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Never Again? by Abraham H. Foxman (HarperCollins, 320 pages, $24.95) The Return of Anti-Semitism by Gabriel Schoenfeld (Encounter Books, 200 pages, $25.95) A couple of blocks from my office, next to the Gallery Place Metro stop in the heart of downtown Washington, D.C., I recently found a piece of graffiti at a construction site equating a Star of David with a swastika and bearing this legend: “Nazi Jews out of U.S. and Palestine now.” This sort of extreme message of hate is, thankfully, still rarely found in our nation’s capital. But according to two recent books, Abraham H. Foxman’s Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism and Gabriel Schoenfeld’s The Return of Anti-Semitism, such messages are part of a recent resurgence of anti-Semitism here and abroad, an anti-Semitism that has gained a dangerous degree of mainstream acceptance and that — as particularly noted by Schoenfeld — is especially popular among the political left today. Foxman is the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Schoenfeld is senior editor of the American Jewish Committee’s magazine, Commentary. So perhaps unsurprisingly they describe the problem in similar terms. Foxman cites international surveys showing anti-Jewish prejudices as well as a rash of physical attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions in Europe and elsewhere over the last few years. He then argues that a new “mutant strain” of anti-Semitism combining elements of the far left and right has arisen. This “new form of poison,” he writes, is often cloaked in “the more fashionable rhetoric of anti-imperialism, anti-racism and anti-Americanism,” thus making bigotry appear “more mainstream, more sophisticated, and therefore more acceptable than in the past.” Foxman contends that the resurgence of anti-Semitism should be of concern beyond the Jewish community because hatred of Jews is like the canary in a coal mine, in this case serving as an early warning that other forms of intolerance may be lurking nearby. On this point, Schoenfeld goes further, declaring that the United States is “now locked in a conflict with adversaries for whom hatred of Jews lies at the ideological core of their beliefs.” As evidence, he cites the gruesome beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl after his abductors forced him to say, “My father’s Jewish, my mother’s Jewish, I’m Jewish.” Foxman also makes the point that combating anti-Semitism is important because hatred of Jews among Arabs has become, in his words, a “significant obstacle to any lasting Middle East peace.” What are the dimensions of the problem? While both authors judge it to be extremely serious, Foxman indulges in some hyperbole early in his book, stating, “I am convinced we currently face as great a threat to the safety and security of the Jewish people as the one we faced in the 1930s — if not a greater one.” Later in the book, however, he appears to concede this was an exaggeration, explaining that he does not fear pogroms or a Holocaust taking place in America. Foxman’s comparison to the 1930s makes sense only if he were referring to the possible future use of nuclear weapons against Israel by, say, Iran or an Islamist group, a concern he and Schoenfeld share. Schoenfeld himself cautions against drawing parallels between Europe of the 1930s and Europe of the 2000s. Using the Holocaust as a comparative benchmark is ill-advised in his view because that benchmark sets a “standard of horror so high that if one relies upon it today for reassurance, all signposts of impending danger are lost.” Yet “[e]ven if we are far from 1938,” Schoenfeld says, “physical violence against Jews has become a pan-European phenomenon.” Both authors convincingly demonstrate a shocking increase in the level of anti-Semitic attitudes and actions in Europe, as well as pervasive, undisguised anti-Semitism (which I’m limiting here to mean hatred of Jews) in the Arab and Muslim worlds. (For an example of the latter, one needed only to listen to Malaysia’s former prime minister rail against “the Jews” and their alleged control of world financial markets.) Foxman illustrates his discussion with a sampling of anti-Semitic cartoons from the popular Arab press, with such mainstays as depictions of hook-nosed Jews controlling U.S. leaders and the world media and drawings of the same caricatured Jews murdering children. Foxman and Schoenfeld both argue that immigrants from these worlds have brought the virus of anti-Semitism with them in large numbers to Europe recently, but Schoenfeld places greater emphasis than the ADL director on the role of the “Islamic strain” of anti-Semitism in the recent European resurgence. Schoenfeld argues that the general failure of the world’s Arab states to achieve modernity as measured by economic and political development has resulted in a profound dislocation, leaving its leaders and people eager to find scapegoats. A prime example of this, he notes, is the United Nations report, “Arab Human Development Report 2002.” The report by Arab social scientists made headlines when published last year for its unusually frank criticism of stultifying Arab educational systems, a lack of genuine democracy, and what it called entrenched Arab xenophobia. Less reported, notes Schoenfeld, is that the study nonetheless “turns around and traces the arrested condition of Arab development to . . . the state of Israel.” (Ellipsis in original.) “To blame Israel for poverty and other social ailments in fabulously wealthy Saudi Arabia or in far-away Sudan is simply preposterous,” Schoenfeld writes. Of course, much of the recent violence against Jews in Europe has accompanied the Palestinian uprising, and many of Israel’s harshest critics argue that they are not anti-Semites, but merely critics of Israel’s policies. The many participants in French pro-Palestinian marches who chanted “Death to the Jews” presumably would have a hard time making this argument with a straight face, but it is an argument that both Foxman and Schoenfeld rightly treat seriously. Principled, fair criticism of Israel and Israeli leaders is always permissible, Foxman says. “But when Zionist becomes a curse word and Zionists can be blamed, as if by reflex, for the terror attacks of September 11; when Israelis are caricatured using imagery drawn from Nazi propaganda; when Israel’s prime minister is described as an evil puppet master driving the world down a path toward Jewish domination . . . then we have clearly moved beyond honest opposition to policies and actions and entered the realm of pure anti-Semitism.” (Emphasis in original.) On this point, he powerfully quotes the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: “You declare that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely anti-Zionist. And I say, let the truth ring forth . . . when people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews. This is God’s own truth . . . . Zionism is nothing less than the dream and ideal of the Jewish people returning to live in their own land. . . . And what is anti-Zionism? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the globe. It is discrimination against the Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short, it is anti-Semitism.” Schoenfeld agrees. Singling Israel out as “somehow the most flagrant human rights transgressor in the world, the single country in need of sanctions, is nothing more than unadorned bigotry,” he writes. Whereas the far right used to — and sometimes still does — attack Jews openly, he argues that the “progressive” left more often expresses its anti-Semitism through denunciation of the Jewish state. But unlike Foxman, who appears to see the threat of anti-Semitism as emerging more or less equally from both wings of the political spectrum, Schoenfeld sees the greater threat today coming from the left. “Among those burning the Star of David and chanting obscene slogans against the Jewish state in the streets of Europe,” he says, “there are surely some neo-Nazis, but a greater host of environmentalists, pacifists, anarchists, antiglobalists and socialists.” He also worries about the “high quotient” of anti-Semitic attitudes in American academia and in the African-American community, both of which generally lean to the left. While often agreeing in substance, the two books differ greatly in format and tone. Schoenfeld’s slim volume is a powerful, analytical argument. His unrelenting argument may, however, strike some as strident at times, such as when he blasts a “coterie of preening left-wing Jews” whom he names and accuses of providing a cover of respectability for anti-Semites. Foxman’s book, as both a memoir and analysis, is written less formally yet more diplomatically. It contains interesting personal anecdotes about Foxman’s meetings with Pope John Paul II as ADL director and about Foxman’s experience of being raised as a “hidden child” by his Roman Catholic nanny in wartime Poland. Frequently, however, the book reads like a self-congratulatory tribute to Foxman’s achievements as head of the ADL. There are also some digressions like a discussion of how al Qaeda uses the Internet to raise money that distract from the book’s focus. But these are generally quibbles. Today, when some people are emboldened to equate the Star of David with the Nazi swastika and write things like “Nazi Jews out of U.S. and Palestine” in downtown Washington, it is clear that what Foxman calls “perhaps the most enduring form of group hatred known to human history” is alive and well. And that makes Foxman’s and Schoenfeld’s books both timely and important. Martin Kimel writes about Jewish-related and other topics on his Web site: http://users.starpower.net/mk26.

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