of Our Days
By Phyllis Chesler
25, 2003, 9:05 a.m.
psychotherapist (cofounder of the Association for Women in Psychology)
and women's studies professor, Phyllis Chesler is most recently
author of The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What
We Must Do About It. Her website is www.phyllis-chesler.com.
A liberal feminist, Dr. Chesler recently talked to NRO about "The
Jean Lopez: What is "the new anti-Semitism"? Isn't
it quite old?
Chesler: The phenomenon is very complex, but let me mention
at least five or six ways in which both new and old anti-Semitism
operate in the world today.
"old" anti-Semitism is still with us: Many people still
believe that the Jews run the media, control the banks, killed Christ,
seek world domination, and have ears everywhere, but also remain
what's new about anti-Semitism is its extraordinary global reach.
Jew hatred is being mass-produced. The Internet, films, and the
media have the power to circulate these virulent opinions around
the globe, 24/7. The most illiterate of peoples have "seen"
the Israelis commit a "massacre" i Jenin, something Israelis
did not do even the United Nations finally admitted
this. But no matter A false picture is more powerful than a thousand
new is that Jew-hatred has reached a surreal level in the Islamic
world. The Arab Islamic Middle East is almost entirely judenrein
(free of Jews), except for Israel, which remains under profound
and almost permanent siege. Christians still remain endangered in
Muslim lands. Historic Islamic and Koranic views portray Jews as
"pigs and monkeys," to be segregated, impoverished, jailed,
tortured, exiled, and massacred.
new is that these ideas and practices, which are native to Islam,
gathered additional force over an 80-year period in which Arab Muslims
collaborated literally with Nazis during the 1930s
and 1940s, and with Stalinists from the 1950s until the fall of
the Soviet Union. Islamic Jew-hatred, anti-Americanism, and totalitarianism
now fuse both East and West.
new is that this hatred has, incredibly, been embraced and romanticized
by Western liberals, public intellectuals, Nobel Prize winners,
all manner of so-called progressives and activists and, to a great
extent, by the presumably objective media. The educated elites claim
that they do not in fact hate Jews. How can they the noblest
among the "politically correct" be racists? They
loathe racism except, of course, where Jews are concerned.
new is that Jew-hatred (disguised as anti-Zionism) has itself become
"politically correct" among these so-called intellectuals.
They have one standard for Israel: an impossibly high one. Meanwhile,
they set a much lower standard for every other country, even for
nations in which tyranny, torture, honor killings, genocide, and
every other human rights abuse go unchallenged.
anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism. Israel has increasingly come
to represent the Jews of the world, and is treated as they have
been treated for thousands of years. She is demonized, isolated,
and attacked while the world either actively rejoices, or simply
does nothing to stop it. Israel has also become the symbolic scapegoat
for America and for Western values such as democracy, religious
freedom, and individual and women's rights.
intellectuals control the masses with linguistic distortions that
would make George Orwell weep. The way language is being used to
misrepresent both the truth and Jews is relatively new. The intelligentsia
tell us that Israelis are the "new Nazis" and "worse
than Nazis." This is a new form of Holocaust denial. It lets
Europeans off the hook: they no longer must wrestle with their own
formidable colonial pasts and their persecutory-collaborationist-bystander
roles in the Holocaust.
propagandists go further, calling Israel the apartheid state. This
is a lie. Islam is the largest practitioner of both gender and religious
apartheid in the world: It persecutes all non-Muslims. Jew cannot
apply for citizenship in Jordan, for example, and yet no Western
group has called for divestment campaigns there. Meanwhile, the
Arab leadership continues to terrorize the last Jewish enclave in
the Middle East.Kathryn Jean Lopez: What is "the new anti-Semitism"?
Isn't it quite old?
Who is your target audience in The New Anti-Semitism?
I hope to reach and strengthen all those who are still guided by
reason, moral clarity, and intellectual sanity, Americans especially.
We must understand that a new war has been declared against us and
it is one we must fight appeasement is not an option. I also
want to reach the uninformed, and the misinformed, especially young
people. I hope to strengthen existing and creat additional necessary
alliances between Jews and Christians; Jews and those moderate Muslims
wh have the courage to resist Islamic fascists and terrorists; peoples
of faith for religious freedom and democracy; and between Jews and
conservative Christians and Republicans who have been standing fast
You say that most anti-Zionists are probably anti-Semitic. That's
a significant accusation. Is it really fair? I mean, you yourself
aren't a blind acolyte for Israeli policy.
This probably makes me a very good defender of Israel, and of America
too. I have gone on record calling for both Israel and America to
"do better." For example, I am part of a landmark lawsuit
on behalf of Jewish women's religious rights in Jerusalem, asking
that women be allowed to pray in women-only groups in the Kotel,
the strictly female section at the Western Wall. Our case has so
far received three separate decisions in the Israeli Supreme Court.
Had we tried to bring such a lawsuit in Iran, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia,
we would probably have been imprisoned and executed. While Israeli
Arabs (i.e., Palestinians) are second-class citizens, their live
birth rates, incomes, health care, and freedom of worship and expression
are vastly greater in Israel than in any Arab country. In a sense,
those Palestinians who might find themselves fenced in by Israel's
self-defense might also, theoretically, become Israeli citizens,
which would improve matters for them.
Why do feminists generally not seem to care about Israeli women?
Two books ago, I wrote about woman's inhumanity to woman. That was
the book's title. Like men, women are not necessarily compassionate
or even fair towards other women especially if those other
women are identified as "evil racist settlers" and the
enemies of a beloved revolution. Feminists are no better but perhaps
no worse than other women in this regard. Female concentration-camp
guards in Nazi Germany were not known for their compassion, but
rather for their cruelty towards their female prisoners. Female
members of the Ku Klux Klan are not known fo their sympathy for
African-American women. Women on both sides of a number of hot political
issues do not behave in "sisterly" fashions. Most women
are human beings, have internalized misogyny just as men have, have
a higher standard for female than for male behavior, and are more
comfortable competing with other women than with men.
in romanticizing Muslim suicide bombers as "freedom fighters,"
Western feminists jeopardize Muslim women, Muslim feminists, and
Muslim intellectuals whose fates are desperate and tragic under
feminist worth her salt would ever say that simply because men of
color may be unemployed or oppressed, that they therefore have the
right to batter their wives and assault their children. Many feminists
are not thundering against gender apartheid in the Islamic world
(some have done so, but in restricted ways), but feminists are thundering
against Israel as the apartheid state.
we applied a single feminist standard to all humanity, we would
loudly oppose Arabs stoning women accused of adultery, honor killings,
polygamy, veiling, seclusion, sexual and domestic slavery, etc.
Feminists have done so in limited ways, but have relaxed their attention
to this matter when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
Feminists and leftists have also opposed the American liberation
of both Afghanistan and Iraq. But however difficult and imperfect
these plans are, what other option do freedom-minded feminists have?
feminists who are quite principled on certain issues (equal pay
for equal work, reproductive freedom, gay rights, sexual and domestic
violence, childcare, etc.) unthinkingly believe that their critiques
of patriarchy and of specific American policies can and must be
transformed into a generalized hatred of America the very
country in which they practice their dissent and transferred
to the Middle East. Many feminists are totally blind to their own
Jew hatred and are now more obsessed with the occupation of disputed
lands in the Middle East than they are with the occupation of women's
Do feminists have a position on female suicide bombers?
In my view, certain feminists seem to have a deep and abiding respect
for the so-called "freedom fighter" who is willing to
die for the "revolution" and to kill the "colonial
oppressor." The fact that Palestinian suicide bombers, and
their fascist and misogynist Iranian and Saudi funders, are not
stirring a democratic or feminist revolution is cause for irony
and tears. Some feminists are still fighting against the Vietnam
War and have confused it with American and Israeli wars of self-defense
against al Qaeda.
You're a liberal feminist. Is it odd to have more in common with
the Right than the Left on this issue?
These distinctions are no longer useful for any of us. I am a hawk
on American, Israeli, and Western self defense. I am a bleeding-heart
softie when it comes to the slaughter of innocent civilians held
hostage to terror anywhere, though many right-wingers are too.
also a hawk on abolishing the global sexual slavery of women and
children which, increasingly, the Bush administration has
taken on as a serious issue and which the liberal feminist movement
a religious Jew and thus have the greatest respect for other people
of faith. Atheists and secularists are extremely intolerant toward
religion, and do not view freedom of worship even for women
and gay people as an important issue.
I write in my book, 9/11 was a direct attack on democracy, modernity,
religious pluralism, and women's rights. When Islamo-fascist terrorists
are attacking my country, my culture, and my people I oppose them.
While war is hell, self-defense is a duty.
the fact I understand all this makes me a conservative, then so
Recently the Jerusalem Post called for the assassination
of Arafat. Does that kind of talk feed anti-Semitism?
That's like asking whether the call for Hitler's assassination feeds
anti-Semitism. Arafat has done as much evil in the world as Hitler
did. He has waged unceasing war against Israel and has turned down
every offer of a separate Palestinian state (which would be the
23rd Arab state in the region, by the way). He has impoverished
his own people and enriched himself personally. He has been the
willing and canny tool of the Arab leadership who for generations
have exploited the Palestinians, keeping them as a permanent wedge
against the Jews and Westerners in their midst. Not a single Arab
country granted citizenship to the roughly 200,000 Palestinian Arabs
who fled in 1948; Israel granted citizenship to more than 700,000
Arab Jews who fled post-1948. In my view, Jordan and parts of Syria,
not Israel, should be Palestine.
Did anything surprise you about Mahathir Mohamad's recent outburst?
If one reviews Islamic materials (sermons, learned literature, websites,
materials distributed at conferences and demonstrations), one is
not surprised by what Mahathir said. It is what Muslims say about
Jews everywhere. The Arab political, economic, ideological, and
cultural collaboration with Nazis, then with the Soviets, and most
recently and successfully with the United Nations, saw to that.
Thus, I was not shocked by the standing ovation Prime Minister Mahathir
got from every Arab and Muslim leader. What was shocking was both
America's and Europe's slow start at condemning it.
U.S. News & World Report had a cover essay on "the
new anti-Semitism" a few weeks ago What did you think of it?
I read it cursorily, and certainly much of what Zuckerman says in
the essay is true. However, he does not focus on any public-policy
implications and makes few strategic suggestion Nor does he mention
the many recent books, including my own, on the subject, beginning
with Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin's excellent 1983 work, Why
the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism. Nor does he mention the
fiery and relevant writings of Alain Finkielkraut, Pilar Ruhola,
Fiamma Nirenstein, Oriana Fallaci, Jerome Chanes, Paul Iganski,
and Barry Kosmin (on contemporary Judeophobia in England), etc.
More importantly, Zuckerman does not talk about the scholarly works
on dhimmitude the legal status of non-Muslims under Islam
and the nature o Islamic terrorism, for example, the works
of Bat Yeor, Paul Berman, Ibn Warraq, Irshad Manjie, Wali Phares,
or Robert Spencer, just to name a few. These are important voices
that the West must hear.
How can this new anti-Semitism be combated (along with the old)?
I write about this in my book. We Jews and Americans
must understand that we do not cause anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism,
and that both Jews and Americans have been the targets of a massive
hate campaigns against them.
must monitor this, and get it to stop; we must fight the lies wherever
we find them. We must unceasingly stand up to evil as best we can.
Writing a letter to an editor, withholding monies from anti-American
or anti-Israel academic programs, speaking at conferences, conducting
teach-ins, finding and funding pro-American and pro-Israeli faculty
to teach our young the truth all are crucial things to do.
must move beyond rigid ideology. I am now a "hawk" on
Israel and America and a "dove" on other issues. I am
beyond "Right" and "Left," and so must we all
be. I do not agree 100 percent wit the Republican party, but I do
not agree 100 percent with the "politically correct" crowd
either. I agree with the Bush administration's war on terrorism,
support for Israel, and increasingly strong opposition to the sexual
trafficking of women and children.
must support Israel's right to exist, and to exist free from terrorist
violence. Israelis have endure the equivalent of 9/11 almost every
other week for the last three years. I am a psychologist and a pioneer
of trauma and healing therapies, and even I cannot imagine the level
of post-traumatic stress symptoms Israelis must be suffering
they, who have lived through so many wars of self-defense and whose
parents and grandparents endured Hitler's Final Solution, the gulags,
Cossack pogroms, and persecution and exile from Arab and Muslim
lands. We understand that Israel cannot afford to lose a single
war, not even a single battle.
must form Jewish-Christian alliances. Perhaps we must form alliances
among all the dhimmi Christians, Hindus, Buddhists,
Assyrians, Zoroastrians, Kurds, Persians, etc. who are suffering
under Islamic jihadic rule.
must continue to oppose the liberal media on all these issues.
especially interested in restoring campus civility and freedom of
speech in America. I would like to work with others who have the
same goals. American students must see credentialed public intellectuals
take on the likes of Noam Chomsky, and the works of Edward Said,
whose analyses are glorified and who have been part of the politically
correct hijacking of American universities.
Where do you fall when it comes to this new Mel Gibson movie?
He has the right to make any movie he wants. And we even
Jews, who were carefully kept away have the right to see
it. My fear is that given how susceptible people normally are to
believing films are true, people may not understand that his film
is simply one artist's imaginative and non-factual rendering of
history. If they take it as gospel truth and then feel further empowere
to behave as medieval European mobs behaved towards Jews after viewing
a Passion play, then w are all in great trouble. Many Christians
have challenged the veracity of his script as well as his motives.
What's the most important message you hope people take from your
That, unbelievably, the dark side of Jewish history is repeating
itself; the world is again demonizing Jews and creating a situation
in which another Holocaust might be possible. I want all people
of good will to make sure this does not happen.
want my readers to understand that all civilians are Israelis now.
I would like us to combat terrorism with all our hearts and minds
must understand that a new kind of war has been declared upon our
civilization, and that we must patiently, carefully, morally, militarily,
and strategically find effective ways of stopping those who wish
to destroy Western civilization and freedom. Appeasement is no longer
imperfect as American democracy might be, what we have achieved
here would constitute a revolution in any Islamic or Arab country.
This is a quiet view, not an apocalyptic one. Perhaps tha is why
so many progressive Americans refuse to entertain it. It is true
that America may have risen on the backs of others, but it is also
true that Islamic countries have refused to enter the modern era
like us to feel proud that we are Americans, and to understand that
America is really trying to bring religious and individual freedom
to a region in which they do not exist at all.
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