Anti-Jewish hostility provoked by the Gaza offensive: Is antisemitism the right word for it?

With his permission, I am publishing on my blog a Facebook post by Dr Steven Beller, an independent scholar based in Washington DC, which presents an alternative analysis of the anti-Jewish hostility currently being experienced in Europe as a result of Israel’s offensive against Gaza. Dr Beller was a visiting scholar at George Washington University and a Research Fellow at Peterhouse College Cambridge. He is the author of major books on Austrian and Jewish history and also an expert on the history of antisemitism. He authored Antisemitism: A Very Short Introduction for Oxford University Press (2007). The post was written in response to a New York Times article, which appeared on 2 August, entitled ‘Antisemitism rises in Europe amid Israel-Gaza conflict’. All antisemitism is unacceptable, but Dr Beller questions whether it’s the right term for the hostility in Europe to Israel and Jews. It’s important to hear this view because at times like this, various commentators fail to understand the context in which this hostility appears and are therefore liable to spread hysteria and paranoia. Particularly unfortunate is the fact that we are seeing the recycling of an article written by Howard Jacobson in February 2009 about responses to Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, a piece that generates far more heat than light. Comments on Dr Beller’s post are welcome.

I am not sure ‘antisemitism’ is the right term any more for the hostility in Europe to Israel and the Jewish communities in Europe, which, on the evidence of this article, appears now to be mainly coming from young Muslim immigrants in Europe. If the leadership of those Jewish communities adopt an approach of complete solidarity with the aggressive foreign policy of Israel, as a sovereign state separate from the countries in which those Jewish communities live, then this is an externalized relationship of conflict, unlike the historically internalized relationship of conflict.

When political antisemitism was at its height, from c.1870 to 1945, there was no sovereign Jewish state to hate. All hostility to Jews was internal or against a spectral ‘Jewish conspiracy’ whether of the ‘Judaeo-Bolsheviks’ or the ‘Elders of Zion’. Zionism, ironically, was supposed to solve this hostility by making Jews whole human-beings in their own state. Now we have that state, Israel, which Zionists wish us to think of as the ‘Jewish state’, the political expression of the Jewish nation’s/people’s right to self-determination (so a complete identification in Zionism between the state of Israel and the Jewish people).

When some critics of Israel conflate their target of hostility with the Jewish communities in the various countries, they are only doing what Israel and its Zionist supporters have said they should do -saying that you are in complete solidarity with Israel means that you share responsibility for Israel’s moral decisions and actions. So blaming Jews along with Israel for what Israel is doing is just like blaming American people abroad for what Americans are doing. (Israel does not see Jewishness as a religious category, but as a national one.) This might be a little unfair, but it is not racist, and has a certain logic to it (if you accept the idea of national collective responsibility, which most of us do, at some level.) I cannot see how that, per se, can be classified as ‘antisemitism’ (as it is in this myopic article), which has much worse, racist, paranoid and irrationalist, connotations, and the whole moral burden of the Holocaust.

Calling this hostility to current Israeli policies (which in any other context would be viewed as extreme nationalism), and towards the Jewish communities who are usually explicitly, and almost always implicitly, supporting these policies, ‘antisemitism’, or even the relatively recent ‘new antisemitism’ appears to me a deliberate attempt by Israel and its supporters to obfuscate the actual political and moral situation, and to smear Israel’s opponents with the guilt of the Holocaust. Let us call these protests ‘anti-Israeli’, ‘anti-Zionist’, or even, at a stretch, ‘anti-Jewish’, but I do not think they have the same causation as historic antisemitism, and it is misleading to continue dragging this term in here.

Even when historical antisemitic tropes are used by Arab and Muslim opponents of Israel and the supporters of its policies, the core reason for them doing this (to bolster their arguments) appears to me to be Israel and its anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian, policies. If there is a rise in anti-Jewish hostility, and anti-Jewish attacks, in modern-day Europe, the main provoker of this hostility is what Israel does, either in expanding settlements, bombarding Palestinian civilians, or making deliberately excessive demands on a relatively moderate Fatah Palestinian leadership in peace talks. The existence of Hamas, and its defiance in letting missiles be lobbed into Israel is a tragic development (brought about partly by Israeli attempts to undermine Fatah), but the answer is not more violence that jeopardizes the position of Jews all over the world, but rather a genuine attempt to make sustainable peace. If Israel continues its attitude of defiance of international legal norms and of the wishes of the international community as regards settlements, then this is almost inviting a real resurgence of a form of historical antisemitism, together with, ironically, a xenophobia exacerbated by Islamophobia.

By the way, is it not ironic that one of the ‘experts’ avers that ‘violence always starts in the mind’. So where, one might ask, did the violence being visited on civilians in Gaza come from? Could it be Jewish nationalist (Zionist) prejudice and hatred against Palestinians? For simply refusing to go away?

Steven Beller


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18 Responses to Anti-Jewish hostility provoked by the Gaza offensive: Is antisemitism the right word for it?

  1. J.Giovanni says:

    This article is nothing more than excuse-making for anti-Semitism, the author ignores the fact that Islamic anti-Semitism exists and has existed independently of Zionism and since well before the foundation of the state of Israel. The author would never accept the argument that since Muslims identify with the Ummah (the Islamic ‘nation’ or community) then it would not be islamophobic to be hostile to Muslims because of what other members of the ‘Ummah’ are doing to Christians and other minorities in many parts of the world.

    • ALED says:

      Nonsense… Firstly, the Ummah is the collective body of the entire Muslim people. Israel is NOT the collective body of entire Jewish people… Secondly, that Muslims ‘identify’ with the Ummah, does not necessarily mean that they agree with everything that certain members of the ummah are doing, unlike those who ‘identify’ with (read: support) Israel ‘s actions in the current crisis. So try not to compare apples and oranges please.

      • Robert Kinney says:

        If “Israel is NOT the collective body of entire Jewish people” then how can it be proper to use “Israel” and “the Jews” interchangeably as nearly all partisans of Hamas and latter-day European Jew haters do? You are obviously extremely stupid not to understand this obvious point.

        Let us at once be entirely clear. Enlightened people reject all three “religions of the book” with equal contempt.

        There is no Ummah. There is no Imam. Furthermore, there is no God, and if there were, “Mumhammad” would not have been His prophet. Your religion is a kleptocratic charade, just like Judaism and Christianity. It is beneath the contempt of any enlightened thinker.

        The world must be purged of all such fraud, and the criminals who perpetrate any version of this despicable nonsense must be removed from society permanently. This does not include all Jews, all Moslems, or all Christians–only their barbaric beliefs and the criminal institutions that support them, particularly the corrupt religious and political leaders who profit from the misfortunes of their peoples.

    • Keith K. says:

      Your assertion “…that Islamic anti-Semitism exists and has existed independently of Zionism and since well before the foundation of the state of Israel” can be contested. It is true that one can select enough incidents, and even point to periods of time in certain locations to make this case, but it neglects the overriding history of Jewish / Muslim coexistence, in which mutual respect and mutual benefit were the historical norm.

      • J.Giovanni says:

        The overriding history of Jewish/Muslim coexistence has ranged from peaceful coexistence as equals (before Islam became dominant) to mere toleration to oppression, humiliation and outright hatred, ‘mutual respect and mutual benefit’ was most certainly not the ‘historical norm’. I’m not saying that the relationship was always bad but far more often than not it was. I know that it is in fashion to blame Israel for everything including Islamic/Arab anti-Semitism but at best it is a disingenuous rewriting of history.

  2. To cut to the chase, what Dr Steven Beller appears to be saying, is that it’s all Israel’s fault. How long before this, or some promotion of it, appears in the Guardian?

  3. Sharron says:

    Though I can follow his thread of reasoning there are holes in it which creates more questions. For instance: Why not call it the Jewish State of Israel, in the same way Iraq and Syria have Islamic State of in front of their names. And surely if hate starts in the mind, it is possible that it started in the Arab minds because Israel wouldn’t go away? He seems to suggest that Israel and Jews deserve the hostility they are now encountering.

    • Robert Kinney says:

      One can argue that the anti-semitism of Hamas, which is in any case far from unequivocal, is essentially the by-product of legitimate anger, and would go away if the crimes of the Zionists came to an end. Maybe, maybe not.

      It is nevertheless anti-semitism. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a total fabrication. Jews do not drink the blood of Gentile children in secret rituals, nor are the governments of the world mere puppets of a secret Jewish conspiracy. These are all lies, however longstanding and persistent they may be. For my part, I believe that the actual war criminals in Israel are a rather small number of the total Jewish population there, let alone in the world at large

      In my opinion, many if not most Jews living in Israel are in somewhat the position of hostages who rob banks because they are under a threat created by their own leadership. “The Jews” in general, if anything, have been coerced into acting as human shields for the descendants of Menachem Begin, and are thus themselves victims of Zionism run amok.

      • Yours is an interesting comment. As far as anti-Jewish attitudes among Palestinians, a proper term than “anti-Semitic,” this has evolved over the years, from my experience back in 1970, when a number of the Palestinians in the refugee camps, particularly, the elderly, who had known and lived with Jews before 1948, expressed no signs of anti-Jewishness and some startled me by actually expressing some admiration at what Jews in Israel had accomplished.

        In fact, the only classic anti-Jewish attitudes that I encountered were in Amman, Jordan, expressed by Jordanian businessmen who opposed the Palestinian resistance and wanted to do business with Israel’s Jews.

        Those Palestinians are dead and gone and those that remain, in the camps and in occupied Palestine, with few exceptions, only know Jews through the heel of an IDF boot and the thousands of regulations which Israel uses to govern and frustrate their lives. I would suspect that most hate Jews and Israel and their supporters world wide have, unfortunately, given them reason to do so.

        I would disagree that Israelis are hostages although that is an interesting idea. If so, they are very willing ones. Since the polls taken during Cast Lead indicated that 94% of Israel’s Jews supported that war effort and as many supported Protective Edge, that they are as complicit in their country’s war crimes as any people could be.

        Moreover, given that every able-bodied Israeli man and woman, with religious exceptions, serves in the Israeli military at some time in their lives they cannot say, as did many Germans after the war, “I didn’t know.”

    • Iraq is called “The Republic of Iraq,” and Syria is “The Syrian Arab Republic.” No “Islamic” anywhere. IS is not a recognized state.

  4. Jane Grover says:

    is this for real?

  5. Beller spells out the argument almost perfectly and thus far, not surprisingly, his critics have no answer for it and some, like Sharron, only demonstrate their ignorance in trying to fault his reasoning. Neither Iraq nor Syria “have Islamic State in front of their names” unless she/he is referring to ISIS, the Islamic State of Syria or the Levant and I would suspect that is hardly the company in which Israel wishes to be viewed.

    Israel has been, for all intents and purposes, one apartheid state from the Jordan River to the sea, since 1967, controlling its borders, its airspace, its economy, what people can build or not build, can grow or not grow (the last two exempting Jews) and that it has not been identified as such is a tribute to those Zionists and crypto-Zionists who have argued that creating a small, demilitarized, economically dependent Palestinian Bantustan is preferable to a state of all its peoples.

  6. Jon says:

    I fundamentally disagree with what Dr Beller writes here.

    Going out and beating up a Jew or defacing/attacking a Synagogue in Europe (whether prompted by a Christian myth or by media reports from Gaza – many of them exaggerated or decontextualised – of Israeli behaviour toward Palestinians – is still anti-Semitism. It means anti-Jewishness and what other word is needed. In both cases it is unfounded.

    Further he is too ready to blame Israel in the current conflict. This is a horrible war and in all horrible wars civilians and soldier die and are horribly maimed – but Hamas is at least as much to blame for it as the Israeli government.

    • If you read my second paragraph you would have some understanding why Palestinians resist and why Hamas exists and that the fault for this latest bloodbath in Gaza is wholly Israel’s. The organized Jewish communities of the Western world have not been shy in their support of Israel’s policies over the years nor for its asymmetrical wars on Lebanon which also involved massive attacks on civilians and infrastructure from the air and sea and they were not shy in supporting this one.

      They seem to share the sense of entitlement, a belief they have earned a waiver from public criticism of their behavior because of what other Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis, and for many years they have received that waiver. Moreover, they never hesitated to guilt trip the Europeans whenever they thought it necessary for what they didn’t do to save Jews from the camps even when most of them accused weren’t even born.

      Those days are over and it behooves Europe’s Jews to open their eyes and their minds to what Israel is doing and condemn it for what it is, crimes against humanity and that would be the most potent antidote against the likelihood that further attacks on Jews simply because they are Jews will increase.

      • “Those days are over and it behooves Europe’s Jews to open their eyes and their minds to what Israel is doing and condemn it for what it is, crimes against humanity and that would be the most potent antidote against the likelihood that further attacks on Jews simply because they are Jews will increase.”

        Another version of “It’s all Israel’s fault.”

        This time: “It’s all the fault of the Jews.”

  7. For the record: I don’t think I am all that different from many responsible people on the liberal side of the equation over here (America). I am more or less where President Obama is on the issue, I believe, and I also support Jeremy Ben-Ami’s efforts at “J Street” to support a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” solution to the ongoing Middle East conflict. I do not support Hamas or sympathize with Hamas. I also detest the way they use antisemitic tropes to make their anti-Zionist arguments. This leads their supporters and their opponents to mistake the anti-Zionist sources of Hamas’s resistance to Israel. I also do not condone the use of antisemitic tropes, or any form of violence against Jews, anywhere or in any form–certainly not in Europe or America, and not in Israel/Palestine. Just as I do not condone the use of violence against Palestinians, in Israel/Palestine or elsewhere. I am pro-Israel, and I am also pro-Palestinian–above all I am pro-peace.
    As a liberal democratic pluralist–and Jew, I do not believe in the exclusive logic of “us” v. “them” but rather in the inclusive logic that allows both “you” and “me” to live together on this small planet in peace and prosperity, pursuing happiness as we see fit. Ultimately there is no “them”, only “us”. Call me naïve, but I think it is a huge, tragic mistake for Jews, whether in Israel or outside of Israel, to demonize their enemies to such an extent that the only solution appears to be violence. And that is what is achieved by calling each and every criticism of Israel and Israeli policy, no matter how self-defeating that policy is, or how unnecessarily provocative to the rest of the international community and to Muslims and Arabs in particular, “antisemitic”. The fact that Jewish communities outside Israel then support Israel right or wrong, out of a sense of solidarity, also does not help, because it implicates those communities in Israel’s behavior. Calling criticism of, or protests against, these Jewish communities for this support of Israeli policy “antisemitism” is equally misguided, because it is like waving a “magic wand” to end all discussion and obfuscate the actual causes of hostility to Jews and to Israel, when what is desperately needed is clear-eyed analysis of what Israel and its Jewish supporters worldwide can do to come to an accommodation with its Palestinian adversaries and their supporters in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
    That is what we should be doing, figuring out the real causes of this hostility–which have to do with damage to real Palestinian interests since Israel’s creation–looking for real partners to make peace, encouraging co-operation with reasonable people on the other side (which there are, I assure you), and, yes, finding some way to have Hamas and Hezbollah, and all the other militant enemies of Israel, or at least the more reasonable parts of those organizations, come to the negotiating table. That is what the British ended up doing with the IRA in Northern Ireland, and, with a few stumbles here and there, it has worked very well (and solved a political/national problem caused by the division of Ireland into North and South as old as, if not older than, the Arab-Israeli conflict). As, I believe, Yitzhak Rabin said once, you don’t make peace with your friends, but with your enemies.
    That is not the strategy being pursued by the current Israeli government and its supporters. A piece by Michael Oren (former ambassador of Israel to the USA) the other day, in the Washington Post, basically said “Give war a chance”–almost exactly a century to the day after the start of the First World War. Apparently irony is not his forte. But nor is long-term thinking–war will never give Israel the long-term peace and security that it needs, and if it continues to defy the international community by building settlements on land which is not, by international law, sovereign, that peace is highly unlikely ever to be achieved. And yes, I do think that the current Israeli government’s policies are not only bad for Israel, but also an obvious cause of increased hostility to Jews the world over. They are not simply reviving a sleeping beast of past prejudices, they are–unnecessarily–creating anger against Israel and Jews. If one claims that the “other side” (Hamas etc.) is also provoking Israel into these actions, and exacerbating the anger by manipulating antisemitic tropes, then I accept that, but I would say–revealing my own prejudices– that Israelis and Jews ought to be more intelligent than to fall into this obvious propaganda trap of their enemies. This road of Jewish machodom leads nowhere good.
    The only way to give Israel peace is by negotiation and compromise, not war and land-grabs. Simply calling anyone who says otherwise “antisemitic” might wave the “magic wand” that makes the critic an inheritor of the Nazi genocide’s mantle, and hence end all reasoned discussion of the issues, but it ends up leaving Israel and its well-wishers ignorant of the true grounds of its enemies’ hostility, and creates obstacles to mutual understanding and the pursuit of mutual interests. Instead of calling each other names, and casting blame and aspersions at will, we should be trying to set the world aright–starting with the Israel/Palestine issue–and, what with the current state of the world, Ebola, ISIS, global warming, Putinism, there are plenty more issues to fix after that . . .

  8. rabinovici says:

    Dear Steven,
    as you know we share many points of view. I still hope that the day will come when a Palestinian state will exist next to the state of Israel. I oppose the settlement policy. I also understand your anger against Israeli politicians who try to de-legitmize any criticism of Israel as antisemitism.

    You know as well that I admire your work and that I think of us as friends and colleagues. That said I find your article very disturbing. I am astonished by your conclusions. It seems to me as if you try to outsmart yourself so as not to have to see the obvious.
    You suggest the term „antisemitism“ does not apply to Islamist aggressions against Jews and Jewish institutions and that a different word ought to be used. To me this sounds absurd and I would like to explain why.
    Let me first remind you that „antisemitism“ was never a scientific or analytical term. It was coined in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr, a German activist, publicist and evangelist of racist antisemitism. The word was invented to justify resentments against Jews. Marr wanted to define the Jews as an exotic race. He wanted to stress that they could not belong to the German nation. He strived for the unification of all anti-Jewish trends and ideologies.
    The word itself has always been a misnomer. There is no such thing as a Semitic race. The idea of Semitic races goes back to linguistic theories about the history of languages. Nevertheless, antisemitism was always only directed against the Jews. They were denounced as a racial mixture. The Arabs were seen as the „real“, the „pure Semites“, who – according to antisemitic agitators such as Eugen Dühring – also hated the Jews. After 1943 the Nazis preferred not to name their hatred „anti-Semitism“. Josef Goebbels ordered the use of the word anti-Jewish. He did not want to provoke the Arabs.
    Before 1945 „antisemitism“ was a self-imposed term, a proud credo. After Auschwitz it became rather de-legitimised. In the western world hardly anyone wants to be called an antisemite. But the irrational and passionate hatred against Jews has nevertheless been classified as „antisemitism“. This is not an analytical, but rather a political decision. After Auschwitz any generalizing attack against Jews bears that stigma. The history of the passion against the Jews shows that the various forms of anti-jewish aggression are connected to each other. The irrational phenomenon develops different rationalizations and serves as an excuse to persecute Jews. Many studies distinguish between cultural, religious, christian, economic, racist, political, conservative, revolutionary, secondary and anti-zionist antisemitism. They show how different and contradictory these variations of antisemitism can be. Some declare to hate only the orthodox believer; others detest first and foremost the assimilated Jew. There are those who want to overcome Jewish capitalism, those who fight against Jewish Bolshevism, those who go after the stateless Jew and those who cannot stand the patriotic Jew. Some pray for the final conversion of all Jews, but not too few strive for the annihilation of every Jewish human being.
    Political sciences discussed several definitions of antisemitism. All forms of antisemitism share the belief that the Jews are a cosmic evil. Antisemitism – the catholic, the racist, the economic or the anti-imperialist version of it – constitutes an explanation of the world. The Jewish identity, the Jewish religion, the Jewish nation, the Jewish economy – in the eye of the antisemite – represents the main obstacle to the salvation of the world.
    Let me be very clear: There may be good reasons to criticize certain Jewish personalities, institutions or policies. There is nothing wrong for instance to punish a Jewish criminal if he committed robbery. He has to be convicted even if his victim insults him in an antisemitic way. The antisemitic assault does not diminish the guilt of the Jew. But does it make the victim’s remarks less antisemitic?
    You write: „Even when historical antisemitic tropes are used by Arab and Muslim opponents of Israel and the supporters of its policies, the core reason for them doing this (to bolster their arguments) appears to me to be Israel and its anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian, policies.“
    Well, I do not think that all Muslim opponents of Israel use antisemitic tropes, but the radical Islamist fanatics not only use antisemitic tropes, they propagate and they believe in antisemitic myths. They declare that the Jews are the main evil in the world. They produce films about the Jewish world conspiracy. They broadcast the antisemitic „Protocolls of the Wises of the Zion“. They proclaim that the Jews were behind the French and the Russian Revolution. They call the Jews the „sons of apes and pigs“. In their demonstrations – whether in Beirut, Tripolis, Paris or Berlin – they shout „Death to the Jews“, „Gas the Jews“ or „Hitler was right“. They violently assault Jews. They throw Molotov cocktails at synagogues.
    It would be mere culturalism if you said a German protestant who called a Jew „Saujud“ was antisemitic, but his Muslim compatriot, who stormed a Synagogue was not. Such a choice of words would be apolitical, paternalistic and eurocentric.

    I think we have to distinguish between the situation for Palestinians in Gaza and a Muslim in Berlin who supports Erdogan. Context is important.

    It is true that the radical islamist demonstrations were triggered by the war in Gaza. But war was the occasion, not the root of the problem. The ideology of modern political Islamism is older than the state of Israel.
    You have a point when you say that Israel’s policies are the reason for the new demonstrations against Jews. But I am not sure that traditional antisemitic outbursts were totally disconnected from reality and socio-political circumstances. The Jiddish language knows the phrase „rishes makhen“. It means: „To cause antisemitism“. Anti-Jewish pogroms by the end of the middle ages in Europe very often reacted to a financial crisis and the claims of Jewish moneylenders. In 1986 the World Jewish Congress criticised Kurt Waldheim. Their criticism of Waldheim’s lies was not unjustified, but it triggered an antisemitic campaign in Austria. Sometimes antisemitic manifestations may be a reaction to certain Jewish activities, but they are always an excessive and irrational attack on Jewish existence in itself.
    No question: A peaceful solution in the Middle East could change the feelings of many Muslims towards Jews. Israel should seek for a compromise, but the most radical Islamists – whether in Damaskus, Tripolis or Alexandria – do not want a compromise. For them the war with Israel is the paradigmatic conflict of all conflicts with the West.
    August Bebel once called antisemitism the socialism of fools. Islamist antisemitism is the anti-imperialism of fools in the muslim world.

    So why don’t you want to call their anti-Jewish manifestations antisemitic? Your motives seem very clear to me. You react to those who denounce all criticism of Israeli policies as a new form of antisemitism. They do not distinguish between criticism and resentments. Strangely enough you do the same but just the other way round. You say all new Islamic and Arabic antisemitism is nothing but an unfair way of criticising Israel.
    Moreover, you write: „When some critics of Israel conflate their target of hostility with the Jewish communities in the various countries, they are only doing what Israel and its Zionist supporters have said they should do(…)“. So, in your opinion, Zionism is to blame for the anti-Jewish aggression? In other words: If the Jews were not proto-Zionists and pro Israel, the Islamists would give up their resentments? Do you really believe that?
    I find it astonishing to read these words coming from you. You are the expert of Jewish politics in Vienna under Karl Lueger. You know how often Jews tried to persuade each other that the Antisemites would stop hating them if only they gave up some of their typical Jewish habits: being capitalist, being socialist, being orthodox, being liberal, being rich, being poor. Whatever. Dear Steven, you sound like one of your own historical objects of interest.
    There is only one problem. The rather small European Jewish communities cannot distance themselves from Israel. It has become – whether you like it or not – a centre of their identity and of their life, because they are linked culturally, theologically, socially and also politically to this land and state. They may be very critical of the government. They may object to the war. They may loose their Zionist convictions. But they feel with their relatives, when the rockets fly. They hope for the Jewish cities. They listen to Israeli radio. They read Haaretz or the Jerusalem Post. They are connected to this state since 1948. To demand from them to distance themselves from Israel will only strengthen their bondage. To attack them because of Israel will only strengthen the feeling that every attack against Israel is an attack against every Jew around the world. To demand of them to forget about Zion would sound to them like the echo of the old anti-Jewish demands to give up their Jewish identity.
    But let’s suppose, the Jews would forget Zion, reject Zionism, despise Tel Aviv, hate Israel. Or let’s just assume they would join the ranks of the vehement critics of Israel. Do you think the Islamists would trust them? In fact: Could they ever trust them? Don’t you think they would suspect that the Jews did not really change their minds? Any empathy for the Jews in Israel would be seen with suspicion. Sounds familiar to a historian of Jewish Vienna, doesn’t it?

    Do you think the Islamist ideologists would then declare: „Sorry, we made a mistake, theJews do not use the blood of children for passover Matzos after all “?
    Well, I am sorry, but I think they would not give up their antisemitic myths of Jewish media, of Jewish money, of the Jewish lobby. They would not refrain from denying the holocaust, because the holocaust is for them a possible justification of Israel’s existence. They would not stop referring to the power of the Jews. Erdogan would not reverse his policy and say that the Gezi park protest was not a Jewish conspiracy.
    It is antisemitic if someone shouts „gas the Jews“ or attacks a person wearing a Kippa or the star of David. It is not the same as blaming the Americans abroad for what the US do. No-one promotes the annihilation of all living Americans, raves about a world conspiracy of all Americans or declares the Americans were the incarnation of evil since the beginning of times.
    The Islamist ideology reacts to Israeli policies, but it does not share our criticism of the Israeli government. We oppose the chauvinist politics of the Israeli government in the name of human rights. The Islamists oppose human rights because of their chauvinist politics. They do not trust us secular Jewish intellectuals. If they attack Jewish synagogues or Jewish festivals they will not spare us. It is even worse: They hate Netanjahu, Lieberman and Bennett, but they truly despise us as more than any Israeli general or any orthodox Jew. We stand for everything they reject.

    I think it is important to use the term „antisemitism“ when antisemitic tropes are used precisely because it puts the stigma of Auschwitz on this phenomenon. It is crucial for us as humanistic intellectuals to fight against antisemitism as Jews. Hanna Arendt said: „If one is attacked as a Jew, one must defend oneself as a Jew. Not as a German, not as a world-citizen, not as an upholder of the Rights of Man.“
    If we do not name and do not fight the Islamist antisemitism, we will not have any influence in the Jewish communities and we will not have a chance to persuade Jews to support a „pro-Israel, pro-peace“ solution to the ongoing Middle East conflict.
    But what is much more important: We have to strengthen all Muslim and Arab forces who fight the antisemitic agitators. The liberal, democratic groups brand the propaganda against Jews as „antisemitism“. They know very well how much antisemitism they encounter in Tunis, Cairo, Teheran, Berlin and Paris. They need our solidarity. They do not want us to find a nice new term for the old and ever new passion, for – as Herzl could have said – the „Altneuhass“, for „that ole devil called“ antisemitism.

    Yours sincerely,

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