Anti-Semitism, the "Longest Hatred"

By Stock, Raymond | Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2017 | Go to article overview

Anti-Semitism, the "Longest Hatred"


Stock, Raymond, Middle East Quarterly


Anti-Semitism, the "Longest Hatred" Anti-Semitism: A Specific Phenomenon. Holocaust Triviali zation-Islamism- Postcolonial an d C osmopolitan A ntiZionism. By Clemens Heni. Berlin: Edition Critic, 2013. 676 pp. $42, paper.

The subtitle of this encyclopedic and much-needed-if sometimes rambling and repetitive-book says it all. Anti-Semitism, the "longest hatred," is indeed, as described by one of its best-known historians, Robert Wistrich, a specific phenomenon different from other forms of racism and xenophobia. It is the only form of prejudice where the targeted group can be perceived as both preternaturally clever and ineffably clueless, impossibly strong and preposterously weak-all at the same time.

But not everyone agrees that it is indeed "a specific phenomenon." In fact, after World War II, the preponderance of both scholarship and political thinking about anti-Semitism-including in the Jewish intellectual establishment of the United States and Europe, as expressed by Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Stephen S. Wise-held it to be a form of racism like any other, no different from that against blacks, Hispanics, Asians, or Native Americans. Heni's book is the first fulllength work to argue against that misguided consensus. He deserves great praise for it.

"Anti-Semitism means hatred of Jews as well as the Jewish state of Israel, and it means the distortion of the Holocaust," Heni declares, a view which dovetails closely with his critique of the banalization of the Holocaust as merely a product of modernity, maintained by Martin Heidegger, perhaps the twentieth century's most influential philosopher. As part of this ever-expanding legacy, new "blood libels" find expression in conspiracy myths such as the claim that the terror attacks of 9/11 were an inside job perpetrated by Jews.

Tragically, much of the Left, like the Islamists with whom it is often allied, sees the Jewish State as peopled not by human beings but rather by some sort of bacillus, or a unique race of demons-deserving of special treatment. Of course, they are not the first to make that argument.

To illustrate anti-Semitism's uniqueness among the many forms of ethnic and religious hatred, Heni argues that it is not only the oldest-making Jews the target of everyone from GrecoRoman-era Egyptians to Christians, Muslims, and neo-pagans (like the Nazis)-but also the only one to produce anything like the Holocaust. "Even horrible regimes, which killed political or other enemies in their own countries did not aim at a specific group of people [for complete extermination] everywhere they could find them," Heni notes.

Heni takes particular aim at the oftenintertwined worlds of political activism and academe, in which anti-Semitism is increasingly widespread but typically denied by those who have embraced it. This is seen most clearly in the postcolonial and cosmopolitan schools of thought that dominate today's universities. Postcolonial theorists and writers, such as Edward Said and Judith Butler, pigeonhole Israel as simply a colonial-settler state, guilty of imposing European values and populations onto the natives of Palestine. By doing so, they purposely ignore both ancient and modern history-disregarding the fact that the Jews waged struggles against the great colonizing powers of their day-Babylon in 605 B. …

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