Jewish Political Studies Review 17:3-4 (Fall 2005)
A Resurgent Malady
Manfred Gerstenfeld on
Rising from the Muck: The New Anti-Semitism in Europe
André Taguieff, Ivan R. Dee
Pierre-André Taguieff, a French philosopher, political scientist, and
historian, is a leading expert on anti-Semitism. The publication of one
of his important books in English is thus particularly welcome.
Developments and mutations of contemporary anti-Semitism occur
at a rapid pace. Many profound and often original insights of this
book - first published in 2002 under a more solid title that translates
into English as The New Judeophobia1 - are now increasingly understood.
When reviewing the English translation, one must stress how
remarkable Taguieff's analysis was when initially published in French.
One of the author's merits is integrating earlier observations with
his own into a wide-ranging picture of contemporary anti-Semitism,
and particularly as it targets Israel. Taguieff assents to Orwell's view
that intellectuals are more totalitarian in outlook than ordinary people.
He also refers to Nietzsche's remark "Blood is the worst witness of
truth," noting that "martyrs" prove nothing about the validity of a
Taguieff emphasizes, as some authors had noticed several decades
ago, that the new anti-Semitism consists of mutations of the classical
version. In 1968 Jacques Givet published a book titled The Left
against Israel? An Essay on Neo-Anti-Semitism,2 and in 1969 Léon
Poliakov had described the relationship between anti-Zionism and
Israel and Jews, Interchangeable Targets
Taguieff explains how Israel and Jews have become usually inseparable
or interchangeable targets for a wide range of disparate enemies.
Among those lined up against them are the entire Arab world, radical
and political Islamists, "humanitarian" neo-Christians and various
elements of the extreme Christian Right, parts of the Left and Right
elites, Communists, Trotskyites, and others on the extreme Left, as
well as neofascists.
The author details the alliances between several actors and in
particular between the Left and Islamists. The Islamist doctrine that
the end justifies the means, he points out, resembles that of Lenin and
Trotsky. He exposes the process by which the crimes of the disadvantaged
are condoned, including the media's role in justifying violence
and turning criminals into victims.
The next step is to declare the latter nonresponsible because their
acts are determined by their socioeconomic conditions. This is nothing
but an updated version of Marxist determinism. A further step, then,
is that the Islamist version of Islam becomes the religion of the poor
and the victims. This also involves asserting that Muslims or Arabs
are being humiliated or attacked. Taguieff also demonstrates how the
new myth of the "intrinsically good Palestinian" is coupled with an
anti-Zionism aimed at destroying Israel.
The author clarifies some links between anti-Semitism and anti-
Americanism. He illustrates how the Palestinians have become the
standard-bearers of democracy's enemies, with the criminalization of
Israel and of the West going hand in hand. Taguieff explains that this
is also related to the rejection of modernity. Furthermore, he recognizes
the dangers of blind pacifism, which places the aggressor and his
victim at the same moral level and turns legitimate self-defense into
Taguieff also realizes that in the last three decades of the twentieth
century, Judeophobia - a term he prefers to anti-Semitism-based on
racism and nationalism was gradually replaced by a new version centering
on antiracism, antinationalism, and antiglobalism.
Taguieff saw - as many at the time still did not realize at all -
that by 2002 anti-Semitism had reached unprecedented levels in the
post-Nazi period in both the Arab world and Europe and that the
common belief that it was in decline was false. At a time when a
Jew's risk of being attacked in France was many tens of times greater
than a Muslim's, as it still is today, he also exposed another lie,
prevalent in Europe: that Islamophobia is a worse problem than
Many of these observations are by now more widely accepted, as
often happens with a pioneer's interpretations of rapidly evolving realities.
Such dynamics also turn a book with many original insights into a
valuable time capsule for historians. It documents what was observable
at a given moment.
France, a Precursor to Anti-Jewish Violence
The works cited in the book mainly deal with the French reality.
Today it is no longer possible to write about neo-anti-Semitism in
general while focusing predominantly on a single European country.
In 2002, however, France was still far "ahead" of others, both in
physical violence against Jews and in new intellectual mutations of
anti-Semitic motifs. Since then, some countries such as the United
Kingdom have caught up as far as physical violence against Jews is
Reacting to the developments in France, some intellectuals have
begun to expose and analyze the new anti-Semitic phenomena. Taguieff
was among the first. Sowas Shmuel Trigano, who founded the Observatoire
du Monde Juif, a publication that carried his own and others'
essays. Also in the forefront of such research are Georges Bensoussan,
who revealed the rampant racism and anti-Semitism in French schools,
and Georges Elia Sarfati, who focused on the semantics of the
neo-anti-Semites. Jacques Tarnero in his movie Décryptage, or Decoding,
unmasked the French media's anti-Israeli manipulations and bias.4
Taguieff also exposed French society's low resistance to Islamist
aggression and at an early date noted how politicians, hoping to be
reelected, kept silent about the anti-Semitic violence of the Muslim
A Time Capsule
Rising from the Muck was written during the first of the four distinct
periods of the French government's attitudes toward the explosion of
anti-Semitism. This initial stage started in the latter months of 2000
when violence against Jews rapidly increased and lasted until after the
French parliamentary elections in June 2002. It was characterized by
denial of the anti-Semitic nature of these acts, which were described
as hooliganism without mentioning their racist character. This
approach was shared by both the socialist Jospin government and the
Gaullist President Jacques Chirac. There are strong indications that
in this period the government made a major effort to suppress information
about the anti-Semitic nature of the incidents.
The presidential elections in April 2002 caused a national trauma
when the extreme rightist leader Jean Marie Le Pen, during the first
round of voting, bested the socialist prime minister, Lionel Jospin, to
become Chirac's challenger in the final round. Soon thereafter the
Gaullist Nicholas Sarkozy became interior minister and announced a
policy of zero tolerance toward anti-Semitic violence. Chirac, however,
steadfastly denied the existence of anti-Semitism until November 2003.
This second period was thus characterized by inner divisions and
The third period marked the end of the authorities' denial, which
was replaced by declarations and an increasingly concrete policy of
fighting anti-Semitism. At the same time, the government's own anti-
Israeli attitude continued to incite neo-anti-Semitism. A fourth period
might be considered to have started in October 2004, when a government-
commissioned report on anti-Semitism by Jean Christophe Ruffin was published.5 He wrote: "It is not conceivable today to fight
actively in France against anti-Semitism in its new mutations without
going all-out to try and balance anew the public's view of the situation
in the Middle East." Since this report, the relationship between French
anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism has become a matter of record.
One other aspect of the mood in France is illustrated by some of
Taguieff's remarks. One expects a scholar to publish his analysis without
explaining his political views. It is a sign of the times that the
author felt the need to declare his personal outlook on the Palestinian-
Israeli conflict so as to avoid the impression that he opposed a negotiated
agreement that would lead to Israel's return to the 1967 borders.
In today's France, the fact that Taguieff is non-Jewish lends him
much more credibility than his equally scholarly Jewish colleagues.
As Trigano has noted: "In contemporary French society, the views of
the Jews are delegitimated in advance. The opinions of pro-Jewish,
pro-Israeli intellectuals are shunted aside by intellectual opponents as
resulting from their ethnic origins." This is one of many indications
that the new anti-Semitism in its various manifestations represents a
serious cultural danger to the well-being of French society at large.
* * *
1. Pierre-André Taguieff, La nouvelle judéophobie (Paris: Mille et une nuits,
2. Jacques Givet, La Gauche contre Israël? Essai sur le néo-antis sémitisme (Paris:
Jean-Jacques Pauvert, 1968) (French).
3. Léon Poliakov, De l'antisionisme à l'antisémitisme (Paris: Calmann-Lévy,
4. Décryptage, directed by Jacques Tarnero and Philippe Bensoussan, 2002.
5. Jean-Christophe Ruffin, "Chantier sur la Lutte contre le Racisme et l'antisémitisme,"
Ministère de l'interieur, de la sécurité interieure, et des libertés locales
The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect
those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
The above book review appears in the Fall 2005 issue of the Jewish Political Studies Review, the first and only journal dedicated to the study of Jewish political institutions and behavior, Jewish political thought, and Jewish public affairs.
Published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (http://www.jcpa.org/), the JPSR appears twice a year in the form of two double issues, either of a general nature or thematic, with contributors including outstanding scholars from the United States, Israel, and abroad. The hard copy of the Spring 2005 issue will be available in the coming weeks."
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