-Semitism, Petrolia, California: CounterPunch/AK Press, 2003, 178 + vii pages.


Talk about “the New Antisemitism” is common, and is usually accompanied by the direst of gloom-and-doom ensembles and by the suggestion that Jewish security is, at the very least, in grave danger. Is there such a thing as a “new” antisemitism and if there is, what is “new” about it? Are contemporary manifestations of Jew-hatred new phenomena, or do they represent classic anti-Judaism refracted though the prism of current realities? Has the world of anti-Jewish animus changed that radically since the German anarchist journalist, Wilhelm Marr, created the term “antisemitism” in 1879?

For many decades antisemitism was a little studied phenomenon. The words of Seymour Martin Lipset, resonate: “You know, when something isn’t studied, it means one thing: there ain’t that much around to study.” The study of antisemitism is, in fact, a relatively recent phenomenon, going back to the early 1960s with the landmark study of antisemitism, Five-Year Study of Anti-Semitism, known as The Berkeley Studies commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). 1 The Berkeley Studies, which consisted of several books on various aspects of intergroup relations, developed the protocols still used for the academic study of antisemitism, and that was it.

Antisemitism was not looked at again by social scientists until the 1980s and 1990s, when two American “defense” agencies, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the ADL, bid to outdo each other with a series of studies on American antisemitism. Two very different approaches were used: the AJC studies made an effort to position attitudes toward Jews within a context of intergroup conflict in general, while the ADL studies were about attitudes toward Jews specifically; in effect, “what do you think about Jews?” The cumulative findings from both sets of surveys documented – no great surprise – a steady decline in the level of conventional antisemitic attitudes held by Americans, a decline that continues unto the present day. This decline is clearly generational, and reflects a correlation long-known by social scientists and community-relations professionals: improve the social and economic conditions of a group – any group – in society, and there will be a diminution of intergroup bias and prejudice.

Now there is a gaggle of books on the “new” antisemitism, fueled in large measure by the explosion in 2002 of antisemitic activity in Europe resulting from “Israelophobia.” These works, taken collectively, paint a grim picture of the state of Jewish security in Europe and America, which at first runs counter to the findings of both sets of studies over the past two decades. Indeed, the recent works serve to reinforce the “perception gap”: the growing chasm between the reality of antisemitism and the strength of Jewish security, especially in the United States, and the grassroots perception (as documented by data from many surveys conducted since 1981) that increasing percentages of American Jews believe that antisemitism is a “serious” and indeed increasing problem in the United States even as the overwhelming majority of American Jews assert that they are “comfortable” in America. This is a conundrum for which there are many explanations, none of which is really satisfactory. None of the books under study addresses this dilemma; several of them say, in effect, “there is no gap; it is really happening out there!” This dilemma points to the true value of these works: they explore what is wrong with the arena of study.

Two books with “the new antisemitism” in the title appeared recently within months of each other. (A third, A New Antisemitism: Debating Judeophobia in 21st Century Britain, a collection of excellent essays edited by Paul Iganski and Barry Kosmin, is specific to the U.K. and is not discussed in this essay.2) Phyllis Chesler, psychologist, scholar of women’s issues, and an author best known for her Women and Madness and Women of the Wall, has written an energetic book, The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It.3 Chesler’s good spirit bursts through on every page, and there is much of value in this well-written book, especially her telescoped rendering of the history of anti-Zionism. However, The New Anti-Semitism, which appears to have been written in haste, ultimately suffers from a lack of nuance, as does the book by Abraham Foxman.

The title of Abraham H. Foxman’s Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism tells much of what is necessary to know about the author’s thesis.4 In appropriating the slogan of the late Jewish Defense League (JDL) activist and Kach leader, Rabbi Meir Kahane, Foxman, the long-time director of the Anti-Defamation League, a man of considerable vision, and one of the most highly-visible and effective professionals in American Jewish life, sets an activist agenda for his book. “Never again!” is a direct descendant of “Rak Kach! ” – “Only thus!” (and I leave it to the reader to figure out the “thus!”) – that was the battle-cry of the Zionist-Revisionist Irgun during its struggle with the British. Even with Foxman’s question-mark, “Never again?” is highly suggestive of a particular approach to Jewish security that borders on an extremism that the author may not have intended.

Abe Foxman follows a formula developed by Arnold Forster and Ben Epstein, the professional leaders of the ADL in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, who produced a series of rather lurid books – Danger on the Right,5 The New Anti-Semitism,6 and Cross-Currents7 – that were basically collections of ADL memoranda on antisemitic thugs and acts, focusing on the “right,” rather than sober analyses of antisemitism.8 (By the 1980s, of course, the Forster and Epstein parade of villains had been replaced by the “left” and by Arab lobbyists. Anti-Fascism was as outdated as the twist.) The Forster and Epstein formula was just right for that era, an era of the Cold-War “consensus” historians. Forster and Epstein were writing in the hard-hitting journalistic style of a Walter Winchell, but does Foxman’s book, written in the excessive style of Forster and Epstein, work for 2004?

There is much that is commendable in Abraham Foxman’s book, and the data, scrupulously gleaned from the files of the ADL, are comprehensive, accurate, and informative. But the value of the data is somewhat diminished by the self-serving manner in which they are presented: Foxman rarely misses an opportunity to attribute various Jewish achievements to the Anti-Defamation League; he seems to have forgotten that other, never-mentioned, Jewish groups have been active in the struggle for Jewish security. (Were the Israelis involved in the struggle for Ethiopian Jewry? Not according to Never Again?!)

But it is Foxman’s “Never again” theme and thesis, not his institutional imperatives, which may be troubling to analysts of contemporary antisemitism. Foxman has adopted a “worst-case-scenario” strategy in crafting his book. The tone is often strident, indeed alarmist, which the author himself acknowledges. In Foxman’s defense, no Jewish leader wants to be in a position in which he minimizes the threats of antisemitism; events in Europe during the second intifada provide plenty of cause for concern. However, Foxman seems to have forgotten the contemporary agenda of his own agency. There is an instructive section toward the end of Never Again? entitled “What can be Done?” that is exclusively about the specific counteraction of antisemitism by legal remedies such as “hate-crimes” legislation. But the ADL itself correctly discerned the true underpinnings of Jewish security when, in 1981, it made an institutional decision to make civil liberties (primarily church-state separation, the prime guarantor of Jewish security in the United States) a top priority of the League. It is true that balancing the security needs of a society with civil-liberties protection has become increasingly difficult, especially in post-September 11 America, but this crucial and highly-nuanced question does not appear in the book. The true relationship of antisemitism and Jewish security – which is the ability of Jews to participate in the workings of a society at any level – is not explored in Never Again?

Less troubling, but indicative of some measure of sloppiness, are Foxman’s misrepresentations of fact, especially when he moves from antisemitism, about which he knows quite a lot, to arenas in which he or his researchers are fuzzy. An unfortunate example for readers who may not be entirely au courant on the nuances of Hasidic groups is when the author lumps all Hasidim together in one movement, and characterizes Hasidim as “regard[ing] the founding of Israel as symbolic of the beginning of the redemption of the world. The existence of Israel is not only acceptable in their eyes, but a positive sign that the coming of the Messiah is on the horizon.” Foxman has somehow confused and conflated two worlds: the Religious-Zionist movement, which was primarily non-Hasidic and which was (and is) somewhat “messianic” in its approach to political Zionism; and most Hasidim, who were non-Zionist and in some cases anti-Zionist.

Furthermore, in the chapter “Jews in a Hostile World,” Foxman presents a comprehensive and useful conspectus of the history of antisemitism. This is only useful up to a point, because the author fails to distinguish clearly between the various forms that anti-Jewish expression took throughout history (cultural, religious, racial), which makes all the difference in understanding the ancient hatred. Is all of the anti-Jewish activity in the ancient world to be characterized as “antisemitism”? (No.) Was racism or religion at the root of Inquisitorial excesses in fifteenth-century Spain? (Probably both.) These nuances are lost in the jumble of deicide charges, blood libels, and inquisitions. These examples are suggestive of flaws of analysis that diminish a book that had potential value.

More effective and thoughtful, albeit flawed in its conception and conclusions, is Gabriel Schoenfeld’s The Return of Anti-Semitism.9 Schoenfeld, one of the more canny public-affairs journalists on the scene, suggests – indeed in the book’s very title – that there is something old and something new going on. There is precious little doubt in his mind where antisemitism is going: up, up, up.

In The Return of Anti-Semitism it all comes together: Islamic fundamentalism, the muscle exercised by terrorist groups, and Jew-hatred; the export of antisemitism from the Muslim world into Europe and from there into the United States; and – the core of the author’s thesis – the rebirth of older antisemitic traditions in the West that were thought to have ended along with Nazism.

This is fine up to a point. The problem with The Return of Anti-Semitism is that Gabriel Schoenfeld attempts to telescope an immense amount of information into a relatively short book, and this is both the strength and the weakness of the work. Schoenfeld is a polymath, but polymathy does not work in a 150-page book. He tries to do too much, and the analysis suffers. Schoenfeld presents intelligent reviews of European and Islamic antisemitism, and a less satisfactory but nonetheless sharp rundown of the American situation. The problem with The Return of Anti-Semitism lies in the author’s research – or lack thereof. It is difficult to take a serious book seriously in which the research consists of Leon Poliakov’s lively but dated The History of Anti-Semitism10 or quotes from The New York Times and The Jewish Week. There is much to say about the threats to Jewish security from radical Islam, the conditions in America, and the evangelical political community – and Schoenfeld does say it, but in a way that is frustrating to the serious reader.

Schoenfeld’s book – like Foxman’s – is full of data presented in a well-written manner, and journalists and public-affairs professionals will find it most useful. But ultimately The Return of Anti-Semitism suffers from the same malady as the works of Foxman and Chesler works: a woeful lack of nuance. Gabriel Schoenfeld is, after all, a scholar, and a good one, and more is expected from him. In a chapter entitled “Descent into Delusion,” the author asks, “Are we approaching a 1933 or a 1939?” He develops a formidable array of data (all from the Islamic world) in support of a thesis that “it could happen again,” and that the only thing that will prevent it from happening is “a sufficient show of [Jewish] aggressiveness and determination.” Perhaps so, but comparisons between the Europe of 1933, where antisemitism was embedded in the institutions of power (often over many centuries in formal institutions), and the world of 2003 – especially America – are wrong-headed. Lumping America and Europe together when discussing the “virulent outbreak” of antisemitism ignores the recent history of the two regions and the profound differences between them.

It is on the question of antisemitism in America that the analyses of Schoenfeld (and the other authors) are most flawed. Indeed, Gabriel Schoenfeld entitles his chapter on the USA: “The End of American Exceptionalism?” Qualifying the title with a question-mark does not negate the fact that the answer to the questions with which the author begins this chapter – “Can the disease spread here? Has it already?” – is an implicit “Yes.” Schoenfeld, in five exceptionally concentrated paragraphs, gives the reader a superb outline of the history of American antisemitism. However, his proposition that America is beginning to resemble Europe – in large measure because of a growing number of Muslims – is both wrong and wrong-headed. For one thing, Gabriel Schoenfeld clearly does not feel the cold air issuing from the open demographic trap-door behind him. Demographics is the secret killer of historians; as a predictor of social trends the use of demographics is perilous at best. Furthermore, his Islamic catalogue of horrors (in this respect The Return of Anti-Semitism resembles Foxman’s Never Again?) offers little in the way of cogent analysis of the American situation.

More to the point, however, is that Schoenfeld ignores the relationship between antisemitism and Jewish security, which may be related in America of 2004 (not America of 1954 or Europe of 2004). However, they are clearly distinct because of the singular and peculiar nature of American pluralism, which is shaped by the church-state separation which lifted pluralism from being a conceptual or philosophical ideal and made it a legal obligation. America does not have the European pre-Enlightenment baggage – the bulk of American Jewish history begins after the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were drafted – with the result that Jews, no less than any others, were entitled to equal status in the body politic.

So the issue in America is not antisemitism, it is Jewish security. There is the need for analysts to distinguish, in the United States, between antisemitism, which does exist at some level – it ebbs and flows and must be monitored, repudiated, and counteracted – and Jewish security, which is strong. Jewish security is the ability of Jews, individually and collectively, to participate in society at any level without the fear of anti-Jewish animus. There may be antisemitism in this country, but it is not a threat to the security of Jews, which is unparalleled. Conversely, the threats to Jewish security in the United States come from sources that probably have little if anything to do with anti-Jewish animus. As Leon Wieseltier puts it, the destiny of the Jews has at last left Europe for the sovereignty of Israel and the pluralism of the United States.11 The U.S. is not just another address for Jews on the run; America is structurally hospitable to Jews. Whatever the nature and extent of the threat from militant Islam, a contextual analysis is necessary when addressing questions of antisemitism anywhere, especially in the United States.

Most serious is Gabriel Schoenfeld’s penchant for demonizing those with whom he is in disagreement. Rhetoric of this nature diminishes the value, indeed the very credibility, of an otherwise useful work. Consider the following: “Just as there is an intellectual disease called Holocaust denial [an ‘intellectual disease’? It’s antisemitism! – JC], there is a related pathology that might be called antisemitism denial.” Gabriel Schoenfeld adds to the cast of antisemitic characters who do deny that they themselves express antisemitism (Louis Farrakhan, Pat Buchanan, etc.), such Jewish thinkers as Leon Wieseltier, who commits the grievous sin of suggesting that Jews are getting carried away with their many assessments of an antisemitism that is out of hand (to use Wieseltier’s words: “the village is not burning”). In effect, if you do not agree that antisemitism is not on the rise, you are part of a “gruesome tale of Jewish antisemitism.” Agree or disagree with Wieseltier, who raises important questions in a literate manner, that is what the discussion is all about. However, to put legitimate discussion of the nature and extent of antisemitism in the same category as the crackpot and vicious antisemitism of Holocaust denial or in the same class as the Farrakhans – as Schoenfeld does – is to engage in nothing less than scholarly anarchy. Gabriel Schoenfeld, who is a legitimate scholar, does himself a disservice.

Very different in style and content, although not in tone, from Never Again? and The Return of Anti-Semitism – although much more effective than the works of Foxman, Schoenfeld, and Chesler – is Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel.12 The ubiquitous Dershowitz – he is a Harvard law professor and is frequently at the bar in civil-liberties and criminal cases – has presented us with a well-researched and snappily-written manual for the counteraction of anti-Israel argument and rhetoric; indeed, many will recognize in the book the effective style of AIPAC’s Myths and Facts series.13 In book form, The Case for Israel works well.

The value of Dershowitz’s hard-hitting book, aside from the very clear presentation of the historical realities inherent in the Arab-Israeli conflict, is the fact that The Case for Israel implicates in a coherent manner the larger question of the relationship between anti-Israel rhetoric, anti-Zionism, and antisemitism, which is at the core of the question of the “new” antisemitism.

Finally, there is Alexander Cockburn. What has not already been said about Cockburn, a fine wordsmith, a sharp polemicist – and, frankly, an intractable foe of Jewish interests? The tropes of “the Israel lobby” resonate throughout The Politics of Anti-Semitism, a collection of essays (co-edited by Jeffrey St. Clair),14 that culminate in a self-serving complaint by Cockburn himself (“My life as an ‘Anti-Semite'”) in which he offers his definition of antisemitism: “to have written an item that pisses off someone at The New Republic.”

In fact, Cockburn and St. Clair’s book does serve a larger purpose (which justifies addressing it), in that it illuminates, as does Dershowitz’s book, the nuanced and highly-permeable borders between criticism of the policies of the government of Israel and “Israelophobia” or anti-Israelism. In a word, “the new antisemitism.”

The books under review here collectively urge the question of whether there is, indeed, a “new antisemitism.” To put the question more specifically, is the new expression of Israelophobia (to use Hillel Halkin’s clunky but effective locution15) antisemitism in its classic sense or is it something new, or perhaps, as some have suggested, is it not antisemitism at all?

What is antisemitism and how do we classify antisemitism? Historically, there appears to be a jumble: the cultural and political anti-Judaism of the ancient world (was this antisemitism?); the religious anti-Judaism of Christianity, extending from the first centuries of the Common Era to contemporary times; the anti-Judaism of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment Europe, which achieved its full expression in the racialist antisemitism of the nineteenth century; the antisemitism of classical Islam (again, is it antisemitism, or something more nuanced?); and the contemporary manifestation of “Israelophobia” – hatred of the State of Israel.

This catalogue is cumbersome and therefore it is preferable to telescope these categories into three and to say that if there is indeed such a thing as a “new antisemitism,” it is “new” in the sense that it does not fit the pattern of ancient antisemitism which was primarily ethnic in nature, Christian antisemitism that was religious, or the racial antisemitism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

First, there is the question that goes to the core of our definitional dilemma: At what point does anti-Israel rhetoric become antisemitism – if ever? This is clearly a “threshold” question, and is therefore subjective. What is a reasonable threshold? Criticism of the policies of the government of the State of Israel – even harsh criticism – is entirely legitimate. The Israeli polity itself is deeply divided over the peace process and beyond that, over its relations today and tomorrow with the Palestinians. The point at which such attacks become antisemitism is the point at which the legitimacy of the Zionist enterprise or the State of Israel is questioned, because it is at that point that the legitimacy of Jewish peoplehood is questioned. This, tautologically, is antisemitism.

However, what about anti-Jewish animus that may result from legitimate causes? Some have argued for the necessity of distinguishing between Israelophobia and antisemitism. Hatred of Israel – whatever motivates such hatred – is a concerted prejudice against Israel, that was birthed in large measure by leftist anti-globalist politics, but without a discernable hatred of Jews. Oppression and liberation, oppressors and oppressed – it is another riff on the political rivalries that characterized much of ancient anti-Judaism. Is there a specifically anti-Jewish bias here? Perhaps what motivates the Israelophobes is antisemitism, perhaps it is not. However, to tar all critics of Israel with the brush of antisemitism is unfair, so the argument goes, and may be counterproductive in that it is the first principle of community relations that counteraction of an activity should be premised on the motivating factor of that activity.

This argument over whether Israelophobia is antisemitism is played out in the numbers: ADL’s important polls of European attitudes show a sharp fault-line between attitudinal antisemitism, where the numbers are down, and anti-Zionism, which are up. How do we interpret these data? The ADL analysts aver that these data tell us that Europeans are basically antisemitic; the counter-argument suggests that it is more nuanced and that many Europeans do make a distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. These data call for further exploration.

This question, of course, is at the heart of the “new” antisemitism discussed by the authors under review. An analysis of the “new” antisemitism deserves more than the blanket assertion: “It comes from radical Islam and haters of Israel.” Indeed, the position that anti-Israelism needs to be distinguished from antisemitism, whatever the antisemitic motivation of some Israelophobes, derives from a geo-political analysis of the contemporary phenomenon that goes beyond reiterating the “Muslims-hate-us” palaver.

In a construct borrowed from the world of political science, France is used as a paradigm of Europe. The question, crudely put, is: “Why do the French hate us?” The answer lies in the fact that antisemitism is historically linked to the political contours of each era, and of each country during a given era. The physiognomy of European antisemitism in any given era is a function of the primary political challenge facing Europeans in that time and place: nationalism in the nineteenth century, racialist antisemitism, Augustine’s anti-Aristotelian Christianity, religious antisemitism, and so on. (This, by the way, is Hannah Arendt’s unique insight in Volume I of The Origins of Totalitarianism.16)

Zionism, the darling of the left seventy years ago, became successful (i.e., created a nation-state) precisely at a time when the nation-state fell out of fashion. As the primary political challenge for Europe today is moving beyond the nation-state (i.e., the problem of European integration), a problem that is framed in the clash between nationalism and post-nationalism (with progressive, intellectual, or “good” opinion very much on the side of the latter), it comes as no surprise that Israel (and America) are reviled for acting like the nation-states they are. Israel, as the product of nineteenth century European nationalism (so goes the analysis), acts as the ideology of nationalism suggests sovereign states do and should act: it is ready to employ force of arms to defend the nation’s interest. This behavior is what drives the Europeans crazy. It strikes their post-nationalist sensibilities as retrograde and racist (and it is important to note that the word “post” in its political and historical usage always means “contra”). Israel squares off against the Arabs in the same benighted manner as the French used to do against the Germans, and so on. Hence, European antisemitism, and – a fortiori – anti-Americanism as well. Hence, the French hate us.

What follows is what is held to be the “new” international/political antisemitism. There are three things “new” about it. First, the collective expression of antisemitism, with Israel as a focal point, rather than the individual animus of the past. This leads, of course, to the claim of distinguishing between anti-Israelism and antisemitism, and the concomitant question of: “Well, maybe there is a good reason for it, so it is not antisemitism?” Second, the center of gravity of antisemitism is now in the Islamic world. Finally, what is new is also very old: the “double-standard,” the assertion that Jews may not defend themselves like any other people or person. If this is the case, then – by extension – the legitimacy of a Jewish historical particularism is challenged. Deriving from this, of course, is the isolation of the State of Israel and the relegation of Israel to the status of “pariah state.”

So what is “new”? Nothing and everything. The standard evaluative criteria for determining what is antisemitism and what is not are still operative. The important new caution is for analysts to think about the “no legitimate cause” provision. Any geo-political analysis leads us either (1) to the same old hatreds; or (2) to a set of political animosities expressed by the leftist intelligentsia in Europe that may not be antisemitism.

It all comes back to the definition of antisemitism. The definitional point was made very well by one of the leading historians of antisemitism, Gavin Langmuir. Langmuir, a professor at Stanford, in his landmark books Toward a Definition of Antisemitism17 and History, Religion, and Antisemitism,18 is most careful to distinguish between the rational and the irrational in Jew-hatred. Langmuir elaborates on a fundamental definitional distinction: hatred of Jews without a concrete basis ought be treated differently than antipathy towards Jews that has a reason. The classic one-liner – What is the definition of an antisemite? One who dislikes Jews more than is necessary – comes to mind in reading Langmuir’s penetrating analyses, and there is a solid foundation for this tired old joke.

In Langmuir’s view, antisemitism as we know it is irrational antisemitism – the groundless hatred of Jews – and it developed only in the High Middle Ages. Langmuir argues that it was only then that growing doubts about the truth of Christianity amongst its adherents led to a more aggressive and vicious persecution of Jews (and of other heretics as well). Inquisitorial excesses, the spread of the blood libel and the libel of the desecration of the Host, and other militant expressions signaled the replacement of “competition” between the two monotheistic faiths. Anti-Judaism – necessary to be sure for the shaping of the contours of early Christian theology – descended into the totally demonic and irrational, especially in ritual-murder and other libels. Langmuir’s construct of the move from “rational” to “irrational” antisemitism describes the movement from a theologically-based anti-Judaism – the charge of deicide, the “Wandering Jew,” biblical prefiguring, and supersessionism – to the utterly base, demonic, cannibalistic Jew-hatred of the High Middle Ages.

The question with respect to the “new” antisemitism is refined by Gavin Langmuir’s approach. As noted above, a number of scholars have suggested that “rational” antisemitism (for example, Israelophobia) is not antisemitism at all, but is motivated by a political analysis – crude, yes; distorted, yes; simplistic, yes – that is not rooted in Jew-hatred.

It is easy to take pot-shots at Langmuir’s construct. After all, antisemitism – perhaps all group prejudice – is all about the interplay of the rational and irrational, and an analysis such as Langmuir’s that draws sharp historical distinctions is a flawed analysis; there was an irrational reaction even in ancient times when much anti-Jewish activity resulted from geo-political tensions and not from antisemitism. However, whatever flaws there are in Gavin Langmuir’s historical and sociological analysis, he is reminding us, once again, of fundamental distinctions between rational anti-Judaism coming out of geo-political and religious conflict; and the irrational hatred of Jews “more than is necessary.” Perhaps this is the best definition of all, explaining all that is old and new in this most ancient of hatreds.


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1. University of California Five-Year Study of Anti-Semitism in the United States, conducted by the Survey Research Center, a seven-volume series (New York: Harper and Row, 1966-1970).

2. Paul Iganski and Barry Kosmin, eds., The New Antisemitism?: Debating Judeophobia in 21st-century Britain (London: Profile, 2003).

3. Phyllis Chesler, The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003).

4. Abraham H. Foxman, Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism (New York: HarperCollins/HarperSanFrancisco, 2003).

5. Arnold Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein, Danger on the Right (New York, Random House, 1964).

6. Arnold Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein, The New Anti-Semitism (New York, McGraw-Hill, 1974).

7. Arnold Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein, Cross-currents (Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1975, c1956).

8. In fairness to Epstein and Forster, they, with ADL’s Oscar Cohen taking the lead, were responsible for commissioning the first of the major sociological studies of anti-Semitism, the aforementioned Berkeley Studies, which established many of the area guidelines for subsequent study in this arena.

9. Gabriel Schoenfeld, The Return of Anti-Semitism (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2004).

10. L?on Poliakov, The History of Anti-Semitism (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974-1985).

11. “Old Demons, New Debates” (unpublished remarks), YIVO Conference on Old Demons, New Debates: Anti-Semitism in the West, New York, 11 May 2003.

12. Alan Dershowitz, The Case for Israel (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2003).

13. Myths and Facts (Washington, DC: American Israel Public Affairs Committee), many editions.

14. Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, eds., The Politics of Anti-Semitism (Petrolia, CA: CounterPunch/AK Press, 2003).

15. “What’s Old, What’s New – Continuities and Discontinuities” (unpublished remarks), YIVO Conference on Old Demons, New Debates: Anti-Semitism in the West, New York, 11 May 2003.

16. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973).

17. Gavin I. Langmuir, Toward a Definition of Anti-Semitism (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1990).

18. Gavin I. Langmuir, History, Religion, and Anti-Semitism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).

Jerome A. Chanes

Jerome A. Chanes has taught American Jewish sociology, Jewish public policy issues, and biblical Hebrew at Barnard College and Yeshiva University.