Mark Tapson is the Shillman Fellow on Popular Culture for the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Several days ago, pro-sharia Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour appeared at the annual conference of American Muslims for Palestine in Chicago and demanded that the audience ask “those who call themselves progressive Zionists” how they can claim to oppose white supremacy in America, but then “support a state like Israel that is based on supremacy, that is built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everyone else.”
The notion that Israel was built on purported Jewish supremacism is pretty rich coming from Islamic supremacist Sarsour, particularly in light of the fact that the alarming spike in Jew-hatred throughout the West today stems largely not from a politically impotent and socially marginalized minority of white supremacists (as the mainstream media would have us believe), but from mass migration from Muslim countries, from the anti-Israel BDS movement driven by Muslim student organizations on university campuses, from the willful blindness toward Islam of multicultural elitists like Canada’s Justin Trudeau, and from the American left’s increasing embrace of Muslim politicians such as Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib and activists like Sarsour. Seventy-five years or so after Allied forces liberated the survivors of Nazi concentration camps, Jew-hatred is back with a vengeance.
Of course, it never went away in the first place. It is always with us. Anti-Semitism is the world’s “oldest, most irrational evil,” as Canadian author and blogger Diane Bederman puts it, and in a powerful new book from Mantua Books titled The Serpent and the Red Thread, she tells its story in a stunning, affecting mix of fiction, history and myth. The book is peopled with characters ranging from Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul to Elie Wiesel and Adolph Hitler (whom she refers to as “hitler” – diminishing him by refusing to capitalize his last name).
Ms. Bederman, who also wrote Back to the Ethic: Reclaiming Western Values, which I previously reviewed for FrontPage Mag here, took time out to answer some questions about her new book for FrontPage Mag.
Mark Tapson: Tell us about “the red thread” and why you chose to use it as the central motif in your book.
Diane Bederman: While I was writing the book I heard about the red thread, a Chinese literary device that connects people through time. The thread can bend and twist, but never breaks. I was writing about Jew haters through time. In Judaism, Amalek represents evil for he was the leader of a tribe who attacked the weakest of the Jews as they fled Egypt. Who can be more evil than one who attacks the weakest of all? Sadly, there seems to be a pattern of Amaleks, a new one every generation; all connected to the first, through that red thread, that has never been broken. The serpent and his thread take us through 3000 years of Jewish prosecutions, persecutions, pogroms, inquisitions, expulsions ghettos and forced conversions leading to the Holocaust.
MT: Hitler unsurprisingly plays a prominent role in the book. But other characters also serve as guides through your biography of evil, including biblical figures such as Jesus, Paul, Abraham and Sarah, and a young Elie Wiesel. Why did you decide on these characters?
DB: The book is a history of 3000 years of Jewish prosecution, persecution, pogroms, inquisitions, expulsions, and forced conversions. The Holocaust is the ultimate in Jewish genocide. It was also unique in its implementation. It was aided and abetted by the Nazi military industrial complex. In the book, Jesus and Paul speak for the Christian world. I wondered what they might have said had they seen the result of attacks on the Jews. What led up to them. What would they say? How would they feel? What would they do?
Abraham and Sarah are the mother and father of the Jewish people. Parents care for their children and worry about them. I imagined them watching the horror perpetrated on their children and trying to understand and then assuage the pain and fear they could not take away. They ask the questions so many ask. How could this happen to the first of God’s children? Isaac is the child of Abraham and Sarah. He is there with his brothers and sisters as they are “sacrificed.” He has the utmost empathy as he remembers when he was on the altar being prepared for sacrifice.
Elie Wiesel has written many books about his experiences and I have read all of them. When we talk about the Holocaust it is so very difficult to imagine 6 million people being murdered for the crime of being Jewish. I remembered reading about a teacher trying to explain 6 million people to her class. She had them count 6 million grains of rice and place them one by one in mason jars. Counting them one by one brought home the magnitude of the number of people murdered. I decided that I had to find a way to personalize the murder of Jews, mothers, fathers, children, by the Nazis, and the manner in which it was done, by telling the story through the eyes of two children: one murdered in the gas chambers and one by a bullet before being thrown into the death pits. I chose Elie’s story based on his own life experiences because his story is well-known. Of course, Elie lived. I decided to share the horror of the Holocaust by Bullets through the life of a composite child. I named her Sophia because Sophia means wisdom. So much wisdom disappeared in the death pits.
I wanted to narrate the story through many different voices and perspectives. And keep it in a story form; a non-fiction novel, for want of a better description.
Ironically, when the book was published a report came out at the same from the Church of England titled “God’s Unfailing Word: Theological and Practical Perspectives on Christian-Jewish Relations.” The 121-page report said attitudes towards Judaism over centuries had provided a “fertile seed-bed for murderous anti-Semitism,” and that Anglicans and other Christians must repent for the “sins of the past,” as well as actively challenge anti-Semitic attitudes or stereotypes. Yet, as I wrote in the book, these same Churches are standing with the BDS provocateurs; anti-Semites. This evil will not go away.
MT: Why do you describe Barack Obama as “the 21st century Amalek”?
DB: I was taken in by Barack Obama. It took me many years to realize that he was not as he presented himself. I believe he brought antisemitism back to the forefront while he was President. The President of the United States has great power. And this President was revered around the world. He often seemed to be apologizing for America whose freedoms and values are firmly rooted in the Judeo/Christian ethic. He attacked the Jewish people from his position of power. He interfered in the Israeli election in the hope of taking down Benjamin Netanyahu. He was the first President to refuse to veto a UN Resolution attacking Israel and this resolution declared Jerusalem and the Western Wall as not belonging to Israel. He bribed Iran with billions of dollars in small bills so they would sign his treaty. I find it hard to believe that he did not think that the Iranian leadership, who call for death to the Jews, death to Israel, would not use that money to sponsor terror. Today, attacking the Jewish state is antisemitism. I believe that President Obama opened the floodgates.
I chose not to use his name, following in the footsteps of J. K. Rowling in her series of Harry Potter novels where she preferred to call him He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
MT: The American news media hype the threat of anti-Semitic white supremacists (in order to try to link them to President Trump), but in fact, you note in your book that it is “the followers of Islam” who are “the resurrected Amalekites” that have made the old Jew-hatred new again. Do you feel that Islam is compatible with Western values?
DB: The mainstream media in America did its very best to link Donald Trump with white supremacists. They did such a good job that white supremacists like David Duke of the KKK and his followers believed it. Imagine their shock when they came to see that he did not support them. That he supported the Jewish people and the Jewish state. We know that Duke was shocked. He has since turned his allegiance to Ilhan Omar, a woman who has shared her Jew-hatred widely, while not being rebuked by her party, the Democrats.
I would suggest that my opinion on Islam’s compatibility is not important. It is the opinion of Imams. ICNA ( Islamic Circle of North America) Canada quotes from the book Riyad us Saliheen: “The political system of Islam is totally incompatible with western democracy. The concept of government party and the opposition is alien to Islam. All belong to one Ummah with only one goal and pursue the same aims and objects of Islamic guidelines!”
I also shared the calls of the Palestinians. They speak for themselves:
“We the Palestinian nation, our fate from Allah is to be the vanguard in the war against the Jews until the resurrection of the dead, as the prophet Muhammad said: ‘The resurrection of the dead will not arrive until you will fight the Jews and kill them… ’ We the Palestinians are the vanguard in this undertaking and in this campaign, whether or not we want this…”
“The battle with the Jews will surely come… the decisive Muslim victory is coming without a doubt, and the prophet spoke about it in more than one Hadith and the Day of Resurrection will not come without the victory of the believers the Muslims over the descendants of the monkeys and pigs the Jews and with their annihilation.”
“Our battle with World Jewry… is a question of life and death. It is a battle between two conflicting faiths, each of which can exist only on the ruins of the other.”
“When the Jews are wiped out…the sun of peace would begin to rise on the entire world.”
These calls are no different from hitler’s speeches which are shared in the book.
MT: Anti-Semitism is driving Jews from Europe and is on the rise in America and Canada as well. What will it take for us to reverse the tide of this eternal evil once and for all?
DB: For thousands of years Christianity and Islam taught Jew hatred from their pulpits. Religious leaders add authority to hate. Christians and Catholics accused Jews of killing Christ and using the blood of children for matza. Muslims have prayers and Hadith calling for the death of every Jew and they also spread the matza blood libel. These beliefs become embedded and passed down like eye color. Richard Dawkins calls them cultural memes. The Protestant and Catholic churches have denounced these teachings. But the damage is done. It requires a conscious effort to undo this damage. And it is not helped by churches siding with antisemitic organizations that attack Israel. At the same time we are witnessing the rise of Jew hatred from Islam and the left.
Ending this irrational hate will not be easy. It will take courage and the refusal to be silenced by accusations of Islamophobia, because silence is collusion, as we learned during World War II. Yet today, too many people are allowing themselves to be silenced by the term Islamophobia, which means the irrational fear of Islam. Fearing an ideology that calls for your death is not irrational. I have read Machiavelli. One can think of him as the first behavioral psychologist. He wrote from his experiences with the most vicious of fighters, the Borgias. He wrote that if one says he is going to kill you, believe him. And act accordingly.
We do know only too well, that history tends to repeat itself. I wait for our leaders to act against this hatred. But, like waiting for a miracle, one must work toward the goal while waiting. I live with cautious optimism: the State of Israel exists. And pessimism is deadly.
The book is not yet closed.