Sunday, May 2, 2010

Long-term Reflections on Jew Hatred

For centuries, hatred of Jews was a straightforward occupation. It had diverse forms and many different motivations, some of them contradictory to one another, but the act itself was clear. One could say of Voltaire that his contribution to humanity outweighed his hatred of the Jews, and even - often - pretend not to notice that it was there, but no-one who took the time to notice could claim he didn't hate Jews. This was equally true for anyone who engaged in the practice from earliest Christianity (perhaps earlier) all the way to the mid-20th century. Most of the time the haters of the Jews were proud of their sentiments, and expected others to join them; offhand, I can't think of any examples of haters who pretended they were not hating (though an expert in the matter might be able to dig up a rare example).

Which is not to say that there weren't people who condemned the haters for their positions: of course there were. That's my point: both sides to those arguments accepted the premise they were arguing about.

Then came the Nazis, and gave antisemitism a bad name. Antisemitism, it transpired, could destroy the world. You want to stay away from it, and certainly not be tainted by association with it.

One interesting way of getting over this was the very strong academic tradition of claiming the Nazis weren't really all that antisemitc. Hitler was, of course, and Himmler, and Streicher, but most of the others didn't much care one way or the other, rather they had other agendas, or they got caught up in the excitement, or whatever. This interpretation was very convincing for a while, until a group of mostly German researchers effectively dismantled it in the 1990s. Yet that was mostly a discussion by the academics and their hangers-on the educators.

The second, more pervasive way of disassociating oneself from the taint of association with the Nazis was to redefine antisemitsm as only what the Nazis did: mass murder of Jews. That's awful. But lesser forms of prejudice, say, they weren't what the Nazis did and thus weren't antisemitism. This argumentation is still very much with us to this day.

The third disassociation was of course to love the Jews next door, but detest the anachronistic ones who engaged in such outlandish practices such as patriotism, wars of national interest, national particularism in any form, and so on. It's not antisemitism, it's anti-Zionism. See the Guardian. This form has a second strand, in which even the anti-Zionism is played down, with the pretense that one is merely critical of some of Israel's actions; this line of reasoning is the most sophisticated since Israel really does offer quite a bit to be critical about: so long as one is equally critical of everyone else, and recognizes the context, and makes the effort to understand what's really going on...

The upshot of all this is that people can engage in activity which for centuries would have been openly recognized as expressing animosity to the Jews, and the Jews and their allies must invest inordinate efforts merely to get to the starting line of rejecting the antisemitism.

Take this long speech by John Mearsheimer, which went online two days ago. It is being cited widely - Noah Pollak, David Bernstein, and of course, Mondoweiss and Juan Cole, to name just a few.

I'm not going to argue with Mearsheimer. The man's lack of access to the subject of internal Israeli politics and how they play out, and his willingness to tell falsehoods about Jews, is beyond embarrassing, though his ability to get away with it speaks volumes to the potency of Jew hatred in our time. The truly significant part of his speech comes about halfway through, when he begins to divide America's Jews into Righteous, Apartheid-Jews, and undecided. This is the ominous part: a man who is lying through his teeth about Israel, and totally disregarding the actions of the Palestinians, is classifying America's Jews and tarnishing them.

Anyone who cares about democracy and a free society in America needs to take note. The reason the antisemitism of the Nazis was so horrific for humanity was that it threatened decency everywhere. It's not yet back, Nazi antisemitism, but its forerunners seem to be.


Barry Meislin said...

Ah, but Yaacov, they'll only say that you're trying to scare them with charges of "anti-Semitism."

And then they'll continue to sneer, "Predictably."

And then they'll declare they're proud to be labeled "anti-Semitic" by the (predictable) likes of you.

Such is the state of the world today....

The Jews are in trouble, especially in Europe, but increasingly so in the US, where they've been so far, relatively protected.

And Israel (along with her supporters---that is, those who support her right to exist even if/while they may be critical of or uneasy with certain policies) is in a difficult predicament, when the mushrooming global consensus is that it should either be destroyed or rendered vulnerable to destruction---all in the name of justice, ethics, and truth.

Who else, therefore, might be "in trouble"?

Question: Might there be any (particular) ramifications of rampant, global anti-Semitism, especially when such anti-Semitism is vigorously (even righteously) denied?

Another question: Would the price of such (potential) ramifications be worth paying as long as the Jewish State were to be destroyed?

peterthehungarian said...

So which category of Jew are you?
You can find the answer here.

Anonymous said...

as to the fashionable "it must be allowed to criticize Israel"*) my take is that citizens of states or areas which initiated it or participated enthusiastically in the holocaust should out of sheer basic politeness refrain from criticizing Israel - it is extremely bad manners as Emma's Mr. Knightley would have been the first to affirm
- if they have nothing good to say they should shut up - period.

Government officials may be, very very may be though, exempted from that rule when the deal making shenanigans of great politics demand it - but as great politics go I personally would only trust that a politcian in my country is honestly acting in the best interest of my country's welfare, if he/she stands firmly at Israel's side. After all the the Mediterranean is not that far away from us.


*) Israel's friends follow it up with "but criticism must be fair"
- Israel's foes follow it up with "but if I do I will be persecuted" but to the best of my knowledge nobody has as yet tried to break into an Israel criticizer's home wielding an axe and a knife though the Jewish school in Berlin is guarded by automatic guns wielding personnel - which makes me blush with shame whenever something reminds me of it - with all the praise the world heaps on us for our reformation we haven't even been able to make a Jewish school a normality again.

Didi Remez said...


Please clarify: "The man's lack of access to the subject of internal Israeli politics and how they play out."

Thank you,


Yaacov said...


The man has no Hebrew, no grasp of the history of the Jews, of Israel, of the Palestinians or for that matter of antisemitsm. His sources are embarrassing: I was once rightfully failed at university for a paper which was far better sourced than his. He also doesn't doesn't know what he's talking about.

He's a professor, for crying out loud, not a blogger. Professors are judged, even before the quality of their arguments, on their sources and methodology.

You are free to post as many comments as you wish here, but if you expect me to respond to them you might try to concentrate on points of real interest or disagreement, not on wasting our time.

Anonymous said...

stop it!
anybody who ever read Mearsheimer since his first Israel-Lobby-piece in the LRB or listened to any of his lectures or interviews unterstands that the man has a - to say it politely - extremely focused view of the world or as Sergio would say "Weltanschauung".
In short he has a theory and the world better fits his theory. If the world and Israel in particular continue to be as messy as life tends to be than they have to be corrected, anything that doesn't fit the theory has to go. Long live the theory, to hell with life, its contradictions and its demands.

Didi Remez said...


Don't over-react, I have no criticism. I haven't read Mearsheimer and am happy to be educated by you. Your answer is helpful. Thank you for taking the time.



Victor said...

Hussein Ibish rips Mearsheimer a new one. Ibish is evasive, as usual, about internal Palestinian discord, but even he can't hide his contempt for Mearsheirmer's lack of understanding. His final thoughts are that Mearsheimer is waging a war against "the Lobby", not for Palestinians.

Victor said...

Forgot the link to Ibishblog. The man is well worth following, crucial link that he is in the Obama-Fayaad axis, though reading him at times is like reading Pravda - there's truth between the lines.

Anonymous said...

thanks Victor
that may be a possible explanation why Mearsheimer's lecture wasn't followed by a Q&A
- that happens extremely rarely in my extensive podcast lecture audio consumption and has probably never occurred in an event that lasted for more than 1 hour, albeit only by 3 minutes and 5 seconds.

NormanF said...

I never expected hatred of the Jews to disappear. The Holocaust simply made it unfashionable to express it openly for awhile. Now this grace period has expired and John Mearsheimer's naked hatred of the Jews shows it flourishes even among highly educated people. The long hatred in human history will be with us for awhile yet.

Laura Beck (Laura SF) said...

I completely agree. Living here in the US, at ground-zero for leftie politics (San Francisco), I've been watching antisemitism grow in acceptability.

First it was "just" demonization of Israel and intimidation of pro-Israel voices in street protests and on college campuses. This was soon followed by a complete lack of concern over anti-Jewish remarks, vandalism, and even attacks - as long as they were perpetrated by "pro-Palestinian" folks and not white supremacists.

Then we started hearing - almost daily it seemed - about the "Jewish lobby," with the claim that Jews were driving us into wars and squashing dissent with their "excessive" influence in politics and the media. Suddenly the reality of antisemitism was dismissed, as academics & others claimed all such accusations were false and simply tools for suppressing speech.

Now the accusations of dual loyalty are starting (there's a good summary here: What's next? Discrimination in the workplace? I'm absolutely positive that pro-Israel academics find it harder to get hired into social science and humanities departments in American universities these days. And the media...? Maybe.

Who would have thought we'd come to this, here in America? And so soon after World War II. I thought we'd have 100 years' peace, at least.


Barry Meislin said...

The realist speaks.

(And for those wondering if the current US administration really wants to take advice from someone like this, the answer is, "Yes, absolutely".... And this rather interesting manifestation of "tough love" is, presumably good for the US---and everyone involved.)

NoSeraphAmI said...

Amazing! As a forty-something South African Jew I am appalled by this man, this "rooinek" (roy-neck; or red neck)

According to his argument I am a Boerejood (boo-ra-juuhd, or Farmer-Jew) who keeps company with neo-Nazi Afrikaaners (many of whom are farmers) like the late Eugene Terreblanche, because:

* I am pro-Israel;
* I support a two-state solution to the Israel/Arab conflict; and
* I hold liberal values...

Oh, and my Leftie Jewish friends who reserve the right to criticize Israel are all "Righteous Jews".

As a neo-Afrikaaner all I can say to this is; "Gaan kuk in die mielies" (Take a dump in the cornfields).

Not only does he know nothing about Israeli politics and the State of Israel but he is willfully ignorant about South Africa, apartheid and the Afrikaans people.

Anonymous said...

No Seraph Am I
you point to what I have been wondering about for some time i.e.
- how come South-Africans so willingly accept that they are from Carter's book on paraded around as poster-child for evil.
Shouldn't sinners who have mended their ways be entitled to something other than continued chastising?

I dimly remember that Jesus said something like there was a lot of joy in heaven about a sinner who repented - as there are a lot of Christians involved in this round-about Afrikaaner bashing, maybe they should get a reminder here and there that they are sinning quite a bit themselves when peddling that argument.

Gavin said...

Forgive the dumb question, but... is Mearsheimer Jewish?

Yaacov said...

Sort of sounds like it, huh? Jeffrey Goldberg made a joke about it the other day. But no, he isn't.

Gavin said...

Thanks Yaacov. It wasn't the name that struck me so much as he presumes to know a lot about Jews and Jewish culture. For some reason that seems a bit odd to me. He's rather obsessive and very presumptuous (to put it mildly)

Cheers, Gavin.

Anonymous said...

if Mearsheimer is German-American then his name in German would most likely be Mersheimer and his first name Hans which makes only lovers of the Struwwelpeter book wish this story would come true


Anonymous said...

ooops - meant to say not only instead of only
scroll down to last picture and enjoy

Sergio said...

It's a trend. If your are an obscure academic in the humanities, starving for attention and promotion, just write an
"antizionist" (code word) tract and, lo and behold, you are a celebrity.

Anonymous said...

the Palestine Center has put up a post about Bloggers debating Mearsheimer and I just LOVE the photo they have chosen for him
- this look at the sky which characterizes the visionary and is so helpful in lifting the sagging chin of those beyond their prime - and Andrew Sullivan seems to get quite a kick out of contemplating Israel's dire destiny as envisioned by Mearsheimer
(why are civilians so into lusting for mayhem?)