21 February 2013
The term “new Antisemitism” and differences and similarities between Anti-Zionism, antisemitism, and hatred against Israel have led to fierce debates among scholars. Instead of insulting each other and imagining themselves in a kind of “war”, Günther Jikeli argues, scholars would do better to look into the arguments and empirical evidence.
Jonathan Judaken has written about “Anti-antisemitic Hitmen and the New Judeophobia” in the Huffington Post on 4 February 2013.
However, his piece reveals more about the author’s flawed logic than about the issue itself that he calls the “new Judeophobia”. Judaken sees himself in the middle of a “high-stakes, scholarly turf war”, with “heavy artillery” and “bloodshed” to come. He believes that he is the prime victim of a recent “bomb throwing”.
What happened? Judaken was criticized by another scholar, Clemens Heni, for some of his works and approaches towards the study of antisemitism at the end of last year. Heni accused him and others who recently founded the “International Consortium for Research on Antisemitism and Racism” (ICRAR) of a number of flaws. Some of the accusations have some merit, while others might be without reason or of minor importance.
Judaken is well advised to respond to critiques, preferably with arguments. But what he did was to insult – interestingly not Heni who criticized him – but those who, through their research, give evidence that he is just wrong on a number of accounts.
He tries to portray a “war” between those who investigate, document, and analyze current trends of antisemitism in a broader social and historical context, such as eminent scholars Robert Wistrich and Alvin Rosenfeld on the one hand and delusional anti-Zionists or “post-Zionists” such as Norman Finkelstein, who has repeatedly used antisemitic arguments himself. Fittingly, he equates antisemitic formulas such as “Zionism is racism” and “Israel is an apartheid state” with the statement that “anti-Zionism is antisemitism”, and believes that “neo-conservative philosemitism serves as the reverse of Islamism’s Judaeophobia.” His wish for harmony, that is, the attempt to silence scholars who work on contemporary forms of antisemitism with flawed equations, denies antisemitism in effect.
Judaken simply does not want to acknowledge the fact that old antisemitic tropes such as the blood libel appear more than often in anti-Zionist discourse; that anti-Zionism often spills over into verbal and physical attacks against Jews and that singling out the Jewish state as responsible for the evil of the world and questioning the legitimacy of the existence of the Jewish state of all other states is biased, that is, antisemitically biased.
Instead of looking into the historical and contemporary evidence that scholars such as Wistrich and Rosenfeld have gathered, he insults these very scholars as “hitmen”. Such tactics are very far away from scholarly debate and backfire on himself: He seems to lack arguments.
However, some of his points are worthy of being debated further: He is right that the forms of hatred against Jews are changing. The way people justify their hatred of Jews today is not the same as in the Middle Ages or at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, few would argue that the “Jewish race” is contaminating the Aryan race. His advocacy for Taguieff’s term “Judeophobia” does have some merits as well, as the term distinguishes between forms of antisemitism until 1945 and contemporary forms. However, the example Judaken gives himself, the Toulouse murder by Mohamed Merah, leaves some doubts if “phobia” – fear – is the appropriate term for an ideology that leads to coldblooded murder of children. Judaken is also right that “there is no direct causal correlation between the social facts and social acts of Judeophobes” but that they do play a role which needs to be investigated.
However, to begin his promotion of the new “International Consortium for Research on Antisemitism and Racism” (ICRAR) with an insult instead of arguments is not very promising. We should wait and see how other members of this consortium reply to Heni’s accusations in “Kosher stamps for post & anti-Zionism at ‘Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism’ in London.” The call for their upcoming conference on “Boycotts, Past and Present” looks like an attempt to whitewash the current biased, and yes, antisemitic, boycott movements against Israel.