Posted in: Jihad & Terrorism, Culture Wars & Censorship
Published on Aug 18, 2003 by Phyllis Chesler
Sometimes, bad things really do happen to good books; nevertheless, everything does seem to have a purpose.
Judy Lash Balint's review of my book, The New Anti-Semitism, (Frontpage Magazine, August 12, 2003) has given me an opportunity to reach Frontpage's important audience.
I am very sad that Balint's tone is so sarcastic and disrespectful. It illustrates the tragic—and very Jewish—inability to work productively and rationally together when facing a common threat. Politically, this is self-destructive. While my book may not be as conservative as Balint might prefer, surely she must understand that it is a courageous and potentially helpful work. To the extent to which she concedes that it is—but grudgingly—I must offer the following perspective. None of this is meant as a personal attack on Balint, whom I do not know and whom I wish well. I am, rather, addressing the phenomenon of internalized Jewish Judeophobia. I am grateful to Balint for affording me this opportunity.
In 1995, in Nativ magazine, Gustav Hendrikksen, professor emeritus of Bible Studies at Uppsala University in Sweden, had an exchange with Mordechai Nisan, of Hebrew University. Nisan appealed to the "international community" on Israel's behalf. Hendrikssen essentially told Nisan not to waste his time: the information on European and international Judeophobia was in. Instead, Hendrikssen suggested that Nisan appeal to other Jews and Israelis who, in his view, do not work together, and who cannot distinguish between allies and enemies.
For example, in 1938, Hendrikssen was a member of the Nobel Peace Prize Committe whom the Jewish Gertrude Stein petitioned to award Adolf Hitler (!) the Nobel Peace Prize. Hendrikssen suggests that Jews themselves, especially intellectuals, including those in Israel "have lost their instinct for survival."
Stein represents the kind of Jew who is a secular internationalist and heartbreakingly modern. There are many Jews like her today, in North America, Europe, and Israel who are "post-Zionists" or "anti-Zionists." who believe that if they are the first to criticize other Jews, the Jewish religion, and the Jewish state, that they will be spared; they are the "good" Jews whom Islamofascist terrorists will spare, and whom anti-Semitic non-Jews will invite to dinner. Noam Chomsky, who also happens to be a Jew, is as anti-Zionist as Edward Said. Both are lionized on countless academic campuses in the Western world for their strong stands against the Israeli state and against American capitalism and "imperialism." Both men bite the hand that feeds them by locating the source of all evil, every sorrow, at the feet of these two envied and feared democracies.
In my book, The New Anti-Semitism, I try to understand why progressive intellectuals and academics (with whom I agree on many other issues) would so distort reality and betray both the Jews and the truth. Western intellectuals, including feminists, have made anti-Semitism "politically correct" and morally justifiable. They have also rendered it invisible. The only victims are Palestinians—who are indeed suffering. However, Palestinian suffering is not primarily Israel's fault. Rather, Palestinians have been held hostage by their own vicious Arab and Palestinian leaders who have used them as human fodder in their almost century-long jihad against the Jewish presence in the Middle East.
As I note in my book, it is tragic that academic (and mainly secular) feminists do not seem to understand that Islam is an even more clear and present danger to women's rights than the "American Empire" is. It is mystifying that they would oppose a war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and oppose the liberation of Iraq. Feminists do understand that Arabs and Muslims are savagely repressed: economically, psychologically, educationally, and politically, in countries that veil women, stone women to death for alleged adultery and engage in honor killings. Feminists should be the first to oppose gender apartheid under Islam and the last to utter inflammatory falsehoods that describe Israel as an apartheid state.
Thus, I was surprised that Balint, who is on the Orthodox Jewish, and Zionist Right would treat my book with so little respect. Perhaps she is battle-blinded and can no longer distinguish between an ally and a dangerous opponent. Living in Jerusalem at this time is living in a hot war zone. Perhaps Balint represents the kind of Jew who mistrusts and attacks any Jew who is not exactly like them. If true, I hope and pray that she wrestles with this, with both humanity and God, for such mistrust and dislike is dangerous to Jewish survival.
I understand that Balint may dislike my feminist and left-wing credentials and the fact that, although I expose Judeophobia among intellectuals, that I do not totally break with progressive ideas. I can also understand that I permit myself passionate "hyperbole" for which Balint may possibly have been taken to task in her own work and in her world. As far as I'm concerned: Let Balint indulge in hyperbole in her own voice. What I cannot accept is Balint's failure to see that my work will help the cause of Jews and of Israel and to understand that many voices are needed now—not only Jerusalem-based voices on the right.
I hope that Balint (and other Jews who may also reflexively, perhaps unconsciously, express an irascible intolerance towards Jews with whom they disagree) will come to understand that alliances among Jews—especially who are "different" from one another—are absolutely crucial to Jewish, Israeli and American political and moral survival.
As Jews, we really must come together. Let us begin.
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