On the Re-Issue of The New Antisemitism: an Interview with Dr. Phyllis Chesler

by Jerry Gordon (December 2014)


The New Anti-Semitism
by Phyllis Chesler
Gefen Publishing House (November 20, 2014)
408 pages


Antisemitism is like a bad penny. It keeps turning up in different forms, whether in ancient Christian or Islamic doctrines, medieval blood libel or notorious forgeries like the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” by the Czarist secret police. Virulent antisemitism was the foundation of Hitler’s final solution, the murder of six million European Jewish men, women and children during the Holocaust of World War II. Antisemitism was transformed following the establishment of the State of Israel as a bastion for refugees from both the Shoah and expulsion of more than 850,000 Jews from Arab and Muslim lands. Mass immigration of Muslims to Europe and the West fostered an Orwellian version: “Anti-Israelism is Antisemitism.” It effectively turned the Jewish nation into the world Jew, an object of scorn as the dhimmi usurper in the Muslim Middle East. 

Following the Six Day War victory in 1967, re-unification of Jerusalem and conquest of the disputed territories of the West Bank and Gaza, an international  campaign arose accusing Israel of being an “illegitimate  colonialist apartheid regime and occupier” of Muslim lands. Moreover, a sinister doctrine, what the scholar Bat Ye’or called “Palestinism,” arose attempting to erase the ancient Jewish presence in Israel. In its place, Arab settlers from 19th Century Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were transformed into primordial occupants with an meta-narrative myth. “Palestinism “motivates the current Palestine Authority seeking full statehood recognition at the UN. This is reflected in the upcoming debate at the European Parliament following symbolic votes by several EU members.

Arab oil interests funded academic programs and media campaigns to delegitimize, demonize and isolate Israel. The effort gained traction in United Nations forums, such as the Human Rights Council, dominated by violators of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the former Soviet Union, its satellites and members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc in the General Assembly. A new libel Zionism is Racism resolution was formally adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1975. It persisted for 16 years; finally rescinded in December 1991. However, it arose again at the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Xenophobia held in Durban, South Africa in August and September 2001 with subsequent review conferences over the past decade. It found fertile ground in the International Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel with allies in liberal churches, academia and the media seeking to economically punish the Jewish state.

Nidra Poller drew attention to the “lethal narrative” of the Al Dura affair, captured in the 55 second news video by France2 on September 30, 2000 at the start of the Second Intifada. That news video spawned a new blood libel, the alleged killing of 12 year Mohammed Al Dura in Gaza. It took 13 years for an Israeli government commission sparked by an intrepid group of journalists and activists to demonstrate that the killing had never occurred. Nevertheless, the myth persisted becoming embroiled in court cases for libel in France. 

Dr. Phyllis Chesler
Credit: Bosch Fawstin

One of the first to recognize the transformation of classic Antisemitism was Dr. Phyllis Chesler, a liberal feminist whose writings have transformed the women’s movement in American academia. Because of her own personal experience confronting Islamic Antisemitism in Kabul the early 1960’s, she recognized the confluence of these developments. that prompted her to write a prescient work in 2003, The New Antisemitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It (TNA). The re-issue of an expanded version, The New Antisemitism by the Gefen Publishing House in Israel is a testament to her prescience. While her thesis had been rejected in 2003 by the American Jewish leadership as no cause for alarm, the march of events have proven her correct. Polls in Europe reflect adverse views of both Israel and Jews. Manfred Gerstenfeld using these poll results in 2013 estimated that 40% of the 400 million population in the EU harbor such opinions. There have been attacks on synagogues and businesses, massed protest marches and riots by Muslim and allied radical groups with cries of “Jews to the Gas” reminiscent of the 1930’s in Nazi Germany. There were murders of Jewish citizens and Israelis in France, Belgium, and Bulgaria perpetrated by home grown Islamikazes inspired by terrorist groups Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and ISIS.  

In the United States, Jewish students on college campuses have been attacked and cowed into silence by pro-Palestinian and radical leftist groups engaged in so-called Israel Apartheid Awareness Weeks sponsored by Muslim Student Association chapters. Students for Justice in Palestine plastered Antisemitic phony eviction notices on college dorm room doors of Jewish students across America at the University of Chicago, Florida Atlantic University, Rutgers, New York University, Yale, Harvard, San Diego State, University of North Carolina, and Wellesley College. American Jewish leadership has evaded its responsibilities to protect and inform their co-religionists about the new Antisemitism in their communities and schools. Instead Jewish interfaith groups have reached out via synagogue-Mosque ‘twinning ‘programs, seeking to mollify the primal Islamic doctrinal hatred of Jews. Outgoing Anti-Defamation League executive director, Abe Foxman, launched misguided attacks against the supposed threat of the evangelical Christian community endeavoring to “Christianize America.”  Evangelicals are among Israel’s best defenders. Ironically, Dr. Chesler’s views have found a wider accepting audience in conservative media.

Watch this excerpt of Dr. Chesler on Fox News’ Huckebee Program discussing, “Israel under Attack”:



Against this background, we reached out to Dr. Chesler to interview her on the occasion of the re-issue of The New Antisemitism.

Jerry Gordon:  Dr. Chesler thank you for consenting to this interview

Dr. Phyllis Chesler:  Thank you for inviting me.

Gordon:  Gefen Publishing in Israel is releasing an updating of your 2003 book, The New Antisemitism. What prompted Gefen to republish this updated version?

Chesler:  As monumentally distressing events have gathered force and as all that I predicted has come to pass, it seems possible that there might be a greater receptivity to this message now, than there was back in 2003. Also, the founder of Gefen Publishing asked me to interview him and we really hit it off. He is a hero, one of the Jewish American sailors who crewed the illegal ships which took on the vicious British blockade to bring in nearly 40% of Holocaust survivors at least to Cyprus, if not to Tel Aviv or Haifa. We exchanged books. Back in Israel, he said that my book was causing something of a stir at Gefen. And, I wanted a publisher based in Israel.

Gordon:  What is the ‘new Antisemitism’ and how does it differ from the traditional form?

Chesler:  Today, the “new” Antisemitism is the result of a Perfect Storm, an alliance between a suicidal and “politically correct” Western intelligentsia and radical, fundamentalism Islam. Anti-Zionism is also what the “new” Anti-Semitism is about. The Jewish state, which was meant to protect Jews from anti-Semitic persecution is now the excuse given for attacking Jews in Europe and in North and South America. The almost permanent Intifada against the Jewish state launched by Arab states, the United Nations, human rights groups, professors and students now can claim that they are not anti-Semitic, they are merely anti-Zionist. Thus, the single, small, democratic, and only Jewish state on earth has become the world’s Jew, the scapegoat for the crimes committed by others.

Gordon:  What were the reactions to the book by your former colleagues in the feminist movement?

Chesler:  My movements included academics and artists of all sorts as well as leftists, and feminists. The book itself was not reviewed by the mainstream media. Their disapproval and capacity to punish politically incorrect speech resulted in an absolute refusal to engage. I lost my formerly very trendy reputation and was almost comically seen as a traitor, a neo-conservative, and (gasp!) a Zionist because I held the “good” people accountable for their racism or for their Judeophobia. Many believed that, by definition, I now “hated” Muslims. But I work with Muslim and ex-Muslim feminists, dissidents, and apostates and they honor me for my work on Islamic gender and religious apartheid and for my studies on honor based violence, including honor killing. Over the years, a number of feminists have either grudgingly or lovingly thanked me for my keen-sightedness and ability to remain engaged in history as opposed to merely resting on my laurels of long ago.

Gordon:  In retrospect how did the American Jewish community react to your book in 2003 and has that changed over the past decade?

Chesler:  The Anti-Defamation League demanded four copies of my galleys, marked them up, and then declared me persona non grata because Abe Foxman was finally coming out with his book on the subject-a book which entirely missed the mark, and which focused on Christian right wing Nazis even as Islamic Jihad was rising in history. Some Jewish organizations reached out to me but if one is truly independent (as I am), not a loyalist to any one party or ideology, and if one does not spend literally all one’s time attending every event, both major and minor, the networking necessary for recognition and funding does not happen. Jewish organizations honor those who give them money and who occupy positions of political power. Semi-prophets, whistle-blowers, truth-tellers count for a little less. However, increasingly, I have received words of gratitude and support, sometimes even reverence, from individual Jews. And, I have received three Jewish-world awards (The Emma Lazarus Award, the Distinguished Service Award from the Academy for Jewish Religion and a National Jewish Book Award.) I must note with irony and hilarity, that I have rarely received a feminist award despite my 47 years of exemplary service. And I am quite proud of that fact.

Gordon:  Since 2003, you have found reception to your views in the conservative media. How difficult for you was that change in venue and how has it worked out?

Chesler:  The conservative media embraced what I wrote in The New Anti-Semitism and in my subsequent book titled The Death of Feminism. I was invited to write whatever I believed to be important in a variety of conservative media but not allowed – often rejected – when I sent the same piece to the mainstream or liberal/left wing media. This was true for my work on public gang rape in the Sudan which I called “gender cleansing.” It was also true for my work on honor killings both in the West and in Hindu India and in Muslim countries. I have also been blessed by at least three conservative, pro-America and pro-Israel philanthropists (long may they live and prosper!). George Soros et al are not funding my work. My social life has changed. It is all good.

Gordon:  Since 2003, Israel has become increasingly isolated in the West. What caused that and why do you view that a dangerous development?

Chesler:  Arab oil money spent on propaganda so much so that our universities have been totally taken over, utterly “Palestinianized” and also Stalinized. The UN, UNRWA, the EU, every human rights organization, and the world-wide media are entities straight out of Orwell. Israel is demonized for daring to defend herself; “Palestinians,” a people which have never existed, are seen as the indigenous people of the Holy Land, viewed as having been dispossessed and now allegedly “occupied” by these so-called Jewish newcomers from Europe. Forgotten are the 850,000 Jews who were forced to flee North Africa and the Muslim world between 1948-1956, a far greater number than the number of Arabs who fled the Holy Land. The United Nations has legalized Jew hatred. It is literally the only accomplishment they may claim. Forgotten are the 3,000-6,000 years that Jews spent in the Holy Land. Forgotten is the fact that, until the 1940’s, but more so since the 1960’s, these Arabs used to consider themselves Syrians, Egyptians, sometime Jordanians.

Gordon:  A cabal has arisen in certain liberal churches, academic and NGO groups accusing Israel of being an occupying, apartheid state violating human rights of Palestinians. Has that become a force in the new Antisemitism?

Chesler:  Yes. Even Palestinian Christians (Edward Said was a Christian) hope to better their fate by covering up the many crimes against Christianity committed by Muslims and especially by Palestinians. They are willing to sacrifice Jews and a Jewish Israel in this cause. But now more and more people, including the Vatican, see that the persecution of Christians by Muslims has reached a point of no return and are calling for some kind of military action.

Gordon:  Recently the Administration of Wellesley College in Massachusetts banned Hillel and removed the Jewish chaplain isolating Jewish women students. How dangerous in your view is that and what should be done about it?

Chesler:  This is highly dangerous. There is no Jewish organization that is “handling” the campus crisis in America. Our universities have become completely and aggressively anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian. It has infiltrated every discipline save the hard sciences. Alumna, donors, and state and national government leaders should be monitoring this situation; withholding monies; and prosecuting hate speech against the Jews as well as physical violence and harassment. Our campuses have been hijacked and we will never get them back without putting the same efforts into the Cognitive War that overwhelmed the curriculum.

Gordon:  There is a video containing comments by Jewish college students about personal attacks by Muslim students on college campuses that is eerily similar to what occurred in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s. Why has the American Jewish community neglected exposing this virulent form of the New Antisemitism?

Chesler: They are afraid. They do not want to offend highly aggressive Muslims and their many Jewish and non-Jewish supporters. They want to get by with as little trouble as possible. Jews, like everyone else, want to lead safe and happy lives. They wish to be popular, trendy. They do not necessarily want to bear the burden of the pariah status that has been visited upon Israel so unfairly, so outrageously.

Gordon:  There is an estimate developed by Manfred Gerstenfeld that 40% of Europeans surveyed harbor anti-Israel views. Is that prompting Jews in the EU to consider leaving for Israel or America?

Chesler:  Yes, the Jews are again on the move. And Israel is the largest and best defended ghetto the Jews have ever had. And President Obama is dancing with the Iranian devil as the Iranians procure a nuclear bomb with the clear intention of launching it against Israel.

Gordon:  How dangerous is the current wave of violence by Arab Muslims in Israel to the future of the Jewish nation?

Chesler:  These so-called lone wolf attacks are not so lone. They are directly related to a lifetime of indoctrination in Arabic by both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. What is dangerous is the normalization of bloody barbarism in the general neighborhood that led, most recently, to two Arabs invading a Jerusalem synagogue with axes and meat cleavers to butcher the Jews (‘itbak al-Yahud“); and then there are the cars that ride over people and into crowds. And these weapons of destruction are blessed by the Palestinian Authority in Arabic.

Gordon:  The success of the Islamic State calling itself a Caliphate ruled by Sharia has attracted thousands of young Muslim men and women globally to its cause. Has Western tolerance of the intolerance of Islam abetted the New Antisemitism?

Chesler:  It is not so much tolerance which has caused this. Rather, multi-cultural relativism has allowed barbaric practices and customs to be considered not only equal but as somehow sacred. Also, the Western (and Muslim) indoctrination of people into thinking that Muslims, especially, are being persecuted – when they are not, when they are only being treated as equal, not as superior. Also, the indoctrination of young people in mosques, in families, on the internet, by the media, into believing that ISIS will give meaning and significance to otherwise ordinary lives; that it will allow the “powerless” and sociopathic to become powerful and significant – all play roles in abetting the most fiendish barbarism. Anti-Semitism is at the heart of this evil, this virus. Bin Laden described the 9/11 attacks as having been launched against the “Crusader-Zionist” conspiracy.

Gordon:  Dr. Chesler thank you for this timely and important interview.

Chesler:  The pleasure is all mine.




Also see Jerry Gordon’s collection of interviews, The West Speaks.


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