Op-Ed: A Journal on Anti-Semitism Born out of Adversity
Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldThe writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards...
“My negative experiences with American and British editors who were biased against Israel led to the creation of the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism (JSA) in 2008.# I did this together with my friend Neal Rosenberg. It has become a periodical where articles can be published, without giving in to the prevailing anti-Israel rhetoric.”
Steven Baum is a clinical psychologist who has been in private practice for over thirty years. He teaches periodically and publishes articles, essays and books. A number of them deal with anti-Semitism and genocide.
He says, “I started off in the field of aging and adult development—the study of stages of psychological changes that occur as we age. I soon became fascinated with the Holocaust and other genocides. I later realized that it was the psychology of anti-Semitism that remained elusive and for the last ten years, focused my attention on why people hate Jews.”
Baum relates some of his experiences “I carried out a study on 100 North American Muslims and 100 Christians who were given tests on the topics of anti-Semitism and other psychological phenomena. Their scores were then added up regarding levels and types of anti-Semitic beliefs. The results were that mainstream Christian anti-Semitism scores were low, while most Muslim scores were high. Threat to one’s social identity emerged as the strongest predictors of anti-Semitism in the Muslim samples.
“I sent my study to the Journal of Contemporary Religion. Its editor said that a reviewer wanted me to explain those religious differences in terms of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. I replied that 1,500 years of anti-Semitic Muslim culture were the most likely source. The editor said that she would not publish the article until this issue was resolved with the reviewer.
“I decided to insert a sentence that had no bearing on anything, yet highlighted context instead of anti-Semitic culture and wrote: ‘Context is equally important to consider. For instance, the survey was conducted shortly after the 7 July 2005 bombings in London and the backdrop of violence may have polarized viewpoints, increasing the anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism ratings among Muslim youth.’ I gave a source which supported this. The journal then published the study in 2008. Most people understand however, that Jews and Israel have nothing to do with the London subway bombings.
“Around the same time, Cambridge University Press was preparing to publish my book Psychology of Genocide.# The line editor challenged me on anything critical of Islam. He asked questions such as “how can you say anything negative about jihad—it is one of the pillars of Islam?” I said that despite that fact, it had become a call for genocide. I complained to the main editor and thereafter, there were few further political challenges.
“The same publisher had an option for my next book Antisemitism Explained. Its main theme was that when one makes enough negative and false statements about Jews – or any other group – a tipping point is reached and people accept the anti-Semitic fallacy as true. I offered evidence of how this worked and paralleled the process to advertising psychology. Cambridge Press’s editors liked the idea. One chapter explained how Muslim propaganda had affected hatred of Israel along the same lines.
“The new editor of Cambridge Press whom I dealt with didn’t like this explanation of the anti-Israel sentiment, even though it was consistent with the main theme of my book. He wanted me to focus on context, i.e., the Palestinian point of view. I asked what this had to do with a book on anti-Semitism. The reply came down to ‘fix it or walk.’ I did not want to distort my opinions, whereupon the editor rejected my book.
“I then searched for another publisher for three years. I finally found University Press of America – an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield -- which published it in 2012.
“Several other academics told me that they had a difficult time publishing articles which put Israel in a favorable light. I realized then that there were no academic journals which were specifically devoted to investigating anti-Semitism. Pro-Palestinian academics however, encountered no such problems. By contrast there is a Journal of Palestinian Studies which is available in many libraries.”
Baum remarks: “The bi-annual Journal for the Study of Antisemitism is entering its fifth year. It has a respectable Board of Editors. The original footnoted articles in it are peer-reviewed. Guest editors have dealt with issues devoted to themes such as Eastern Europe, Law and anti-Semitism and Campus anti-Semitism. These are global phenomena. Another issue addressed anti-Semitism in Latin America.
“Some authors of essays and book reviews the JSA publishes would have difficulty placing them elsewhere. The journal is self-funded and not affiliated academically. Despite these odds, it gives a voice to Jewish and Israeli encounters with hatred. One could conclude that my negative experiences have led to a positive end result.”