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From: Berel Dov Lerner email@example.com Soon after sending in my report on the Haifa conference, I decided to make some changes but apparently, the improved version did not reach the editor in time and the earlier version was distributed. I do not remember all of the changes I made, but most importantly I cut out the anti-postmodern diatribe "Hegel Lives" which seems to me unfair and offensive and also not relevant to the list's purposes. My apologies to all. Below you will find the text of the improved version: Here is my highly subjective report on the Haifa University Conference: "The New Anti-Semitism - Educational Challenges." I arrived too late to hear the various introductory remarks and I didn't take any notes, but I think I only missed one of the lectures completely. *A PRELUDE IN CYBERSPACE* If anyone is wondering about just how radicalized large segments of the Israeli academic world has become in their criticism of Israel, consider this: when I sent out the program of the conference to colleagues in my college, one lecturer immediately wrote back to me asking, "Can a conference be acceptable when all but a few of its participants belong to the far-right of Israeli society?" The conference was organized by a professor who thinks that the establishment of the State of Israel was in many ways a mistake and that we should embrace a diasporic attitude towards life. The prominent left-wing writer and intellectual, A. B. Yehoshua spoke. Among the other speakers were radical critics of Israel, including a Palestinian journalist from the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper. I don't think any of the speakers would dream of voting for any party to the right of Labor (admittedly, I do not know how Rabbi Menachem Froman's mystical-transcendental politics maps onto the Israeli party system). And yet, the knee-jerk reaction of an otherwise thoughtful and reasonable Israeli academic was to condemn the conference as a vehicle for extreme-right politics! As one of the speakers, Prof. Menachem Kellner said: "I was born and raised in America and I never encountered anti-Semitism until I moved to Israel." Therefore, before diving into my snotty, hyper-critical remarks on the conference, allow me to be clear on one point: THE VERY FACT THAT ISRAELI ACADEMICS FIND THEMSELVES EMOTIONALLY CAPABLE OF ADDRESSING THE NEW ANTISEMITISM IS ITSELF A REMARKABLE AND COMMENDABLE DEVELOPMENT HAGGLING OVER DEFINITIONS Much of the conference was devoted to haggling over definitions of antisemitism – something that should hardly be news to the veteran members of this list. Some major points made (and also criticized): 1) The term "antisemitism" should be used only in reference to the modern phenomenon which seeks the removal of Jews from society rather than their conversion to Christianity or Islam. Older forms of Jew-hatred might be referred to with the traditional Hebrew term, "Sinat Yisrael" ("hatred of Israel"), although this might be confusing because people will think it is talking about the State of Israel. 2) Antisemitism should be differentiated from antizionism (since someone can think that the Zionist project was a bad idea without being an anti-Semite). However, anti-Israelism should also be differentiated from antizionism (since someone can think that the Zionist project was a mistake, but also think that once established, it would be a mistake to try to destroy the State of Israel). 3) Given that some of the speakers were steeped in postmodern philosophy, I felt it was a shame that they seemed innocent of the tools developed by analytic philosophy that can help people avoid talking past each other about definitions. 4) I felt as if I were listening to doctors who got so involved in arguing over whether a patient's stroke was ischemic or hemorrhagic that they never got around to discussing how it should be treated. WHAT TROUBLED THE SPEAKERS *Some of the speakers were actual (left-wing) Zionists. They were worried by how it has become increasingly acceptable to reject the Jewish People's right to political self-determination and by calls for the dismantling of the State of Israel. *Some of the non-Zionist speakers (as well as all the Zionists) were troubled by the way it has become increasingly popular to relate to Israel and Zionism as the ultimate incarnations of evil on earth. For all their criticism of Israeli policies, they simply could not stomach the Israel = Nazi Germany formula. *Nazir Madgali, the Arab journalist, was vigorous in his condemnation of Israel but also ashamed at some of the crazier manifestations of anti-Jewish attitudes in the Arab world. Not surprisingly, he assured us that he spoke for the vast majority of Arabs and that the endlessly documented phenomena of Arabs believing in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Arab Holocaust denial, etc. are actually a fringe affair. After all these years, I have finally found the one man who truly speaks for the Arab masses! *Some Jewish speakers seemed to believe that we get what we deserve. SOME PARTICULAR LECTURES (very partial details from my fading memory) Prof. Ilan Gur-Ze'ev: "The Existential Threat and Spiritual Challenge of the New Anti-Semitism" - A kind of psychodynamic account of why postmodernists need to latch onto Israel as the embodiment of evil to help them survive the boredom of nihilism. A. B. Yehoshua, "Getting to the Roots of Anti-Semitism" – Rehearsed the Zionist theory of antisemitism and placed the New Antisemitism on an historical continuum of Jew-hatred that reaches back to biblical times. (Some of the academics were not pleased; they cited Theodore Herzl as an authority who differentiated between modern antisemitism and earlier forms of Jew-hatred. It was kind of funny to hear seemingly ultra-sophisticated academics argue: "Yehoshua, you claim to be a Zionist, but if you disagree with Herzl's opinion on this issue you lapse into anti-Zionism" I guess they think that anyone who calls himself a Zionist must be some kind of Herzlian fundamentalist). Prof. Dani Gutwein: "The New Anti-Semitism and Neo- Liberalism" – As a nation-state (i.e., a state associated with a particular nation), Israel represents a kind of political entity that resists the total marketization of society, and this is a problem for Neo-liberalism. Prof. Bernard Harrison: "The New Anti-Semitism and its Defenders" – The only foreign participant, Prof. Harrison (an analytic philosopher – yes!!!) spoke in English. In 2006 he published a book entitled, *The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel, and Liberal Opinion*. He made an interesting point: in today discourse, "antisemitism" is usually thought of as just another kind of prejudice, such as racism, sexism, negative attitudes towards the disabled, etc. In those other kinds of prejudice, members of a disadvantaged group are considered inferior and thus excluded from the rights and perks enjoyed by members of an advantaged group; it is solved through a politics of inclusion. Antisemitism does not really work that way, since antisemites do not believe that Jews are weak and inferior; rather, they believe that Jews are the super-cunning and super-powerful secret masters of the world. This difference (among others) between antisemitism and other prejudices keeps antisemitism off the radar screen of people who think in terms of the exclusion/inclusion model of prejudice. Prof. Menahem Kellner & Asaff Turgeman: "Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism and the Left: The Unholy Trinity". Prof. Kellner argued that people who deny Jews the right to self-determination are antisemites (I don't remember if he actually used the "A" word). He marshalled passages from traditional Jewish texts to counter academics (mostly Israeli, of course) who claim that the Jews never thought of themselves as a people or nation until late in the 19th century. If I recall correctly, Assaf Turgeman remained unimpressed. (Another victory of theory over evidence!) Arie Kizel: "Post Colonialism and the New Anti-Semitism- the Case of the New Mizrahi Discourse" – Mr. Kizel, a PhD candidate, discussed the "New Mizrahi Discourse" which is the invention of anti-Zionist Israeli intellectuals who are trying to gain legitimacy for their views by casting them in terms of some new artificially created Mizrahi (i.e., Sefardic) narrative (the speaker did not put things so bluntly). Unfortunately, the handful of people who have invented this ersatz ethnic narrative get their books translated into many European languages, creating the impression overseas that they enjoy some degree of popular support. Prof. Elhanan Yakira: "Postmodernism and the New Anti-Semitism". Prof. Yakira (who teaches philosophy at Hebrew University – I think he recently chaired the department) has been the bogeyman of Israel's intellectual left ever since he published his book, *Post-zionism, Post-holocaust: Three Essays on Denial, Forgetting, and the Delegitimation of Israel* (just published in English translation by Cambridge UP). He mentioned some horror stories (such as how he was asked to meet with people from Oxfam as a representative of "the Israeli mainstream" but eventually the idea was quashed because they were not yet emotionally prepared to speak with a person like him). He also pointed out the annihilatory (my terminology – BDL) character of the new antisemitism; Israel cannot be fixed (and like all the other speakers at the conference, Prof. Yakira said that there was much to be fixed) but rather must cease to exist. I think that he connected this with the "old" modern antisemitism which claims that Jews cannot be "fixed" (and thus must also cease to exist), but perhaps my memory is playing tricks on me. Abstracts for some of the talks can be found on the conference website (I think they are all in Hebrew) http://construct.haifa.ac.il/~ilangz/antisemitism_conference/main.htm List members are invited to check out the abstracts and complain about how much they differ from my account. (As is usual, some of the speakers began by saying that they would stray from their written papers and others apologized for having have to skip sections of their papers due to time constraints) Berel Dov Lerner Lecturer in Philosophy Western Galilee College POB 2125 Akko 24121 Israel firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org -- Yocheved Menashe List Editor, H-Antisemitism