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Pierre-André Taguieff on the new "anti-Zionism"

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Preachers of Hate
Pierre-André Taguieff on the new "anti-Zionism"

September 7, 2005

(Translation of an interview that appeared (click for original)  in the Observatoire du Communautarisme

Prêcheurs de haine : Traversée de la judéophobie planétaire, Pierre-André Taguieff, Editions Mille et une nuits, 2004, 962 pages

After the essay The New Judeophobia (Editions Mille et une nuits 2002), Pierre-Andre Taguieff continues his reflections on the wave of anti-Semitism which affected France since 2000 and on  "radical anti-Zionism"  with the comendious  Preachers of hate.  The editors of the Observatoire du Communautarisme  will soon begin a critical discussion with Pierre-Andre Taguieff, following the republication of the article which follows, which initially appeared in the CEVIPOF newsletter.

A historian, political economist and historian of the ideas, Pierre-Andre Taguieff devoted many works to the traditional forms and the contemporary metamorphoses of racism and  anti-Semitism, involving  investigations of a historiographic and lexicological  nature  as much as analyses based on the social psychology, the cultural anthropology and the political theory which were the basis of several works. In addition, he undertook studies on multiple dimensions of the "crises of time" (exhaustion or redefinition of the idea of progress, responsibility with regard to the future generations) to the extent that they affect  political action and its representations. Lately, he  continues his research on the new problems arising for ethics, the right and  political thought because of  advances in life sciences and more particularly of human genetics.

After the publication of the New Judeophobia in January 2002, you  publish Preachers of Hatred: A survey of worldwide Judeophobia, a tome of almost 1,000 pages. Why this dense and serious work? A work of anger?

There is anger. How can one not be angry, faced with the surge of anti-Semitism France has experienced for a few years? However, this book is mainly an inquiry, a work of critical reflection, aimed at defining and explaining a phenomenon whose definition is sometimes unclear. It  answers some objections and criticisms that The New Judeophobia received, but not the insults and foolishness poured out by some! The genre is mixed: part essay in political thought, part contribution to the history of modern political myths (such as the international Jewish conspiracy, etc), part survey on the worldwide manifestations of contemporary Judeophobia, and, finally, it is also a public stance. Indeed, in this book I do tackle a number of commonly accepted ideas, and I question our modern society’s tendencies to relativize and minimize these new forms of anti-Jewish attitudes. I have tried to sketch out a global theorization of the Judeophobic phenomenon, and to offer a new reading of the history of Judeophobias.

You prefer the term “judeophobia” to “anti-Semitism”.

The word “anti-Semitism” (anti-Semitismus) was forged in 1879 by a German racist theorist, at a time when one believed in the existence of the “Semitic race”, to requalify the old “hatred of the Jews” on a racial basis (”anti-Semitism”). This dated term, taken as self-designation by the anti-Jewish nationalists of the end of the 19th century, does not suitably define the object of my investigations, which one could characterize as the post anti-Semitic Judeophobia which appeared after WW2. My object is above all to analyze the emergence of a new anti-Jewish configuration, which is not confined to resurgences or reactivations. It is about an ideological configuration of global dimensions, where one finds words and topics coming from various anti-Jewish traditions (Christian anti-Judaism, nationalist anti-Semitism), but where one finds also new charges centered on “Israel” and “Zionism”, set up in repulsive myths. To summarize, the argumentative form of this new thought-slogan, which developed since the end of the Sixties, can be put like this: “all Jews are more or less hidden Zionists; Zionism equals colonialism, imperialism and racism; therefore the Jews are colonialists, imperialists and racists, openly or not”. “Zionism” - as repulsive myth and not as socio-political reality - became the incarnation of the absolute evil.

But surely this attitude towards Zionism is not new?

The equation “Zionism = racism”, or even “Zionism = Nazism”, represents one of the most significant heirlooms of Soviet propaganda, the principal themes of which were adopted initially by the Arabo-Muslim world, and then, with some additions, by the trans-national Muslim world. Bear in mind  that this polemic orchestration made possible the adoption by the United Nations on November 10, 1975,  of Resolution 3379 condemning “Zionism,” which was defined as “a form of racism and racial discrimination”! This resolution, known as “antiracist,” was a great ideological victory of the Soviet camp and PLO: Jewish nationalism, Zionism, became the only nationalism in the world officially defined as “a form of racism,” thus condemnable by the International Convention for the elimination of all the forms of racial discrimination. It was repealed, in its conclusions at least, only in December 1991. We are today in a convulsive context marked by two anti-Jewish configurations, which, since the autumn of 2000, through intolerable violence against Jewish institutions and individuals perceived as Jewish, feed the observable wave of  Judeophobia in France as in other European countries. I specified two configurations. One is persistent, and well known: old anti-Semitism inherent to the extreme right, or xenophobic nationalism. The other is an emergent – and expanding one, whose main vectors are the propaganda of the radical Islamist networks and the demagogy of the new leftists: neo-Communists and neo-leftists, altermondialists [a French term that usually describes anti-globalizationists - Tr], Trotskyites and anarchists, all massively exploiting “the Palestinian cause”, celebrated as a  “universal cause” by the extreme left. One can see there the new expression of the support of the Third World and revolutionary ideology. The Palestinian martyr replaces the proletarian struggle for a communist society.

But this new Judeophobia contains in itself the roots of anti-Semitism.

It obviously fits within a long history, the origins of which can be found in the Judeophobic attitudes of antiquity (Greek, Roman, Egyptian), evident even before the appearance of Christian anti-Judaism. We can identify three great founding anti-Jewish myths.  In antiquity, the Jew was regarded as the enemy of mankind, an antisocial being animated by a relentless hatred towards other peoples. A stereotype transmitted by the Fathers of the Catholic Church to the anti-Jewish racists of the 20th century, and reactivated today by Islamist propaganda.  The second myth, invented then re-arranged between the 12th and the 15th centuries, is that of the ritual murder which symbolizes the cruelty attributed to the Jewish people (1) and reinforces its image as a deicide people. This rumor of cruelty is conveyed today by the media, around a recurring topic: the Israeli army is stigmatized as a child-killing army and it is alleged that its soldiers enjoy the killing of young Palestinian children.. Finally, the third part of this transhistorical myth, is the myth of the conspiracy, which also appeared between the 12th and the 15th centuries, but which was transformed into “international Jewish conspiracy” during the 19th century, to reach its peak with the publication of the most famous forgery of  Western history, the Protocols of Elders of Zion (2), written in Paris in 1900 -1901. These three myths are the basis of anti-Semitism as classically defined, in the strictest sense, a particular racist – or rather racialist –  of ideology which developed and predominated in Europe from around 1870 until the collapse of the 3rd Reich. This anti-Semitism was founded on the theory of the races worked out essentially during the 19th century, which assumed an inequality between human groups named “races”, an inequality that was unchangeable because defined by differential hereditary features. These groups were dedicated to a fight for existence and expansion (”war of the races”). It is within this conceptual framework that anti-Semitism was worked out, as an application of the racialist ideology to the “Jewish question”, promoted to the political sphere at the time of the rise of nationalism during the last twenty last years of the 19th century. anti-Semitism is thus defined as anti-Jewish racism, illustrating the dominant form of the Judeophobia from the last third of the 19th century until the middle of the 20th century. The Jew - or the Semite – was assimilated to a distinct, lower and harmful, enemy “race” by nature of the “Aryan race”. This type of anti-Jewish speech, explicitly racist, did not disappear, but indeed persists, in the margins of the political sphere (neo-Nazis, skinheads, etc). The new global Judeophobia, exactly the one I analyze in my book, is not based on a racist theory; On the contrary, it consists of  turning against the Jews the accusation of “racism”. Thus, it gives itself “antiracist” credentials.

This new Judeophobia also includes a violent form of anti-Americanism.

Indeed, this beam of negative stereotypes aiming at the Israeli-Zionist-Jew fits into a more global configuration, centered on the demonization of the United States. Radical anti-Americanism constitutes a new transnational political orthodoxy, which has not stopped expanding since 1989/1990. The American superpower became a repulsive figure, the  latest recycling of “American imperialism,” claimed to take a major responsibility for the misfortunes of the world: bloody injustices and inequalities, oppression and exploitation, conflicts and genocides. All these plagues can be blamed on the activities of Israel (”Zionism”) or of the United States, or more usually of both. However, one should not lapse into polemical excesses: all the anti-Americans are not anti-Jewish, all the anti-Jews are not anti-American. We are content to point out an ideological twinning between America and the Jews, however; hence the return under various formulations of such ideas as “Jewish America”, “Jew-York” and “American-Zionist imperialism.” Israel and the United States are democratic nation states; they are powerful, armed, strongly patriotic, they dare to define their enemies and defend themselves firmly. They are not “soft” societies with the “tepid” beliefs. This is what annoys the followers of the new “single thought”. There are still traces of Soviet ideology in the contemporary anti-American-Zionist discourse. However, the essential part is otherwise: the anti-Americanism is one of the factors of aggravation of the transatlantic divide, which has serious consequences in the fight against terrorism, whose effectiveness relies on an international consensus.

You are insistent that this new Judeophobia has worldwide dimensions. Does it really affect all continents?

This anti-Jewish theme is now spread worldwide by the means of new communication and information technologies. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the most famous forgery of the anti-Jewish literature, manufactured in Paris, in the beginning of the 20th century, by the services of the secret policy of the Tsar, Okhrana, then translated in the majority of the European languages in the 1920s, never circulated as widely as they do now. In the Arabo-Muslim countries, but also in Eastern Europe, in Latin America, in Pakistan, in Indonesia and in Japan (where at most 1000 Jews  live!). And of course in the US, where it is massively distributed by the far right. Through the distribution of this document (presented as authentic), the Jews are stigmatized as “plotters” and “dominators”. The danger of a “worldwide Jewish plot” (or a “Zionist plot”) aimed at conquering the whole of planet is denounced. Islamist Propaganda constantly refers to it. Since the end of the 20th century, various political or politico-religious actors have reinvented the myth of “the Elders of Zion”.

You use the expression of “Nazification” of the Jewish State. What do you mean by that?

The Nazification of the Jewish State is at the heart of the anti-Zionist propaganda which forms the core of the new worldwide Judeophobic discourse. Israel was accused of the “genocide” of the Palestinians after the Six-Day War, then of “ethnocide” and finally of “ethnic cleansing”. Today, some people establish a parallel between the “Judeocide” committed by the Nazis and the supposed “Palestinocide” committed by the Zionists. By these means of propaganda, what is questioned is the legitimacy itself of the State of Israel, the only nation in the world whose right to exist is being challenged. What could be more ideologically suitable than to stigmatize Israel, Jewish “Zionists” or “extremists” in the name of a just fight against racism and anti-Semitism, or in the name of a cosmopolitan humanism? This is the most common posture of the “Western” partisan of what I called the radical or absolute anti-Zionism (the expression is also used in this way by Jean-Christophe Rufin in his study). Although this posture can be found especially in the sphere of the new far-left, it also converges with certain Islamists spheres, and meets the orientations of certain far-right movements of extreme right-hand side (the latter being mainly “anti-Zionist” nowadays). In addition to the demonological Judeophobia of the Islamists, I endeavored to study the conspirationist Judeophobia of the new anticapitalist, or revolutionary spheres which emerge in the West. They dive into the idea of “plot” with fury and naivety, when they blame all the misfortunes of the World on  mysterious “new Masters of the World”, recycling of the myth of the Elders of Zion. The new anti-Jewish standard of the new third millenium denounces anti-Semitism at the same as it denounces Zionism, it positions itself as both anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist, it boasts of being anti-racist and anti-Fascist, it poses as a defender of human rights, and particularly of the rights of the “victims”. It is very attractive from an “ethically correct” point of view. It comes in masked. Hence the difficulties encountered by those which endeavor to expose it. The absolute anti-Zionism became the revolutionism of the fools, just like, at the time of the Dreyfus affair, nationalist anti-Semitism was the “socialism of  fools” (August Bebel)!

You have chosen to talk about the emergence of judeophobia, by taking French society as your starting point and privileged illustration, what is your analysis of the French situation?

Regarding France, there was a serious recrudescence of the  problem of Judeophobia (what is still called anti-Semitism) in the autumn of 2000. The year 2000 (3) was marked by a brutal increase in violence and anti-Jewish threats.  In the same period the second intifada and its violence were very present in the media. The second intifada, I wish to emphasize, is not merely another “war of stones,” but has the attributes of a real war. As of October 2000, the force of  images worked against Israel, when the death of the young Mohammed Al-Dura, filmed by a French camera crew, was widely shown on TV(4). The image of the Palestinian becomes that of a child martyred by a pitiless and faceless army. An army of ritual killers: one find again the founding myth of  ritual murder that we evoked. In this anti-Israeli context, the anti-Jewish aggressions, which multiply in France do not mobilize much. Indifference dominates, mixed with a deaf hostility. Until the spring of 2002, the authorities hardly interfere. It  will be necessary to wait until 2003 to see the government take a stand against the wave of anti-Jewish violence. For a large part of the public, in spite of a denunciation of Islamic fundamentalism, which shamelessly exploits  this  “victimization” thematology, the victim is the oppressed, therefore “the immigrant” or “the Arab” (read “the Moslem”), therefore the Palestinian. Without being able here to expand on the subject, I shall remind you briefly that France used to be a colonial power which had to face difficult colonial conflicts: the memory of the war of Algeria is still alive. In the anti-Israeli context which has been radicalized since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, a number of French anti-colonialists put themselves into the Palestinian resistance, fantasized as a new anti-colonialist fight. These unconditional pro-Palestinians find justifications for Palestinian terrorism, even for “human bombs” designed to kill a maximum of Israeli civilians, . Some go as far as comparing the Palestinian resistance to the French Resistance against the Nazi occupier, which presupposes the “Nazification” of Israel, passport for its eradication. In addition to this, the tradition of the “great Arab policy” of France, with its anti-Zionist component, is partly responsible for the general acceptance of these new attitudes.

Radical Islamism denounces the decadence of the West, and its belief in progress, a topic to which you devoted several books. Is belief in progress a sign of decadence?

The idea of progress, modern belief that the future will be better than the past and the present, structured the political imaginary of the West, since its appearance in the 17th century. However, four centuries later, we observe that the questioning of the idea of progress, initiated by the anthropologist theorists of radical cultural relativism, then developed by the ecologists and anti-globalization movement, has made striking progress. The new enemies of the West took on, and simplified, in their Manichean language, this denunciation of the “myth of progress”. To believe in progress would be, according to radical Islamists, a symptom of decadence. It would therefore be necessary to preserve all the forms of culture, including those where cannibalism, the stoning of women or female genital mutilation, are still practiced. Or to establish Sharia everywhere that Moslems live. Radical questioning of the concept of progress, demonized because of its Western origin, amounts to a desire to erase the future. But what would the world be like if it did not think itself in the future and if its only obsession was the worldwide Zionist-American plot? The dream of a pacific unification of the world is an illusion which extends into a West weakened by internal doubts and criticisms. Hyper-terrorism has started a war against the liberal, democratic West (the camp of “Jewish crusaders”). Cultured people have to combine the duty of history and the work of memory. The great divide will appear between those who, following their fears, will submit to the criminal fanatics advocating a third totalitarianism, and those who will resist the new barbarians and fight for the freedom of all.

(1) According to this myth, the Jews annually sacrificed a non-Jewish child to make the ritual unleavened bread of Passover, the matzo,  using his blood .
(2) Pierre-Andre Taguieff has just published a newly revised edition of the historical and critical study which he devoted to this document: “Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Forgery and use of a forgery”, International Berg/Beech, Paris, September 2004, 490 p.
(3) Workshop [Chantier]  on the struggle against racism and the anti-Semitism, report submitted to the French Home Office on October 19, 2004.
(4) This episode is analyzed by Pierre-Andre Taguieff in Preachers of Hate, pp. 367-370.

Interviewed conducted by Elisabeth Kosellek

Translated by Ami Isseroff, based in part on the translation by  Alexandra Simonon that originally appeared at Engage - www. liberoblog.com

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