More than 100 years since Herzl willed it, and more than 50 years since Ben Gurion and his comrades proved that it was no dream, the mere existence of the State of Israel does not serve as a bulwark against the evil of Jew hatred. The monster — anti- Semitism — is still with us. In fact, Israel has become the perverse path by which anti- Semitism has found its way out of the inferno, and back into the respectable salons and editorial pages of the early 21st century.
This strange twist of fate is analyzed from many angles in this wonderful collection of short essays compiled by David Kertzer. Almost all of these gems are derived from remarks delivered at an International Conference organized by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in 2003. Major intellectual forces such as Leon Wieseltier, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Deborah Lipstadt, Nathan Glazer and others contribute 17 incisive views of the problem and its causes. No one interested in this frightening renascence of hatred should ignore this book.
As many of the writers demonstrate, the Israeli/Arab conflict may provide the background for this resurgence, but it doesn’t explain its virulence amongst non-Arabs or the formerly anti-fascist Left, or its general social acceptability. In a time when antiwar protestor Cindy Sheehan contends that her son died in Iraq to defend Israel, no one should be under any illusions as to the underlying anti-Semitism afoot.
Sadly, this excellent collection has a timeliness and an importance that even its authors would prefer it didn’t. Anti-Semitism is a concern as real as hired guards in front of synagogues and metal detectors in Jewish schools. The only criticism of the book that can be made is that, under today’s pressures, it shouldn’t have taken almost two years to compile and publish.