Phyllis Chesler, Middle East Forum Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow
In her new book, Living History: On the Front Lines for Israel and the Jews 2003-2015, best-selling author, lecturer, columnist and retired psychotherapist Dr. Phyllis Chesler explores the growth of the anti-Israel campus movement and the alliance of leftist academic intellectuals with leaders of anti-Semitic Islamist movements in the East.
Speaking to Breitbart News via email, Chesler expands on the "cognitive war" being waged against Israel and the West, the startling growth of leftist pro-Palestinian movements on campus, and the nature and appeal of the anti-Israel "death cult" that has taken advantage of young college students looking to empathize with the oppressed.
The book is a series of essays from the past twelve years that gives the reader a wide breadth of how expansive the propaganda war, as you call it in the book, against the state of Israel is. It covers everything from your first experiences with the anti-Israel movement on campus to events as recent as Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to Congress on the Iranian nuclear talks earlier this year. My first question to you is a simple one: why this compilation of essays now?
I wanted to preserve these representative and strengthened essays as a legacy and for widespread use on campuses and at organizations and conferences. This is a reliable and accessible way of both remembering and teaching the coming generations about what has been happening globally in terms of the Orwellian defamation of Jewish Israel and of Western civilizational values.
How has the anti-Israel movement on campus grown in the past decade, in your estimation, and what can pro-Israel students and activists do to stem that growth?
The Soviet-era Arab League, Saudi and Qatari money, Palestinian propaganda groups, Muslim Brotherhood student groups, human rights groups, and the United Nations, have been working on demonizing Israel for the last 35-60 years.
A 2013 anti-Israel protest in San Francisco
A 2013 anti-Israel protest in San Francisco
Professors, think tanks, Middle East Studies programs, films, and student conferences—with the strong backing of the Muslim Brotherhood's Muslim Student Association and Students for Justice in Palestine and what has become an "Islamophobia" industry—have forcefully indoctrinated American students (and the media) into believing that the earth is flat.
Now, anyone who does not hew to such politically correct Junk Science, will be physically intimidated, jeered, cursed, economically punished, censored, and possibly fired. What to do? First, we must admit that a Cognitive War was declared long ago and, second, that it is a war we simply refused to fight. Worse, it is a war in which we collaborated against ourselves. Now, we must seize courage in both hands and commit ourselves to this battle for the next one hundred years.
Is there a notable distinction to be made between anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli activism? If so, where is the line, and how should supporters of Israel approach each?
Currently, there is no longer any difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. In the distant past, an honorable theoretical discussion could be had about whether the long-persecuted Jews would ultimately benefit from a state "like any other state," which some believed would absolve Jews from their God-given mission of being a "light unto the nations." What kind of Jewish state Israel should be has been appropriately discussed and argued. It still remains a more than lively discussion.
"There is no longer any difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism."
But now, there are those, including some Jews, who believe that if Israel cannot be perfect, it does not deserve to exist; that Israel has caused the existential danger it now finds itself in; that even though Israel is surrounded by enemies (not only geographically but also theologically, ideologically, economically, internationally, militarily, and by the Biggest Lies ever, etc.), Israel-alone should still be judged by standards that one never applies to Sudan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Hamas, Fatah, ISIS, and Boko Haram.
In 2002, I, and a mere handful of others, stated that anti-Zionism is partly what anti-Semitism is now about. I also stated that a Perfect Storm was coming our way (both Israel's and America's). That Storm is an alliance between western, politically correct intelligentsia and Islam. It took others about a decade to begin stating this as well.
One of the most striking things for me about the book is how many topics it covers and, in turn, the way it highlights how versatile the left can be in hijacking any topic to bash Israel, from feminism to sports to theater and the performing arts. How much effort should supporters of Israel spend fighting in the political realm vs. combatting opponents in other venues that are not traditionally political? Is any one of these– entertainment, sports, international law, social justice– not getting as much attention from the pro-Israel movement as it should?
Israel needs a global "Iron Dome" to defend itself against the all-out cognitive war that is currently being waged against it. I spell out some specific ideas in a lecture that I am working on. I have also made many cogent suggestions over the years (some are contained in this book), which have never been tried or funded. Israel's supporters need to do everything, simultaneously, and we need to understand that we are coming from behind. However, that is also how our patriarch Jacob/Israel once approached crises and battles. We have the talent, we do not have the money. Arab and European governments have funded our Big Lie opponents for more than half a century. Funders must now do likewise. And we need team players working in concert. We exist.
You are among one of the most unabashed feminists at the forefront of the pro-Israel movement. A young, politically conscious American woman reading or watching only liberal mainstream media would have a difficult time believing you can be both feminist and a hawk on foreign policy or, as you mention in "The Brownshirts of Our Time," feminist and pro-Israel. What do you say to those that can't see where the two ideologies meet?
I am a civil libertarian and a free thinker. I am not an ideologue. I am in service to original ideas—but we live at a moment in history when ideology trumps independent thinking and when celebrity trumps all. Thus, I oppose totalitarianism, fascism, and barbaric misogyny. I cannot make common cause with those who have been trained to demean the West and to celebrate all other cultures as both "equal" to and "oppressed" by the West. I once lived in the Islamic world and I move in Muslim (dissident) circles to this day.
"Unlike most Western feminists, I understand the nature of Islamic gender and religious apartheid."
Therefore, unlike most Western feminists, I understand the nature of Islamic gender and religious apartheid—and I oppose it. I also understand that the history of Muslim leaders has been one of imperialism, colonialism, conversion by the sword, anti-black racism, slavery, persecution of infidels, and the gross subordination of women. I do not share the same need for sacrificial atonement that so many feminists currently display.
I lived in a polygamous household in Kabul and disagree with pseudo-feminists in the West who believe we should consider this cultural practice in a "relativist" way. I also saw my first burqas in Kabul and view them as a dangerous human rights violation and a health hazard. I also learned a little about family-initiated femicide, aka honor or horror killings, and know they are not at all like Western domestic violence.
Given that Israel is the most female- and LGBT-friendly nation in the Middle East, should there be a responsibility among the feminist and LGBT rights movements to support Israel?
I also know that despite many flaws, Israel is the most democratic and liberal nation in the Middle East; it towers above any Arab or Muslim country in terms of rule by law, freedom from censorship, women's rights, gay rights, and Arab Muslim and Arab Christian rights. It also has the most ethical army in the world. In short, I know that the world's view of Israel is "upside down" and I mean to right it.
What do you think is the appeal of the pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist movement on campus to young people who otherwise share socially liberal values incompatible with the ideals of groups like Hamas?
It is, essentially, a death cult appeal but one couched in the language of empathy for the suffering oppressed. It demands the utter eradication of individuality for a presumably noble purpose, that of sweeping away all evil on earth—no matter the cost. (Hmmm, where have we heard that before?) If Christians must be crucified and exiled; if Jews must be completely exterminated; if infidels must all convert to Islam or die—then so be it. What Westerners envision as "revolutionary" is really quite reactionary but the herd instinct, the pressure to be a politically correct anti-racist, has been dangerously romanticized. This madness must be de-programmed. First, the Islamists must be defeated militarily. Then, we can put our best minds to the task of de-programming.
Beyond Israel, Europe appears to be a strong preoccupation for the book, particularly the rise of anti-Semitism there. What is Europe doing wrong to invite events like the Charlie Hebdo attack or even casual discrimination in cities like Paris and Malmo?
Europe, like America, and like Israel, symbolizes Western values which are despised, envied, and condemned by tribal Islam. Today, Europe is doing nothing wrong—and yet it is doing everything wrong. There is a tragic history here.
Europe wanted cheap Arab oil and cheap Arab and Muslim workers. They did not expect these workers to stay or to eventually bring half their villages along with them. Many Europeans have traditionally been racists. That is why so many are now "atoning" for the sins of their grandparents by adopting a more "politically correct" version of racism. (Dark-skinned Muslims may live as they wish, we have no desire to seriously integrate them; anyway, this is their preference as well).
Many immigrants remained illiterate or felt disenfranchised; they lived on the dole in hostile, parallel, anti-European communities and became radicalized via mosque, jail, and satellite TV. Jean Raspail, the French novelist, envisioned what could happen in his brilliant book In The Camp of the Saints. As I write in one of the essays in Living History: On The Front Line for Israel and the Jews, 2003-2015, I sometimes think that Europe is reaping a terrible, karmic destiny. It murdered six million friendly, non-violent, often highly assimilated Semites—the Jews—and has now reaped the whirlwind of many millions of non-friendly, violent, anti-assimilation Semites—the Arab and African Muslims.
To read an exclusive excerpt from Living History: On the Front Lines for Israel and the Jews 2003-2015, click here.
Frances Martel is Associate Editor of National Security at Breitbart.