That the 21st century has brought increased disdain for things Jewish is a disturbing fact, and Chesler’s latest book systematically catalogs a nauseating array of hate crimes throughout the world. Chesler presents concrete evidence, from cemetery desecrations to attacks on synagogues, from the outright murder of individual Jews to Holocaust deniers who believe the Shoah deserves neither recognition nor mourning. Not surprisingly, she finds law enforcement to be erratic. At best, Chesler reports, a few offenders are singled out for penalty.
Unfortunately, these realities are frighteningly familiar, and had Chesler, who has written about feminist issues for more than two decades, simply reminded us of them, there would be little of newsworthy value in her latest text. Instead, she treads new ground and looks at the ways feminist and progressive movements have treated Jews and Jewish concerns, especially Israel.
Chesler is up front about her love of Eretz Yisrael. Although she maintains her right to be critical of Israeli politics—among other things, she is a fervent supporter of the Women of the Wall—she argues that it is blatant anti-Semitism to equate Zionism with racism and to deny that Jews have a right to a country of their own, situated in the Middle East. What’s more, she views the Left’s fixation on Palestinian concerns as a repudiation of Jewish suffering.
But Israel’s policies in Palestinian areas have grabbed world headlines, and as death shave mounted, both Jews and non-Jews have denounced both forced evictions and displacement. Are some critics anti-Semitic? Undoubtedly. But that does not necessarily obviate their concern.
Or does it? Chesler implies that Israel has as much right to be repressive as other nations and argues that holding it to a higher standard is anti-Semitic. I think she’s wrong. Regardless, this perturbing but provocative book is guaranteed to get your juices flowing and is a must-read for those concerned with morality and ethics.
Eleanor J. Bader is the co-author of Targets of Hatred: Anti-Abortion Terrorism and a contributor to In These Times, The Progressive, The New York Law Journal and Z Magazine.