No other writer has held mass murderers, deniers of truth, and propagators of hate to a higher standard of moral accountability than Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. His writings about ordinary Germans during the Holocaust (Hitler's Willing Executioners), the Catholic Church' s history of anti-Semitism (A Moral Reckoning), and the world's complacency about genocide (Worse Than War), has made him a bestseller and a disturber of the peace for those who like things just as they are--truth and history be damned.
His latest, The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism, doubtlessly will shatter the way people think about anti-Semitism -- both in its past incarnations and present day existence.
Yes, present day. As the book makes plain, anti-Semitism is on the rise throughout the world, and those who exploit the hatred of Jews have never been as aggressively threatening in their actions and unabashedly murderous in their rhetoric--even when compared with the Nazis. Islamists, for instance, are more openly genocidal than Hitler, who at least had the civility to speak in Teutonic code. The political and religious leaders of the Islamic world are positively bloodthirsty in their attitudes toward Jews, and not just Israelis.
It's easy to miss all the cues if you're not paying attention, but with the exception of the United States, anti-Semitism has gone truly global, aided in part by the widespread use of digital technologies, the moral bankruptcy of the United Nations, the double standards of the international human rights community, and, perhaps most especially, the rise of political Islam throughout the Middle East, Persian Gulf and Europe.
Anti-Semitism's ascendance in Europe is particularly disturbing. For decades after the Holocaust, most Europeans were understandably reticent about expressing anti-Semitic feelings, no less acting upon them. But those post-Holocaust inhibitions have apparently dissipated. Jew-hatred is once more a legitimate subject for public debate, and anti-Semitic violence is rising.
Goldhagen is not surprised. After all, anti-Semitism is a deeply rooted, widespread prejudice with 2,000 years of Christian influence and 1,300 years of Islamic teachings. It may have been dormant in Europe for decades, but it was unlikely to have disappeared. Indeed, it has returned not only to places where Jews no longer live, but also in the most socially tolerant of nations, such as Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Holland. In the United Kingdom, one-quarter of Jews surveyed report having been subject to anti-Semitic harassment during the past year. Jews in Canada, Germany, and France must hide their identity while venturing out in public.
For those who follow rankings, Goldhagen is unequivocal where anti-Semitism lists in the roster of hatreds: it's "the world's all-time leading prejudice." Nothing comes close to its longevity and reliance on a genocidal vocabulary. Only against Jews is it acceptable to speak casually about their annihilation. No other people have been as historically dehumanized and demonized; no other hatred is as pervasively embedded in world religions and culture.
Of course, it's impossible to have a conversation about anti-Semitism without mentioning Israel, and Goldhagen puts the lie to most people who represent that their criticism of Israel has nothing to do with their feelings about Jews. Indeed, anti-Zionism is yet another pernicious variety of anti-Semitism.
The proverbial Martian visiting Earth would reasonably wonder: What's with this planet's obsession with Jews? Hotspots exist all over the world. Full-scale genocides take place in Turkey, Cambodia, Guatemala, Rwanda, Bosnia, the Congo and Sudan. Iran murders its own people. Saddam Hussein may have been without weapons of mass destruction, but he annihilated the Kurds of his own country. Russians commit murder in Chechnya. And, of course, we are all now familiar with the way Syria takes care of its own.
Where is the world's outcry when compared with Israel's conflict with the Palestinians?
Turkey and China have all the luck. They have slaughtered tens of thousands of Kurds and Tibetans, respectively, without the world's protest. And neither the Kurds nor the Tibetans have ever threatened to wipe Turkey and China off the map.
How does one account for why 59 percent of Europeans across 15 countries believe that Israel is the greatest threat to world peace -- not nuclear North Korea or avowedly genocidal Iran? The United Nations has passed six times as many resolutions against Israel as it has against Sudan. Germany is the 20th century's greatest killer and yet there is there no lingering hate toward them. As for the rest of the word's mass murderers, where are the condemnations and the calls for boycotts? Why aren't they compared with the Nazis while Israel so often is?
The disproportionate animus directed at Jews and the selective singling out of Israel while ignoring other countries that commit worse transgressions and who are themselves not under threat of annihilation from their neighbors is a question many people refuse to answer.
That is usually Goldhagen's territory. When the world's manmade atrocities, moral failures and blatant hypocrisies occur, he has proven himself time and again to be a righteous chronicler on behalf of the persecuted and the dead.