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Jewish Journal

New Books: World Hates Us, Let’s Eat

by David Finnigan

September 25, 2003 | 8:00 pm

Solid proof that Jew-hating is on the rise is the number of nonfiction titles publishers are releasing on the subject.

The human fever called anti-Semitism finds the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) borrowing from the Jewish Defense League (JDL), with the JDL's mantra "Never Again!" inadvertently part of a new book by ADL national director Abraham Foxman, "Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism" (Harper San Francisco, $24.95).

Foxman's book is part of a new cluster of titles on anti-Semitism; Jewish moralist and radio talk show host Dennis Prager has reissued his 1983 book (co-written with Joseph Telushkin) "Why The Jews? The Reason for Anti-Semitism" (Touchtone, $14); essays by 17 British writers and thinkers are in "The New Anti-Semitism? Debating Judeophobia in the 21st Century" (Profile Books Limited, $29.95); and feminist Phyllis Chesler avoids question- mark titles with her work, "The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It" (Jossey-Bass, $24.95).

The four books -- covering similar ground when chronicling the numerous post-Sept. 11 anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents -- also complement two new historical works; Holocaust researcher Max Wallace's "The American Axis: Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh and the Rise of the Third Reich" (St. Martin's Press, $27.95) and French academic Pierre Birnbaum's eye-opening, "The Anti-Semitic Moment: A Tour of France in 1898" (Hill & Wang Pub, 2002, $35).

That no French Jews were killed in 1898 probably provides little comfort to Jews worldwide in 2003, who though in relatively safe Western democracies live amid unusual tolerance of Israel bashers, a tolerance paralleling the tolerance of France's Jewish hatred described by Birnbaum; "For the Jews of France, death -- so frequently present in the shouts and insults -- remained a virtual threat. So many angry crowds, so many out-of-control demonstrations, so many knives brandished."

Despite the shouts of "Death to the Jews!" screaming off the pages of "The Anti-Semitic Moment," Birnbaum notes that Jews defended themselves and that some brave police and gendarmes in major French cities were, "constantly on the alert, patrolling without respite, dispersing rioters, charging threatening crowds, guarding stores whose owners were Jewish."

The Britons writing in "The New Anti-Semitism?" are unnerved; that journalist Jonathan Freedland's essay points out the unbelievably obvious -- "no matter how bad Israel is, it is not the Third Reich" -- displays how defensive Jews must be in just supporting Israel. Jerusalem Post London correspondent Douglas Davis' decision to stop appearing on the BBC was reinforced when a BBC radio show researcher asked him if he would debate the show's topic -- "Whether Israel is 'a morally repugnant society.'"

Wallace's "American Axis" details affections for the Third Reich by Americans as admired as Ford and Lindbergh, calling both men, "deeply contradictory figures." Wallace unearths documents showing that despite modern denials by the Ford Motor Co., it owned shares and directly financed Ford's anti-Semitic newspapers The International Jew and the Dearborn Independent.

The Lindbergh family continues what Wallace called, "the carefully crafted rehabilitation of a tarnished hero." Official biographer A. Scott Berg's 1998 book downplayed Lindbergh's racial theories and Nazi solidarity. "American Axis" guts the historical cleansing of Ford and makes Berg's book now appear weak, its 1999 Pulitzer Prize for biography undeserved.

Much of Foxman's "Never Again?" is a serviceable outline of recent anti-Semitic incidents. He even manages humor, writing the ADL's inability to convince singer Michael Jackson to cut song lyrics with the words, "Jew me, sue me ... kick me, kike me," essentially is proof that, "there is not Jewish cabal dictating the entertainment industry -- or if there is, it is a remarkably ineffective one."

His book's most touching, memoir-like part is about Foxman the child Holocaust survivor in eastern Poland, saved -- and baptized -- by his Catholic nanny, then returned to his parents after the war. Not surprisingly, Foxman laments the Vatican's tragic, ongoing refusal to make public baptism certificates of other Jewish children baptized into Catholicism while in hiding.

Telushkin and Prager's useful, updated "Why The Jews?" includes a what-can-be-done-about-this section, but Prager admits, "These efforts are important and effective -- but only in a society relatively free of anti-Semitism."

Chesler's "The New Anti-Semitism" finds the longtime feminist suggesting that Jews, "must make common cause with the Christian left, right and center."

Chesler's writings of grappling with longtime leftist/feminist allies have become bread and roses for anti-Zionists. For decades, Chesler's life has been women's studies conferences, global feminist gatherings, resolutions, pickets and petitions; yet, American feminists will not march as Israeli women are murdered by (usually male) suicide bombers. And Chesler also notes, "In the last three years, many feminists have either consciously or unconsciously muted their critiques of Arab and Muslim misogyny."

When Chesler asked non-Jewish feminists at a conference two decades ago who would hide her from the SS, only one offered even such hypothetical compassion. After a life of bonding with such seemingly insensitive people, Chesler writes contrastingly, "I regret nothing.... And yet, and yet, I must now calmly but clearly part company with my former friends and comrades."

The best argument against Jewish hatred is the same general argument against hatred itself. The valorous police portrayed in "The Anti-Semitic Moment" fought back French mobs less out of specific respect for Jews than out of a belief in civil order. The British editors of "The New Anti-Semitism?" make a similar argument:

"The fact and logic of history is that the treatment of Jews is frequently the litmus test of the 'good society.' Those societies and nations that have welcomed and treated Jews well have been among the most successful and creative of their time."

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