The Jewish/ Israeli Response to Haiti: A Look at the Landscape Four Years Later

Fondwa  - June 2010, Haiti, Gideon Herscher

Fondwa – June 2010, Haiti, Gideon Herscher

The distance from Port-au-Prince, in Haiti, to New York is only 1,684 miles and from Port-au-Prince to Jerusalem it’s a more formidable 6,494 miles. It might as well be a million miles from both cities. Haiti was far off most of the world’s radar, including most of the Jewish world’s, until January 12, 2010 when disaster struck.

But key Jewish/Israeli responders that provided help included the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), IsraAID, World ORT, American Jewish World Service (AJWS) and Tevel B’Tzedek. They all played a role in the immediate aftermath and have continued to demonstrate a long-term commitment to Haiti.

Haiti, September 2011 by Gideon Herscher

Why is Haiti a Jewish/ Israeli Cause Anyway?

Given the large scale of assistance by Israeli and Jewish committed to the assistance of the Haitian people, it rather begs the question, why is Haiti a Jewish problem in the first place? The JDC is able to give some insight as to perhaps a historical meeting between Haiti and the Jewish world, in that, as Judy Amit, the global director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s international development program, explains, “Haiti played a critical role in saving Jewish lives during the Holocaust period.” She also notes that gratitude is owed to Haiti for “its vote for the creation of the State of Israel.” Amit, however notes that neither of these facts “was the main motivator of our response, but they serve as an invaluable lesson of our interconnectedness and responsibility to one another at the toughest of times.”

To read more CLICK HERE



December 25, 2015 at 4:22 pm Leave a comment

Sad News of Edgar Rosenberg’s Passing

Dear Friends,

Today while working on the blog, we received the very sad news that Edgar Rosenberg had passed away unexpectedly and we feel a tremendous sense of loss. The family of Edgar and his brother Harry were friends of Bill’s family in Fürth Germany and neighbors in Port-au-Prince Haiti. Bill was 4 years old, Harry 10 and Edgar 13 when they shared a new life in the safe haven of Haiti.

Edgar (13) (left) and Harry (10) holding up the branch of a tree
after an earthquake in Port-au-Prince (1939)

We truly cherish every moment we shared with both brothers. Harry died in January 2013. In their own unique way, they contributed so much to the blog and were a continuous source of inspiration. Click HERE to go to their shared Tikkun Olam Award.

Bill enroute to USBill (4) en-route
from Haiti to the U.S.

Edgar’s writings are among the most frequently accessed material on the blog:

Vanishing Acts” (story), Commentary 1982

Hitler Over My Head” (story), Midstream, 1999

Edgar Rosenberg’s Testimony with Recollections and Reflections by Bill Mohr

Kristallnacht Memories of Edgar Rosenberg 

To learn about Edgar’s education and outstanding professional background as well as extensive published writings click HERE.

Click HERE and HERE to go to the Rosenberg family photograph pages on the blog.


Harriet and Bill


Emeritus professor and alum Edgar Rosenberg dies at 90

clip_image004 Edgar

By: Linda B. Glaser,  A&S Communications, Cornell University
January 4, 2016

Edgar Rosenberg ’49, MA ‘50, Professor emeritus of English and Comparative Literature, died on December 19 in Cayuga Heights at the age of 90.

“Edgar Rosenberg was the wittiest, most erudite and gracious colleague I’ve known at Cornell,” said Roger Gilbert, professor and chair of English. “He was enormously beloved by students and faculty and by friends and colleagues all over the world.  He could always be counted on to lighten the mood at a meeting with a well-chosen quip or pun.”

A gifted scholar and creative writer, Rosenberg’s From Shylock to Svengali: Jewish Stereotypes in English (1960) continues to be regarded as a seminal work in the fields of English literature and Jewish studies. His Norton edition of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1999) stands not only as the authoritative edition of that novel but also as a landmark of erudition and  a joyful sharing of a life of learning, said Daniel Schwarz, Fredric J. Whiton Professor of English Literature.

“What Professor Rosenberg’s scholarship, creative work, teaching, and collegiality have in common are a wonderful generosity of spirit, a warm respect for others, a keen historical awareness, and a strong, good-natured sense of being alive,” said Schwarz.

Rosenberg is also the author of some fifty pieces of short fiction, translations, and articles in a wide variety of journals, including Esquire, Commentary and The Dickensian. He specialized in nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction, Anglo-Judaic studies, the Elizabethans, Germany in the thirties, and writers such as Dickens, Mann and Shaw.

“Edgar Rosenberg was a great scholar of the British and European novel —his work on Dickens is especially memorable — and while immensely learned was also witty and ironic,” said Jonathan Culler, the Class of 1916 Professor of English and Comparative Literature. “He gave a cosmopolitan character to our department and was especially generous to junior faculty.   He will be greatly missed.”

Rosenberg was born in Fuerth in Bayern, Germany, in 1925. After his father fled to Switzerland, Rosenberg’s mother negotiated with the Nazi bureaucracy for the departure of herself, Edgar, his younger brother Hans (Harry), and his paternal grandmother. They made it out of Europe aboard the Claus Horn in June 1939, landing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The family remained on the island until 1940, when they embarked for New York City. Rosenberg arrived in America knowing no English.

After high school, Rosenberg joined the U.S. Army and served in Europe, receiving a Combat Infantry medal in 1944. He attended Cornell on the GI Bill and was an exemplary student, elected to Phi Beta Kappa; he also won prizes for his fiction, including a $100 award in 1950 from Doubleday and Co.

His first published work, “The Assassin,” about interrogating prisoners of war at the front, appeared in 1958 in the second issue of Epoch, Cornell’s prestigious literary journal. “Next of Kin,” published soon after in Commentary, was a fictionalized account of a voyage to Haiti.

After receiving his PhD from Stanford in 1958, Rosenberg served as Briggs-Copeland Assistant Professor at Harvard University, until 1965. According to the Harvard Crimson, Rosenberg’s course in the history of the novel was extremely popular and between 1,500 and 2,000 Harvard and Radcliffe students took his courses.

He joined the Cornell faculty as Associate Professor of English in 1965, becoming full professor in 1969. From 1970-2002 he held a joint appointment as Professor of English and Comparative Literature.

Gerald Howard ’72 wrote in a letter to Cornell Alumni Magazine that Rosenberg as a teacher was both fascinating and terrifying. “With his faintly European accent and arch, almost Nabokovian manner, he was a classroom presence of a sort I’d never met before. We lived to answer one of his imperiously posed questions in a way that would elicit a grunt of satisfaction … Here was my first encounter with an avatar of high culture.” Howard added that the class provided him with the most profound “Aha” moment of his education and inspired him to switch his major to English.

A recipient of fellowships from Guggenheim, Fulbright and Bread Loaf, Rosenberg is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in World Jewry.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara Anne Hollington; his stepson and stepdaughter, Barnaby and Lucy; his son-in-law, Nicolas Boulloche; and his grandchildren, Martin and Sonia.

A memorial service is being planned for March 20, 2016.

Linda B. Glaser is a staff writer for the College of Arts & Sciences


December 22, 2015 at 4:52 pm Leave a comment

Sean Penn speaks out about humanitarian work on visit to Israel

Jerusalem Post          November 30, 2015

Despite experiencing severe economic turmoil in the aftermath of its 2010 earthquake, Haiti is far from a lost cause, actor Sean Penn says in Tel Aviv.

Penn is interviewed at the premiere of "The Gunman" in Los Angeles

Cast member Sean Penn is interviewed at the premiere of “The Gunman” in Los Angeles, California March 12, 2015. The movie opens in the U.S. on March 20. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES – Tags: ENTERTAINMENT) – RTR4T6D7

Often the denizens of Hollywood are mocked for the various humanitarian pet projects they take on, with many accusing said celebrities of being disingenuous.

But when it comes to humanitarian relief work, actor Sean Penn is nothing but sincere.

That candid passion was on full display when he earnestly spoke on behalf of his NGO, J/P Haitian Relief Organization, about its relief efforts in Haiti at a conference coordinated in conjunction with IsraAID and the Pratt Foundation.

“Our mission was to spend a few weeks in Haiti as a 24/7 delivery service for drugs for the hospitals that needed them,” Penn told the audience in Tel Aviv on Monday, explaining his initial plans when he arrived in the country torn apart by carnage and destruction in the aftermath of its 2010 earthquake.

The NGO’s mission quickly transcended that singular purpose and became a significant organization providing long-term relief to the victims.

As part of its work, J/P HRO worked closely with IsraAID to establish a child education center in the Petionville refugee camp, in Port-au-Prince.
To read more click HERE



November 30, 2015 at 12:53 pm Leave a comment

Recalling the children who went through hell in Theresienstadt

Card collector: Anna Wexberg-Kubesch invites active collaboration

Card collector: Anna Wexberg-Kubesch invites active collaboration

“Continuing to live”

Anna Wexberg-Kubesch recalls the children who went through hell in Theresienstadt.

There are two rooms in psychotherapist and historian Anna Wexberg-Kubesch’s office near the Naschmarkt: one for treatment and one for history. She invites us to her desk in the history room to tell us about herself and her work. It is immediately evident that this is where she feels more at home.

On the glass table in front of her are three postcard-size brown cards. Each card has a small hole in it and a word stamped on it. One card says “NEVER”, another says “FORGET”, and the third says “WHY?” The letters on the stamp recall the typography of terror, the file cards used by the Nazi bureaucracy and the words typed by the bureaucrats who organised the murder of six million people.

The historian explains: “The cards are intended to draw attention to the children and teenagers who went through the hell of Theresienstadt.” Their fate is still not well known: “Only 150 survived.”

She has made 15,000 cards, each one standing for a young life that was destroyed. She is hoping in the next three years to persuade as many people as possible to take one or more of the cards and to add to it with their own words, photos, illustrations and collages.

To read more click HERE

For project website click HERE

September 20, 2015 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

Robert Solomon Wistrich (April 7, 1945 – May 19, 2015)

Robert Wistrich 5

Professor Robert S. Wistrich
was a leading scholar of the history of anti-Semitism.


Following is a list of books and papers he authored:


Selected books

  • Revolutionary Jews from Marx to Trotsky. Barnes & Noble Books, 1976. ISBN 0-06-497806-0
  • The Left Against Zion. Vallentine Mitchell & Co, 1979. ISBN 0-85303-199-1
  • Socialism and the Jews. Oxford University Press, 1982.
  • Trotsky: Fate of a Revolutionary. Stein & Day, 1982. ISBN 0-8128-2774-0
  • The Jews of Vienna in the Age of Franz Joseph. Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Between Redemption and Perdition: Modern Antisemitism and Jewish Identity. Routledge, 1990. ISBN 0-415-04233-X
  • Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism in the Contemporary World. New York University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-8147-9237-5
  • Antisemitism, the Longest Hatred. Pantheon, 1992.
  • Who’s Who in Nazi Germany. Routledge, 1995. ISBN 0-415-12723-8
  • Terms of Survival. Routledge, 1995. ISBN 0-415-10056-9
  • Weekend in Munich: Art, Propaganda and Terror in the Third Reich (with Luke Holland). Trafalgar Square, 1996. ISBN 1-85793-318-4
  • Theodor Herzl: Visionary of the Jewish State. New York and Jerusalem: Herzl Press and Magnes Press, 1999, 390 pages.
  • Demonizing the Other: Antisemitism, Racism and Xenophobia. Routledge, 1999. ISBN 90-5702-497-7
  • Hitler and the Holocaust. Random House, 2001.
  • Nietzsche: Godfather of Fascism? Princeton, 2002.
  • Islamic Judeophobia: An Existential Threat, in Muhammad’s Monsters, Balfour Books, 2004, editor David Bukay.
  • Laboratory for World Destruction. Germans and Jews in Central Europe, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska 2007. ISBN 978-0-8032-1134-6
  • A Lethal Obsession: Antisemitism – From Antiquity to the Global Jihad, Random House, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4000-6097-9
  • From Ambivalence to Betrayal. The Left, the Jews and Israel, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska 2012. ISBN 0803240767

Selected papers

  • “German Social Democracy and the Problem of Jewish Nationalism, 1897–1917,” Leo Baeck Yearbook 21 (1976), pp. 109 142.
  • “A Neo Revisionist Renaissance? Back to Bernstein,” Encounter, (July 1978), pp. 75 82.
  • “Historians and the Holocaust,” The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 55, No. 2 (1983), pp. 317 20.
  • “The Modernization of Viennese Jewry: The Impact of German Culture in a Multi-Ethnic State,” in: Toward Modernity: The European Model, Jacob Katz, ed., Transaction Books, 1987, pp. 43 70.
  • “Antisemitismus,” in Neue Lexicon des Judentums, J. H. Schoeps, ed., München: Bertelsmann Lexicon Verlag, 1992, pp. 41 47.
  • “Socialism and Judeophobia: Antisemitism in Europe before 1914,” Leo Baeck Yearbook, (1992), pp. 111 145.
  • “The Jews and Nationality Conflicts in the Habsburg Lands,” Nationalities Papers, (New York) Vol. 22, Nr. I (Spring 1994) pp. 119 141.
  • “Theodor Herzl,” Israel Affairs, (Spring 1995) Vol. 1. No. 3, pp. 1 37.
  • “Max Nordau and the Dreyfus Affair,” The Journal of Israeli History, (Tel Aviv) Vol. 16, No. 1 (1955), pp. 1–19.
  • “Hitler’s Helpers,” Commentary, (June 1996), pp. 51–55.
  • “Zionism and its Jewish `Assimilationist Critics’, 1897-1948,” Jewish Social Studies, 1998, Vol.4 No.2, pp.59–111
  • “The Pope, the Church and the Jews,” Commentary (April 1999), pp. 22–28.
  • “How to Tackle the New Antisemitism” in Standpoint (October 2008) pp. 74–77. “Austria and the Legacy of the Holocaust”, The American Jewish Committee, New York 1999, 56 pages.
  • “Austria and the Jewish Question, 1945–1950”, in: Robert B. Pynsent (ed.), The Phoney Peace. Power and Culture in Central Europe, 1945–49 (London, 2000), pp. 39–57.
  • “Was Nietzsche a Fascist Thinker?”, Partisan Review, 2001, 2, pp. 201–217
  • “The Vatican and the Shoah”, Modern Judaism, Vol. 21, Nr. 2, May 2001, pp. 83–107
  • “The Demise of the Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission”, Midstream, December 2001, pp. 2–5.
  • “Jewish Suffering, Vatican Silence”, Catholic International (Washington, D.C.), vol. 13, No. 2, May 2002, pp. 57–62.
  • “Muslim Anti-Semitism: A Clear and Present Danger” PDF (3.48 MiB), American Jewish Committee, 2002.
  • “Muslims, Jews and September 11: The British Case” in Barry Kosmin and Paul Iganski (eds.) The New Anti-Semitism (London, 2003) pp. 169–191.
  • “The Old-New Antisemitism” The National Interest (Washington D.C.) Summer 2003, pp. 59–70.
  • “The Old-New Anti-Semitism” PDF, The National Interest, Number 72, Summer 2003.
  • “The Politics of Ressentiment: Israel, Jews and the German Media”. ACTA paper no. 23, The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, November 2004, 37 pages.
  • “Islamic Judeophobia: An Existential Threat”, NATIV online, Volume 2, 2004.
  • “Friedrich Nietzsche and the Austrian Fin de Siecle”, in J. Golomb (ed.) Nietzsche and the Austrian Culture (Wien, 2004) pp. 42–60.
  • “The Jihadist Challenge”, Midstream (Nov/Dec 2004), pp. 8–12.
  • “The Last Testament of Sigmund Freud”, Leo Baeck Yearbook XLIX (2004), pp. 87–106.
  • “Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism”, Jewish Political Studies Review 16:3-4, Fall 2004.
  • “Antisemitism in Western Europe at the Beginning of the 21st Century”, World Jewish Congress Research Series, January 2005, 24 pages.
  • “Antisemitism – A Civilizational Pathology”, in Manfred Gerstenfeld (ed.) Israel and Europe: An Expanding Abyss (Jerusalem 2005) pp. 95–110.
  • “European Anti-Semitism Reinvents Itself” PDF (2.62 MiB), American Jewish Committee, 2005.
  • “The Jedwabne Affair”, The Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism and Racism, Tel Aviv University.
  • “Reinventing European Antisemitism”. The American Jewish Committee, New York, 2005, 54 pages.
  • “Pius XII and the Shoah” in M. Zimmermann et al., Three Generations of Historians on Germans and Jews under the Nazi Regime (Magnes Press, Jerusalem 2006) pp. 21–41.
  • “Stefan Zweig and the ‘World of Yesterday’”, in Mark H. Gelber (ed.) Stefan Zweig Reconsidered – New Perspectiveson his Literary and Biographical Writings (Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen 2007), pages 59–77.
  • “Anti-Semitism and Multiculturalism: The Uneasy Connection” – Posen Papers No. 5, The Vidal Sassoon Center for the Study of Antisemitism, March 2007, 12 pages.
  • “Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: The Case of Bruno Kreisky”. ACTA paper no. 30, The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, December 2007, 26 pages.
  • “Modernity and the Nazi Genocide” in Song Lihong (ed.), Holocaust: history and Memory (Nanjing University 2007), pp. 171–192.
  • “Dialogue in Hell: Zionism and its Double” in Midstream (May/June 2008), pp. 9–14
  • “How to Tackle the New Antisemitism” in Standpoint (October 2008) pp. 74–77.
  • “Post-Mubarak Egypt: The Dark Side of Islamic Utopia”.(2012). Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, 6(1), 23-32
  • “Gaza, Hamas and the Return of Anti-Semitism”. (2014). Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, 8(3), 35-48

Source: Wikipedia

May 28, 2015 at 11:52 am Leave a comment

Israel Today Tribute to Robert Wistrich

A Tribute to Robert Wistrich

Monday, May 25, 2015 |  Tsvi Sadan
Robert Solomon Wistrich, a professor of  European and  Jewish history at the  Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a world-renowned scholar on the topic of anti-Semitism, died of a heart attack last Tuesday. His sudden and untimely death will negatively impact all who are dedicated to combatting this ugly phenomenon.
Wistrich, who served as head of the Hebrew University’s  Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of anti-Semitism, was a prolific writer. His many published works included  The Left Against Zion (1979) and A Lethal Obsession: Antisemitism – From Antiquity to the Global Jihad (2010).
Two days before his death, Wistrich sent his last column to the editor of the Jerusalem Post. Following is an excerpt from this column published on May 20:
“There are few topics of more pressing concern today to Jewish communities around the world than the current resurgence of anti-Semitism. I emphasized the need to free ourselves from certain outdated myths. My first point is that even today, Jews in Israel and the Diaspora are fixated on the dangers of far-right traditional anti-Semitism. While neo-fascism has not altogether disappeared, it is in most cases a secondary threat. 
“Second, there is an illusory belief that more Holocaust education and memorialization can serve as an effective antidote to contemporary anti-Semitism. This notion is quite unfounded. On the contrary, today ‘Holocaust inversion’ (the perverse transformation of Jews into Nazis and Muslims into victimized ‘Jews’) all-too-often becomes a weapon with which to pillory Israel and denigrate the Jewish people.
“Third, we must recognize much more clearly than before that since 1975 (with the passing of the scandalous UN resolution condemning Zionism as racism) hatred of Israel has increasingly mutated into the chief vector for the ‘new’ anti-Semitism. By libeling the Jewish state as ‘racist,’ ‘Nazi,’ ‘apartheid’ its enemies have turned Zionism into a synonym for criminality and a term of pure opprobrium. Hence, every Jew (or non-Jew) who supports the totally ‘illegitimate’ or immoral ‘Zionist entity’ is thereby complicit in a cosmic evil.
“Fourth, today’s anti-Semitism is a product of a new civic religion that could be termed ‘Palestinianism.’ The official Palestinian narrative seeks to supplant Israel with a judenrein Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. 
“Fifth, since the turn of the 21st century, anti-Semitism has undergone a process of growing ‘Islamicization,’ linked to the terrorist holy war against Jews and other non-Muslims with its truly lethal consequences.
“My sixth observation relates to the need for Israelis and Diaspora Jews to rediscover, redefine and reassess their Jewish identity, core Jewish values and the depth of their own connection to the Land of Israel as well as to their historic heritage.
“My final reflection flows from it. I believe that in an age of Jewish empowerment, living in a sovereign and democratic Israeli state, we can and must first clarify for ourselves our vocation, raison d’être, moral priorities, and the deeper meaning of our near-miraculous return to the historic homeland. This is the other side of the coin in our essential and relentless fight against anti-Semitism. 
“As we celebrate Jerusalem Day let us be worthy of the scriptural promise that ‘the Torah will come forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’ We must be true to the national and universal vision of our biblical prophets. Anti-Semitism is neither ‘eternal’ nor must it prevent Jews from fulfilling their ultimate destiny to one day become a ‘light unto the nations’.” 
May Prof. Wistrich’s memory be blessed.
To read important article,  ” Counter-Terrorism: Anti-Semitism Backfires” click HERE

May 26, 2015 at 7:26 pm Leave a comment

Robert Wistrich (1945-2015): In memoriam

MAY 24, 2015

The news of the death of Robert Wistrich on May 19 leaves his colleagues and friends in Israel and around the world stunned and deeply saddened. On the basis of an astonishing record of scholarly productivity since the 1970s, he had been for some time the world’s leading historian of modern anti-Semitism. As Director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Hebrew University, he organized multiple lectures and conferences that brought scholars to Israel and supported critical research on the topic—research that might not have found funding elsewhere. Wistrich was an indispensable cyclone of scholarly energy and intellectual creativity and a much valued colleague. His death is a huge loss to the international historical profession, to Hebrew University and also to the broader political and intellectual world that is focused on anti-Semitism in world politics today. Fittingly, just before his death he had gone to Rome, where he was scheduled to speak to members of the Italian Senate about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe in recent years.

He was as much at home in the quiet of a scholar’s study as in the public political forum, where his eloquence and insight drew the attention of heads of state and leading politicians. He leaves a large and rich scholarly legacy. In works such as Anti-Semitism, The Longest Hatred (1992), Hitler and the Holocaust (2001), and Laboratory for World Destruction and Germans and Jews in Central Europe (2007), he explored the familiar, traditional, Christian, secular forms and generally right-wing extremist forms of Jew-hatred. They remain and will remain important works for anyone interested in understanding what we have called in recent years “the old anti-Semitism,” namely the forms of Jew-hatred that contributed to the Holocaust of European Jewry. 

 Yet as valuable as those books were, a major aspect of Robert Wistrich’s distinctive scholarly contribution consists in his focus on two other sources of the longest hatred. The first was the antagonism to Jews and to Israel coming from the Soviet Union and the Communist states and parties as well as from the Western radical left, both before and after the founding of the State of Israel. The second was anti-Semitism in the Middle East and Iran, expressed both in secular Arab nationalism as well as in religiously inspired Islamist radicalism. In both instances, he explored the relationship between hatred of the Jews as Jews and antagonism to Zionism and then to the state of Israel. Wistrich was a subtle thinker. He understood that not all criticism of Israel was due to anti-Semitism. Yet he also documented the many similarities between the conspiratorial theories that had been applied to Jews in Europe and those that were being applied to the supposed vast power of the Jewish state. He viewed such attacks as Jew-hatred posing in the guise of anti-Zionism.

Robert Wistrich’s preoccupation with antagonism to the Jews that came from the traditions of the European left was longstanding and evident in the titles of his books on the subject: Revolutionary Jews from Marx to Trotsky (1976), The Left against Zion (1979), Socialism and the Jews (1982), and From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews and Israel (2012). While writing about the anti-Semitism of the Nazis was standard fare in the international historical profession, Wistrich’s focus on anti-Semitism of the radical left was not received with equal enthusiasm by a profession more comfortable with a focus on the sins of the Nazis than of the Communists and their fellow travelers. When it was not fashionable to do so, he drew attention to the anti-Semitism that lurked in the slogans of the Communist and leftist anti-Zionism of the Cold War era. His books and articles on that subject will remain standard works for many years to come.

In A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (2010), he offered a vast compendium of what he called “the return of anti-Semitism.” (I reviewed the book in The New Republic.) The book was an examination of a new and important chapter the history of anti-Semitism, one focused on attacks on Zionism and Israel. Its language was a mélange of themes of the old anti-Semitism of the European far right with a mix of secular leftist and Islamist ideologies. Where the rallying cry of the old anti-Semitism was the attack on “world Jewry,” the core of the lethal obsession with the Jews had now become the assault on “international Zionism” and the state of Israel. There had been what Wistrich importantly called a shift in the geographical center of gravity of anti-Semitism from Europe to the Middle East and Iran. Significant as it was, this was a shift too much of the political and scholarly mainstream failed to acknowledge.

In A Lethal Obsession, Wistrich wrote:

These pages expose the intensity of the “culture of hatred” that currently permeates books, magazines, newspapers, sermons, videocassettes, the Internet, television, and radio in the Middle East on a scale unprecedented since the heyday of Nazi Germany. Indeed, the demonic images of Jews presently circulating in much of the Islamic world are sufficiently radical in tone and content to constitute a new warrant for genocide. They combine to devastating effect the blood libel of medieval Christian Europe with Nazi conspiracy theories about the Jewish drive for world domination and dehumanizing Islamic quotations about Jews as the ‘sons of apes and donkeys.

He argued that this was a bigotry that “cannot be adequately understood in terms of the Arab-Israeli conflict alone or the so-called question of Palestine.” Rather, “the mythical thinking that animates Islamist ideology is much closer to the Nazi model, with its fixation on destroying a secret Jewish power that strives for global hegemony.” Much of the anti-Semitic worldview that had been expressed by the “totalitarian atheists” of the Nazi regime had infected the body politic of Islam during the past forty years. Its focus has become “the collective Jew” embodied in the state of Israel. Its geographic center has moved to the Middle East, but the tone and content of the rhetoric, along with the manifest will to exterminate the Jews, are virtually identical to German Nazism. The leadership of Iran does not even disguise its desire for a judenfrei (Jew-free) Middle East—a “world without Zionism,” to adopt a more politically correct language. Radical Islamists of every stripe openly proclaim at every opportunity that the eradication of Israel is a divine commandment, the will of God, and a necessary prologue to the liberation of mankind. In a manner reminiscent of the Nazis, they see themselves as engaged in a war of civilizations against terminal Western decadence…

These deeply unsettling conclusions rested on a sound foundation of careful empirical research and interpretation. In the era of euphemism in the United States and in Europe, far too many political leaders still refuse to speak frankly about the evidence that Wistrich and other scholars have gathered in abundance.

Tragically, Robert Wistrich’s terribly premature death has deprived us of the voice of the foremost scholar of the return of anti-Semitism in our times. Through many years of painstaking yet passionate scholarship, he has left us a large body of work to read, ponder and discuss as we attempt to understand anti-Semitism’s past, present, and sad to say, its future. Wistrich, like all great scholars, sought to find and present the truth as best he could, even when that truth was unsettling and disturbing. We honor his memory best by paying close attention to what he wrote and to the warnings he voiced.

Jeffrey Herf is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of History at the University of Maryland, College Park, USA. He is completing a study entitled “At War with Israel: East Germany and the West German Radical Left, 1967-1989.

Source: Times of Israel –  

May 26, 2015 at 7:19 pm Leave a comment

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