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Joel Fishman on Neu-alter Judenhass: Antisemitismus, arabisch-israelischer Konflikt und europäische Politik

Filed under: Anti-Semitism, Israeli Security, Radical Islam
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 18:3-4 (Fall 2006)



A State-of-the-Art Contribution to Our Knowledge of Contemporary Anti-Semitism

Neu-alter Judenhass: Antisemitismus, arabisch-israelischer Konflikt und europäische Politik
(New-Old Jew Hatred: Anti-Semitism, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and European Policy) by Klaus Faber, Julius H. Schoeps and Sacha Stawski

Reviewed by Joel Fishman


New-Old Jew Hatred represents the efforts of thirty-one committed contributors to write chapters on this timely and painful subject. This work includes a wide range of perspectives, “Jewish and non-Jewish Germans, Germans of Arab, Iranian, and Turkish backgrounds [respectively], Israelis, citizens of America and Austria, Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of other religious beliefs, or of no belief at all, politicians, experts, researchers and representative institutions and organizations.” Among the contributors are Bassam Tibi, professor of international relations at the University of Göttingen; Klaus Faber, senior figure in the Social Democratic Party of Germany and accomplished scholar; Yigal Carmon, president of MEMRI; Esther Schapira, highly accomplished investigative journalist and radio and television editor; Ilka Schroeder, former member of the European Parliament; and Abraham Foxman, national director and president of the ADL.

The editors have arranged the essays thematically and geographically. The sections are as follows: (1) “German Media and the Near East Conflict”; (2) “Islamic Anti-Semitism in the Near East and Europe”; and (3), “Perspectives.” In addition, the book contains three appendices, the last one of which is of particular interest because it contains the English text of the Hamas Charter, for which no German translation is yet available.

Taken as a whole, this group of engaged intellectuals presents a composite vision which is sober, lucid, and urbane. It should be noted that the authors draw the distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism. Doing so, they applied Natan Sharansky’s 3D test which named the historical criteria that characterize anti-Semitism. These are: demonization, double standards, and delegitimization. Accordingly, it is their view that generally the German press has been unfair to Israel.


The Centrality of Arab Anti-Semitism

It is noteworthy that the authors basically consider the Arab world responsible in the first instance for the current relentless outpouring of genocidal anti-Semitism. They identify the major problem as Islam in its various manifestations, be they inherent or radical. Accordingly, the “centrality” of the Palestinian question, a favorite subject of British policymakers and American “comprehensivists” and “realists,” loses its prominence. The Palestinians are considered in the shadow of this broader cultural reality, and therefore, a compromise settlement based on “land for peace” is deemed futile. Similarly, one will not find the politically correct notion that there is a type of symmetry between the Israeli and the Palestinian policies.

There is also a forthright and honest acceptance of the fact that the Third Reich contributed to the spread of anti-Semitism in the Arab world. For example, the first-person account of Eldad Beck, “Islam and Anti-Semitism,” shockingly describes how Hitler and the Third Reich are reverently admired in such places as southern Lebanon and Pakistan.

Other contributors raise the issue of Western responsibility for politics of appeasement, and several articles, namely those by Ilka Schroeder and Matthias Kuentzel, document the one-sided anti-Israel policies of the European Union. The book’s interpretation accepts the likelihood that the unrelenting hostility of the Islamic world to Israel and the West may be symptomatic of a “Clash of Civilizations,” if not a religious war. In contrast, it would be clearly unacceptable and politically incorrect in other countries, such as France, to raise this possibility.

Within the context of the internal German discourse, several contributors confront the problem of “Secondary Anti-Semitism.” Secondary anti-Semitism is connected to German national identification and the Shoah past. It is summed up in the sarcastic phrase that the Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz. According to this logic, the Jews, by their very existence, deprive contemporary Germans of their national pride, and some accuse them of perpetually swinging the “moral bludgeon of Auschwitz.” As early as the 1950s, Theodor Adorno identified this new form of anti-Semitism, and today, Lars Rensmann has become its foremost analyst.1

Each essay contains valuable insights and new interpretations. One example of honesty combined with rigorous thinking may be found in Yigal Carmon’s essay, “What Is Arab Anti-Semitism?” Carmon, an Israeli and president of MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) makes the very serious accusation that because of their political agenda, scholars of the Near East, particularly Israelis, have intentionally turned a blind eye to the problem of Islamic anti-Semitism:

Despite all these widely known manifestations, anti-Semitism in the Arab world has for a long time been ignored even in Israel. Barring a few exceptions, the overwhelming majority of Near East experts in and out of Israel have avoided this theme. Here, the notion that the Zionist enterprise should have solved the problem of anti-Semitism definitely plays a part. The conclusion that a hatred that the Jews believed to have escaped should also strike them in the Near East is something that many would prefer not to admit. Also, the well-founded fear that the revelation of anti-Semitic tendencies on the other side would strengthen a political unwillingness in Israel to yield and rather helps those political groups that would turn down any territorial compromise, may have contributed to this denial.

Nevertheless, the representatives of an Israeli policy which is prepared to make compromises must admit that it is not only intellectually untrue but that again it would be politically counterproductive to ignore further the anti-Semitism of the Arab side. Anti-Semitic thought is widespread in the Arab societies. At present, it is indeed the most dangerous form of hate [directed] against Jews and basically prevents a lasting and peaceful agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Not the least, one can see that the peace agreements between Israel, Egypt, and Jordan have not led to a far-reaching normalization between the societies. Thus, to oppose anti-Semitism in the Arab states is not only simply to fight against falsehood and prejudice, but also an attempt to improve an essential component of the relationship between Jews and Arabs. (209-10)

New-Old Jew Hatred represents a solid, high-quality contribution to our understanding of contemporary anti-Semitism. Reading this book, one may form an impression of the gravity of this major cultural problem which has begun to polarize European and world politics. This new-old hatred represents a threat not only to Israelis and Jews but also to those who want to live in humane societies ruled by law and which guarantee their citizens individual rights.

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1. See his Demokratie und Judenbild (Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2004). [in German]

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DR. JOEL FISHMAN is a historian of the modern era and fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.