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Prof. Chesler: Anti-Semitism Cannot be Equated with Islamophobia

German media and scholars now use the Holocaust as a tolerance lesson--for accepting Muslims, including those calling for anti-Israel Jihad.
By Professor Phyllis Chesler
First Publish: 10/19/2010, 1:35 PM / Last Update: 10/15/2010, 2:15 PM

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Even as Chancellor Angela Merkel pronounces the failure of “multiculturalism” in Germany, the English-language German newspaper reporter, Marc Young, writing for the English-language German news at The Local, proclaims that “bigotry towards Muslims is the new anti-Semitism.”
 
As the author of a book with the title The New Anti-Semitism (with an edition in German), allow me to remind Mr. Young that one of the things that is “new” about this most ancient of hatreds is that it is pandemic in the Islamic world and in Muslim communities in the West and that the multicultural relativists in the world’s universities, media, and political leadership, are collaborating with it in the name of “political correctness.”
 
Thus, what both Young and those who run the state-subsidized Center for Research on Anti-Semitism at the University of Berlin have learned from the Nazi Holocaust is that Europeans should not discriminate against Muslims as they once did against Jews.
 
German scholar Clemens Heni strongly disagrees:
 
“There is no other prejudice or form of racism which you can compare to this centuries-long hatred (anti-Semitism) which has no real justification. If you look at Islam today, there is a point to Islamophobia because Jihadists say, ‘We want to kill the unbelievers.’ Jews never said that. Because as a German I have a responsibility to deal with my own history, and if I see that other Germans want to downplay anti-Semitism and to minimize the threat of Islamic jihad and other forms of anti-Zionism—I think there is something deeply wrong, they didn’t learn the lesson from the Holocaust, they are even downplaying the Holocaust itself.
 
“I think it’s really important to focus on anti-Semitism as a specific phenomenon. This was the subject of my first article in the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism. Most people in Germany and in academia focus on anti-Semitism as one prejudice among many like racism, colonialism, imperialism, sexism, whatever. That was the reason why Robert Wistrich, the leading historian of anti-Semitism, was never invited to the Berlin Center for Research on anti-Semitism for the last 20 years. Usually an institute, well-funded, with hundreds of thousands of Euros a year—they have to invite the leading scholars. They didn’t invite him. One must ask why.”
 
Heni has paid a punishing price for his beliefs and values. He has failed the test for political correctness, both in Berlin and at Israel’s own leading “post-Zionist” universities which have, so far, refused to hire him as a professor of German history who specializes in German anti-Semitism—when such positions have actually been available.
 
Ironic, yes?
 
Heni has worked with Robert Wistrich in Jerusalem and with Charles Small at the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism. He has written two books about anti-Semitism in Germany: Antisemitism in Germany: Preliminary Studies of a “Heartfelt” Relationship and Antisemitism as a Specific Phenomenon, and co-written the book German Middle Eastern Studies and Islamism After 9/11. He remains an independent scholar without a tenured position.
 
In a recent interview, Heni explained to me: 
“The big controversy goes back to the conference in 2008 that equated Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, literally saying that the Muslims of today are in the same situation that the Jews were in during the late 19th century. And I’m a scholar of German history, I’ve written two books about that topic, including one about the late-19th century, so I know a little bit about what happened at that time. We had specific parties dedicated to spreading anti-Semitism, and right now we don’t have a single party spreading Islamophobia, saying ‘we don’t want any Muslims in our country,’ or that they should be killed.
 
So on the other hand, the Center says that after 9/11, we had an increase in hostility toward Muslims, which is a strange thing because Mr. Benz, the head of the center, was saying that after the killing of Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands in 2004, we had an increase in hostility toward Islam. He did not say that he was sorry about what happened to Mr. van Gogh, which was one of the most powerful political acts of killing in the last decade in Europe because it was a very Islamist, jihadist action.”
 
This precise European (and therefore post-Zionist Israeli) view of anti-Semitism was on display in a recent article in the New York Times about a new Hitler exhibit in Berlin. The article is titled “Hitler Exhibit Explores a Wider Circle of Guilt.” Those who were chosen to comment on the wisdom of such a display equated the persecution and extermination of Europe’s Jews with what is now going on in Europe vis a vis Europe’s Muslims. Thus, the University of Berlin’s Center for Research on Anti-Semitism and the post-Zionist Israeli Academy share the New York Times view that a hostile, anti-integration, pro-jihadic Muslim population in Europe is the same as a highly assimilated and/or pacifist Jewish population was in Europe in the past.
 
Leaping right over what is specific to the extermination of Europe’s Jews, Germans, as well as other Europeans today, are generalizing that tragic and unique history so as to justify the absorption of a far more dangerous and increasingly radicalized Muslim population.
 
Yes, of course: Germany welcomed “foreign workers” from Turkey whom they either never expected to stay or whom they assumed would be so grateful for a western life that they would happily integrate and become more German than Turkish. And yes, it is true: Germany has a history of racism towards Jews, gypsies, “foreigners.” However, today, Germany and the rest of Europe faces a far different challenge.
 
I wish to acknowledge the fine work of Esther’s Islam in Europe blog, and the assistance of Nathan Bloom in the preparation of this article.