EVENTS | BOOKS | MEDIA WATCH | ANTISEMITISM | CLEMENS HENI
BERLIN—As the first issue of Journal of Contemporary Antisemitism (JCA) rolled off the presses this week, there was widespread hope that the field of Antisemitism Studies, particularly in Europe, had achieved a notable and reinvigorating breakthrough. What with the entanglements of “larger politics,” both anti-Israel politics in Western Europe, and Holocaust-revisionist politics in Eastern Europe, and right in the midst of populist movement ascendancy and the new east-west Cold War with Putin’s dictatorial and dangerous Russia, the field has long been stymied in Europe. One major factor has been the unhelpful attitude of some of the major European institutions (and at times, even Western embassies in Eastern Europe and major Western organizations) that have covered for antisemitism by arranging “staged” events that cover up for the current issues rather than address them. Finally there is a journal whose inaugural issue’s message from the editor makes clear that it will break the lame taboos of recent years in the field.
In this climate, the launch of a new academic journal by Academic Studies Press, based in Brighton, Massachusetts in the United States, and edited by Dr. Clemens Heni, founder-director of the Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (BICSA), is an important new intellectual outpost in the troubled European terrain. Dr. Heni’s own major book, Antisemitism: A Specific Phenomenon (Edition Critic 2012) is one of the few to rise above the “twin and opposite sets of political pressures” by combating the anti-Israel based antisemitism of the (largely West European) far left as well as the Holocaust-trivializing antisemitism of the (largely East European) far right. In fact, Dr. Heni was the first to pen an academic critique of the 2008 Prague Declaration that effectively became the “constitution” of the Double Genocide movement.
In his inaugural essay, “Antisemitism in the Twenty-First Century,” Heni sets out the three principal forms of bias the journal will deal with:
“Today, antisemitism appears mostly in three forms: (1) ‘traditional’ antisemitism, both religious and racial, including anti-Judaism, blood libels, and conspiracy myths, among countless other tropes; (2) Holocaust denial, distortion and obfuscation, relativization, and universalization; and (3) hatred of Israel or anti-Zionist antisemitism.”
At a later point in the essay he frames the issue from the viewpoint of Antisemitism Studies as conceived in the new journal, and fearlessly sets out his own view:
“Comparing or even equating Nazism to Stalinism is also a huge topic in the early twenty-first century. Take, for example, the Prague Declaration of 2008. The declaration proposes to establish August 23, 1939, the day of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, as a European Day of Remembrance or even a worldwide Black Ribbon Day. In short, the people who equate Brown and Red confuse those who built Auschwitz (the Germans) with those who liberated it (the Soviet Red Army).
“This statement does not, of course, deny Soviet antisemitism, anticosmopolitanism, terror, and horror, but it sets the record straight. Germany was first, not Stalin. The right-wing extremist Ernst Nolte, who finally won the Historikerstreit, took the opposite position. His insistence that Stalin was first and the Germans just reacted to the ‘Asian threat’ has been welcomed by academia (see, e.g., The Black Book of Communism, the Prague Declaration, or the historian Timothy Snyder’s bestselling Bloodlands, as well as numerous other studies, pamphlets, initiatives, and trends in political and academic culture in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere).”
The Defending History team wishes the new Journal of Contemporary Antisemitism a long and inspiring intellectual life, one that will inform the discourse of the day with a fresh and different perspective while engendering frank and respectful debate.