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