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Daniel Goldhagen and Catherine Chatterley
Photo Credit: Joan Ste-Marie


Christine Melnick and Deborah Schnitzer
Photo Credit: Joan Ste-Marie


Adina and Rabbi Shmuly Altein with Sandy Shindleman
Photo Credit: David Square



 


GOLDHAGEN GIVES CISA LECTURE TO PACKED BALLROOM

By Ran Ukashi, May 15, 2014

For photos of the evening and to watch the lecture online, please visit: canisa.org

 

Antisemitism is an age-old prejudice that is now more pervasive than it has ever been. This is the argument put forward by Daniel Goldhagen, a former professor at Harvard University and author of the new book, The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism.
 

In a packed lecture at the Fort Garry Hotel this past Monday, Dr. Goldhagen illustrated the stark and disturbing data relating to global antisemitism, its current manifestations, and the implications for the contemporary evolution of the world’s oldest prejudice, if left unimpeded—for both Jews and non-Jews alike.
 

This was the Third Annual Shindleman Family Lecture of the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (CISA), and many distinguished guests were in attendance including the Honorable Flor Marcelino, Minister of Multiculturalism and Literacy (Manitoba); Dr. Jon Gerrard, MLA (River Heights); Christine Melnick, MLA (Riel); City Councillors, Russ Wyatt and Bryan Mayes; Dr. David Barnard, President of the University of Manitoba (UM) and his wife Mrs. Gursh Barnard; John Kearsey, Vice-President of UM; Stephanie Levene, Associate Vice-President of UM; John Danakas, Director of Marketing and Communications at UM; Dr. Jeffrey Taylor, Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Manitoba; and, Marsha Cowan and Joseph Wilder, CEO and President, respectively, of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba.
 

In his presentation, Dr. Goldhagen was careful to differentiate antisemitism from other forms of prejudice by demonstrating its uniqueness in a variety of ways. No other social group has faced such fantastical charges of deviousness, omnipotence, noxiousness, provincialism, and an intrinsic and deeply embedded predisposition for evil, across time and space, as have the Jewish people. Moreover, no other social prejudice has been as universal, adaptable, and enduring as antisemitism, making it a unique prejudicial phenomenon.
 

Antisemitism has always hinged on the idea of a “primordial Jewish essence” in which the competing identities of Jews are always reduced to a principal “Jewish” identity. From the antisemitic point of view, whether a Jew holds citizenship in a given country, is a left- or right-leaning Jew politically, is secular or religious, is always immaterial, for the antisemite views the Jewish individual as having a “Jewness” that can never be removed. Moreover, this “Jewness” is by definition never deemed to be a desirable quality, as it is synonymous with wickedness and depravity. This notion of a Jewish “primordial essence” has—and continues to be—the emblematic characteristic of antisemitism.
 

However, as Goldhagen illustrates, antisemitism is a fluid phenomenon that adapts to the political, economic, social, and cultural contexts of the day. Today, antisemitism has transmogrified into a global phenomenon, in which there is no one source of dissemination, as had been the case with the Church, until the last century.
 

The advent of the Internet and instantaneous communication technology has “revolutionized” antisemitism in a fashion that would have been unimaginable in the past, making antisemitic views, theories, and ideas more easily consumed and widely distributed than ever before. Moreover, there exists today an international alliance of antisemitism in which the domestic and foreign policies of various states – predominantly in the Middle East – openly espouse violent hostility towards Israel in particular, and Jews in general.

 

Surprisingly, the statistics bear out the fact that even in countries that contain few Jews, the population often holds antisemitic views to an alarming extent. More frighteningly, statistical data demonstrates that antisemitism is a growing – not diminishing – phenomenon in most places in the world.
 

Goldhagen supported his arguments by citing disturbing statistics, such as the fact that some 200 million Europeans hold antisemitic views in the classical sense, including the canard that Jews murdered Jesus, Jews hold “too much power in business” (implying nefarious motives to Jews in positions of influence), that Jews care only about themselves, and so on. While many today blame Israel for the rise in global antisemitic sentiment, Goldhagen argues that there is little evidence to suggest a causal relationship, as most of the views held by people around the world tend to relate to “classical” forms of antisemitism which have nothing to do with Israel and predate its establishment by centuries.
 

Jews are the only group alive today who are targeted by political, cultural, and religious leaders for extermination. Jewish institutions across the world, especially in Europe, are fortified, and Jews lack the self-confidence in these communities to publicly identify and mobilize as Jews, for fear of retaliation. Dr. Goldhagen also addressed the exceptional conditions that exist in the United States and Canada (with some differences between the two countries), and warned that this not be allowed to blind us to the global reality surrounding us.
 

While the findings in his analysis are bleak, Goldhagen ultimately beseeched the audience to not passively deny, dismiss, or ignore the growing phenomenon of global antisemitism, but to tenaciously tackle the issue by educating Jews and non-Jews alike as to the dangers of such rampant and obdurate prejudices for the common benefit of all mankind.
 

While recognizing that antisemitism is unlikely to disappear anytime soon, one must take action now – in concert with others – to stem the tide of a disturbing and growing trend that is relentless and acutely afflicting the world today. Education is one of the most important ways to begin to address this complex problem.

 

Ran Ukashi is a PhD Candidate in the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at the Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice, St. Paul's College at the University of Manitoba. Ran's research interests are Middle East Politics, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Jewish Identity Politics, and the Politics of Antisemitism.

For photos of the event and to watch the lecture online, please visit: canisa.org

 
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