Confronting European Antisemitism

February 1, 2015 by Alan Dershowitz
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I just completed a three-day visit to Prague and the former Terezin concentration camp…writes Alan Dershowitz.


Alan Dershowitz

Alan Dershowitz

I was there to speak at a conference commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps.  Many European speakers talked about the efforts they are making to confront the rising tide of antisemitism throughout Europe.  But before one can decide how to confront a sickness like antisemitism, one must first describe and diagnose the pathology.

There are several distinct, but sometimes overlapping, types of antisemitism.  The first is traditional, right-wing, fascist Jew hatred that has historically included theological, racial, economic, social, personal and cultural aspects.  We are seeing a resurgence of this today in Greece, Hungary and other European countries with rising right-wing parties that are anti-Muslim as well as anti-Jewish.

The second is Muslim antisemitism.  Just as not all Greeks and Hungarians are antisemitic, so too not all Muslims suffer from this malady.  But far too many do.  It is wrong to assume that only Muslims who manifest Jew hatred through violence, harbor antisemitic views.  Recent polls show an extraordinarily high incidence of antisemitism—hatred of Jews as individuals, as a group and as a religion,—throughout North Africa, the Middle East and Muslim areas in Europe.  This hatred manifests itself not only in words, but in deeds, such as taunting Jews who wear yarmulkes, vandalizing Jewish institutions, and occasional violence directed at individual Jews.  Among a small number of extremists it also results in the kind of deadly violence we have seen in Toulouse, Paris, Brussels and other parts of Europe.  Several decades ago it manifested itself in attacks on synagogues by Palestinian terrorists, including some operating on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Third, there is hard left anti-Zionism that sometimes melds into subtle and occasionally overt antisemitism.  This pathology is seen in the double standard imposed on everything Jewish, including the nation state of the Jewish people.  It is also reflected in blaming “Jewish power”, and the “pushiness” of Jews in demanding support for Israel.  I’m not referring to criticism of Israeli policies or actions.  I’m referring to the singling out of Israel for extreme demonization.  The ultimate form of this pathology is the absurd comparison made by some extreme leftist between the extermination of policies of the Nazis and of Israel’s efforts to defend itself against terrorist rockets, tunnels, suicide bombers and other threats to its civilians.  Comparing Israel’s actions to those of the Nazis is a not-so-subtle version of Holocaust denial.  Because if all the Nazis really did was what Israel is now doing, there could not have been a Holocaust or an attempt at genocide against the Jewish people.  A variation on this perverse theme is apartheid denial:  by accusing Israel—which accords equal rights to all its citizens—of apartheid, these haters deny the horrors of actual apartheid, which was so much more horrible than anything Israel has ever done.

Fourth, and most dangerous, is eliminationist anti-Zionism and antisemitism of the kind advocated by the leaders of Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and ISIS.  Listen to Hassan Nasrallah:

“If [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide” or “If we search the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew.  Notice I didn’t say the Israeli.”

These variations on the theme of antisemitism have several elements in common.  First, they tend to engage in some form of Holocaust denial, minimization, glorification or comparative victimization.  Second, they exaggerate Jewish power, money and influence.  Third, they seek the delegitimation and demonization of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.  Fourth, they impose a double standard on all things Jewish.

Finally, they nearly all deny that they are antisemites who hate all Jews.  They claim that their hatred is directed against Israel and Jews who support the nation state of the Jewish people.

This common form of the new antisemitism—we love the Jews, it’s only their nation state that we hate—is pervasive among many European political, media, cultural and academic leaders.  It was evident even among some who came to commemorate the liberation of the death camps.  A recent poll among Germans showed a significant number of the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of Nazi supporters didn’t want to hear about Nazi atrocities, but believed what Israel was doing to the Palestinians was comparable to what the Nazis had done to the Jews.

This then is the European problem of antisemitism that many European leaders are unwilling to confront because they have a built in excuse!  It’s Israel’s fault—if only Israel would do the right thing with regard to the Palestinians, the problem would be solved.

Tragically, it won’t be solved, because the reality is that hatred of Israel is not the cause of antisemitism.  Rather, it is the reverse:  antisemitism is a primary cause of hatred for the nation state of the Jewish people.

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He is a graduate of Brooklyn College and Yale Law School.


One Response to “Confronting European Antisemitism”
  1. maria baxter says:

    I read on huffington post about the film German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, was disappointed to learn i missed the san antonio texas viewing in the U.S. I think it is a very important subject and one of much needed attention. Sorry for the terrible writing, mobile email.

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