“I’m not an anti-Semite; I’m just anti-Israel.” This sentiment, expressed by many enemies of the Jewish state, is rarely credible. While critiquing Israel isn’t anti-Semitic, attacking it with disproportionate venom – as many regularly do – almost certainly is.
This argument, plus many others, is advanced in From Antisemitism to Anti-Zionism: The Past and Present of a Lethal Ideology, edited by Eunice Pollack, a professor of history and Jewish studies at the University of North Texas. Published earlier this year, this collection of 14 articles includes scholarly contributions from such academics and writers such as Rafael Medoff, Stephen Norwood, Richard Landes, Jerold Auerbach, and Edward Alexander.
The Jewish Press: One of the authors in From Antisemitism to Anti-Zionism, Professor Neil Kressel, writes interestingly that academics who specialize in prejudice and discrimination regularly ignore anti-Semitism. They especially ignore Muslim anti-Semitism, he writes.
Pollack: Kressel studied widely-used sociology and psychology textbooks on racism, prejudice, and discrimination and saw that they never discuss Muslim anti-Semitism even though anti-Semitism is endemic in the Muslim world. He looked not just at textbooks but syllabi for college courses on prejudice and racism – which are often available online – and saw that they never even mention anti-Semitism, except in regards to the Holocaust, and never mention Muslim anti-Semitism.
Most people like to think of academics as dispassionate scholars seeking the truth. Is this no longer true? Are we seeing the politicization of academia?
Absolutely. There’s no truth. Ideology is trumping truth. It’s a post-colonialist ideology under which supposed people of color can do no wrong. And Jews are not seen as a minority. They’re seen as oppressors.
Was academia always this biased? Or has it only become so in the past few decades?
I think it has increased [in recent years]. I, and others, used to characterize anti-Semitism as a light sleeper that’s easily awakened. Now I don’t think it ever slept.
Of course, what you see now is the denial of anti-Semitism. Everything is seen as just “anti-Zionism” – and apparently anti-Zionism is fine. You know, it’s interesting, nobody ever says, “I’m just against all of Africa, but I’m not racist.” But you can say, “I’m just against Zionism, but I’m not anti-Semitic.”
They quibble over what anti-Semitism is. I’ve never seen anything like it. In terms of racism, everything is defined with a broad brush. Similarly with Islamophabia. Everything is Islamaphobic, everything is racist, but almost nothing is anti-Semitic.
From Antisemitism to Anti-Zionism makes clear that support for the Palestinians is prevalent on the left. Why do you think this is so?
The left has to see everything as rational. It can’t take religion seriously. It can’t see what the Arabs say about the Jews as stemming from what they’re taught in the Koran and Hadiths. So they assume it’s just a response to Israeli behavior. Many of these people know nothing about religion. I think that’s the real problem.
Also, I think Europeans were very uncomfortable being exposed as anti-Semitic and now love this reversal whereby the Jews are the new “Nazis.” They can now say, “What’s so bad about what we did to the Jews if they themselves are Nazis?”
What about American leftists? Why would they be so instinctively anti-Israel?
They’re post-colonialists, and they see Israel as the successor to France and England. Israel is a new “imperialist” power.
In centuries past, Jews feared persecution from fundamentalist Christians who believed Jews killed their savior. Today, as an article in your book by Professor Benjamin Ginsberg points out, evangelicals seem to be the Jewish people’s greatest friends while more moderate Protestants often support the Palestinians. Can you comment on this intriguing reversal?
Evangelicals really love Israel and the Jewish people. They were thrilled by the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, seeing it as a sign of the Second Coming. A lot of them are very open [about their Christian interpretation of events. Many] say, “When the messiah comes, we’ll ask him, ‘Is this your first time here or your second time here?’”
Mainstream Christians, in contrast, are very much anti-Israel. What’s interesting is that evangelicals, who used to be a minority, now outnumber mainstream Christians by two to one. That’s extraordinary.
Ginsberg also writes that evangelicals take seriously God’s promise to Abraham (and, by extension, his children), “I will bless those who bless you” (Genesis 12:3).
Yes, very seriously. There’s no doubt about it. That’s how they feel. They used to believe that the younger religion, Christianity, overtook the older religion, Judaism. But what the evangelicals are now saying is that God never broke His covenant with the Jews.
In your article in From Antisemitism to Anti-Zionism, you quote George Orwell, who wrote that “one of the marks of antisemitism is an ability to believe stories that could not possibly be true.” Can you elaborate on this point?
There are so many absurdities about the Jews that are believed. For example, in 1964, Muslim newspapers declared that the person who killed Kennedy was Jewish – as was, they claimed, Leon Czolgosz, who killed McKinley, and John Wilkes Booth, who killed Lincoln.
It used to be that Jews wanted to take over the world; now Israel wants to take over the world. In the past, what was the cause of all the misery in the world? The Jews. Now it’s Israel. It’s really important to see this continuum – that so much of anti-Zionism is really just a matter of replacing the word “Jew” with “Israel” or “Zionist.”
How do your students at the University of North Texas respond when you raise some of these points with them?
They’re very receptive. I teach the history of anti-Semitism from ancient times to the present every fall semester, and the class always fills up. My students are about 99 percent Christian. It’s extraordinary. They’re very pro-Jewish.
I also think that what I teach them is very different from what they come in the class knowing. A lot of students think there was no anti-Semitism before the Holocaust and certainly nothing after the Holocaust, so I think a lot of them are [disturbed] by what they learn in the class. But I see tremendous receptivity. It’s very gratifying.