SPME Perspectives on the Global Conference Against Anti-Semitism

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Reflections on the Global Conference for Anti-Semitism

Richard Landes

I attended most of the two days, but missed important events at the end of each day (including, alas, the final dinner). I missed the first day’s events at the Knesset so I could do the interview with IBA. So my remarks will be less “comprehensive.” Overall, it was well-planned, well-organized, but of limited scope. Repeatedly attendees complained about the problem of limited follow-through – there should be a dozen smaller meetings generated by the Global Forum during the year, rather than an annual meeting the inevitably has to play off “political speeches,” with informative material from researchers.

From my perspective there were two serious lacunae. First, I am now fully convinced that our problem is not a matter of Hasbarah (explanation, clarification, PR, Public Diplomacy), but a cognitive war in which the physical battlefield (where Hamas/Hizbullah/ Fatah will always lose), is an adjunct to the cognitive field (where, as every speaker attested in one way or another, the drive to deligitimate Israel is succeeding). This cognitive war must be recognized. As my guru on this subject, Stuart Green, puts it, “you can’t win the battle of the Midway if you don’t know you’re in a battle.” And it must be recognized for what it is, the systematic abuse of our hard-earned means of free communication, by people who have nothing but contempt for the principles they invoke – human rights, humanitarian concerns, “justice.”

As a result, there was a) too little on the role of the media in this phenomenon; and b) a notable absence of Israeli military at the conference. This latter point is crucial because until the military realizes that its success on the battlefield has shifted the enemy’s strategy, and it adjusts its priorities – e.g., releasing very powerful information that could be used in the cognitive war, but which intelligence forces almost by default keep private – we will continue to lose the cognitive war. Indeed, every victory on the in the physical battlefield – Hamas’ rocket attacks have dropped steeply since Operation Cast Lead – produces a massive loss on the cognitive field. Maybe if key members of the IDF were present to hear about the disastrous situation world-wide, then they might begin to reorder their priorities. As of now, this is a MFA show, and most people think it’s their job and their job alone.

Second, there was virtually no attention to the problem of the Jewish contribution to the problem of anti-Semitism. If there is one major gaping hole in our defenses in this cognitive war, it’s the “useful infidels” like Goldstone who think they’re doing “good and right” and promoting “peace and the defense of civilians,” when they’re empowering the very forces that seek war and victimize civilians, friend and foe alike. Alvin Rosenfeld’s “Progressive Jews and the New Anti-Semitism,” remains the gold standard in this matter, taking to task Jews who, in their eagerness to perfect Israel, engage in indecent comparisons of Israel with apartheid and Nazism, that feed the forces of deligitimation the world over.

Unfortunately, the conversation has not advanced since his report was greeted by “progressives,” as an assault on “any criticism of Israel.” The inaccuracy (dare I say, dishonesty) of such a response (embraced by everyone from NYT reporter Patricia Cohen, to Lenny Pogrebin, to Michael Lerner, to Samuel Freedman, illustrates well how the ardent defense of “free speech,” no matter how indecent it might be, serves forces deeply hostile to any freedoms in this cognitive war. Anyone who can denounce Israeli apartheid, and not even mention Muslim apartheid especially against women and infidels, or talk about Israelis doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to them, without noting the extensive and ardent ties between the Nazis and the Palestinians to this day, is, in my book, dishonest.

It also contributes to a massive epistemological crisis for everyone who does not know the situation on the ground (and ultimately none of us can know it all, we have to get it from the media in one form or other). How can outsiders, especially non-Jews who do not come from a culture in which self-criticism is learned with one’s mother’s milk, understand what it means when the Palestinians say, “It’s all Israel’s fault,” and most of the representatives of the Israeli side that the MSNM (mainstream news media) cherry picks, says, “They’re right.”

Of course, how to distinguish between legitimate, decent criticism of Israel – whether by Jews of by non-Jews – is a very delicate subject, and although the Jewish community is light-years away from the kind of suffocating intimidation that prevents Arabs and Muslims from public self-criticism, we certainly don’t want to engage in a slippery slope of squashing dissent. But rather than ignore the subject, we need to address it, seriously, with a sense of appreciation for how vital self-criticism, the ability to give and take rebuke (tochacha) is to Jewish culture, and explore what are the limits of decency.

Maybe next year…

SPME Perspectives on the Global Conference Against Anti-Semitism

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Richard Landes

Richard Allen Landes is an American historian and author, specializing in Millennialism. He retired from teaching history at Boston University in the Spring of 2015. He currently serves as the Chair of the Council of Scholars at SPME.

His work focuses on the role of religion in shaping and transforming the relationships between elites and commoners in various cultures. He has coined the expression "demotic religiosity," an orientation that prizes 1) equality before the law, 2) dignity of manual labor, 3) access to sacred texts and divinity for all believers, and 4) a prizing of moral integrity over social honor. Trained as a medievalist, his early work focused on the period around 1000 CE, a moment, in his opinion, of both cultural mutation (origins of the modern West), and intense apocalyptic and millennial expectations.

From 1995-2004, he directed the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University which held annual conferences and published an online journal, Journal of Millennial Studies. This involvement refocused his work on millennialism the world over and in different time periods, and has resulted in the Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements, (Berkshire Reference Works; Routledge, NY, 2000); Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience (Oxford U. Press, 2011), and The Paranoid Apocalypse: A Hundred-Year Retrospective on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (NYU Press, 2011).

His work on the apocalyptic currents that built up during the approach to 2000 has led him to focus on Global Jihad as an apocalyptic millennial movement, whose relationship to the internet may parallel that of Protestantism to printing, and whose active cataclysmic apocalyptic scenario (Destroy the world to save it), makes it potentially one of the most dangerous apocalyptic movements on record.

In addition to his courses on medieval history, he offered courses on

Europe and the Millennium,

Communications Revolutions from Language to Cyberspace

Honor-shame culture Middle Ages, Middle East

The Biblical origins of the Democracy.

In 2011, he is a fellow at the International Consortium on Research in the Humanities at Alexander University, Erlangen, Germany. There he is working on the study with which his medieval work first began, the history of the “sabbatical millennium” with its expectation of the messianic kingdom in the year 6000 from the creation of the world: While God Tarried: Demotic Millennialism from Jesus to the Peace of God, 33-1033.

In 2005 he launched a media-oversight project called The Second Draft in order to look at what the news media calls their “first draft of history.” Since January 2005 he has been blogging at The Augean Stables, a name chosen to describe the current condition of the Mainstream News Media (MSNM) in the West.

As a result of this work on the MSNM, he has come to understand the role of cognitive warfare in the campaign of apocalyptic Jihad against the West in the 21st century, and the abysmal record of the West in defending itself in this critical theater of War. He plans a book addressing these issues tentatively entitled They’re so Smart cause We’re so Stupid: A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st Century. 


  • Landes, Richard A.; Head, Thomas J. (eds.) (1987). Essays on the Peace of God : the church and the people in eleventh-century France. Waterloo, Ontario: Waterloo University. OCLC18039359.
  • Landes, Richard A.; Paupert, Catherine (trans.) (1991). Naissance d'Apôtre: Les origines de la Vita prolixior de Saint Martial de Limoges au XIe siècle. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols. 9782503500454.
  • Landes, Richard A.; Head, Thomas J. (eds.) (1992). The Peace of God: social violence and religious response in France around the year 1000. Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press. ISBN 080142741X.
  • Landes, Richard A. (1995). Relics, apocalypse, and the deceits of history: Ademar of Chabannes, 989-1034. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674755308.
  • Landes, Richard A. (ed.) (2000). Encyclopedia of millennialism and millennial movements. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415922461.
  • Landes, Richard A.; Van Meter, David C.; Gow, Andrew Sydenham Farrar (2003). The apocalyptic year 1000: religious expectation and social change, 950-1050. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195111915.
  • Landes, Richard A. (2011). Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Landes, Richard A.; Katz, Stephen (eds.). The Paranoid Apocalypse: A Hundred Year Retrospective on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. New York: New York University Press.

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