The "New Anti-Semitism" Smear Is Getting Old

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Last week began with former AIPAC flack Josh Block accusing writers at two progressive think tanks in Washington of advancing the "new" anti-Semitism, conflating their criticisms of Israeli policies with straightforward Jew-hatred. "Either they can allow people to say borderline anti-Semitic stuff,” Block told Politico, “and to say things that are antithetical to the fundamental values of the Democratic party, or they can fire them and stop it." By the end of the week, Block was feverishly denying ever accusing anyone of anti-Semitism and was reportedly hanging on by a thread to his own jobs at two Beltway policy institutes.

This week began with Thomas Friedman sending the self-appointed defenders of Israel into a petulant frenzy. "I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby," Friedman wrote. Like clockwork, Friedman came under heavy fire from Jennifer "Round Up His Captors" Rubin, Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Elliot Abrams, and Jonathan Tobin.

While Tobin explicitly accused Friedman of trafficking in the "New Anti-Semitism," Abrams did so implicitly, falsely claiming that Friedman had "refer[red] so nastily to the 'Jewish Lobby.'" (In fact, as Jim Lobe noted, Friedman never used the phrase "Jewish lobby.") Thus Friedman, that fierce anti-Zionist crusader who once warned of "a trend, both deliberate and inadvertent, to delegitimize Israel," was branded by two of America's most prominent neoconservatives as a dangerous Jew hater.

The two pathetic episodes crystallized an encouraging trend: the "New Anti-Semitism" smear is finally getting old.

Led Zeppelin cover bands don't claim to represent the new thing in rock (although members of the group "Dread Zeppelin" may have introduced some fresh styles to the world of fashion). But pro-Israel activists continue to recycle a tacky, discredited canard from the early 1970's while howling of a new, existential danger to the Jewish people. They seem to have nothing left in their rhetorical arsenal. Like pull-string Krusty the Clown dolls set to "evil," they are unable to respond to factual criticisms of Israel with anything more than a limited, preset selection of hackneyed phrases that usually include the charge of anti-Semitism.

The concept of the "New Anti-Semitism" first emerged in 1973 when Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban wrote, "Let there be no mistake: the New Left is the author and the progenitor of the new anti-Semitism.... Anti-Zionism is merely the new anti-Semitism." A year later, the Anti-Defamation League published the first book on the topic, accusing Palestinian rights advocates of advancing an ulterior, anti-Semitic agenda. Today, books warning about the existential threat of a "New Anti-Semitism" comprise a cottage industry, with pro-Israel politicians and activists producing a new title almost every year.

In honor of the upcoming 39th anniversary of Eban's historic screed, I decided to revisit the greatest hits of the eternally new "New Anti-Semitism" genre:

"The New Anti-Semitism," by Arnold Forster & Benjamin Epstein, published by the ADL, 1974

"Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism," 2003, by Abraham Foxman

"Rising from the Muck: The New Anti-Semitism In Europe," by Pierre-Andre Taguieff and Patrick Camiller, 2004

"Terror: The New Anti-Semitism and the War Against The West," by Fiamma Nirenstein and Anna Milano Appel, 2005

"The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It," by Phyllis Chesler, 2005

"New, Old Jewish Hatred: Anti-Semitism, The Arab-Israeli Conflict and European Politics," by Klaus Faber, Julius Schoeps and Sacha Stawski, 2006

"'Progressive' Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism," by Alvin Rosenfeld, 2006

Globalising Hatred: The New Anti-Semitism," by Denis MacShane, 2009


The term "anti-Semite" was coined in Germany in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr when, I suggest, few people knew of, much less cared about the Middle East.

Today, used in relation to Israel situated in the Middle East it is nonsense. To suggest that those of us who support the Palestinians and the rights of the Arab people generally -- often enough with scant sympathy for their US puppet governments -- Semites all, are 'antisemitic' is ludicrous.

It is past time that the word was pensioned off as obsolete.

The oft presented view that to be pro Palestinian is compatible with being pro Jew as well is problematical. Attempting to define Zionist: Israeli: Jew though tempting is like trying to hold quicksilver. Eventually one must conclude that they comprise a single group, and that like all such groups among them are some decent people.

I believe that it is for the decent people to redefine themselves and distance themselves from the Zionist/Israeli/Jew conglomerate that so stains them all.

As I have said repeatedly: If you haven't been called an antisemite by now, you aren't doing enough in support of justice and the rule of international law in the Middle East.

You may think it's cute to provide pictures of these books, Max, but it is not cute to underplay hatred because it's not politically convenient to acknowledge it.

Antisemitism does not help the Palestinian cause.

"Antisemitism does not help the Palestinian cause."

I would agree with this part of your statement. Anti-semitism indeed does not help the Palestinian cause. However pointing out that criticism of Israel, US support for Israel, and the innumerable injustices visited upon the Palestinians by the policy of both countries is NOT anti-semitism IS helpful to the Palestinian cause.

Anti-zionism is also not anti-semitism, it should probably be further pointed out, anymore than anti-Apartheid movements were anti-white. Just as one should anti-white-supremacist and not anti-white when it comes to that question, one should be anti-Jewish-supremacist and not anti-Jewish when in comes to the question of Palestine.

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