Old Demons, New Debates: Anti-Semi­tism in the West

  • Review
By – July 30, 2012

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.

Jeff Bogursky reads a lot, writes a lit­tle and talks quite a bit. He is a media exec­u­tive and expert in dig­i­tal media.

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