This week “People of the Pod” speaks with Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, whose book, “Anti-Semitism: Here and Now,” proved to be tragically prescient when released earlier this year prior to a spate of lethal anti-Semitic attacks around the world.
In conversation with the podcast’s co-host, Manya Brachear Pashman, Lipstadt provides insight on the many directions from which anti-Semitism is emanating today, along with what can be done to fight it.
Weekly podcast “People of the Pod” is produced in partnership between the American Jewish Committee and The Times of Israel to analyze global affairs through a Jewish lens.
Lipstadt’s book was conceived of in the wake of a 2014 attack by a jihadist gunman on Belgium’s Jewish Museum that killed four visitors, and “a lot of the anti-Semitism that emerged around the war in Gaza,” the author says. “But it was clear to me that it wasn’t just related to the war in Gaza, that there had been enough other things happening that to just say, ‘This is all about Gaza,’ was a simplistic view.”
Lipstadt discusses “white genocide theory, or white replacement theory” on the far-right, whose conspiracy theorists accuse “the Jews” of being behind an insidious plan to displace America’s white majority.
On the far left, the author says, anti-Semitism finds a foothold in anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric – though in many cases those are just stand-ins for classic Jew-hatred.
“All you have to do is follow the comments made by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the British Labour Party and those around him, or Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, who is very much a man of the left, or some people in this country, our representatives and leaders in this country as well,” to see this in action, Lipstadt says.
A new United Nations human rights report focusing exclusively on anti-Semitism, rather than grouping it together with other forms of bigotry, is encouraging, Lipstadt says.
“What the existence and contents of the report are saying is that it’s time to take this seriously. We need to take the issue seriously not just when there are dead bodies lying on the ground,” she says.
This week, after sustained protests against widespread government corruption throughout Lebanon, the country’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, resigned.
The protests have not let up, and crowds chanting, “All of them means all of them,” call for not just Hariri, but all politicians across the spectrum, to step down.
Speaking to “People of the Pod” co-host Seffi Kogen, the Fromer-Wexler Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Dr. Matthew Levitt, breaks down what spurred the protests – as well as what they spell for Israel, Lebanon’s neighbor to the south.
Levitt says that a proposed tax on using the WhatsApp messaging platform was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, but underlying issues regarding Lebanon’s currency had already sparked a crisis over concerns with fuel, wheat imports, and the Lebanese lira’s strength against the dollar.
“The party most shocked by this is Hezbollah, because you even have supporters in Hezbollah strongholds protesting against the government, though Hezbollah didn’t want it,” Levitt says. “So Hezbollah sent its thugs into Marty’s Square in downtown Beirut to rip down tents in the peaceful protests that have been going on there. Those tents have since been rebuilt.”
Levitt says that the armed militia Hezbollah, which holds a large majority in Lebanon’s parliament, has long been benefiting from “strong-arm, mafia-like tactics.” Banks provide “large, unsecured loans to Hezbollah senior officials and others in the government, which are not being repaid or are going unreported,” Levitt says.
This “exposes the entire Lebanese financial system to a significant amount of risk,” he says.
“I don’t think that necessarily that what’s going to come out of [the protests] is a Jeffersonian democracy… but I do think this is going to have to lead to some type of change,” Levitt says.
“There is an undeniable opportunity here to try and help the people of Lebanon form a government that is representative of all of their needs,” he says, and “maybe the Lebanese armed forces to be able to actually exert control along the border between Israel and Lebanon. Right now, Hezbollah controls much of that territory.”
“How much of that is going to be translatable into actual policy?” Levitt says. “We just don’t know. Because at the end of the day, the reality is that Hezbollah is the largest and most powerful militia in Lebanon.
Kogen also speaks with The Times of Israel’s chief political correspondent, Raoul Wootliff.
Wootliff picks up from where he left off when he was last on the podcast over a month ago, as the results from Israel’s second election were rolling in.
In September, Wootlif described challenger Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party as the election’s biggest winner. They had become the largest party, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still had no clear path to form a government. Following that, President Reuven Rivlin asked Netanyahu to take the first stab at assembling a majority anyway.
“You didn’t really see the same effort that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put into previous coalition building efforts that he’s made,” Wootliff says. “He tried, but returned the mandate a few days early. He met with Benny Gantz once, but there was no significant breakthrough between any of the parties.”
Wootliff says that Netanyahu persisted in representing not just his Likud party, but a bloc of 55 seats of the right-wing and religious parties. Blue and White was unwilling to begin negotiations with preconditions, while one of the conditions of [Netanyahu’s] group was that they would all enter the government together.
There remain three options for Gantz at the moment, says Wootliff: “Breaking away people from the right-wing bloc [to join a Blue and White coalition]; forming a minority government; or admitting that he also can’t form a government and passing the process on to the next stage.”
“Polling shows that a third election could yield very similar results to both this election and the previous one,” Wootliff says. “That would result in more gridlock, and who knows — fourth elections? It’s hard to imagine, but it’s possible.”
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