Author: Robert Fine is Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick. He is co-convenor of the European Sociological Network on Racism and Antisemitism. He has published widely on Marxism and critical social theory, as well as on human rights and class struggles against racism, and his most recent book is Cosmopolitanism (Routledge 2007). His current research interests include European antisemitism and the sociology of human rights
The point of departure of this paper is the polarization of ways of thinking about antisemitism in Europe, between those who see its recent resurgence and those that affirm its empirical marginalization and normative delegitimation. The historical question raised by this polarization of discourses is this: what has happened to the antisemitism that once haunted Europe? Both the current camps-’alarmists’ and ‘deniers’, as they are sometimes known, or, perhaps more accurately, new antisemitism theorists and their critics-have the strength to challenge celebratory views of European civilization. One camp sees the return to Europe of an old antisemitism in a new and mediated guise. The other sees the return to Europe of a rhetoric of antisemitism that is not only anachronistic but also delusory and deceptive. Overshadowing this debate is the memory of the Holocaust and the continuing presence of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The aim of this paper is to get inside these discourses and deconstruct the dualism that generates homogenizing and stigmatizing typifications on either side. The spirit of Hannah Arendt hovers over this work and the question of the meaning of her legacy runs through the text.