Jews often have occasion to lament the truth of the biblical text that says that our enemies will arise from among us: Many of Israel’s fiercest enemies today are themselves Jews. But we also (sometimes) have occasion to rejoice that some of Israel’s staunchest and most articulate friends are gentiles. One such righteous stranger is England’s Professor Bernard Harrison, who will lecture at the University of Washington on April 7 on “Anti-Zionism, Anti-Semitism, and the Intellectuals.” He will come to Seattle from Indiana University, where he is to give the keynote address at an international conference on “Resurgent Anti-Semitism.”
Resurgent anti-Semitism is by now the subject of numerous books (and hundreds of articles). Their shared conclusions, set forth from a variety of perspectives, is that the physical violence of the new Jew hatred is largely the work of young Muslims. But the ideological violence is the work primarily of leftists, self-identified anti-racists, humanitarians, and liberals (including Jewish ones).
Harrison’s book, The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel, and Liberal Opinion (2006), brought to its subject a new authorial identity, a different academic background, a distinctive and exhilarating voice. It was the first in English about contemporary anti-Semitism (mainly of the British sort) by a gentile. According to Harrison, his gentile identity not only contradicted a major premise of the new anti-Semitism, i.e., that only Jews support Israel, but also made him privy to the expressions of anti-Semitic prejudice, political and social, by apparently respectable academic people, “when Jews are absent.”
Harrison is a scholar trained in “habitual skepticism, bitterly close reading, and aggressive contentiousness contributed by forty years in the amiable sharkpool of analytic philosophy.” His book mercilessly dissects anti-Israel invective and smug cliché coming from the New Statesman, Guardian, BBC, and other British bastions of anti-Jewish sentiment. He devotes all of chapter two, for example, to a single infamous issue of the New Statesman of January 2002. Its cover showed a tiny Union Jack, placed horizontally, being pierced by the sharp apex of a large Star of David, made of gold; below, in large black letters, was the question: “A Kosher Conspiracy?” A cover right out of Der Sturmer; and the articles that accompanied it had at first suggested to Harrison that he should title his analysis of them “In the Footsteps of Dr. Goebbels.” He later decided that would be “inadequate to the gravity of the case.”
Among the many left-liberal canards, slanders, slogans, and clichés that Harrison dismembers in his book are the following: “Israel is a colonialist state”; “Israel is a Nazi state, and the Jews who support it are as guilty as Nazi collaborators were”; “anybody who criticizes Israel is called an anti-Semite”; “Jews do not express grief over their dead except for political or financial ends”; and on and on ad nauseam.
Some will say that, in response to these vicious or insane allegations, the best response is: “Why did you kill your grandmother?” i.e., to merely go on the defensive is already to concede defeat. Harrison thinks otherwise, and those who do wish to engage the current enemies of the Jews and Israel would do well to attend carefully to what he says. Take, for example, the way in which he draws out the implications of the Israeli-Nazi equation, without which many of Israel’s defamers would be rendered nearly speechless. The first is that to demonize Israel or Zionism is to demonize the Jews as well. The second is that “To attach the label ‘Nazi’ to Israel, or to couple the Star of David with the swastika is…not just to express opposition…to the policies of one or another Israeli government. It is to defame Israel by association with the most powerful symbol of evil, of that which must be utterly rejected and uprooted from the face of the earth.”
Harrison also wrote a stunning little booklet for the American Jewish Committee called “Israel, Anti-Semitism, and Free Speech” (2007) in which he rebuts the accusation (made by such world-class haters of Israel as George Soros, the late Tony Judt, and the Walt-Mearsheimer duo) that anybody who takes issue with attacks on Israel as the devil’s own experiment station, or the epitome of apartheid, or the true inheritor of Nazism, is trying to “stifle” all criticism of the Jewish State, to shut down debate, to stifle free speech.
Harrison confesses to a personal motive in his written combat with “progressive” anti-Semitism: “As a gentile with some interest in Jewish religion, history, and culture, and some…understanding of the importance of the Jewish contribution to Western civilization, I have been encountering this sort of thing…for sixty years..and I find it wearisome and contemptible in the extreme.”