Phyllis Chesleris an emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies at the City University of New York (CUNY), the author of 20 books and a founding member of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME)..
I’m a Jew, a feminist, an author, and an academic. I believe in universal human rights. I am not a multi-cultural relativist. I do not respect the postcolonial academy, which brought about the palestinianization of intellectual reality, and which projected Islam’s apartheid practices onto Israel. I oppose the consequent worship of victim status, identity politics and the balkanization of identity.
From the time I was eight years old in 1948, I can’t remember a time when Israel was not central to my imagination both as a model for heroism and as a transcendent, miraculous, reality. From childhood on, Zionism was an ever-evolving example of political, theological, historical, and personal liberation.
I cannot keep quiet about the extraordinary rise—a tsunami, really—in Jew-hatred and the demonization of Israel.
I was called to fight in a cognitive war, and I must tell you that we’ve lost that battle, or at least we’ve lost this round, partly because Jews, including Israeli Jews, failed to understand how important this war really is, and partly because the forces of hatred were even greater than we could imagine.
So far, we do not have an Iron Dome against such lethal propaganda and the global noose around the Jewish neck has grown ever tighter. Today, we are up against dangerous demagogues whom we have allowed to flourish on campus, in the media, and in government.
Would we allow a professor to teach that the earth is flat and reward him for teaching Junk Science? Imagine if this professor had a following which demonizes, intimidates, and death threatens all those who believe that the earth is round! Such behavior is typical of Islamists, Stalinists, or the early Church Fathers, but here I am describing the Western intelligentsia. The well-meaning “wokesters.”
For speaking truth about Israel rather than defaming and delegitimizing Israel, one loses one’s friends, relatives, neighbors, colleagues, publishers, funding, and lecture invitations. As they say: Kavod Kaved, glory, honor, is a heavy burden.
Like so many, I had assumed that hatred and persecution of Jews had been defeated, that the genocide of Jews would never repeat itself. I was wrong.
I first encountered antisemitism among American leftists, including feminists, in the early 1970s and it sent me straight to Israel for a long overdue visit. Yet it took me more than three decades to publicly break with leftists and feminists over their antisemitism/anti-Zionism.
During that time, the scope of my activism in fighting Jew-hatred and standing with Israel—both independently and in collaboration with other Jews and organizations—has been intensive and vast. The strategies included authoring books and thousands of articles; delivering speeches; soliciting signatures against anti-Israel resolutions; holding press conferences; being interviewed in films, the media, and on television; bringing journalists and iconic feminists to Israel; collaborating with Israeli feminists; organizing conferences; and battling for Israel at international conferences, including the UN Conference on Women held in Copenhagen, which was a pre-cursor to Durban.
In the early 1980s, while traveling on a European feminist lecture tour, I stood outside the great synagogues—the Rue Copernic Synagogue in Paris, the Stadttempel Synagogue in Vienna, and the Great Synagogue of Rome. Palestinian Arab terrorists had bombed them all and the synagogues subsequently needed permanent police guards outside.
In 1991, I stood on a corner in Crown Heights in Brooklyn and watched a Black pogrom against Orthodox Jews. It raged on. The mayor and the police did not stop it for days. I will never forget it. I knew then that the bloody beast was back.
However, on October 12, 2000, when Palestinian Arab barbarians in Ramallah lynched Vadim Norzhich and Yosef Avrahami, two Israeli Defense Forces reservists (may they rest in peace), the airwave’s many Talking Heads did not flinch as they played and replayed this ghoulish event.
Just thirteen days prior, on September 29th, Arafat unleashed his well-planned Second Intifada, which lasted until February 8, 2005. Over 1,000 Israelis were killed, and thousands were severely injured in these attacks. And so, it was on September 29, 2000, after thirty-two years of researching, speaking, marching, and publishing pioneering feminist works, I found myself drafted into a new kind of army. Suddenly, I was a full-time civilian fighting in the Cognitive War against the Jews.
And, when the planes of 9/11 crashed through history and into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I understood: “Now we are all Israelis.” Airports everywhere would have to develop the kind of security procedures that only Israeli Embassies, consulates, airports, synagogues, and Jewish centers had tragically been forced to pioneer.
Meanwhile, over the last 40+ years, the Western academy, media, international organizations, and governments, which included liberal and leftist feminists—all became increasingly Stalinized and Palestinianized. Leftist feminists became more obsessed with the alleged “occupation” of a country that had never existed—Palestine—than they were with the real occupation of women’s bodies globally. They dared not focus on the occupation of women’s bodies in Muslim countries lest they be shunned as racists and Islamophobes. I learned that so-called “progressives” could also be racists.
Those in the West who benefited from free speech, women’s rights, human rights, gay rights, and religious freedom, refused to criticize the utter absence of such rights in the Muslim world—and in totalitarian countries such as China, Russia, and North Korea. Instead, the intelligentsia had decided that Israel was the worst possible nation on earth and that if Israel were boycotted, or abolished, that justice would prevail everywhere, and the world would be at peace.
In time, many Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh feminists “of color” embraced my work on honor-based violence and on honor killing. But, while conservative intellectuals welcomed me, I continued to be viewed as a traitor by American left-wing feminists and intellectuals.
In 2001/2002, as Israeli civilians were being blown up in cafes, nightclubs, hotels, buses, and supermarkets, I stopped everything else and began writing around the clock. I documented classic Jew-hatred in pagan and Christian times and the Arab Muslim attacks against Jews in Israel from the beginning of the 20th century (when there was no alleged Israeli “occupation” of disputed lands), and the growing number of Muslim Jihadist attacks against the West.
I could not bear how the Western media grotesquely distorted both facts and context. Even Orwell would be stunned by the linguistic reversals of reality and the scapegoating of Israel for the very crimes being committed by Arab Islamists.
I insisted that anti-Zionism was the new antisemitism, and that a “perfect storm” was underway, coming to us from the Islamic world which had, for centuries, persecuted, jailed, murdered, taxed, and exiled Jews and other infidels—an Islamist worldview which was now allied with a politically correct Western intelligentsia. In 2003, the first edition of my book The New Anti-Semitism was published. What I had to say was mainly embraced by the Christian conservative media.
What was my Thought Crime? Was it that I held the western intelligentsia also responsible for the war against the Jews? Or was my thought crime my failure to focus not only on right-wing or Christian Jew-hatred but also on the Islamic and left-wing versions?
From that moment on, doors in publishing and in the media started to close. For the first time in 31 years, the left-liberal mainstream media (the only media that most publishers and literary agents read), was not interested in reviewing my work or in interviewing me.
Like others, I was a grassroots soldier, barefoot in winter, so to speak, without supplies, without a weapon, without ammunition, or a heavy winter coat. I was on my own. But how could I stop?
The fact that Jewish Israel dared to exist in the Muslim Middle East was considered an unforgivable crime. It was a religious war—not one merely over territory. No one wanted to believe this.
We heretics were writing that Israel was the canary in the coal mine for Western civilization and post-Enlightenment values; and that the West is not the only culture that has engaged in colonialism or slavery. Islam also has a very long history of colonialism, imperialism, conversion via the sword, gender and religious apartheid, black slavery, white slavery, and female sex slavery.
For saying this we were denounced as extremists, alarmists, and paranoid. Many of us were de-platformed long before the word became fashionable. Invitations to speak—even on other subjects—became dis-invitations. My feminist intellectual history was increasingly “disappeared” because of my views on the Jews and Islam.
However, this is a small enough price to pay for the honor of defending fact-based truth. Other dissidents in the West have paid a far greater price than I have. They write under pseudonyms, live in hiding, in exile, and with round-the-clock protection; they are demonized as racists, death-threatened, and sued into poverty. Think about Salman Rushdie (nearly assassinated), Orianna Fallaci (forced into exile), Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Magdi Allam, Lars Wilks, Masih Alinejad, and countless others who need round the clock police protection.
Me? I was just cast into a peculiar kind of Gulag. My earned credibility and economic survival were compromised so that I could not be the kind of effective advocate for Israel and the West that I believe this struggle requires. This is equivalent to having one or both arms tied behind your back every single day as you engage in the battle of ideas upon which civilizations rise or fall.
In 2016, at an LGBTQ conference in Chicago, I watched the footage of a surging, enraged, LGBTQ mob on their way to silence, perhaps physically attack the gay Jewish and Israeli panelists. Russian-born gay activist Michael Lucas viewed the protestors as similar to “Nazis, chanting vicious slogans, screaming epithets, their faces distorted in hatred.” The mob blocked those who wanted to hear the Israelis speak—and held prisoner all those already inside the room.”
We know that visibly Orthodox Jews and Jews of every denomination at prayer have been attacked and murdered—right here in North America and all over Europe.
We know that Jewish centers in North America now require the same kind of security as Israeli consulates, embassies, and synagogues once did and still do.
We know that anti-racism textbooks in America barely, or rarely, include Jew-hatred as a form of racism.
We know that Middle East institutes and professors have been savagely anti-Israel. We also know that college campuses have become alarmingly hostile to both Jewish and pro-Israel students.
Way back in 2003-2004, I began hearing from pro-Israel professors about the hostility they had been encountering both from their colleagues and from student activists in North America. Since then, generations of students have emerged who report being increasingly endangered, even traumatized, by Jew-hatred among other students, the professoriate, and the administration.
How do we de-program multiple generations? How do we introduce fact-based truth? Whatever the solution, it is something that needs to be done every day, certainly every year. We need to think large. And we need the strength and the courage to stay the course, to keep up the Good Fight whether or not we can win each battle.
In my view, every single university and college that is successfully sued for anti-Zionism/antisemitism and for the racist and religious harassment of Jewish students, should be mandated, legally, to offer a university-wide Teach-In about Jew-hatred, one that is fact-based—and they must continue to do so every year with the assistance of outside experts.
As it becomes more and more dangerous to be visibly Jewish and/or pro-Israel in America, why do so many Jews continue to fixate on Israel’s alleged imperfections?
Do we think that history can never repeat itself? Are we that sure?
Unfortunately, not everyone is willing or able to recognize the very real danger that both Jews and Western civilization now face. Some minimize antisemitism, blame Jews, refuse to understand that the cognitive war against us—which is greater now than at any time in history—has always led to genocidal bloodshed. They insist: Not here. Not now. Not us. Perhaps they are right; perhaps they are dead wrong.
Given the centrality of the land of Israel to Judaism, Jewish identity, and Jewish history, why do so many educated and assimilated Jews in the diaspora savagely criticize Israel only and support the Palestinian Arabs so passionately? Is it now psychologically safer to target Israel than to take on the antisemites?
As many have pointed out: It may start with the Jews, but it never ends there; it is always bigger than the Jews, who symbolize Western ideals: religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of inquiry (including scientific inquiry), self-criticism, the rule of law, the pursuit of justice, the abolition of slavery, individual, human, and women’s rights.
Jew-hatred is racism. Jews neither provoke it nor deserve it. Jew-haters bear the sole responsibility for this irrational, homicidal hatred. Today, it is the only acceptable prejudice among “anti-racists”.
Many fear that it is too late but even if it is—and it may be— we can never give up.
Each generation has an obligation to take on evil which always triumphs when good men and good women do nothing. We may not be able to win all the battles in our lifetimes, but we are obliged to do what we can while we are still here on earth.
We must remember that the Jews are an extraordinary people, a remnant of which has survived for millennia against all odds.
But we also must shed our illusions—permanently. We cannot expect that conditions will always improve, or that one country or another will always be a safe haven for Jews. We have repeated our history too many times.
One cannot win a war of ideas if one refuses to fight it.
Our ancestors suffered in exile for more than two thousand years, and while we are privileged to live at a time when our homeland has been restored to us, it was foolish to have thought that Jew-hatred would suddenly become extinct, and that Israel would be surrounded by peace-loving neighbors.
As Jews, as members of a nation holy unto God, we must understand, and never forget, that ours is an eternal struggle.
Sent by the writer.First posted at DocEmet Productions