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The New Anti-Semitism : The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It [Hardcover]

Phyllis Chesler
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)


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Book Description

July 24, 2003 078796851X 978-0787968519 1
In this intensely passionate and compelling book, the best-selling feminist and Jewish writer Phyllis Chesler demonstrates how old-fashioned anti-Semitism has become newly fashionable, even politically correct, and how this plague threatens the Jews of the world, America, and Western civilization.

A dangerous, worldwide coalition of Islamic terrorists, well-intentioned but profoundly misinformed students, right wing fascists, left-wing ideologues, pious academics, feminists, opportunistic European politicians, and sensation-seeking international media have joined together to once again blame the Jews and the Jewish state for the current world crisis. Today, lethal activism against the Jews often takes the form of anti-Zionism. Osama Bin Laden, for example, blamed the 9/11 World Trade Center attack on U.S. government support for Israel. Since then, hundreds of synagogues have been burned, cemeteries and destroyed, and Jews threatened, boycotted, beaten, and killed. Jews have been blamed for huge stock market losses and for the decline of the world economy. The long-ago disproven Protocols of Zion, which accuse the Jews of an alleged world-conspiracy to conquer and control the world, have been revived and promulgated in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.

So what must we do? "Fight against the Big Lies," Chesler says. (No, the Jews do not control the world's money and media, and the Jews did not kill Christ.) Avoid rigid, dogmatic ideologies. Focus on the world's real problems (disease, poverty, illiteracy, violence) instead of scapegoating the Jews and demonizing the Jewish state. Be fair to Israel. Form Jewish-Christian, Jewish-Muslim, and Jewish-Palestinian alliances. Restore campus civility and above all, Jews must stop fighting among themselves.



Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This passionate, highly personal jeremiad by noted feminist Chesler (Women and Madness) addresses what she sees as a re-emergence of virulent anti-Jewish hatred cloaked in "political correctness," closely linked to anti-American attitudes, sustained by many liberal feminists, intellectuals and Jewish leftists, acted upon by Islamic terrorists and jihadists, and fueled by a "demonization of Jews" in the media. One of the main thrusts of Chesler's argument is that in our contemporary world anti-Zionism is nearly inseparable from anti-Semitism, and that while there are valid criticisms to be made of Israeli policies-for instance, she sees the West Bank settlements as an impediment to peace-many of these critiques are, she contends, rooted in a profound and socially accepted anti-Semitism. This is definitely not intended as a scholarly work, but it too often undercuts itself when its author intends to be provocative-"African-Americans (not Jews) are the Jews in America but Jews are the world's niggers"; "a politically correct madness seems to have hijacked most North American universities"; often her analogies shock rather than illuminate. At times Chesler's passion leads her to extravagant rhetoric-"today, Ghenghis [sic] Khan has megabombs, Attila the Hun has biological and nuclear weaponry." This is an important topic and open public discourse is vital, but Chesler's tone and lack of intellectual rigor will not help her ideas to be heard by those who do not already agree with her.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

This passionate, highly personal jeremiad by noted feminist Chesler (Women and Madness) addresses what she sees as a reemergence of virulent anti-Jewish hatred cloaked in "political correctness," closely linked to anti-American attitudes, sustained by many liberal feminists, intellectuals and Jewish leftists, acted upon by Islamic terrorists and jihadists, and furled by a "demonization of Jews" in the media. One of the main thrusts of Chesler's argument is that in our contemporary world anti-Zionism is nearly inseparable from anti-Semitism, and that while there are valid criticisms to be made of Israeli policies—for instance, she sees the West Bank settlements as an impediment to peace—many of these critiques are, she contends, rooted in a profound and socially accepted anti-Semitism. This is definitely not intended as a scholarly work, but it too often undercuts itself when its author intends to be provocative—"African-Americans (not Jews) are the Jews of America but Jews are the world's niggers"; "a politically correct madness seems to have hijacked most North American univ ersities"; often her analogies shock rather than illuminate. At times Chesler's passion leads her to extravagant rhetoric - "today, Gheghis (sic) Khan has megabombs, Attila the Hun has biological and nuclear weaponry." This is an important topic and open public discourse is vital, but Chesler's tone and lack of intellectual rigor will not help her ideas to be heard by those who do not already agree with her. Agent Joelle Delbourgo. (Aug.)
Forecast: Chesler's topic is a hot one, and her views will resonate with many and alienate others. She should get much coverage in the Jewish and leftist press, and in the media in general. (Publishers Weekly, June 23, 2003)

In an old, rueful joke, one Jew sends another a telegram. "Start worrying," it commands. "Details to follow." To understand why such fatalism strikes a deep communal chord among Jews, one might consider the dramatic resurgence of anti-Semitism in the past three years. By midsummer of 2000, Jews in America and abroad seemed to have achieved unprecedented acceptance and safety. A Jewish senator, Joseph Lieberman, had been named to the Democratic presidential ticket, instantly adding 15 points to Al Gore's standing in the polls. Israel and the Palestinian Authority stood closer than ever to negotiating a two-state solution. On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Pope John Paul II had paid homage at the Holocaust museum of Yad Vashem and introduced himself to a Jewish audience as "your brother."
When the Al-Aksa Intifada erupted that September, however, it did more than just shatter the peace process. It restored the public respectability of Jew-hating, particularly if conducted under the rubric of "anti-Zionism." Since then, Egypt has broadcast a 40-part television series based in part on the notorious forgery "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Protesters at San Francisco State University, invoking the medieval blood libel, have passed out posters depicting a can of "Palestinian Children Meat" that was "made in Israel" according to "Jewish rites." European scholars have banned Israeli academics, even those of impeccably dovish politics, from conferences and journals.
So one can well understand the forces that drove Phyllis Chesler to produce The New Anti-Semitism, her combination cri de coeur and J'accuse. Chesler's outrage is especially genuine and credible because she is not one of the Jewish community's professional watchdogs, paid to howl about bias anywhere and everywhere. Married to an Afghan in the 1960s, she experienced "enormous kindness, humor, good-naturedness among Muslims." She built her own speaking and writing career around feminist issues and even sued the Israeli government to force it to reform its policy of not allowing women to hold worship services at the Western Wall. "But my heart is broken," she puts it early in this book, "by the cunning and purposeful silence of progressives and academics on the subject of anti-Semitism and terrorism."
Indeed, Chesler's thesis rests largely on her perception of anti-Semitism flourishing among elites. "What's new about the new anti-Semitism," she contends, "is that acts of violence against Jews and anti-Semitic words and deeds are being uttered and performed by politically correct people in the name of anti-imperialism, anti-racism, and pacifism. Old-time anti-Semitism was expressed in the name of ethnic, Aryan, white purity, superiority, and nationalism . . . . The new anti-Semite cannot, by definition, be an anti-Semite racist because she speaks out on behalf of oppressed people."
More specifically, the new anti-Semite inflicts the language of the Holocaust on its targets. The Irish poet Tom Paulin, she points out, termed the Israeli military the "Zionist SS." Nobel laureate Jose Saramago declared that "the Jews endlessly scratch their own wound to keep it bleeding, to make it incurable, and they show it to the world as if it were a banner." Neither author's career, it might be added, has notably suffered as a result.
Yet one can subscribe to Chesler's premise while lamenting how little she has done with it. The New Anti-Semitism is a book with important things to say and a maddeningly sloppy way of saying them. Signs of haste mar this text -- not haste in the sense of alacrity and urgency, but in the sense of messy execution. Now, it may well be that for some readers, even many readers, Chesler's book validates itself simply by compiling so many egregious episodes of anti-Semitism in one place; for them, it should serve well as a fact sheet, a manual, a primer. Surely Chesler herself, though, would want her work judged in part on its writerly merits, and on those it falters severely.
In a book with more than enough disturbing information, Chesler nonetheless layers on hyperbole and absolutism. Not content to argue correctly that anti-Semitism pervades Islam today, she makes the completely unsupported assertion that "Not a Friday goes by when hatred of Jews, Israelis, America and the West is not preached in Arabic in every mosque on earth." Appalling as the violence against Jews already is, she insists on raising it to the level of an incipient Holocaust, asking, "Will six million more have to die before the bloodletting stops?"
Chesler duplicates certain anecdotes in consecutive pages, even paragraphs. She twice uses the same extended quotation from columnist Charles Krauthammer. She even repeats a joke about some disputatious Jews shipwrecked on a desert island. These gaffes betray an author who wrote in such a hurry that she lost track of her material, and they implicate an editor who failed to bring the most basic kind of order to a manuscript.
Having rightly perceived the contours of a new kind of anti-Semitism, Chesler rarely stops to analyze its development. How and why did it become part of the anti-globalism movement? How and when did Muslims begin adopting anti-Semitic tracts and myths created in Europe? When did Holocaust imagery start being used to attack Jews? What factors -- Muslim immigration to the West? cable television? the Internet? -- allowed the Al-Aksa Intifada to be internationalized in a way that the first intifada was not? And what has made the United States, despite some offensive incidents on college campuses, largely resistant to anti-Semitic propaganda?
To make such analyses is not to rationalize anti-Semitism; it is to help effectively fight against it. As a Jew and a Zionist, I want so much to be on Phyllis Chesler's side. As a reader and an author, however, I can only wish she had served our common cause in a more lucid and penetrating fashion. —Samuel G. Freedman, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, is the author most recently of "Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry." (The Washington Post, Sunday, August 3, 2003)

"Her book is a passionate polemic...Chesler offers insightful analysis into the psychology of the phenomenon." (Library Journal,September 15, 2003)

Phyllis Chesler, a well-known feminist and the author of Women and Madness, has written an impassioned response to what she calls "the new anti-Semitism." Part polemic, part history, her book posits Sept. 11 as the moment when an unprecedented form of anti-Semitism gained "respectability" among a wide spectrum of opponents of the state of Israel.
Unfortunately, the phenomena Chesler writes about began forming long before Sept. 11, and the author only adds to the misconceptions surrounding the terrorist attack on the United States when she writes that "always it begins with the Jews. Osama bin Laden... explained that the twin towers had fallen because of American support for Israel." This view continues to have wide currency on the Internet, although most scholars agree that the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was Bin Laden's response to America's support for the Saudi royal family and the Mubarek government in Egypt.
I cite Chesler's misreading of Sept. 11 because it is symptomatic of the loose manner in which she uses her sources. Nevertheless, despite flaws in methodology, her book correctly defines the essence of "the new anti-Semitism."
What is new about the new anti-Semitism, Chesler argues, is that it has "metamorphosed into the most virulent anti-Zionism, which in turn has increasingly held the Jewish people everywhere... accountable for the military policies of the Israeli government." Nowhere, Chesler writes, is this more prominent than among the left, including her comrades in the feminist movement, where anti-Semitism masquerades as antiracism and anticolonialism.
Chesler argues that it has become politically and psychologically acceptable to be anti-Semitic. Opposition to Israeli policy is used to justify not only anti-Jewish violence - such as the burning of synagogues and the vandalizing of cemeteries in Europe - but also intellectuals' silence regarding suicide bombings in Israel.
Like Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, Chesler argues that while criticism of Israel's policies toward the Pal...


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (July 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 078796851X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787968519
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,180,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
58 of 69 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why the Jews and Israel are treated badly? April 17, 2004
By John K
Format:Hardcover
After reading Alan Dershowitz's book "The Case for Israel", I felt compelled to read a book of this type, one that tries to explain why, despite terrorist attacks upon it and despite it being the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel is singled out for punishment over and above other less humane countries. This was a theme of Dershowitzs's great book but Chesler's book goes on to investigate the new anti-semitism in media and academia. The book is very readable (I finished it in 4 days) and one of the advantages I found is that it covers a lot of the historical ground on Israel and the Palestinian issues in a concise, light reading style. Anybody, Jewish or non-Jewish, who is concerned about why Israel seems to cop it from all sides, whilst other less democratic regimes (let alone ones that support terrorism) don't get criticised by the U.N., would be interested in this book. It is a very easy read though as it tries to address the difficult task of blending a number of themes in addition to Anti Semitism, Anti Zionism and history of Middle East issues.
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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why all the fuss over such a straightforward book? August 14, 2004
Format:Hardcover
First, I must comment on the amazing number of "unhelpful" votes (often well over 100) for any favorable reviews of this book so far. Such votes would have convinced me to find out more about this book had I not already read it.

Well, what is the fuss all about? Roughly speaking, antisemitism is hostility towards Jews and towards human rights for Jews. The "new antisemitism" generally refers to implementing such hostility by attacking Israel from the political left (calling it racist, apartheid, colonial, oppressive, expansionist, reactionary, aggressive, tribal, irredentist, impudent, arrogant, and in need of punishment). As Chesler explains, such attacks began in earnest after the 1967 six-day war. Yes, Chesler herself noticed the extent of this trend only in 1980 and is writing about it only now. But that is no crime. Anyway, if the purpose of antizionism is simply to "ethnically cleanse" Israel of its Jews or to deny Israeli Jews basic human rights, it is indeed simply the old antisemitism with a new spin.

One unusual comment by Chesler involves criticism of Israel. While most people would call criticism of Zionism or Israel antisemitic only if it explicitly discriminated against, demonized or defamed Jews in general, Chesler also asks if there is anger and malice behind it. Angry refusals to provide even the most limited opposition to attacks on Jewish rights are, in Chesler's opinion, a sign of antisemitism.

Chesler exposes many lies of the new antisemitism and has some recommendations. These include her belief that it is fundamental for us as humans to honor our dreams of peace. To that end, she says we must fight Big Lies. In addition, she thinks we must restore campus civility. And she implores us to address the real problems of the world rather than avoid them by demonizing Israel instead.
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115 of 146 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Needs extensive editing May 14, 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I had high hopes for this book, but the white heat Miss Chesler claims to have written it in apparently resulted in a poorly-written, disorganized, and sloppy work. While there is some interesting information here, it is almost lost in the fevered, jumbled prose. Assertions are made and left unsupported; a long passage is quoted in one chapter, the author apparently not realizing that it appeared earlier in her book. Moreover, Chesler fails to convince that much of what she cites as antisemitism is in fact that, and that there is anything new about the anti-Jewish prejudice that does exist today. I understand and sympathize with Chesler's disturbance at the disprtoportionate amount of criticism Israel receives, but she herself gives a good explanation for this which does not at all involve antisemitism: Israel, as an American client state, is a useful proxy for those who wish to attack America but for one reason or another cannot do so. To call this "antisemitism in effect" is silly; it is anti-Israelism in effect, to be sure, but doesn't necessarily translate into hatred of Jews.
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113 of 144 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Excellent exposition of the rise of anti-Semitism on the Left. Chesler explores how did the Left's position on Israel and Jews has become congruent with that of the viciously anti-Semitic Arab nations. She makes the compelling argument that anti-Semitism, holding Jews to completely different standards than everyone else, has become the last acceptable prejudice.This is important reading for all Jews and for anyone who is concerned about prejudice and hatred.
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34 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars impressed April 8, 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Chesler's THE NEW ANTI-SEMITISM is a "gloves off, as she views it, in your face," book. Consistent, with her previous works, her approach to change history and remind us of history (lest we repeat it)! again succeeds. Jew hatred or Israel blaming will not do. The Pandora's box of Islamic Jihadism cannot be shut by a leftist "politically correct" moribund embracing of agents of terror. This book is vital to political, social, feminist, and religious debate.
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59 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A frightening look at an old evil come back to life July 17, 2003
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A lot of people who like the status quo try to explain away anti-Semitism by saying it isn't that serious, or it is just the grumblings of a few disgruntled folks, or it is just people who are anti-Israel and not anti-Jewish...but Chesler (the auther) presents a clear and compelling argument that honest-to-goodness anti-Semitism is back with a vegeance, especially inportions of Europe and the Middle East.
She reports on how the line between legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies and outright hatred towards Jews is often crossed by academics and political commentators, even as they protest they are doing no such thing. She also covers very well the history of anti-Semitism and how it is very destructive to civil society.
This is a scary but necessary book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Do not even think about it!
It's a completely nonsensical book. Don't pay much attention to a woman who thinks that India and Burma are Arab countries!
Published on January 10, 2009 by Vienna Gal
2.0 out of 5 stars A Good Opportunity Sadly Wasted
I was disappointed. Chesler is an annoying woman, and that in more than one respect. A founding mother of second-wave feminism, she is not just a man-hater and sloppy researcher if... Read more
Published on January 14, 2008 by Nora Brinker
1.0 out of 5 stars gawd, where does it end?
this book is tiresome to say the least

what is the point?

we should all kill ourselves

then maybe there will be peace

for heaven sakes... Read more
Published on May 21, 2006 by adriana
1.0 out of 5 stars Be happy
This book seems to appeal mostly to doom 'n gloomers. Me, I could not get past the apparent lack of grammar-proofing.
Published on May 8, 2006 by Antonia
1.0 out of 5 stars Hatred begets hatred; i.e. reap what you sow
Phyllis Chesler shares what she perceives as an alarming new trend among leftwing groups. However, the groups that merit alarm for becoming newly, or in reality more visibly... Read more
Published on April 16, 2006 by Vlad
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative
I liked this book, particulary the explanation about the use of Nazi imagery as a tool employed by those who hate Jews.
Published on March 24, 2006 by YoYo
1.0 out of 5 stars Slavish intelligencia
These creatures were spirits endowed with reason and will. Those who received them into themselves immediately became possessed and mad. Read more
Published on March 24, 2006 by Danny
5.0 out of 5 stars Freedom to Read
Wow, I don't believe that Mr. Candyman actually read this book, however, it still seeems to be okay for him to write a review, somehow. Read more
Published on March 22, 2006 by Potter
1.0 out of 5 stars Freedom to think
"Catholicism frightens me ... enrages me", writes the author. Now if I claimed to be a practicing Catholic, as other reviewers might, I would think twice about selling out my... Read more
Published on March 21, 2006 by Candy Man
4.0 out of 5 stars Freedom of Thought
I recently read this book in a class at school and found it to be provocative and intelligent. I don't understand why there are so many negative reviews for this work. Read more
Published on March 8, 2006 by Kylie
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