Can we learn the right lessons of the Holocaust in time?

This is cross posted from Phyllis Chesler at NewsRealBlog

The first conference I ever attended about global anti-Semitism took place in New York City in early 2003 at the Center for the Study of Jewish History; my son accompanied me. The more I heard, the unhappier I grew. My son could not understand why. He asked: “Mom, why are you groaning? They are saying exactly what you’ve written in your manuscript.” My book, The New Anti-Semitism, was about to be published early that summer.

I explained: “But they are the world’s experts on this subject. I am only the new kid on the block. If they haven’t taken it further than I have, then we’re all in terrible trouble.”

I have lived long enough to have this eerie, humbling experience any number of times since then.

I am not saying that others have not analyzed the matter as well as I have; on the contrary. Many others are far more scholarly: they are genuine experts who have devoted their entire careers to this subject. There are so many names that I hesitate to single out only a few—and more and more books are being published on this subject almost every day. Here’s what I’m saying:

It is not enough. By itself, all our documentation of the impending Holocaust of Jewish Israel, of the ongoing Islamic jihad against the world is not enough either to stop these calamities or to change brainwashed minds which are closed to reason and fact.

Yes, it is a good thing that more and more scholars, sober and serious people, have taken up the cause of Truth. This is especially important given how rapidly the Big Liars and those who fund them have escalated and seized the moment. For now, the wind is at their back.

A bare six weeks ago, I had a fairly heavenly time working with a group of feminists at theconference on global anti-Semitism which was sponsored by the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism, and which took place, of course, at Yale. Aviva Raz-Schechter, Israel’s Director for Combating Antisemitism, joined Harvard’s Ruth Wisse, and Daniel Goldhagen, McGill University’s Irwin Cotler, Emory University’s Deborah Lipstadt, University of Goettingen’s Bassam Tibi, Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires’ Alberto Nisman, BostonUniversity’s Richard Landes, and Indiana University’s Alvin Rosenfeld as plenary and keynote speakers. I chaired one session but was there primarily to discuss women and anti-Semitism on an all-feminist plenary panel. (Thank you Dr. Charles Small.)

Yesterday in New York City, I was part of another important conference about Muslim anti-Semitism which was sponsored by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism. I both spoke and chaired a panel with my esteemed colleagues, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen of Harvard and Mark Weitzman of the Simon Weisenthal Center. At the end of our presentations, before the assembled could raise their hands, I asked them to allow me to ask the first question—and of the audience.

“What must we do, what must be done to stop this very specific genocidal threat to the Jewish state—and the overwhelming jihadic threat against civilians everywhere? I do not think that all our documentation will be enough. I do not think we have enough time to reason with the brainwashed, one by one. Only a military victory will do it. But in the 21stcentury, military victories may look different, they may look like Stuxnet, and may include targeted assassinations that we never get to hear about.”

People were very, very quiet.

There were many wonderful people at both the larger Yale Conference and at the conference in New York City yesterday. Daniel Pipes, of the Middle East Forum was his usual reasoned and brilliant self. He said that he feared that Westerners, Americans, will not take jihad seriously, and will not do what is necessary, until one of the many planned terrible attacks actually succeeds, until thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands are killed.

Richard Landes and I were at both conferences. At Yale, I chaired a session with Richard, Alvin Rosenfeld, and Doron Ben-Atar. The panel title was “Self Hatred and Contemporary Antisemitism.” Landes analyzed the iconography of the Al-Dura hoax and went far beyond that. He had many important things to say. When I told him that he really had to stop, he did so, but not before he summed up: “People, they are coming to schecht (slaughter) us, we had better do something.”

Again, the room was very quiet. Faces were extremely grave, tragically sad, especially the face of the next speaker, Alvin Rosenfeld. I—never one to be called “light,” desperately wanted to lighten this moment. So I resorted to humor. “So, what do we do after someone says that we are about to die? We call upon the next speaker to enlighten us further.”

It worked. People laughed a wee little bit. Jewish irony and humor to the rescue.

Yesterday’s conference in New York City was organized by Steven K. Baum and Neal E. Rosenberg, co-editors of the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism. (Thank you both.)

Here’s what else is important. More sober people are coming together, driven to find others with whom they may speak the truth, ready for new political and social friendships.

I had coffee with German scholar Clemens Heni, who also spoke yesterday. Heni is based in Berlinand has written two books about German anti-Semitism. He described the way in which most German activists are falsely equating anti-Semitism with Islamophobia,” still trying to universalize the very particular hatred towards Jews whose history is both ancient and unique. When I asked him why he felt so strongly about this subject, here was his reply:

“I am a German. I have a responsibility to learn the right lessons of the Holocaust. When other Germans learn exactly the wrong lesson, they are continuing that Holocaust. I cannot remain silent.”

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