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March 30, 2016 3:27 pm

Holocaust Scholar Says He Was Wrong to Assume Serious Jew-Hatred Wouldn’t Resurface After Nazi Defeat (INTERVIEW)

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Prof. Alvin Rosenfeld. Photo: Indiana University website.

Prof. Alvin Rosenfeld. Photo: Indiana University website.

“Antisemitism has become a serious threat once again,” an eminent Holocaust scholar told The Algemeiner on Tuesday, saying he had thought that after the demise of the Nazis and knowledge of the destruction they wrought, serious public Jew-hatred was unlikely to surface again in the West in any major way.

“I was wrong,” Alvin Rosenfeld, professor of English and Jewish studies at Indiana University, said, pointing to a conference he has organized for next week, aimed partly to respond to and address the problem.

“It is critical that we call attention to the phenomenon and try to understand it, and the underlying issues, including the role that hostility to Israel plays in it. And to do that we begin by bringing scholars together,” Rosenfeld said.

The conference — “Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, and the Dynamics of Delegitimization” — runs from April 2 through April 6 at the Bloomington campus, and was a year and a half in the planning. “There has never before been a conference on this subject of this size and scope at any American university, as far as I know,” Rosenfeld said. “We sent out a ‘call for papers’ in early 2015, looking for papers addressing the relationship between anti-Zionism, antisemitism and broader ideological currents of thought. We were happily surprised to receive 85 submissions from around the world, from Europe, Israel and Asia, including many from major scholars.”

Among those coming from closer to home, Rosenfeld said, are Cary Nelson of the University of Illinois and Tammi Rossman-Benjamin of the University of California Santa Cruz. “Prof. Nelson will be speaking on ‘Anti-Zionism and the Humanities,’ a particularly crucial topic given the state of things on campuses these days, where hostility to Israel often spills directly into antisemitism. And Prof. Rossman-Benjamin, who directs AMCHA Initiative, will be speaking about their recent empirical study demonstrating the relationship between campus Anti-Zionism and antisemitism.”

(AMCHA Initiative is a campus antisemitism watchdog group that earlier this month released a study that provided “the first hard evidence” that anti-Zionism fuels antisemitism, as reported by The Algemeiner.)

Rosenfeld expressed satisfaction that his own campus was largely immune to the problems making news across the US and Europe. “We have not received any negative attention about our conference,” he said, “and the administration has been extremely supportive. Indiana University President Michael McRobbie wrote a very powerful endorsement letter for the conference, acknowledging the significance of the topic and its critical timeliness. I couldn’t ask for more or better than that.”

Additional endorsements, Rosenfeld said, came from Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Professor Judea and Ruth Pearl, cofounders of the Daniel Pearl Foundation and parents of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl, whose beheading, they noted in a letter to conference participants, “has come to symbolize the horrors and inescapable reality of resurgent antisemitism.”

The keynote address, Rosenfeld said, will be delivered by world-renowned Canadian parliamentarian, jurist and human rights activist Irwin Cotler.

“Antisemitism is on the rise again,” Rosenfeld concluded, “and the situation on campuses seems especially acute. We cannot hope to stop it or overturn it immediately, but our goal is to open more eyes toward what is happening, to get more people to start paying attention to contemporary antisemitism and the role that hostility to Israel plays in generating it — if our conference does that, it shall be a success.”

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  • The stated lack of overt antisemitism at IU and strong support of the conference by the university’s president caused me to think about what factors influence whether, and how, a university or other organization becomes infected with antisemitism; and why and how others do not.

    I don’t have any answers, but it’s an interesting topic. If we can understand the reasons antisemitism flourishes in some places and not others (support from the top, an strong Jewish community on campus, student demographics) it may be possible to inoculate a campus or other organization against antisemitism to some extent.

    It may sound like wishful thinking but I believe this is what organizational behavior specialists do. Obviously a long-term strategy, but worth investigating.

  • David Pfenninger

    We have here, among other things, a problem involving the resurgence of Radical Chic, the same impulse that contributed to the Campus left embrace of various thuggery groups like Weathermen, Panthers, Arafat, etc.

    The strange thing is the Left – originally quite Jewish – has somehow turned 180* to vilify Jews. Most antisemites have little to no experience with Jews and virtually no knowledge of the historical facts relative to Israel. Rather, a free floating animus looks for safe targets, and bashing Zionism fits their bill.

    Objectively, these antisemites and their implicit embrace of Palestinianism and Radical Chic betray a staggering anti intellectualism, the most vile instincts of bigotry, and a denial of facts that borders on delusional. We ignore such zombified minds at our collective peril. Thus we need more sunlight and public exposure of antisemites and a deconstruction of their canard that hatred of Israel is somehow not antisemitic. It certainly is antisemitic.

  • fred

    Well, well a novelty an admission. I did not know or think.
    I would have thought a learned person does some research on the ground before making statements that prove wrong. I am a survivor, even as the hostilities stopped the hatred did not.Folk that came back home were not allowed into their homes some were murdered on the threshold. With the event of Israels creation by remnants from the charnel house of Europe ,its defeating of greater Arab forces. Europe stood still for a moment but the hatred still prevailed.Now with the event of the Muslim influx into Europe bringing the Koran an equivalent to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Anti Semitism has been revived in a vigorous strength. Why be surprised ?.

  • Jules Sherman

    Is this conference being streamed so I can pick it up on the Internet. I am sure others would be very interested in hearing the speakers one way or another.
    Thank you.

    • Stefany Truesdell

      It is not being streamed, except for the key note speaker on Sunday evening. However, a book will be published with many of the papers presented.

  • tiki

    He’s not the only one who believed that after the horrors of the Holocaust the world would believe the words “never again”.

    My mother was one of the survivors who said it can happen again and was laughed at.

    My apologies to her.

  • Hopefully, the conference will expose the intellectually dishonest lies that delegitimize Israel and incite Jew-hatred. Because of growing Jew-hatred, Jewish students should consider transferring to Israeli schools where they would receive a first-rate education.

  • Joshua Laskin

    As the last living Holocaust victims pass away, today’s Jewish organizations now have to stand on their own records, of actions in the world today. We don’t inherit, and can’t claim, a status of righteousness from those who came before us; but must earn it anew ourselves.