Semites, antisemites, and Bernard Lewis

In 1986, Bernard Lewis published an unexpected book. Entitled Semites and Anti-Semites, it combined a careful typology of Jew-hatred, and a sobering account of how antisemitism had spread through the Arab world. Regarding the latter, Lewis made this arresting judgment:

The level of hostility, and the ubiquity of its expression, are rarely equalled even in the European literature of anti-Semitism, which only at a few points reached this level of fear, hate, and prejudice. For parallels one has to look to the high Middle Ages, to the literature of the Spanish Inquisition, of the anti-Dreyfusards in France, the Black Hundreds in Russia, or the Nazi era in Germany.

Lewis thoroughly documented the extent of the “new antisemitism” with his customary erudition, and the book became a classic. Yet it also stirred controversy. Its conclusions were challenged both by the Palestinian activist Edward Said, and by the historian of antisemitism Robert Wistrich.

Why did Lewis write this book? And why did he conclude that Arab antisemitism owed more to Europe than to Islam? In this illustrated webinar, done for the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism at Indiana University, I take a deep dive into the background and substance of Semites and Anti-Semites. View it here or below.

(And a correction: the head of MI6 was Stewart Menzies, not Robert.)

Why academics boycott Israel

What if I told you that the academic boycott of Israel isn’t about Israel at all? What if I told you that its purpose is to isolate and stigmatize Jewish academics in America? That it serves to push Jewish academics out of shrinking disciplines, where Jews are believed to be “over-represented”? And that it isn’t meant to keep Jews out of the faraway West Bank, but to keep Jews out of the downstairs faculty lounge? 

That’s exactly what I argue in this new article, “The Unspoken Purpose of the Academic Boycott.” Download it here.

(The article appeared in an issue of Israel Affairs devoted to antisemitism, BDS and delegitimization. Consult the full issue here.)

What would Bernard Lewis say?

Bernard Lewis passed away two years ago, and the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) put together a panel to mark the occasion. Here are my remarks. No one has filled the stage vacated by Lewis, and I explain why. I also dwell on his interesting definition of antisemitism (it might surprise you), and his critique of Middle Eastern studies (it diverges from the usual one). Twelve minutes of your time. Click here.