The Magazine

A Feminist for Zion

Phyllis Chesler's unlikely assault on the new anti-Semitism.

Oct 13, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 05 • By WERNER J. DANNHAUSER
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Unfortunately, "The New Anti-Semitism" is something of a mess. The prose frequently falls victim to dubious grammar and syntax. What is more, Chesler can be maddeningly repetitive, and her book conveys the impression of having been haphazardly thrown together rather than organized. This is a pity, for "The New Anti-Semitism" is a genuinely useful and even noble book--first of all because it is a compendium of material relevant to the case for Israel. It contains a summary of Arab attacks against Israel, the details of Islamic terrorism against the United States from the 1970s on, the sorry record of European anti-Semitism in our time--and lots more. If one wants "the goods" on media bias against Israel, this is the place one can turn to as an introduction. If one wants to find out what really happened at Jenin, one can find out here.

The book is also useful as a compendium of sensible advice. Chesler's suggestions are specific and down-to-earth. She counsels men and women to expose the lies about Israel (that is surely steady work). She urges Jews--and not only Jews--to set aside their schismatic instincts and doctrinal splits; she does not hesitate for a moment to urge those of her persuasion to "make common cause with the Christian left, right, and center, with whom we may disagree on other fundamentals."

When all is said and done, this book is bound to impress impartial readers by its author's courage. True courage does not so much consist in taking a stand against the majority as in taking a stand against one's peers; it is a willingness to forsake the cozy warmth of one's intimate group when integrity demands it.

This proud radical feminist has done just that. It behooves those of us who are neither feminists nor radicals to welcome her to the good fight.

Werner J. Dannhauser is a visiting professor in political theory at Michigan State University.