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Desch: Bloom misses the historical shift re anti-Semitism

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Harold Bloom’s review of the new Anthony Julius book on Antisemitism in England in the New York Times book Review is a landmark in the increasing absurdity of the whole concept of anti-Semitism.

To conflate classical anti-Semitism, which was based on the notion that Jews could never be a part of gentile society so they needed to convert, get out, or in the most extreme manifestations be eliminated, with criticism of the actions of the Jewish state and their unquestioning defense by supporters of Israel around the world, misses the major shift. The latter is all about asking Israel and its supporters to be full members of international society by abiding by common standards of decency internationally and domestically to recognize that conflating the interests of your country with that of another is likely to cause problems.

In other words, classical anti-Semitism was about making Jews the perpetual “other.” Contemporary critiques of Israel and the Israel lobby are motivated in most cases by wanting Jews not to be the “other.” This is, in my view, a huge change which should not go unrecognized. The fact that it does, demonstrates how far the debate, even among otherwise very smart people, has deteriorated.

Michael Desch

Michael Desch is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. He was the founding Director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs and the first holder of the Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security Decision-Making at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University from 2004 through 2008.

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