Fighting anti-semitism constructively

By Johan Galtung

From Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany

Anti-Semitism, AS, is to be against Jews as such; pre-judging all based on some, pars pro toto. Being anti any category humans are born into – woman-man, black-white – is a fatal disease, with prejudice escalating to hatred, leading to discrimination, escalating to war, even genocide. There is linearity; perpetrators to victims.

To prevent and cure this disease we must understand its causes, roots, and learn what, and what not, to do. To be against disease is not good enough. With the open mind provided by academic freedom, and freedom of speech as a basic human right, we have explored diseases like cancer to identify the roots, the carcinogens. Smoking, active and passive, is among them; saying so is not “blaming the victim”. Diseases are systems with feedbacks, as is prejudice-discrimination. Rooted in relations between Jews and others, in traumas of the past, conflicts in the present, and the victim feedback. There are loops.

50+ years ago this author researched the black-white conflict over desegregation of schools in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA[i]. To know the roots, hard segregationists were interviewed about blacks. Responses: “they are black because of black syphilis microbes in the blood”; “they hate us and have daggers hidden behind their backs”, “they are communists against our free American society”. We sense racism, trauma, fear, conflict over political and economic power.

What to do? The first was easy even if scientific evidence failed to reach the die-hards. The second was partly a matter of black society controlling their extremists. The third was to show, with surveys, that blacks also wanted the American Dream, convinced that the road passed through integrated education, like for girls. And US society has space enough for equal opportunity. In short, solving underlying conflicts, in various ways. It took decades, but worked.

Morale: Never confirm negative prejudices; deny, disconfirm them.

To understand, prevent, cure and learn for the future we must know how AS extremists think: “the Jews get others in debt bondage”, “control media and politicians”, “exercise disproportionate power”.

What to do? Some advice from psychology, sociology, politology.

Psychology: Prejudices predict behavior; confirming predictions strengthens prejudices, and denying them weakens prejudices. Goldman Sachs, identified as Jewish through its leadership, with millions in debt bondage, could counteract constructively by being up front and rejecting “casino capitalism”, as should everybody. AIPAC-American Israel Public Affairs Committee could stop steering media and intimidating politicians by slander and pressure, favoring dialogue, not stifling it by labeling critics “anti-Semitic”.

Sociology: When a minority is high on economic-cultural and the majority is high on political-military power – Armenians/Turks, Jews/Germans, Chinese/Indonesians, Tutsis/Hutus – a constructive approach lifts the majority up economically and culturally, like Mahathir did in Malaysia.

Politology: Forbidding Mein Kampf and that nefarious forgery The Protocols to incite hatred of Jews, is counter-productive. Better contradict in dialogues, and counteract with constructive action.

We need both primary and secondary prophylaxis. The remedy for traumas is not denial but reconciliation; for conflicts not violence but resolution; for prejudice empathy; for discrimination equity. The secondary prophylaxis is to strengthen the victims by counteracting the prejudices; denying anti-Semitism anything to hitch on to.

After Shoa, Germany fought Nazism with rule of law, human rights and democracy. But Germany today has the EU periphery in debt bondage. Better learn from the past, be constructive, encourage self-reliance, negotiate debt forgiveness to avert hatred and violence tearing at the EU.

Jews have been used as scapegoats during economic crisis, like Weimar Germany. The USA is heading in that direction; massive anti-semitism might ensue. Learn, nip it in the bud, counteract, and do it now. [ii]

Enter the anti-anti-Semites, anti-AS. They are against anti-Semitism, as anybody should be. But they may also have other motives such as micro level repression/projection, meso level struggle for power, macro level protection of guilt-ridden countries against accusations of new anti-semitism, mega level clash of civilizations. Protestants-Evangelicals may want Jews settled in Palestine not for their sake but for an Armageddon that will accelerate the Second Coming of Christ [iii].

To label public intellectuals like Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Richard Falk, Günter Grass, Judith Butler, Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, Richard Dawkins, Mairead McGuire, Noam Chomsky and others [iv] “anti-Semitic” is false libel of persons who are in no way anti-Semitic but present important perspectives.

The “correct” speech carries us nowhere:

[1] Israel is always right; [2] Israel’s critics are always wrong.

Democracy is based on transparency and dialogue. The label-libel as anti-Semitic is prohibitive-punitive, with economic pressure, threats, and refusal of dialogue [v]; it is not explanatory-preventive-curative-constructive. Some anti-anti-Semites do great disservice to Jews and Israel, to democracy, freedom of expression and academic institutions as sites of academic freedom.

Israeli politics today is the result of lack of dialogue, of being protected by mainstream media more concerned with denouncing, ostracizing and silencing critics than with constructive alternatives, like a 2-State solution within a 6-State Middle East Community, as the EC, within a 20+State security setting, as the OSCE-Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.[vi]

The same applies to Shoa. It might have been prevented if the Allies had revised the Versailles Treaty and Weimar had lifted Germans up fro the bottom; further by boycotting Hitler financially rather than negotiating the transfer to Palestine of 60,000 German Jews [vii], by more nonviolent action like Rosenstrasse Berlin February 1943, and less Jewish-Nazi cooperation. [viii]

Morale: Know the past to learn to prevent genocide in the future.


[i]. Supported by the Anti-Defamation League, New York, also supporting a study of anti-Semitism (See Johan Galtung, Essays in Peace Research, Vol. III, Ch. 13); presented for Theodore Adorno in Frankfurt. Deep gratitude to the then ADL director, Mr. Oscar Cohen.

[ii]. The totally false label-libel of this author as “anti-Semite” came right after meetings in the USA with American Jews on exactly this; and efforts to understand the monstrous terrorism in Norway 22 July 2011 by Anders Behring Breivik. The accusation was based on twisted quotes out of context; for an analysis see

[iii]. Yakov Rabkin, “Religious Roots of a Political Ideology, Judaism and Christianity at the Cradle of Zionism”, Mediterranean Review, Vol. 5, June 2012, pp. 75-100. Rabkin is professor of history at the University of Montreal.

[iv]. For a list of persons accused of “anti-Semitism”, with what they are accused of and who are the accusers, see

[v]. An example is my chief accuser, Professor (New Testament Theology, University of Basel), Dr Ekkehard Stegemann, whose refusal to discuss led to the cancellation of an open dialogue at that university. He has one position, I have another; by refusing a public discussion he betrays the academic and democratic tradition of transparency and dialogue. However, whenever he is ready so am I.

[vi]. See

[vii]. See Edwin Black, The Transfer Agreement: The Dramatic Story of the Pact Between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine, New York: Macmillan, 1984, and later editions.

[viii]. For a very balanced overview see C. R. Browning, “After the Cauldron”, The New York Review of Books, 16 August 2012.

This article was originally published here.

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