Yehuda Bauer begins his talk by recounting how the word ‘antisemitism’ was coined by a liberal German Jew-hater who felt uncomfortable with using the more accurate description ‘Jew-hatred’. Having made his point, Bauer continues with common usage instead of grandstanding on a distracting pedantry. He is clearly upset, annoyed and frustrated by the world he sees around him, yet he retains an old-school liberal middle-Europe Enlightenment vision that is idealistic yet grounded. He puts his frustration into historical perspective.
Yehuda Bauer is a historian and foremost scholar of the Shoah/Holocaust and academic advisor to Yad Vashem – someone with the credentials to talk authoritatively about Jew-hatred and racism, including Jewish racism.
Bauer is frustrated by narrow nationalistic and short-term viewpoints that fail to see that Jewish history is about far more than Jew-hatred. He is annoyed that the Western media failed to report that hundreds of moderate Islāmic clerics met in Marrakesh in January 2016 to denounce radical Islam – even though they were joined by a few orthodox and Israeli Rabbis and Catholic bishops. He is bemused that the burkhini causes more anxiety on French beaches than it does in Tel Aviv.
He is proud to be part of a culture that is complicated, contradictory and controversial – even if these characteristics too often trigger eruptions against the Jewish people. Why do so many people feel anxious about Jews? Bauer argues that antisemitism/Jew-hatred is a complex phenomenon which changes its character continually but is always below the surface ready to act as a trigger in illiberal societies, particularly those which are monotheistic.
Bauer’s talk begins with a brief introduction which defines Jew-hatred and puts both positive and negative attitudes towards Jews into a long-term historical context – starting with Alexander through to contemporary Europe via Rome, Morocco, Georgia, India and China. There follow questions from the floor that raise the usual policy dilemmas that arise when discussing the “Muddle [sic.] East” – Jewish racism, settlements, European Jew-hatred, criticism of Israel, secularism, Islāmic Jew-hatred and the Labour Left.
Bauer’s voice is that of a very wise man coming out of retirement in his 90s to dispense a liberal Enlightenment wisdom that is under threat both in the world at large and among his own people.
- Michel Wieviorka – Evil in Europe: Racism, Antisemitism, Terrorism and Nationalism
- Amos Oz – Judas – Antisemitism and the Gospel