antisemitism,  Book Review

Antisemitism: A Specific Phenomenon

Guest post by Karl Pfeifer

Antisemitism: A Specific Phenomenon by Clemens Heni sets out to analyze the trivialization of the Holocaust and in many cases the cosmopolitan character of anti-Zionism in the age of resurgent Islamism. Heni shows how old antisemitic assertions and insinuations are being reinvigorated while Jews, once again, are set up as scapegoats for the hated West.

Unfortunately antisemitism has become embedded in the emotional topography of most western European countries. The post-Holocaust philosemitism that dominated Europe’s discourse for nearly half a century is rapidly fading. Contested from many angles, not least the rapidly growing political importance of Europe’s Muslims, this discourse simply offers no tangible benefits to Europeans.

Clemens Heni’s authoritative study deals particularly with scholars in Western countries and their perception of antisemitism, Islamism and the Holocaust. Most authors don’t discuss the work of their colleagues, regardless of how bad or mistaken the research and/or how blatant the political activism of the various authors. Heni proves how many scholars accept a leftwing and/or Islamist anti-Zionism which is nothing but thinly veiled antisemitism.

Heni shows that today’s antisemitism extends far beyond rightwing circles and can be found among liberals, leftists, “anti-racists,” Islamists and post-colonial scholars in the Western world.

The author does not pretend to be “neutral” and dares to be polemical while adhering to strict standards of rational criticism: “Germans love to portray themselves as a model for the world when it comes to remembering the Holocaust. In fact, many Germans have a predilection for dead Jews, while defaming living ones.”

Heni’s book is a brave and exceedingly important piece of work, indispensable both for students of contemporary history and interested readers.

Clemens Heni,
Anti-Semitism: A Specific Phenomenon, Holocaust Trivialization-Islamism-Post-colonial and Cosmopolitan anti-Zionism, Edition Critic, Berlin 2013, 648 pages,