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Durban And The Apartheid Analogy


The objective is not to help solve an intractable national conflict (made even more difficult by the rise of Islamic fundamentalism) but to demonize Israel as the embodiment of ultimate “racist evil” – an accusation designed to remove any moral grounds for its existence.

Those engaged in delegitimization initiatives – whether Iran, the Palestinians, Arab states, left-wing militants or members of Western academic elites – are engaged in propaganda and politicide, not the pursuit of truth.

And while academics, activists and world leaders attempt to combat this evil, tenaciously pursuing the truth and trying to figure out if and how we can win the war against those who delegitimize Israel (as Canadian MP Cotler and his fellow panelists will later this month in Jerusalem at the Israeli Presidential Conference), I believe the current success in defaming Israel is but a Pyrrhic victory.

Like the repressive tyrannies and benighted theocracies in the Muslim Middle East, which are slowly crumbling before our eyes, their days are numbered. We will still be here after they are long gone.

Prof. Robert S. Wistrich is the director of The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (SICSA) and the author of “A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad” (Random House, 2010).

About the Author: Robert S. Wistrich is Neuberger professor of European and Jewish history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism. This essay was adapted from his new book, “From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel” (University of Nebraska Press).


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The main title of my new book, From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel, may raise a few eyebrows. To what “betrayal” am I referring? Surely neither anti-Semitism nor hostility to Israel can be seen as prerogatives of leftism; and if they do exist in some quarters of the Left, is that not an example of “legitimate criticism” of Israel, a country regularly pilloried in international forums as one of the last remaining bastions of Western colonialism?

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The Muslim Brotherhood did not initiate the current upheavals in the Middle East, but the Islamist parties in Egypt, as in Tunisia and Libya, have been the chief beneficiaries of the collapse of longstanding authoritarian repressive regimes across North Africa.

It is almost ten years since the UN-sponsored World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, inaugurated a new stage in the history of “anti-racist” anti-Semitism.

Ten years ago, the Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission, established to investigate Pope Pius XII’s response to the Holocaust, met for the first time to discuss its future work. I was the only Israeli historian among the six scholars (three Catholics and three Jews) designated by the Vatican and leading Jewish organizations to study this hotly contested issue.

On November 9, 1938, a massive nationwide anti-Jewish pogrom took place during peacetime across the entire territory of the Third Reich. The pretext for this explosion of violence against German Jews was the shooting in Paris two days earlier of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish-Jewish refugee.

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