Kosher stamps for post & anti-Zionism at ‘Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism’ in London

CiF Watch is proud to publish the following essay by Dr. Clemens Heni, director of the Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism. (Comments are closed at author’s request.)

Around November 9, 1938, the night of pogroms of National Socialism, several hundred Jews have been killed, synagogues were burnt, Jewish shops demolished and many thousand Jews deported to concentration camps (KZ). Everyone in Germany, ordinary Germans as well as ordinary members of the Nazi party, was witness of what happened and many have been involved.  It is tremendously timely and important to remember these horrible events. However, even in Germany some 20% of people age 19-30 do not know what “Auschwitz” means and what it stands for. In other countries the numbers are even much higher. Finally, even those who pretend to remember what happened often have a blind eye to today’s antisemitism. Some distort the history of the rise of the Nazi movement and the biography of Hitler himself. Therefore this article introduces a new research center in the UK and its allies.

The Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, based at Birkbeck, University of London, is part of the Pears Foundation and “was launched in November 2010.” Historian David Feldman is the director of the institute.

From November 2010 until October 24, 2012, there have been 28 events, as the homepage of the Pears Institute indicates. Many events have been dedicated to historical topics, including the Holocaust. These are important topics to deal with. There were talks about British Jewry in the 1930’s and 1940’s and about German composer Richard Wagner and his antisemitism in the 19th century. There were also events about “Finding Humanity in a World of Technology”, where the relationship to antisemitism is rather hard to find.

In November 2011 Feldman launched a so-called International Consortium for Research on Antisemitism and Racism, including the following members: David Feldman, Director, Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London; Scott Ury, Head, Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, Tel Aviv University; François Guesnet, Sidney and Elizabeth Corob Reader in Modern Jewish History, University College London; Jonathan Judaken, Spence L. Wilson Chair in Humanities, Rhodes College, Memphis, Tennessee; Veronika Lipphardt, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Friedrich Meinecke Institute, Free University, Berlin; Michael Miller, Central European University, Budapest; Amos Morris-Reich, University of Haifa, Director, Bucerius Institute for Research of Contemporary German History and Society, Haifa; Maurice Samuels, Director, Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism, New Haven, Connecticut; Stefanie Schüler-Springorum, Director, Center for Research on Antisemitism, Technical University, Berlin.

Regardless the problematic equation of antisemitism and racism in the very name of that consortium, let us just focus on one consortium member, Jonathan Judaken from Memphis in the United States. Most other members of the new consortium have not dealt with antisemitism in their work so far (if one looks at their list of publications), or have done so only in passing. Judaken, though, representing (like others of that group) the younger generation of scholars (born in the 1960s or later) has published at least a few articles about antisemitism and dealt with French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and his anti-antisemitism and anti-racism.

In 2006 Judaken mentioned in his first book (Jean-Paul Sartre and the Jewish Question. Anti-antisemitism and the Politics of the French intellectual) that he was a fellow in Israel; that he played tennis with historian Robert Wistrich and is familiar with research on antisemitism from his experience at the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (SICSA) at Hebrew University, presumably prior to 2006 when his book was published. As Wistrich is a prolific critic of new antisemitism and anti-Zionist antisemitism, left-wing antisemitism, Muslim antisemitism, as well as Jewish antisemitism, this is interesting. What did Judaken learn from Wistrich and other scholars at SICSA?

In an article in 2008 for the journal Patterns of Prejudice, (“So what’s new? Rethinking the ‘new antisemitism’ in a global age”) Judaken denies that there is a “new antisemitism.” Calls from Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to “wipe Israel off the map” don’t shock Judaken, as if calls by one country for the destruction of another UN-member state were nothing unusual. He is equally blasé about the rise in antisemitism; while he acknowledges it, he finds that it too is unworthy of scholarly attention. Judaken questions the very term antisemitism, saying: “The new Judaeophobia, unlike antisemitism, is not premised on the Aryan myth or biological racism, white supremacy or ultra-populist ethnonationalism.” That’s very odd; one has only to visit Eastern Europe countries like Ukraine, Latvia, Hungary, Bulgaria or Lithuania or online pages, publications, gatherings and events of German and Austrian neo-Nazis to find that kind of antisemitism – and  plenty of it.

Next, Judaken is obviously unfamiliar with Theodor Adorno’s and Peter Schönbach’s term “secondary antisemitism,” already created around 1960, and still used by scholars today. Secondary antisemitism refers to antisemitism after Auschwitz, and is not based on biological racism. Secondary antisemitism focuses, for example, on German projection of guilt onto the British and the bombing war by comparing or equating Dresden with the Shoah and defaming the RAF bomber command and Arthur Harris as “war criminals.”

The godfather of secondary antisemitism was perhaps philosopher (and former lover of Hannah Arendt, who enjoyed his work her entire life), Martin Heidegger, who in 1949 in one of his Bremen lectures equated modern “motorized agriculture” with the gas chambers of Auschwitz. This Holocaust trivialization has many forms today, including unscholarly terms like “Babycaust,” “ecological Holocaust,” the post-colonial trope of German “Kaiser’s Holocaust,” “Golden Holocaust” (aiming at the tobacco industry), and terms like “Holocaust in Gaza,” when dealing with the situation of the Palestinians in the Gaza strip, where the population is steadily growing. The latter is also a typical form of today’s antisemitism, the inversion of the truth: projecting German guilt for the Shoah onto the Jews and blaming Jews for being as bad as the Germans, of having become like their former perpetrators. This, too, is antisemitism and not just “Judaeophobia” as Judaken claims.

Judaken follows controversial authors Brian Klug and Steven Beller in their rejection of the term “new antisemitism.” Thus, he accuses Roger Cukierman from the French Conseil Représentative des Institutions juives de France (CRIF) of following a “paranoid construction” of “new antisemitism” when talking about the “new ‘red-green-brown-alliance’.”

He does not use the word paranoid for people like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but for a concerned and frightened Jew. Judaken finds “little evidence” of that new alliance of different kinds of antisemitism, perhaps because he lives in Memphis and does not have much insight regarding France, Germany, Sweden, or the Netherlands. Funnily, Judaken translates the “red-green-brown-alliance” into leftist, green and jihadist (where is the “brown” here?), while that term aims at leftists (red), jihadists (green) and neo-Nazis (brown). Maybe he misses the point that the greens of today are the Islamists and Jihadists, because their colour is – green. In theory he knows about attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions in Europe, but when it comes to Muslim antisemitism he makes the typical excuse used by most scholars: “These young men, who often suffer from institutionalized discrimination, identify with the struggles of Palestinians or other insurgent Muslims around the world.”

In Germany rallies held with up to 10,000 participants were held in January 2009. The participants were mostly Muslims and Arabs, accompanied by leftists and others, screaming “Death, Death to the Jews,” “Zionists are fascists, they kill children and civilians,” or “Olmert is a son of a dog.” Hundreds of Muslim, Arab and Turkish Facebook users in Germany agitated for another Holocaust on May 31, 2010, and the following days, after the interception of the terror ship Mavi Marmara and the Gaza flotilla. Holocaust affirmation is fashionable in some extremist circles and these Facebook users did use their real names and pictures (sometimes with their wives, friends, or children).

A core aspect of Jonathan Judaken’s article, which stands pars pro toto for a lot of scholars in the field today, is his analysis of anti- and post-Zionism:

“It is therefore clear that not every critique of Israel is antisemitic and that not all forms of anti-Zionism are animated by Jew-hatred whether advanced by non-Jews or Jews. In fact, numerous Jewish traditions have insisted that preservation of what is most precious about Judaism and Jewishness demands a principled anti-Zionism or post-Zionism.”

So, if someone is obsessed, after Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz, Babi Yar, the woods of Lithuania, Belarus, Latvia, Poland, and the unspeakable horror of the concentration camps, with opposing a Jewish nation-state, a real homeland and state, armed to protect its citizens, this is no problem for today’s (and particularly the young) scholarship on antisemitism. They rather embrace pre-Shoah ideas of a lovely co-habitation of Jews and Arabs. Never mind that Hitler is a hero in many Muslim countries, his Mein Kampf a bestseller, as are The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Finally, that kind of anti- or post-Zionism casts a blind eye on Jewish history in Palestine, which goes back thousands of years.  Jerusalem is very relevant to Jewish history but has little relevance for Islam as a faith (the Quran did not mention Jerusalem once). Nevertheless, Jerusalem has been used by Muslims for political reasons in recent decades, as Islamic Studies scholar Daniel Pipes has shown in 2001 and emphasized in a speech in 2012:

“Daniel Pipes, the founder and director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, opened the panel by outlining Jerusalem’s centrality to Judaism – it is mentioned in the Bible more than 800 times as well as in prayer services, daily blessings and wedding services. Since the Temple’s destruction in 70 CE and the subsequent exile of Jews from the Land of Israel, Jerusalem has been the focus of Jewish spiritual longing. In Islam, Jerusalem plays a far more subordinate role, Pipes said.”

In addition, anti-Zionists do not deal with often almost homogenous Muslim states. It is an irrational obsession to deal with the tiny Jewish state, although Israel today is home to some 20% Muslims and Arabs, while many Arab and Muslim countries have over 90% or even over 99% Muslim inhabitants. And then look at the political culture in the Arab and Muslim worlds, compared with a vibrant democracy like Israel.

It comes as no surprise that Jonathan Judaken supports BDS-activist Judith Butler wholeheartedly. He even published the anti-Israel activist from California (in a book he edited in 2008, Race after Sartre. Antiracism, Africana Existentialism, Postcolonialism). Then, in his already quoted article in Patterns of Prejudice in 2008, he introduces the Frankfurt School (read: Critical Theory) and their critic of the “ticket” thinking.

Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer indeed wrote in their Dialectic of Enlightenment in 1947 that there is the “same form of abstract form of labour from the battlefield to the studio.” Whether one is on the left or the right, or in the middle, there are just different kinds of “tickets,” in their view. The “ticket”-thinking is based on the requirements of the “big industry,” as they claim. There is much reason to criticize, for example, the loss of language and culture, as the two leading critical theorists did in that work. But there is close to no connection between the loss of words and cultural expression (they mention that in 1947 people just used 300 hundred basic words) and the gassing of Jews. They confuse eliminationist antisemitism of the Shoah with ticket-thinking and lack of thinking. Hollywood was not Ponary (a site of the Holocaust in Lithuania).

This was already discussed, for example, in the late 1990s, in a vibrant German debate about the shortcomings of Horkheimer, Adorno and Critical Theory, compared with the groundbreaking study of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen about Hitler’s Willing Executioners, published in 1996. Critics argued that despite the importance of Horkheimer and Adorno’s analysis, they had a blind eye towards German specificity and antisemitism, which was not just an instrument of “imperialism” or the ruling class (as Arendt thought as well, by the way). Jews also were not interchangeable with other supposedly victimized groups like the working class or Christians, as critics of that aspect of the early Critical Theory argued.

Jonathan Judaken portrays himself as neutral, because he does not explicitly take sides with regard to the “Zionism is racism” formula. Rather he equates that kind of antisemitism with today’s statement that “anti-Zionism is antisemitism.” Many critics of antisemitism and antisemites “mirror” themselves, in his view.

He talks about a “respectable tradition of anti-Zionism and post-Zionism.” He introduces Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig as well as Tony Judt, Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon as anti-Zionists, and Baruch Kimmerling, Adi Ophir, Uri Ram, Ammon Raz-Krakotzkin and Ilan Pappé as post-Zionists.

Judaken is equally supportive of propagandists of “binationalism” like Martin Buber, Judah Magnes and Hannah Arendt. He goes so far as to claim that “Judaism and Jewishness demands a principled anti-Zionism or post-Zionism.” He does not even mention or deal with the intellectual and scholarly analysis and criticism of these strains in Jewish thinking by Israeli philosophers Elhanan Yakira and Yoram Hazony or historian Yoav Gelber. He also fails to mention how small the group of today’s anti- and post-Zionists is, compared with the estimated 13 million Jews worldwide, most of whom are Zionists and support the Jewish state.

Jonathan Judaken is particularly upset about those who criticize antisemitism, particularly critics of Jimmy Carter’s Palestine: Peace not Apartheid and Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. The unscholarly and biased nature of these publications does not upset him. Nor does he focus on similarities between the arguments of Nazi agitator Johann von Leers in his 1940 book Kräfte hinter Roosevelt and those of Walt/Mearsheimer in 2006/2007. In fact, the cover of von Leers book showed an American flag with Stars of David instead of ordinary stars. The German edition of Walt/Mearsheimer’s bestseller, published by Campus publisher, also uses Stars of David as part of the American flag.

Nor is Judaken upset about Islamist antisemitism, although he knows well that it exists. Instead, he fears pro-Israel and pro-Jewish critics of Islamism, left-wing anti-Zionism, and mainstream anti-Israel propaganda. He says that “neo-conservative philosemitism serves as the reverse of Islamism’s Judaeophobia.” Wow! So incitement to genocide from Iran equals criticism of incitement and support for Israel by neo-conservatives in the US?

Let’s listen again to Jonathan Judaken and his use of the word “army,” while he is silent on the terror of the Revolutionary Guard of the Islamic Republic of Iran or Hezbollah, for example:

“Horkheimer and Adorno thus suggest how a frenetic, paranoid and delusional neo-conservative philosemitism serves as the reverse of Islamism’s Judaeophobia, each a symptom of ‘ticket thinking’ in the age of digital communication in which stereotypes stand in the place of critical thought. Their analysis also indicates the ways in which the struggle against antisemitism can paradoxically feed the symptoms it seeks to alleviate. Horkheimer and Adorno suggest that the globalized marketplace defines the production, dissemination and consumption of ideas whose logic is governed by commodification and fetishization. This ‘ticket thinking’ has also infused political struggles. This means that those who seek to gain publicity to promote their positions can do so by referencing the prepackaged reservoir of anti-Jewish images and, in so doing, provoke an immediate response from the army of NGOs who combat antisemitism.”

Thus, pro-Israel NGOs need, or even invent or exaggerate antisemitism, in this distorted view. Finally, Jonathan Judaken thanks Marxist and anti-Zionist French philosopher Etienne Balibar “whose very thoughtful comments helped to reshape some of my thoughts.”

A year later, in winter 2009, Judaken published a review article in the journal Holocaust and Genocide Studies in which he attacked political scientist and sociologist Andrei S. Markovits, thus:

“…many over-generalizations for which he provides little substantive evidence. He [Markovits, CH] states, for example, that ‘criticism of Israel has attained a tone in Europe’s mainstream media which goes well beyond the country’s policies and questions the worth of its very existence’ (p. 77). This kind of assertion is so generic and unsubstantiated that it might be said to be a stereotype itself.”

In 2009, a year with several of the most antisemitic rallies in European history in recent decades, Judaken accuses Markovits of being too pro-Israel. This is all the more remarkable because Markovits is a leading expert on European history, while Judaken is not. Judaken’s obsession with downplaying antisemitism is striking. Judaken also takes aim at historian Jeffrey Herf and political scientist Matthias Küntzel, among others. He offers instead the well-known anti-“alarmist” ideology:

“When Cesarani, Birnbaum, and Herf cast their glance toward the contemporary situation, they sound an alarm. In his overview of anti-Zionism in Britain, Cesarani argues that with the rise of the New Left and its perspective on the Arab-Israeli conflict and U.S. ‘imperial’ policy, the rhetoric and attacks on Zionism began to permeate the Left as a whole; a ‘new antisemitism’ was forged from ‘the concatenation of anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism, and antisemitism’ (p. 132). Birnbaum, too, warns of ‘surprising conjunctions’ (p. 154), in his case ‘a selective alliance … developing between the National Front and certain minority Muslim circles’ (p. 154). Roger Cuikerman has most famously encapsulated the viewpoint of these ‘new antisemitism’ theorists in arguing that Jews are threatened by a new ‘red-green-brown alliance’ of Leftists, anti-globalization activists, and Islamists — an alliance forged by shared antisemitism. Herf is clearest about what he sees as the most dangerous element of this purported new political mix in his foreword to Matthias Küntzel’s Jihad and Jew-Hatred. ‘Radical Islamists hate Jews,’ he writes on the first line. So simple, so clear. Is this indisputable?”

It is in fact “simple” that Islamists hate Jews. Antisemitism has been embedded in Islamist ideology from the very start. Antisemitic behavior is a real threat, judging from events in recent years and decades. Although Judaken then refers to the clear evidence of the parallel growth of Nazi, Arab and Islamist antisemitism in the 1930s and 1940s, for example, as shown by Küntzel, he fails to see the importance of these findings for our understanding of today’s antisemitism, particularly Islamist antisemitism. Instead, Judaken embraces “principled” anti-Zionism, as if Islamist anti-Zionist antisemitism is somehow not principled, as, for example:

“One of the features constantly articulated by those arguing that a ‘new antisemitism’ is on the rise today is that it takes the form of an anti-racism in which Israel – representing the Jew in the community of nations – is bashed as a racial, apartheid, colonial state, hardly different from Nazi Germany. And the eighth paradox one might discern is that a principled Jewish anti-Zionism – one that saw Zionism as bad for the Jewish soul – has shadowed Zionism from its origins. This means that the formula ‘anti-Zionism is antisemitism’ is too simplistic. It is an analytically blunt tool that often only serves the opposite political ends – the ends of those who promote the canard that ‘Zionism is racism.’ Both claims help to fuel the rhetorical fires, rather than dampen them down.”

This kosher stamp for Jewish anti-Zionism is highly problematic. His accusations against the few anti-antisemitic scholars make it extremely unlikely that Judaken read or understood the books and articles of Robert Wistrich, although he quotes him several times.

In 2012 Judaken was published by political scientist Lars Rensmann in a book on Arendt and Adorno, alongside with anti-Zionist activist Seyla Benhabib, who accused Israel in 2010 of alleged “crimes against humanity:” “In the brutal Gaza War, Israel surely committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.” Benhabib also compared contemporary Israel with fascism, National Socialism and the 1930s:

“Avigdor Lieberman and his cohorts do not speak the language of contemporary liberal-democratic politics; their diction and imagination are trapped by the vocabulary of Europe of the 1930’s – ‘one nation, one land, one state.’ Where have we heard that before?”

The use of the term “crimes against humanity” in that context is unscholarly and defamatory in nature. Such inflation of accusations is well-known in the anti-Israel tent. But it is still a scandal that such slurs go unchallenged in academia – Benhabib is a friend of anti-Israel celebrity Judith Butler and a Yale professor and was even given an award in 2012 by the University of Tübingen in South-West Germany.

As mentioned, I have analyzed the work of Jonathan Judaken because he appears to be the lone scholar in the consortium affiliated with the Pears Institute who has written at least a few longer articles about research on antisemitism. It is also worth noting that he welcomed and embraced the killing of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) by Yale University in June 2011 in an article for Ha’aretz, accusing YIISA of pro-Israel advocacy:

“In recent weeks [summer 2011, CH], the front lines in the battle over the ‘new anti-Semitism’ have moved to YaleUniversity. A controversy has raged over the decision by Yale to shutter its Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism. Caroline Glick has led the charge in The Jerusalem Post, suggesting that YIISA was shut down because of its refusal to shut up about contemporary Islamic anti-Semitism. The uproar is an indicator that discussions about contemporary anti-Semitism have become a war zone. (…) YIISA clearly blurred the lines between activism and academic work. (…) The watchdogs’ activity is part of a broader assault on faculty governance that is eroding academia. This does not mean that universities are an ivory tower removed from the most important issues we face globally. On the contrary: Universities, in their training of researchers, can make a significant contribution to these debates. As such, the YIISA controversy should sound the alarm bells. It should serve as a call for the need to properly educate a new generation of scholars in the field, and for a dialogue within academic circles on how to achieve this goal.”

In reality, the contribution of Judaken constitutes an endorsement for anti- and post-Zionist activism. Probably he would say that support for someone like BDS- or boycott-Israel-activist Judith Butler or for Étienne Balibar is of course not advocacy, simply philosophy or intellectual reflection.

A look at some of the invitees and speakers at the Pears Institute is of interest, too. For example, there is the case of Gilbert Achcar, who was invited in June 2011 by the Pears Institute. “Don’t expect me to take a pro-Israel view. I’m an Arab,” said Gilbert Achcar at an event in California in October 2011, according to a report by Middle East and Islamic Studies expert Cinnamon Stillwell. Political scientists Matthias Küntzel and Colin Meade published a critique of Achcar’s anti-Zionist approach. He downplays today’s Holocaust denial in the Arab world, and claims that talk about Arab Holocaust denial started in 1982. That denial of course had already begun during the Holocaust in 1943, as Küntzel and Meade show, based on findings of historian Jeffrey Herf. In addition, Küntzel and Meade write:

“Achcar, however, subordinates reality to his political belief-system. He presents Holocaust denial as the desperate and therefore understandable reaction of an oppressed group to the onslaught of an all-powerful Israel. ‘Are all forms of Holocaust denial the same?’ he asks rhetorically.”

Antony Lerman, another speaker at the Pears Institute, published a review of literary critic Anthony Julius’ 2010 Magnum opus Trials of the Diaspora. A History of Anti-Semitism in England. Lerman did not object to Julius’ recounting of the history of antisemitism until the Holocaust; what bothered him was Julius’ support for living Jews in chapters seven and eight of his book: “Contemporary Secular Anti-Zionism,” and “Contemporary Confessional Anti-Zionism.” Lerman, like many authors, scholars, and activists, has no interest in analyzing contemporary Jew-hatred. He too was pleased with the termination of YIISA by Yale. Antony Lerman is particularly upset that politicians who oppose antisemitism, like Irvin Cotler from Canada, are involved in institutions dealing with contemporary antisemitism. On February 27, 2012, he wrote:

“If we need reminding of the significance of this approach, we have only to recall the welcome demise of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA), which put political advocacy above scholarly objectivity. Unfortunately, the battle to ensure that dispassionate academic standards prevail over politicisation of the subject is by no means over. While the Pears Institute is making a hugely significant contribution to this effort, only a week or so ago the announcement of the launch of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, provides ample evidence that those who give priority to a prior political agenda, most commonly manifested through the promotion of the concept of the ‘new antisemitism’, over the serious analysis of contemporary antisemitism are still on the warpath. Among the members of the Academic Advisory Board of this centre are the former head of YIISA, Charles Small, and various figures, like Professor Ruth Wisse, Professor Dina Porat and Professor Alvin H. Rosenfeld, who supported the approach followed by Small at YIISA. Most tellingly, the Honorary Chairman of the Board is Professor Irwin Cotler, former Canadian Justice Minister, who has probably done more than anyone else to promote the idea of the ‘new antisemitism’ and therefore contribute massively to the politicisation of the study of the subject.“

Denunciations of other scholars in the field who are against antisemitism is obviously welcomed by the Pears Institute, which in September 2012 invited Lerman.

Today’s anti-Zionism is Jew-hatred, because being publicly against Israel and the Jewish State constitutes an attack on her Jewish inhabitants, no doubt about this. Auschwitz survivor Jean Améry analyzed the antisemitic impact of anti-Zionism as early as 1969. Israel is a Jewish state and those who seek to destroy that country as a Jewish state know that this includes the killing of Jews. People can live in the Diaspora and be against Israel. However, to publicly agitate against Israel as a Jewish state includes, effectively, the affirmation or toleration of violence against Jews in Israel. No doubt about this either. In times when a huge number of non-Jews agitate against Israel, and in times when a country like Iran calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, every anti-Israel agitation supports, effectively, even if unintentionally or contre coeur, that kind of hatred which finally resulted in the past and will result in the future in the murder of Jews in Israel.

British historian Eric Hobsbawn had a problematic view of the 20th century and almost omitted the Holocaust from his entire research. In his most famous bestseller, Age of Extremes form 1994, supposedly a history of the “short” 20th century, not one of the 68 included high-resolution pictures is reserved for the Shoah. Not one. There is of course not one chapter dealing with the Holocaust either. For him 1914 (the start of the First World War) and 1991 (the end of the Soviet Union) are much more important.

In fact, from a scholarly point of view, it might be much more interesting to talk about the long 20th century (1890’s to 9/11). Why not focus on the rise of antisemitic parties in the 1890 in Empire Germany, through National Socialism, the Shoah, until 9/11, when Islamists, inspired by German antisemitism and anti-Americanism (remember Hitler’s talk about his wish to see New York burning!), took action? One could argue that the 20th century was long, rather than short. It depends on your perspective. If you think like Hobsbawn, that Communism and the Left are core issues of the 20th century, then forget about the Holocaust and you have a short 20th century. If your focus is on the most horrible crime in world history, the Holocaust, things might change. Then, one could maybe even argue that pre-Nazi antisemitism before 1900 and post-Nazi antisemitism after 2000 until 9/11 are related to the history of the 20th century. This is particularly true, if we take into account, as historians or authors Stefan Meining and Ian Johnson have argued, that Islamism grew in the Federal Republic of Germany since the 1950s, using networks of Islamist and former SS-Imams during the Second World War. That is a link from Nazi Germany to the Hamburg cell, Mohammed Atta and 9/11, at least indirectly, and in terms of ideological analogies.

Thus, Eric Hobsbawn (1917–2012) alongside with Ted Honderich, Etienne Balibar, Ilan Pappé, Gilbert Achcar, Slavoj Zizek and many other scholars in January 2009 signed a letter in the Guardian during Operation Cast Lead, which reads like this:

“The massacres in Gaza are the latest phase of a war that Israel has been waging against the people of Palestine for more than 60 years. The goal of this war has never changed: to use overwhelming military power to eradicate the Palestinians as a political force, one capable of resisting Israel’s ongoing appropriation of their land and resources. Israel’s war against the Palestinians has turned Gaza and the West Bank into a pair of gigantic political prisons.”

This is interesting insofar, as they openly say “that Israel has been waging [war] for more than 60 years,” read: since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. They portray Hamas as the poor victim of a “gigantic political prison.” Not many prisoners, though, are able to launch thousands of rockets onto their enemies. The mostly British signatories do not care about the genocidal ideology of Hamas, they do not care about the antisemitic hate speeches of Hamas, and they do not care about children, adults and old people in the south of Israel, like in Sderot, where people have been terrorized by rockets from the Gaza Strip for many years.

Anthony Julius, the historian of English antisemitism, analyzed the anti-Zionist approach of Eric Hobsbawn and the “Independent Jewish Voice” (IJV) and their ideology of the ‘good Jews’ who live in the Diaspora and who defame the nation-state Israel and the ‘bad Zionists.’ However, for the head of the Pears Institute David Feldman, “Eric” “was a model of how to grow old well.” Feldman was silent in his eulogy of Hobsbawn about the highly problematic portrayal of the Shoah in Hobsbawn’s work and on the anti-Zionist activity of the aged historian.

Sociologist Robert Fine, one of the speakers at the Pears Institute, in December 2009 published an article in the journal Patterns of Prejudice that referred in substance (and not just in passing) to his colleague Paul Gilroy’s work, always stressing like Gilroy that antisemitism is not categorically different from racism and hatred of Blacks or others. Gilroy was another signatory of the above-mentioned anti-Israel letter in the Guardian of January 2009. Although Fine dealt with antisemitism in his article, he failed to analyze or criticize the anti-Zionism of the Guardian letter. This letter is an example of today’s anti-Israel climate in Europe and the UK.

Research on antisemitism emphasizes the distinctiveness of antisemitism. The post-colonial trope, comparing or equating the history of Blacks with antisemitism, is scholarly problematic. Fine hosted American scholar Walther Mignolo (who is based at Duke University in the US) at the institute of sociology at the University of Warwick. Mignolo is known as a supporter of the one-state-solution, read: the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. Fine’s co-worker, Gurminder Bhambra, who also collaborated with Mignolo, bases her work on Edward Said. The same holds for Achim Rohde, newly appointed co-worker at the Center for Research on Antisemitism (ZfA) at Technical University Berlin. The new head of that center (since summer 2011), Stefanie Schüler-Springorum, is a newcomer to research on antisemitism, too, like David Feldman. She was invited to speak at the Pears Institute on October 24, 2012, and she is, as quoted, a member of the consortium. On his own homepage at Birkbeck College Feldman does not mention antisemitism as a field of his “research interests.” He deals with Jewish history and the history of immigration and multiculturalism in Britain, but antisemitism as such is not part of his scholarship.

It is typical of mainstream scholarship in the field of antisemitism that Schüler-Springorum appointed, as one of the very few co-workers at her center, Islamic Studies scholar Achim Rohde from the younger generation.

Why so? I examined his doctoral dissertation (which was written in English and can be found at the library of the Institute of Islamic Studies at Freie Universität Berlin, it differs slightly from the published book!) and other works and found out: 1) He supports antisemitic, anti-Zionist, post-colonial and post-Orientalist superstar Edward Said; 2) He supports German anti-Zionist and highly controversial activist Ludwig Watzal (harshly criticized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany); 3) He supports antisemitic, anti-Zionist authors like Daniel Boyarin and Jacqueline Rose; 4) He supports authors like Gil Anidjar who make fun of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, who defame Israel as apartheid and who promote the boycott of Israel; 5) He supports the trivialization and in fact denial of the Holocaust by equating it with the situation of Turks in Germany today with reference to Hazem Saghiyeh and Saleh Bashir; 6) He equates antisemitism with “Orientalism” and denies the genocidal ideology of antisemitism; 7) He ignores the Iranian and Islamist threat; 8) He dwells on the fantasy of “Islamophobia,” its analogy to “antisemitism” and “Orientalism” and is employed to do so by the ZfA, as the newsletter of the ZfA, written by Schüler-Springorum, in May 2012 says.

In December 2010 Schüler-Springorum, then head of the Hamburg-based Institute for the History of German Jewry, invited historian Tamar Amar-Dahl, who in 2006 returned her Israeli passport. Amar-Dahl is known in Germany for her activism against Israel; she joined Palestinian events against Zionism and Israel in Munich, for example. Her doctoral dissertation in 2010 defames Israeli President Shimon Peres as a nationalist who is unwilling to achieve peace with the Arabs. Ignoring history and reality, Amar-Dahl is also obsessed with portraying left-wing Zionism as evil. She was dismissed as a doctoral candidate by German scholar in Jewish Studies Michael Brenner and was then accepted by extreme right-wing historian Horst Möller in Munich. Möller is a close ally of revisionist Ernst Nolte, who is particularly infamous for his denial of the uniqueness of Auschwitz and his participation in the outbreak of the Historikerstreit in 1986. Her second reader was anti-Zionist activist Moshe Zuckermann from TelAvivUniversity, well-known in Austria and Germany for defaming critics of antisemitism, Islamism, and left-wing anti-Zionism.

The worst event, though, of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism so far was arguably a talk by Jacqueline Rose. Rose is infamous for her hatred of Israel: she compared Israel to Nazi Germany, a hardcore antisemitic slur, as Julius has documented. In 2005 in an interview Jacqueline Rose said:

“It seems to me that the suffering of a woman on the edge of the pit with her child during the Nazi era, and a Palestinian woman refused access to a hospital through a checkpoint and whose unborn baby dies as a result, is the same.”

Eminent Jewish Studies scholar Alvin Rosenfeld from Indiana University, in 2011 author of The End of the Holocaust, dedicated a chapter in his pamphlet “Progressive Jews and the new anti-Semitism” in 2006 (published by the American Jewish Committee) to Rose due to her outstanding performance as a Jewish anti-Zionist who fuels antisemitism and gives hatred of Israel a kosher stamp. Rose dedicated her book The Question of Zion (2005) to Edward Said. In this book Rose compares Zionist Theodor Herzl and Hitler, claiming both were inspired by Wagner’s music at a concert in 1895 in Paris:

“It was only when Wagner was not playing at the Paris opera that he [Theodor Herzl, CH] had any doubts as to the truth of his ideas. (According to one story it was the same Paris performance of Wagner, when – without knowledge or foreknowledge of each other – they were both present on the same evening, that inspired Herzl to write Der Judenstaat, and Hitler Mein Kampf.)” (Jacqueline Rose (2005): The Question of Zion, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, pp. 64–65.)

First of all one must wonder about the scholarly standard of Princeton University Press. This is not a spelling mistake, because otherwise the editors would have told Rose to correct this. Everyone knows that Hitler was born in 1889, like Heidegger, by the way. But Rose needs the parallelization of Hitler and Zionism, so she invented an extremely ridiculous and absurd constellation in Paris. Every serious historian and intellectual must recognize this, regardless if someone likes anti-Zionism or not. This is simply not scholarship anymore, not even controversial scholarship, this is clap-trap.

Theodor Herzl indeed finished the manuscript of Der Judenstaat in May 1895. We do not know which concert Rose is talking about, but it could not have been later than May 1895. At that time, young Adolf was 6 years old and in fact only visited Paris in 1940 when he conquered France during the Second World War, as historian Robert Wistrich recalls in his critique of Jacqueline Rose. So according to Rose, Hitler was inspired to write Mein Kampf at the age of six! Who can take Jacqueline Rose seriously? Wistrich writes in his Magnum opus A Lethal Obsession. Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (2010), that “no contemporary platitude about the Jewish state is left unmentioned” in Rose’s The Question of Zion.

The Pears Institute obviously is rather fascinated by Rose as it invited her to present her new book on June 19, 2012.

Not one of the speakers, including Anthony Bale from the Department of English and the Humanities at Birkbeck, who was the chair (moderator) of the event, “independent consultant” Ingrid Wassenaar, Bryan Cheyette, a scholar in English literature at the University of Reading, or David Feldman, head of the Pears Institute, criticized Rose. Rather they praised her, according to the podcasts of that event. Cheyette refered to Rose as his “teacher,” Wassenaar was “very honoured” to speak at the panel with Rose, Feldman talked about the “Nakba” of the Palestinians without referring to scholarship on that highly disputed history, like the study of Efraim Karsh Palestine Betrayed. Feldman has no problem with a possible “one state” or two state solution, although the first would be the end of Israel as a Jewish state. Instead he focuses on the “politics of citizenship.” He even mentioned “vicious attacks on Jacqueline” without telling what is so shocking about Jacqueline Rose’s publications and scholarship. For Feldman Zionism has something to learn from the Jewish “Diaspora,” not vice versa. In her own contribution at the event, Jacqueline Rose thanked David “enormously” for organizing the discussion and for inviting her. Feldman thanked Rose for having convinced him to be part of the panel.

David Feldman invited Jacqueline Rose, while Achim Rohde from the Center for Research on Antisemitism (ZfA) in Berlin referred positively to Rose at the end of his doctoral dissertation, which was about Iraq. This is indicating Rohde’s obsession to quote antisemitic books in order to denounce Israel, regardless if these books are built upon lies and completely absurd fantasies about young Hitler and Theodor Herzl.

Jacqueline Rose’s love for Said is typical of today’s anti-Zionist establishment. Edward Said (1935–2003) was the leading academic anti-Zionist voice in recent decades, achieving global fame. He portrayed Arabs as the ‘new Jews’ as early as 1969. He equated Israel with South-African apartheid in 1979 and denounced Israel as the leading Orientalist, imperialist and racist power in his bestselling book Orientalism in 1978. The chapter on Israel is the last and longest chapter in this anti-Western and antisemitic book. In an interview in 1987, Said asserted that Israelis had not learned the lessons from their own suffering under Nazi Germany. In his view, Jews have become perpetrators now in the same way the Nazis were perpetrators against the Jews. In 1999 Said argued that, if he could choose, he would opt for a kind of renewed Ottoman Empire. Jews could become an accepted minority, but Israel would be destroyed.

Despite this parade of dubious scholars and topics, the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism failed to hold a single event dealing with the most obvious and dangerous form of antisemitism in our world: the Iranian threat. Iran has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel; the regime denies the Holocaust while preparing another one and seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Islamism in general or sharia law has not been a topic for a single event either. They had no event about Muslim Brotherhood-style antisemitism like praise for Hitler and the Holocaust, from the leading charismatic voice of the MB, Yusuf al-Qaradawi in January 2009. He urged the Muslim world to “liberate” Jerusalem during his first speech in Egypt in over 30 years, at Tahrir Place, during the so-called Arab spring in February 2011.

This short reflection about the scholarship of and around the Pears Institute tried to show what parts of the elite in the UK and elsewhere thinks about Israel and the Jews.

Israel is a Jewish state and will be a Jewish state in the future. Kant’s well-intentioned call for the end of nation-states and armies is suicide in a world of Islamist threats or North Korean communist tyranny. German-Jewish anti-Zionism of the pre-Holocaust period is history. Hannah Arendt was deeply wrong when she turned against a Zionist declaration from Atlantic City in October 1944. Arendt wanted to give Kantian politics a new chance vis-à-vis the Holocaust and genocidal threats from the Arab world. This was philosophically and politically mistaken. Ignoring reality in 1944 or 1948 and naively promoting cosmopolitanism à la Kant in times of Nazism and Arab antisemitism is dangerous. There is need for a Jewish Israel with an army to protect the Jewish homeland, which is the only country on earth which is facing genocidal threats.

There are many things to criticize about the policies of the Pears Institute, as this short article tried to show. Most importantly is the following:

Every serious scholar, particularly those affiliated with that institute, should be shocked and protest publicly that the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism invited and supported someone who published a book in 2005, saying that Adolf Hitler was inspired to write Mein Kampf age six in 1895 during a concert of Wagner music in Paris.


The author Dr. Clemens Heni, born 1970, is a political scientist and the Director of the Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (BICSA), established in January 2011. Among his main fields of research are antisemitism (including anti-Zionism), the Holocaust, Holocaust remembrance, German history until today, Islamism, Islamic Studies and research on antisemitism, so-called comparative genocide studies, right-wing extremism, the New Right and political culture. He is the author of dozens of articles on antisemitism in English and German and was published by Jewish Political Studies Review, Jerusalem Post,, San Diego Jewish News, Tribüne, Journal for the Study of Antisemitism (JSA), among others. He gave his first speech at an international conference in December 2002 at Hebrew University (at the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, SICSA). He is the author of three books in German so far, including his doctoral dissertation from 2006 (University of Innsbruck, Austria), which was published in 2007 (509 pp., about the New Right, national identity, anti-Americanism and antisemitism in Germany from 1970-2005), his second book in 2009 (as a result of his appointment as Post-Doctoral Associate at the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) at Yale University) about Germany and Antisemitism (332 pp.), including chapters about 1) Ahasver, Moloch, and Mammon: the ‘eternal Jew’ and some German specifics in antisemitic images since the 17th century; 2) A comparison of ›ordinary Germans‹ (Goldhagen) and the elements of antisemitism‹ of Horkheimer/Adorno – Are there specific German characteristics in the development of the western world?; 3) ›New-German‹ anti-Humanism, anti-Liberalism and antisemitism before, during and after National Socialism. Little known sources of the Catholic ›Bund Neudeutschland‹; 4) Nature and ‘Homeland’ (Heimat): German love for landscape – Nature protection, antisemitism and National Socialism; 5) “The natives of Trizonesia” – German author Dieter Wellershoff and the antisemitic impact of Cologne’s carnival song in 1949; 6) Secondary Antisemitism in Germany today; 7) Henning Eichberg, the New Right, antisemitism, history and the social sciences; (8) 1933 to 1968: Götz Aly and the „revolt of the decent people,” and his third book Schadenfreude. Islamic Studies and Antisemitism in Germany after 9/11 (2011, 410 pp.); his first book written in English will be published in January 2013, Antisemitism: A Specific Phenomenon. Holocaust Trivialization – Islamism – Post-colonial and Cosmopolitan anti-Zionism (ca. 650 pp.) His homepage is, the center can be found at

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