Phyllis Chesler, a retired professor of psychology and women’s studies at City University, has since 9/11 focused on anti-Semitism and the demonization of Israel. She is a best-selling author and feminist who has just updated her 2003 book, “The New Anti-Semitism” (Gefen Publishing). She is a co-founder of the International Committee for Women of the Wall and a fellow at both the Middle East Forum and at the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy. This is an edited transcript.
Q: In the first edition of your book, you said the centuries-old hatred of the Jew is enjoying a renaissance in the guise of being anti-Israel. Has that definition changed in this new edition?
A: Several things have changed. Yes, anti-Zionism is still partly what is new about the new anti-Semitism.
At the United Nations, things have only gotten more surreal, dangerous and sickening. In addition to the UN and international human rights groups, academics, celebrities and the Students for Justice in Palestine are condemning Israel for crimes that Israel never committed. And there is a boycott of Israel simply because it exists as a form of Jewish sovereign power.
What has happened to Jews living in Europe?
In the last 11 years, more and more Jews have left Europe because of the … false history that Palestinians have always been a people. That is a complete fantasy; the Jews have been there longer than any other occupying group.
The Palestinian pseudo-history is now virulently active all across Europe, on American campuses and to a large extent in much of our media. The fact that much of the Middle East is Judenrein is not being defined as ethnic cleansing or as religious apartheid — and the Palestinian demand for the Jews to get out of Judea and Samaria is also not being described as ethnic cleansing, which it is.
Is it possible for someone to criticize Israeli policies without being called anti-Semitic?
Not anymore. And as to the allegation of "disproportionate force" that has been leveled against Israel, those who allege this refuse to understand that there are 22 Arab states and one Jewish state and that the Arab League has been funding the weapons and the propaganda against Israel. It has already legalized Jew-hatred at the UN — and that is disproportionate. It is disproportionate to have European countries symbolically recognize Palestinians, which is meant to further isolate the only Jewish state in the world. That is disproportionate.
Israel is being defamed because it cared enough about its civilians to build bomb shelters for them. In Gaza, all the money went into building tunnels for military operations [against Israel] and into the private pockets of the leaders of Hamas and Fatah.
For nearly two years now, Poland has banned kosher slaughtering ostensibly because of animal cruelty. Do you see it as anti-Semitic?
There are animal rights activists who are not anti-Semitic and are sincere in their beliefs. But human beings make mistakes and there is minimal pain in kosher slaughtering. … So it’s not necessarily anti-Semitic, but part of the motivation might be; it’s a very tricky issue.
How can you tell the difference between honest disagreement with Israeli action and anti-Semitism?
Anti-Semitism is no longer viewed as racism but as politically correct. It’s said that if only Israel were abolished, there would be no poverty or illiteracy in the Muslim world and paradise would come. The only state on earth that is said to be quintessentially evil is Israel. … I think Israelis have every right to criticize their government and to change it if they wish. But when the rest of the world criticizes one nation only, we must look at it as Jew-hatred.