Readjusting Cultural Codes: Reflections on Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism

Shulamit Volkov. Journal of Israeli History. Volume 25, Issue 1. March 2006.

In this article I seek to apply the notion of anti-Semitism as a cultural code, which I initially developed 25 years ago with relation to the antimodernist trends in late-nineteenth-century Germany, to the phenomena of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism today. From the 1960s anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism formed part of a larger ideological package consisting of anticolonialism, anticapitalism, and a deep suspicion of US policies. In the eyes of members of the developing countries, Jews became a symbol of the West and legitimate targets for hatred. Thus, the position on the Jewish question, even if not in itself of paramount importance, came to indicate a belonging to a larger camp, a political stand and an overall cultural choice. The question is whether the position towards Israel today, which has become a central issue for the European left, can still be considered a cultural code or whether it rather indicates a more direct anti-Jewish attack, above all as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Twenty-five year ago the Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook published an essay of mine under the title “Anti-Semitism as a Cultural Code.” I was astonished at the attention it received, since I had hardly had a chance to try it on a live audience before publication and expected only a limited reaction, if at all. My single presentation of the text at a conference at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, had drawn a rather hostile response from some of the participants and there seemed to be no reason to expect others to react differently. In the end it was probably the ringing title, based on a variation upon a well-known essay of Clifford Geertz, that contributed to the modest fame of this piece. Concepts based on anthropological and ethnographic research were becoming fashionable at the time in other historiographical contexts, too, and the introduction of the term “cultural code” in relation to the problematics of anti-Semitism seemed timely. I myself had some grave doubts. I took seriously the critique of historians, dealing both with German and with German-Jewish history, and have tried on several occasions during the following years to re-examine the validity of this term and work out its implications.

In view of the antiquity of this entire episode and for the purposes of this article, let me recapitulate what still seems relevant to me in the arguments laid out in that paper and in some of the additional, related work, I did thereafter. At the time, I was working on the so-called modern anti-Semitic movement in Germany of the last third of the nineteenth century. This has been a major focus of research since the end of World War II and many historians then—as now—believed that here lay the roots of Nazi anti-Semitism and the ultimate explanation for the Holocaust. The novelty of that modern anti-Semitism, it was generally agreed, was twofold. It substituted a racial theory, or rather pseudo-theory, for the old religious hatred, and it brought to fruition for the first time the political potential of Jew-hating. Both these characteristics, ran the argument, were later exploited to the full by Hitler and his followers.

I, however, tended to minimize the importance of these factors. I thought that racialism was grafted upon old motivations for Jew-hating rather than substituted for them, and that if anything, the meager success of the mushrooming anti-Semitic political parties at the time could have served to show the limits of its recruiting power. Instead, I suggested, anti-Semitism had another function in Imperial Germany. It served as a code, a signal for a much larger and more important political and cultural phenomenon at that time: that of antimodernism. An entire section of German society was by then deeply unsettled by the implications of an advanced industrialism and its concomitant value-system and life-style, I argued. Apparently, all of the typically antimodern social elements, and not only in Germany, were also infected by anti-Semitism. In their eyes, Jews stood for modernity, for success under its auspices, for the chance of manipulating its advantages, while destroying all remnants of the old world. Anti-Jewish attitudes were not particularly important for most of these people, it seemed to me. But precisely because these were marginal to their overall worldview, their expression could serve them as a mark of a radical position on other, more important matters. It became a political symbol in the context of the late nineteenth century; or even more generally, it was becoming a cultural code, indicating the overall acceptance of a certain cultural choice.

Beyond its descriptive value, this thesis had a number of advantages from my point of view. It allowed me to explain, for instance, the overtly anti-Jewish position of some Jews, who belonged to what I saw as the antimodern camp, and to do that without using the concept of self-hatred, which I have treated then, and still do today, with a great deal of skepticism. It also—more importantly no doubt—allowed me to suggest that Nazi anti-Semitism, never merely a code or a sign but a source of a full-fledged program of annihilation, was itself a novelty considering this background. The change in the meaning of anti-Jewish rhetoric introduced by the Nazis was far-reaching, but was, surprisingly perhaps, not immediately apparent. Many Jews—and Germans—tended to misread Hitler’s intentions. They were still using the cultural tools of a previous era, I argued, not realizing that the language, their very own language, was meanwhile being transformed and its meaning changed. The meaning of anti-Semitism had thus shifted, but it was not easy to perceive the shift.

Furthermore, and crucial in many respects, the cultural-code thesis helped explain the open anti-anti-Semitic line taken by the left in pre–World War I Europe, especially no doubt in Germany and in France. Now, any long-term view of anti-Semitism could not fail to show an anti-Jewish streak in the various movements of the left. Some historians, such as Edmund Silberner in an earlier generation and Robert Wistrich later on, claimed, indeed, that anti-Semitism had always been constitutive to the left, especially to the revolutionary left. And examples could be brought not only from thinkers and ideologues such as Proudhon, Marx or Eugen Dühring but also from the French socialists’ procrastination in defending Dreyfus in fin-de-siècle France, from the position of most Austrian socialists on a variety of Jewish issues and from the many common asides against Jews in the social democratic press throughout the German Kulturraum. Moreover, even the most decent European socialists, entirely uncontaminated by explicit anti-Semitism, were hostile to the idea and the ideals of Jewish nationalism and to any and all manifestations of Zionism.

Still, from the first decade of the twentieth century, European socialists clearly saw the inner bond between anti-Semitism and antimodernism, and were able to diagnose its meaning for socialism. In France, anti-Semitism called forth the various aspect of anti-Republicanism. In Germany, it indicated opposition to everything related to the new world of industrialism and democratization. Because anti-Semitism served as a cultural code for an outspoken posture more or less clearly associated with the right, the socialists repeatedly felt they had to distance themselves from it, at least publicly. They were careful not to appear as Philosemites—to use a contemporary term—but as a rule, stayed clear from any anti-Semitism in the Öffentlichkeit.

All of these points provided supporting evidence for my cultural-code thesis and helped manifest some of its implications for the historical period I then tried to illuminate. Before I attempt to apply this idea in other contexts and examine its validity today, let me say something about the route that led me to adopt this original thesis. The application of the concept of cultural-code to my work had two sources, as is so common in historiography: professional and autobiographical, or personal. It grew, first of all, out of my previous work on the master-artisans in Germany during what we then used to call “die Grosse Depression” (the Great Depression). Indeed, it was rather easy to demonstrate the instrumental role—that is, the function—of Jew-hating within the organizational and political efforts of these small handicraft masters at the time. Their deep uneasiness with modernity was all too often translated into an anti-Semitic verbiage, though rarely into anything more threatening than that. They were not revolutionaries. They were usually even ready to defend the “system”—but they truly believed it had been corrupted. Their enemy was not capitalism, they often argued, but the Jews who had led it to inhuman excesses; not liberalism as such, but the Jews who misinterpreted and misrepresented it; it was not the modern state that was responsible for neglecting their interests, but the Jews who thought of theirs only, and so forth. The link between anti-Semitism and the fear of modernity was clearly apparent among the men I then investigated.

But it was not only my academic work that led me to seek the possibly symbolic function of anti-Semitism in modern society. More important perhaps was my first-hand experience with anti-Zionism on the Berkeley campus during the 1960s and in some of the German towns visited immediately afterwards. By then, anti-Zionism was clearly a constant theme among members of the so-called New Left—men and women who considered themselves the revolutionaries of those heroic years. Strangely enough, at least from my perspective, anti-Zionism was often particularly strong among Jews. No doubt, the realization that perhaps not only anti-Zionism but also anti-Semitism may be seen as a part of a larger, more comprehensive ideological “package deal” first occurred to me as I observed my American Jewish friends operating as they did within the various left-wing groupings during these years.

In some ways, of course, their anti-Zionism could merely be considered a continuation of the anti-Zionist position of so many liberal Jews before the Holocaust. In the prosperous Jewish communities of the West during the early decades of the twentieth century, Jews opposing Zionism were surely more common than Jews supporting it. But after the Holocaust, this “balance of power” clearly shifted. Following the realization of the dimensions of mass extermination under the Nazis and the tragic effects of the closed-door policies of so many countries during the war, it seemed no longer bon ton to oppose Zionism—neither principally nor in practice. Both Jews and non-Jews, on the left and the right, proceeded much more carefully now along the lines of the old pro- and contra-Zionism debate. In fact, it was only after the Israeli victory in 1967, when the existence of Israel seemed finally secure and its policies of occupation began to draw criticism, that anti-Zionism began to play the role of a cultural code within the ideological set-up of the New Left, in America as well as in Europe. Once again, we were dealing with an ideational package deal. Its main components were anticolonialism, a somewhat vague but often violent anticapitalism and a deep suspicion vis-à-vis the policies of the United States, not only in Vietnam but also, often especially, in Latin America. In some countries this package now also included the emerging ecological argument. On the whole, this was clearly no longer the old antimodern package, though it still had some similarities with it. Moreover, it was now no longer located on the right but on the left. But despite all-important differences, here too a particular form of anti-Jewish posture was made to serve as a symbol, an indication of belonging, a cultural code. The package deal had been transformed; its social and political focus relocated; but the general mechanism of its operation was in many ways the same.

An additional perspective then helped convince me of the validity of my interpretation. By the late 1960s and the early 1970s, expressions of anti-Israel, if not clearly anti-Zionist, sentiments were also voiced ever more frequently by representatives of the so-called developing countries, members of the now extinct “Third World.” Occasionally, such attitudes were based on solidarity with the Arab cause, no doubt. But the general anti-Jewish, indeed anti-Semitic, twist given to such basically political attitudes required further explanation. It was at this stage that the anticolonial struggle no longer focused on straightforward demands for independence on the part of the colonized and began to display its cultural contours. The overall set of values and norms typical of the imperialist West and its inherent list of priorities were turned into targets for attack at this point. It was an attack on cultural conceit, on disregard for the suffering of non-white peoples, on the traditional paternalism and cultural arrogance of the colonizers. Finally, and through a vague adoption of old anti-Semitic claims and suppositions, the Jews became a symbol of that West. They stood for its essence and its vices. By attacking them one was finally up in arms against all and every manifestation of Western culture. The persecuted were as guilty as the persecutors among the colonialists. Even the most downtrodden among them were no longer privileged. Even they were legitimate targets for hatred. Jewish claim for special consideration because of the Holocaust and its horrendous consequences seemed especially outrageous to spokesmen from the Third World. In view of their own devastation, the Holocaust elicited little sympathy. A combination of opposition to Israel, often while linking its policies to the evils of South African apartheid and a reliance on a borrowed, European anti-Semitic tradition, became a part of the overall anti-imperialist syndrome. It may not have been particularly important to those applying it, but it served them well to signify their position.

Personally, then, it was above all the case of anti-Zionism among left-wing activists during the late 1960s and spokesmen of the Third World somewhat later on that I first diagnosed as a cultural code for a larger political-intellectual package and that has since served me for interpreting both contemporary and historical situations. A look at France in the late nineteenth century, during the Dreyfus affair, offered an excellent historical case study. It appeared that as the affair became a major public issue, it consolidated on the one side the anti-Dreyfusards, who were part of the general anti-Republican camp in the Third Republic of the late 1890s, and on the other, the Dreyfusards—namely, the Republican forces, despite the inner controversies that raged among them. A decade earlier, one could still locate anti-Semitic attitudes across much of the social and political spectrum of France. In the years between 1887 and 1889, the Socialist Review, the official newspaper for the socialist movement, published a series of anti-Semitic articles, though it occasionally gave voice to milder positions, too. The Blanquist and Proudhonist traditions within the socialist left in France were laden with anti-Semitic materials. But when an anti-Dreyfusard and a generally anti-Jewish position became a mark of the anti-Republican camp, French socialists, much like their German comrades under different circumstances, found it necessary to distance themselves from it. This became particularly evident in the aftermath of Emil Zola’s public J’accuse in 1898 and when the violent message of the Anti-Semitic League was made apparent in the streets of Paris. Like the social democrats in the Kaiserreich, the French socialists too never managed to rid their membership entirely of anti-Semitic prejudices, but in public and in their open political pronouncements, they left no doubt as to the side they chose to take.

Here too, then, a position on the so-called Jewish question, not in itself of paramount importance, came to indicate a belonging to a larger camp, signifying loyalty to a larger ideological package deal, a political stand and an overall cultural choice. In both Germany and France of the turn of the twentieth century, however, it was often unclear whether anti-Semitism served as a code for a general antimodern and anti-Republican stand, or whether an outspoken anti-anti-Semitism fulfilled this role for the modern, emancipatory—and in France, Republican—camp. A decision along these lines, I believe, depends on the prominence of the anti-Semitic issue within each context. A position on a certain issue could be considered a code, it seems to me, only if and when it plays a rather marginal role for the men and women concerned. Thus, I have elsewhere argued, antifeminism, another creed of the conservative, antimodern bloc in pre–World War I Europe, could not serve as a code, because already by the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first of the twentieth it was a major issue; neither a sign for something else nor a code for more important matters.

To sum up, we have so far relied upon two assumptions in trying to interpret anti-Semitism—or anti-Zionism too—as cultural codes. The first is that cultural as well as social and political views come in packages, in the form of ideational syndromes; the second, that only relatively minor issues, though of the kind that are common enough in public discourse, can serve as codes, signifying larger, more important syndromes. Much of the criticism that has been voiced against my thesis came from those who objected to one or the other of these assumptions. The first kind of objection, however, was not usually sounded on theoretical grounds. The fact that people’s belief-system has the form of more or less well-integrated compounds or “syndromes” was rarely contested. Opposition usually came from historians, familiar with the complexity and diversity of Germany during the period under consideration, who claimed that a division of its society into two camps, recognizable by their attitudes to Jews, was an unwarranted simplification.

This, usually oral, controversy was from the start intertwined with a more comprehensive and, no doubt, more important one—that dealing with the validity of the Sonderweg thesis in German historiography. My paradigm, the paradigm of a split society, in which two major political camps and two subcultures were set against each other, seemed to fit that thesis well enough. It seemed to support the Sonderweg view, according to which social, political and cultural developments, most particularly since the late nineteenth century, prepared the ground for the later victory of National Socialism. Moreover, this thesis included the claim that it was some shortcoming in the process of modernization and in the way modernity had been received and internalized in Germany that was the source of its uniqueness vis-à-vis its European neighbors. The alternative view, originally proposed by Geoff Eley and David Blackbourn precisely at the time I published my “cultural code” paper, disputed this uniqueness altogether and stressed the bourgeois nature of German society at the time of the Kaiserreich, its modernity and its similarity to other societies in fin-de-siècle Europe. Accordingly, Germany was pluralistic and diversified, so that a breaking line along issues of emancipation and anti-Semitism could not gain the importance of a general cultural code. A number of studies by English historians on some of the early-twentieth-century political associations, such as the Navy League and the Pan-German League, argued that anti-Semitism had in fact been negligible even among members of the popular right. Later, some German historians too, above all the late Thomas Nipperdey, took up the same argument and likewise claimed that other, reform-oriented associations, too, though sometimes antimodern in orientation, were not anti-Semitic. Recently, a young scholar from Jerusalem, Gideon Reuveni, has argued that if consumers’ organizations rather than producers’ interest-groups were to be investigated, anti-Semitism would be found even less frequently among their members. In other words: a variety of other lines of division were more significant for the social world of the Kaiserreich, overshadowing the general left-right division, or indeed the anti-Semitic versus the anti-anti-Semitic camp, too.

There were, no doubt, other divisions within German society at the turn of the century and there were likewise quite a few cases in which familiar ideological package deals proved unreliable. Some of the better-known examples were to be found among artists, such as the poet Stefan George, whose artistic modernity clearly did not match his reactionary social and political views. Artists, after all, are expected to excel in breaking up conventional wisdom. Ideational package deals are such conventions par excellence. Similarly, to be sure, there were also men on the left who continued to parade their anti-Semitism. Vienna at the turn of the century knew quite a few of them. Ideational package deals are rough tools and clearly not everyone succumbs to their spell. Still, on the whole they are very pervasive and extremely powerful. While the Pan-German League had been careful on the Jewish issue for sometime, it eventually adopted anti-Semitism—always central in its Berlin chapter—with a vengeance. The Navy League may have been less than outspoken on that matter, since it was an association representing above all the interests of the upper bourgeoisie—by no means obvious candidates for upholding the cultural views of the antimodern right.

A variety of reformers, too, fighting for the abolition of alcohol or tobacco, for instance, were unlikely to get involved publicly on the Jewish issue, as theirs was not a typically right-wing agenda, old or new. Furthermore, there were clearly numerous variations within each camp, not just with regard to the Jews. Elements of the right held different attitudes towards Christianity, to take one example. Despite the prominence of the Junkers within this milieu, to take another, others within it were vocal opponents of the old aristocracy. Material interests, too, tended to divide members of the same cultural bloc. Still, on some major issues these people saw eye to eye. Mosse’s “German Ideology” was crucial to them. They relied heavily upon an antimodern mentality, including a systematic rejection of the tenets of liberalism, democracy and socialism. They all too often reveled in nostalgic visions of a long-lost golden past and had various utopian plans for the future. An antagonistic attitude towards Jews could easily be found among them. It sometimes sprang from a deep-seated Christian education; occasionally from some kind of xenophobia or from a situation of professional competition. The function of their publicly paraded anti-Semitism was frequently the same: to indicate their basic cultural choices, to qualify them in the eyes of their peers, to define them vis-à-vis their adversaries.

The second type of criticism directed at the cultural-code thesis was in a way merely the other side of the same coin. If some historians of Wilhelmine Germany thought this thesis gave too much weight to the issue of anti-Semitism, others felt it underestimated its significance. Such underestimation could pertain to a particular case—in a particular place and time—or it could be claimed for the overall development of anti-Semitism, from its inception and up to National Socialism. Surely, both these reproaches deserve some consideration. In fact, there is a tradition of sorts, according to which historians of anti-Semitism insist on considering all its manifestations as outgrowths of a permanent antipathy towards Jews, based on ancient controversies and conflicting social relationships. Every attempt to disengage a particular case from that linear, age-old story is therefore strictly rejected. Let me mention here as an example Jacob Katz’s elaborate attempt to dismiss Eleonora Sterling’s interpretation of the 1819 Hep-Hep riots in Germany as “displacement” of hostility and violence from issues of modernization to anti-Jewish rioting. Katz, an open-minded historian and a pleasant colleague, refused to acknowledge such an interpretation. His famous essay on the Hep-Hep riots is an extended effort to reject it, dismissing the significance of contemporary issues and stressing the role played by a continuous European tradition of Jew-hating in this case. He was also ill at ease with the cultural-code idea. Now, there is no question that the choice of the Jews as targets for violence—actual in the early nineteenth century and in most cases only verbal in its later years—was not arbitrary. It clearly relied on the anti-Jewish sentiment embedded in Christian culture. But a historical view of the manifestations of this sentiment must also consider the particular context in which such sentiments were activated and their particular function at a certain point in time. The fact is, after all, that though Jews were not much appreciated at all times, they were actively resented and persecuted only in particular places and at particular times. Beyond acknowledging the persistence of anti-Jewish feelings, it is the historian’s role to explain how and why a certain form of anti-Semitism characterizes certain societies at certain times.

Still, concentrating upon the function of anti-Semitism within a particular historical context and beyond the effect of its permanent existence, while not necessarily detracting from its significance—so I believe—is surely a way of avoiding its overestimation. We have all gone through what might be called “the Goldhagen stage” about a decade ago. It was a reminder of how history could be read backward, by choosing only the supporting evidence. However anti-Semitic Germany was during the late nineteenth century, indeed, it was clearly likewise a land of what at that time seemed a uniquely successful emancipation. Contemporary Jews from across Europe who sent their sons—and sometimes even their daughters—to study and live in Imperial Germany were not simply blind or ignorant. Its society embodied for them the potential of existing freely and creatively as Jewish citizens of a modern state. It was not an existence free of anti-Semitism, to be sure, but this issue was largely under control, according to most observers. Let us not forget that the anti-Semitism that provoked the emergence of Zionism then and there was mainly manifested in Russia of the pogroms and in France of the Dreyfus affair. Indeed, the cultural-code thesis suggests the relative unimportance of anti-Semitism at the time. While it does not deny its existence, it does try to avoid inflating its influence merely in view of what was to come later. It provides a perspective of the period under consideration, which is dependent upon its own parameters, seeking to preserve its own “directness to God,” to use Ranke’s terminology, or uphold its special uniqueness, in more modern terms.

Before I move forward in time, examining the validity of the idea of cultural code for more contemporary situations, let me first take a small detour in order to further undermine the claim to exclusivity of explanations that rely on the heritage of anti-Semitism only. In fact, the historiography of anti-Semitism has for many years applied another term that carried with it a symbolic connotation and related Jew-hating to particular events, chronologically and geographically—namely, the “scapegoat.” The word itself, as is well known, indicates an ancient Jewish ritual, in which guilt is symbolically laden upon a he-goat that is then sent to a no-man’s land among the mountains of Jerusalem. By analogy it was often argued that Jews were made to carry blame for various catastrophes, such as a variety of social ills or the plague, primarily during the Middle Ages. Turning against Jews in some of the early-modern episodes seems to have followed a similar pattern, too, and even later attacks on Jews, instead of on landlords for instance or on exploiting capitalists, were often interpreted along the same lines. Like the cultural-code paradigm, scapegoating too does not stand outside the tradition of Jew-hating, since it is that tradition that qualifies the Jews in particular crisis situations to take the blame. But the cultural-code model seems to depend on this tradition even more heavily, since it also relies on the symbolic applications of this tradition, including scapegoating. In other words, being a later phenomenon, it relies not only on the tradition of despising the Jews but also on that of making symbolic use of this hatred in a variety of social and cultural situations. In comparison with scapegoating, the cultural-code mechanism is more general, applicable to times of stability, or even growth and prosperity, not only to days of wrath.

Furthermore, scapegoating is basically a psychological tool, the workings of which are presumably always the same, while coding is a cultural process taking different shapes in different times and places. It may have been born out of the same mechanism in Germany and France of the late nineteenth century, but in each case it served a somewhat different purpose. It surely serves different purposes when it is found to be a practice on the right as opposed to the left. It is a better instrument for historians, because it takes into account both change and repetition. It clearly stresses the shifting functions of anti-Semitism and provides a way of thinking about difference, not only about continuity.

Thus, while antipathy towards Jews is to some degree a cultural constant, my model rejects the approach of observing the history of anti-Semitism as cyclical or spiral. This antipathy, I argue, is neither always the same, nor does it follow a pattern of rising intensity. The nineteenth century, accordingly, ought not to be considered a “rehearsal for destruction,” nor Nazism the peak of an ongoing, gradual development. It did build upon “the longest hatred,” of course, but finally introduced—as had happened in the past—a radical new variation upon the old theme. Nazi anti-Semitism was not simply yet another step in the long march towards extermination, but in many important ways was a new departure. It was, in any case, a diversion from the path of anti-Semitism during the Second Reich. It was only under Nazism that anti-Semitism lost its symbolic role and became most emphatically an end in itself. For Hitler, indeed, though anti-Semitism may not have always been the highest priority, it was in any case a separate, central issue, one that probably became ever more crucial as his other goals seemed less and less realizable. Under the rule of National Socialism, anti-Semitism no longer stood for other issues. It was not a way of avoiding social criticism, nor a sign of belonging to a particular cultural or political camp. The attack upon the Jews became a major policy matter under Nazism, a goal to be pursued relentlessly, under all circumstances. Perhaps here lay the danger of anti-Semitism as a cultural code: at a certain point it might lose its symbolic nature and turn almost imperceptibly into a full-scale attack.

Is that what we are experiencing today? If indeed the joint anti-Zionist and anti-Israel language of the left in the 1960s and 1970s served as a cultural code to indicate belonging to the camp of anti-imperialism, anticolonialism and a new sort of anticapitalism, has it now lost its symbolic meaning? Is it now a matter of direct and full-scale attack upon the Jews? I do not know. Perhaps. Surely, the context has been transformed. A number of additional elements have meanwhile been added to the ideational package deal that characterized the left during the 1960s: the specter of globalization, for instance, the growing importance of the ecological agenda, and so forth. Even more important now is the identity assumed between the policies of the United States, always a target for attack, especially from the European left, and those of the State of Israel. Today, however, following over five years of unprecedented conflict in the Middle East, opposition to Israel can hardly be regarded as a code for some other evil. In addition to a more open anti-Semitism among xenophobic groups on the right, the subculture of the left, even of the center-left, can no longer consider its position towards Israel a side-issue, ripe to serve as a cultural code. This has become a major concern now. The last public opinion poll in Europe documented, in fact, not so much a rising level of anti-Semitism as a rising anxiety vis-à-vis the worldwide implications of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our traditional enemies may not need to adjust their position to the new situation, but we may have already passed the moment in which our friends too could use their attack against us as a sign of other beliefs and commitments. We may be approaching the stage in which we really are the target of their resentment, fear and hatred.

Unlike previous occasions, however, this time we are no longer pawns in someone else’s chess game. It is up to us now to act. We could take action that would prove our commitment to peace and our concern for the well-being of others. We could set out to convince those who either were against us or at the very best were using their opposition to us as a code for their opposition to more important forces, that we understand the severity of the hour. Unfortunately, there seems to be no step taken in this direction. It is apparently easier to blame all others, to complain of anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism, to measure incessantly their intensity, but never to take any responsibility for trying to diminish their force.