Monday, May 23, 2011

Colonel Kemp and the Antisemitic Scots

Here's a fine speech by Colonel Richard Kemp against the slanderers of Israel, which starts from an unusual point of departure, but then turns to the depressing intensity of the hate regularly spewed at Israel. Then, as if on cue, here's an example he doesn't give: public libraries in Scotland are banning books by Israelis.

In a recent discussion I had we were looking at antisemitism in Western civilization. I posited that hatred of the Jews is hardwired into it - this doesn't mean that all westerners are Jew-haters, rather that the potential is there and needs to be fought off. One of the other discussants asked if I was also saying that hatred of Jews is in the DNA of Western civilization, and it occurred to me that the two metaphors are actually instructive. DNA can't be changed, at least in the present stage of technology, so saying that antisemitism is in the DNA of Western civilization would mean there's no hope for change, but also no responsibility to try. DNA is what we're born with, and we can't choose it or control it. Hard wiring, on the other hand, can be changed by the engineers, at the very least, so the moral requirement is there: will people make the effort to re-engineer the wiring, or won't they? Because if they won't, that's their decision. Some people and societies are quite advanced in re-wiring. Lot's of folks, in Scotland and elsewhere, haven't even begun.


Don Draper said...

Can someone link to that UN study documenting civilian to combatant kill ratios for Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, etc.? Thanks!

Silke said...

There is a Scot named aparatchik commenting at Elder of Ziyon. I have asked him immediately if he has any further information on those news -

aparatchik tells us that the Scottish record as to Jews is really good, so what crops up there now is probably not yet hard-wired and is some specialty of the SNP=Scottish National Party.

Lets hope that the Scots honour their tradition and stop the madness.

Valerie said...

For what it's worth, I highly doubt anti-semitism is "hard-wired" into the Western world. There has always been, and remains a substantial difference between U.S. religosity and that of Europe's. ------ As Dennis Prager says, Jews serve as "canaries in the mine" vis'a'vis a country's self-image. Demonization of Jews has been used by both left and right, depending on ideological "fashion".

Barry Meislin said...


Um, no. Nor do I think it's what you meant.

Culturally/theologically/ideologically imbued? Most definitely.

Can one escape one's culture? Well, it's been done. (In both directions, alas.)

Can one escape the mad culture of death that seems to have resurfaced in Europe and the West (with a exemplary assistance from the culture of death that predominates in the Middle East and friends)?

Well, one can only hope....

File under: "Tra-di-shuuuun! Tra-Di-Shun!"

Avi said...

Yaacov, when one argues over metaphors rather than the actual issue, one is likely to be drawn away from the original question. On the other hand, using metaphors can illuminate the issue in question and introduce new viewpoints.

As a biologist by training I would posit that in fact if antisemitism is part of the DNA of Western civilization, which I think may well be true on a cultural level, then this gives reason for hope for its treatment. Firstly, the effects of DNA are felt in conjunction with the environment. The fact that a person has a gene which predisposes them to a certain condition, apart from a number of specific cases, does not mean that that condition will develop. The effect of the environment is paramount in most cases. Indeed, recent research seems to indicate that the mass of DNA, junk DNA, is the mechanism which, in response to the environment, controls the DNA implementation.

This being so, I think that we can use the metaphor as tool not only to describe the condition, but also to view the treatment. If antisemitism is identified, isolated and condemned, as it was in the West from the end of WWII until the 1960/70s, then it can be kept under control. Once it is let loose, then it can multiply and cause great damage, to the Jews and to society in general.
One of the minor effects of the Holocaust and the Nazis was that the previous outbursts of antisemitism literally and metaphorically paled in comparison. The bubbling historical undercurrent of antisemitism from Medieval Spain or Reformation Germany or nationalist Ukraine or Poland or Russia or then gentile and civilized social exclusion of Jews in the UK and North America ,in all their manifestations, lethal or just unpleasant, have been forgotten in the light of organize mass murder.

To take the metaphor further, there are genes which are disadvantageous to the individual, but are nevertheless selected for by evolution as they have a positive effect on the species. Sickle Cell anemia in African populations with its increased resistance to malaria is a case in point. Politically, antisemitism is a great tool for distracting the polis from certain problems and behavior of the leadership and focusing on “the other”, so even with the bad effect on society, it has its uses in the hands of unscrupulous people.

Of course one can even hope that there will be a mutation in the DNA and antisemitism will actually disappear. One can also take steps to identify and strengthen the environmental controls on the disease breaking out. At the moment, our problem is that precisely those who should be combating the disease, academics and intellectuals, are those most active in promoting it. See what is happening on campuses across the western world.

Barry Meislin said...

And from the indefatigably optimistic (depending on one's POV) "Spengler" (heh):

File under: "Things are never what they seem" (including this?)

Jaimy said...

"DNA can't be changed, at least in the present stage of technology, so saying that antisemitism is in the DNA of Western civilization would mean there's no hope for change"

That would actually qualify as nitpicking but still. Epigenetics observes that although the DNA is presumably constant for a given life form. The life experience of the organism is affecting which parts of the DNA code are de/activated.

That's why a cloned Dolly can have behaviour/health difference than her actually sole parent.

I.e. there is always hope.

Anonymous said...

I don't think your distinction between hard-wired and DNA will hold up. They mean the same. "Hard-wired" contrasts with "programmed." The computer can be reprogrammed but its wiring isn't generally changed. If anti-semitism has been programmed into Europeans, in the way it is being programmed into Palestinians by skewed texts, TV, etc., then it can be changed--though this might be enormously difficult.


Silke said...


yes and that's why I keep saying that we must do something to empower little people to think for themselves. Based on my experience we should start with telling them that it is their right to ask the most simple questions of the most elevated people.

At least in Germany we get brought up (independent of all the derision we display for academics) that an academic is possessed of superior knowledge and so we tend to accept his/her word as gospel.

i.e. "we" must get the "masses" on the pro-Israel bandwaggon before another pied piper shows up who appeals to academics and "masses" equally.

After the Mavi Marmara I tried in shops and elsewhere the shtick that I'd say "and they sawed off the reling of the ship" which got me immediate enthusiastic support because the "masses" hate vandalism.

I have discovered some other loopholes through which "we" could get the "masses" to approve. On the face of it they all look terribly simple and silly but since I am part of the "masses" different only due to a love for reading I know that each one of them might work towards empowering them to ask the right questions like for example why do you campaign for people who go for vandalism?