People who work at the Anne Frank House talk about their experiences. Jaap Tanja writes about his book on antisemitism.

New book on antisemitism

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In the last decades of the twentieth century, life was somewhat less complicated. Antisemitism was a phenomenon limited to skinheads in bomber jackets, other neo-Nazis, and a handful of radical right-wing politicians who dared to assert that things like the gas chambers were merely a "detail" of World War II.

In short, antisemitism was mainly expressed by right-wing extremists, and could be attributed almost exclusively to right-wing nationalist political movements. People active on the left wing of the political spectrum harbored no ideological anti-Jewish prejudices, or so it seemed. Antisemitism was right wing, while worrying about it, wanting to counter it, was left wing.

Nowadays, the political situation is almost reversed. Populist and nationalistic politicians in Europe that see the Islam or the Islamization as the greatest threat to the West, present themselves as a strong supporters of Israel—right or wrong—and regularly denounce the antisemitism in the Muslim world (...): "The more Islam, the greater the antisemitism."

A metamorphosis also seems to have taken place on the left of the political spectrum: liberal thinkers and left-wing politicians at times express their sympathies for the Palestinian cause not only by criticizing Israel's political policies, but also on occasion by stereotyping Jews. This often makes having an objective debate about antisemitism nearly impossible. Discussions often degenerate into political squabbling between the left and the right.

It is common practice in some circles of politics to label any and all criticism of Israel as antisemitic, and in addition to solely focus on the anti-Jewish sentiments expressed by Muslims.

Others, however, trivialize or—more often—ignore antisemitism for political reasons in not only their own circle, but other circles as well. An objective and legitimate discussion cannot possibly take place if such an attitude is motivated by political opportunism. And when the debate or discussion continues to be biased, this could very well lead to the concept of antisemitism being either downgraded or overrated.

The answer to the question of whether countering antisemitism is "left" or " right", is clear; it is neither. The debate about antisemitism should not be politicized; countering antisemitism should be everyone's concern.

From: Antisemitism. Past and Present. Published by the Anne Frank House, Amsterdam, in cooperation with Boom Publishers, July 2016. Author: Jaap Tanja (Anne Frank House). Paperback, 148 pages with more than 50 fullcolour illustrations. Price: € 14,95.

Available in the bookshop