Sunday, July 30, 2006

Social Scientists show criticism of Israel correlated with antisemitism

I am often amused by social scientists finding impressively abstract metaphysical formulae to discover the obvious, though perhaps this habit is understandable since social science finds its justification in questioning what common sense takes for granted. In any case, I also sometimes find myself wanting to mimic the sincerity of the good scientific professors. For example, I have been wondering whether or not this study is merely stating the obvious, and wish to survey your opinions. It claims to have proven that anti-Israel opinion is strongly correlated with antisemitism. (They spell it "anti-Semitism" - my problem with social science is that it must always make questionable assumptions about its necessarily transcendent objects of study: to take the present example, is there really a capital-S Semitic people or must we understand "anti-Semitism" in more basic anthropological terms in which other groups could be substituted for the Jews or Judeophobia, like say the Americans or anti-Americanism?)

Now, while I understand that one of the heated issues of the day is whether criticism of Israel need be considered a sign of antisemitism (the present study not surprisingly discovers that modest, thoughtful criticism of the Israeli state need not be, but intense criticism invariably is) I have for some time taken it as a given that most critics of Israel are inherently antisemitic.

Yet, as I say, I sometimes want to question my assumptions and mimic the methods of the good professors. More to the point, I wonder whether people will think this kind of study will help change people's minds as they debate the question of whether anti-Zionism is antisemitism.

So my question for readers is this: do you feel there is a need for social scientific study to prove the following (from a summary of the present study):
What is the likelihood that the op-ed writer, or cartoonist, or university professor who rants about the evils of Zionism is really an old-fashioned Jew-hater? Much better than most of us thought, according to a study in the August 2006 issue of The Journal of Conflict Resolution.

Goebbels was right. Repeat a lie often enough, and people will believe it. This seems to be true even in regard to Jews believing lies about themselves. For decades, so many of us heard pious protestations that strongly held views about Israel had nothing to do with attitudes towards us, that we started to believe it might be true. We didn’t want to believe that classic anti-Semitism was alive and well. It is Israel and the accursed Zionists they were after, not the Jewish people. The Soviets thundered this from the podium at the UN; leftist intelligentsia fed it to their students in the classroom and their readers in the Guardian and listeners to the BBC. Neturei Karta was stupid and/or treacherous enough to fully embrace it.

It isn’t true. Those who hate Israel, hate Jews, according to Yale researchers Edward Kaplan and Charles Small.
Even after controlling for numerous potentially confounding factors, we find that anti-Israel sentiment consistently predicts the probability that an individual is anti-Semitic, with the likelihood of measured anti-Semitism increasing with the extent of anti-Israel sentiment observed.
Kaplan and Small compared respondents in ten European countries (500 in each) on two series of statements, one that measured distaste for Israel and her policies, the other about the nature and behavior of Jews. They controlled for other factors, such as hostility to all members of “outside” groups. They did find less anti-Semitism in women, and people with better education (with the apparent exception of college profs and French and British politicians). They also showed that hostility to Jews correlated well with negative feelings about immigrants.

Can one be a critic of Israel and indeed not harbor anti-Jewish feelings? Categorically yes – if the criticism of Israel is not particularly pronounced.
But will this study help change peoples' minds in the argument of whether anti-Israeli opinion is usually antisemitism?

(Hat Tip: Hodja at Infidel Bloggers Alliance.


Rick Ballard said...

"But will this study help change peoples' minds in the argument of whether anti-Israeli opinion is usually antisemitism?"

I can't quite find the logic in the question. Or rather, it's not logic backed by fact which makes a Jew hater, why would one suppose that logic based by fact would unmake one?

There is a problem with the some of the questions, too.

"Jews have too much power in the business world."

"Jews always like to be at the head of things."

"Jews have too much power in international financial markets."

"Jews have too much power in our country today."

"Jewish business people are so shrewd that others do not have a fair chance
to compete."

All of those questions relate to attaining a level of success far out of proportion to the Jews percentage of the population. If "too" is interpreted as meaning "out of proportion", then is a yes response actually antisemitic? Or is it a reflection of an observation of reality? The answer to that would be totally dependent upon the respondents knowledge of the correlation of intelligence to material success and how the Jewish population scores in relation to the general population. IOW - is it antisemitism that is being measured or is it envy?

BTW - when I signed up for this course I was promised there would be no math. That funny thing with all those symbols at the beginning of the study looks like math to me.

truepeers said...

it's not logic backed by fact which makes a Jew hater, why would one suppose that logic based by fact would unmake one?

-well, i would put it a little differently: everyone has some logic and facts, it's just that some have more than others, and some have fewer illogical lapses than others, though we all have some. But the key point is that everyone not yet senile is capable of becoming somewhat more attuned to truth over time. The unfolding truth in human science and life is true relative to the more limited truth that came before, and we never have the full and final answer.

Do Jews on average score higher on intelligence tests because their culture makes them smarter or because they are inherently (at birth) smarter? I'm not sure.

In any case, I think it is the opening to abstract thought that begins with the Jewish conception of a paradoxical and unfigurable God that becomes key to Jewish success in the free marketplace. To take a contrary example, it seems to me there are many smart Russians about, but there is something about their kind of melancholic smarts that is often not conducive to market success. Or, to take another ex., even if Islam were full of geniuses, as long as they remained Muslims in an Islam-dominated society they would have great trouble developing a free-market oriented culture given the nature of their religion.

Anyway, to judge whether some group's success is disproportionate, one should ideally have a theory of what level of freedom (and the social or occupational differences that freedom must engender) is consonant with the contrary human imperative to recognize some kind of fundamental moral equality of all human beings. Then, one could judge whether Jewish success were a justifiable articulation of freedom that others might emulate, or an unjust conspiracy against freedom and equality. Resentment in face of what is rationally justifable would count as irrational Judeophobia, or some such. You are right that a science whose survey might not be able to distinguish a mere "observation of reality" from irrational resentment of said reality is not much of a human science at all.

One might well think Jewish success fully justifiable and still feel a need - in the name of some fundamental equalty - for some kind of "affirmative" action to help those without a culture and education so conducive to market success. "Resentment" of Jewish success would then be a rational desire to bring others up to the level of the more succesful or free, not a claim that there is something wrong with the Jews.

gumshoe1 said...

RB makes a great point:

"I can't quite find the logic in the question. Or rather, it's not logic backed by fact which makes a Jew hater, why would one suppose that logic based by fact would unmake one?"

just more academic navel-gazing.

"can't reason a man out of an opinion he wasn't reasoned into."

as a moderate judeo-phile,
some may call me out for quibling...

but much as it is not,geographically speaking,
"the Middle East",but,in fact
"Southwest Asia"...
"anti-semitism" is a Euro/Anglo-centric term...Arabs are also semites.

the term is an lamentable relic of
the Jewish experience in Europe.

it is also,in the current historical context,
"Soft Language" and doesn't
much address current attacks on Jews by Arabs,for example,
which is accurately semites vs. semites if simply categorized at a *racial* level.

for me the conflict
is not about race,it's about
human values,and perhaps more accurately about territory,power, and politics....and as RB points out below...envy.

"we didn't",they apparently claim,learn from the last one.

i suppose the academics' hope is
that "we" can learn before the next one.

"IOW - is it antisemitism that is being measured or is it envy?"

i would argue that one of the reasons for Jewish success(es)
are community teaching with regard to envy.

none can achieve their potential
constantly lamenting the other guy's gifts.

i won't suggest the Jews have mastered envy...but i'd say they're well ahead of several other groups as a community,
and as a nation,Israel has a lot to be proud of.

instruction about envy,in basic form,is enshrined
as one of the "Ten Words".

the postive expression of which is:

"help thy brother's boat across,
and lo thine own has reached the shore."

gumshoe1 said...

"Do Jews on average score higher on intelligence tests because their culture makes them smarter or because they are inherently (at birth) smarter? I'm not sure."

i'd side with the people
who believe it's child-raising
and family attitudes..."culture" if you will...
respect for learning is one aspect...cherishing children is another...and the positive effect this has on marriages is a third.

Snippet said...

It's not "anti-Semitism" that has turned the world against Israel, and it is not genuine, sincere morality, either.

Genuine, sincere morality would at the very least acknowledge the complexity of the situation, and the difficulties associated with defending one's nation against ruthless and well funded militants who use civilans for cover.

What we are seeing is a mad rush to sieze upon any opportunity to blame Israel and therefore get oneself out of the difficult position of supporting the side that has enemies willing to indiscriminately slaughter your people all over the world wherever they travel.

Piss off the Israelis and?...

Piss of Arabs/Moslems, and train stations and discotheques start exploding.

This ugly fact is what explains the loud condemnation of a tragic accident that kills 60 human shields and the silence that greets vastly greater and frequently quite deliberate slaughters of Moslems (and Christians, Tutsis, etc...) that occur regularly in parts of the world where one side has not managed to intimadate so many people into supporting it.

gumshoe1 said...

{"Resentment" of Jewish success would then be a rational desire to bring others up to the level of the more succesful or free, not a claim that there is something wrong with the Jews.}

well,as you've noted many times yourself,tp,the problem would still be "Resentment" and not "the Jews".

"Resentment" = "Envy"
by another name.

a human,not a Jewish failing.

and lucky us!
we have Communism and Socialism
to fix it for us!!!


gumshoe1 said...

“You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”

the man knew his stuff.

Rick Ballard said...


Obviously, I have no dispositive answer to the nature/nurture question regarding intelligence. It's almost certainly a mix and I would give the benefit to nurture. The dietary laws are helpful and a culture which exalts studying and learning is going to produce people who will test (and perform tasks requiring thought) better than will people from cultures which exalt athletics - or warriors.

I'm not sure what to make of your last paragraph. An altruism rooted in envy deserves contempt. The objective of charity isn't equality of circumstance as an outcome but survival of the truly helpless.

The economic equality bit is rationalism at its incredibly myopic worst. It is based neither in Jewish nor in Christian thought or practice.

truepeers said...


I cannot but laugh when some Arab says "how can I be anti-Semitic, I'm a Semite myself?" I think it is time to discard this idea of a Semitic race that came out of nineteenth-century Europe and its correlation of Semitic languages with sociobiological racism. Yes, today's DNA tests show Jews and Arabs are very close, but this just shows that we need a conception of race or nationhood that takes culture and history more into account.

I prefer the term Judeophobia, but the now popular use of Islamophobia complicates the picture. A phobia is not a phobia is not a phobia. To fear the Jews and to fear the Muslims is to have two quite different kinds of fear. We should not assume that one phobia is the moral equivalent of another.

Anyway, onto your other point about resentment... It's true I often talk as if resentment is the problem. And it often is. But more precisely, I don't think it is always a problem. All people are resentful in some degree; this is an important fact of the human condition. And what is more important is what we do with our resentment. Do we turn it to destructive or productive ends? When we see someone turning it to productive ends, we cannot so readily think it is a bad thing, because we learn that resenment can help motivate us to transcend its own and our present limits. Hamlet is the quintessential literary figure that shows this: the first modern man of resentment who shows how we can choose to defer acting out violently (thus keeping our resentment to ourselves in hopes of transcending it). Even though he eventually fails - Hamlet's story comes to a tragic and violent end - his acts of deferral throughout the play transcend his story and enter inot ours, giving us hope that our lives can end up being someting more than a classical revenge tragedy. We can assume that Shakespeare knew something of Hamlet's resentment and he was turning it to productive use, lovingly teaching us something fundamental about our humanity and its unfolding history.

truepeers said...

Rick, I don't belive in any kind of absolute equality. What I believe in is in getting all the people in the world to be more or less capable of functioning in the free market economy such that they are able to appreciate its reason, the many pragmatic differences in occupation and status it requires, and to freely exchange their differences with each other, such that those who have less today can think that with hard work their descendants will have better positions tomorrow.

I don't believe in an affirmative action that simply aims at equality of outcome. That is indeed an evil. Rather, I believe in helping people help themselves. But I would nonetheless argue that our belief in freedom can only be properly understood by relating it to our contrary intuition about some fundamental moral equality of all humans.

I believe freedom is necessary because our originary (i say originary in reference to someting that came into existence with the advent of language and religion) and now utopian assumption about the fundamental equality of all who share in the communion of human language and religion is not enough to maintain human order in the face of our resentment that was, originally, and still today, a function of our alienation from the sacred, an alienation that is essential to every human being.

Thus I do accept resentment or alienation as a necessary part of our condition. But, as mentioned in my last comment, I consider it our duty to turn it to productive ends. If someone feels especially alienated from the sacred, because he is poor and doesn't have many worldly signs of the sacred to show - no Lexus no Levis - he is likely to have more than his share of resentment; and there are many do-gooders who want to share in his resentment and make the world a better place by helping him. I don't so much question the do-gooders' sharing in our common human resentment as I do their often utopian methods: do they turn the resentment to destructive or productive ends? That seems to me the key question.

truepeers said...

To clarify, our alienation from the sacred (and from the divine being that guarantees the shared significance of our sacred signs and things) is the source not only of resentment but also of love. Like freedom and evil, you can't have one without the other.

Seneca the Younger said...

Nah. It's attachment to transient things that leads to frustration, which leads to envy, jealousy, sadness, and pain. Unerstanding the roots of that attachment leads to compassion and the cessation of frustration, envy, jealousy and pain.

truepeers said...

Snippet, I can't completely buy your argument. It may seem true on some levels that many who reject ISrael are more motivated by fear of Islamic terrorists than by antisemitism. But if Islam is at core full of Judeophobic potential (and I think it has to be understood historically as a reaction to the previous revelations of Judaism and Christianity, and in some if not all respects a rejection of those faiths) then Judeophobia is something Muslims must, like Christians, learn to transcend if they are to be good human beings. In the meantime, those who want the Muslim crocodile to eat them last naturally try to ally themselves with the croc's anti-human resentments. The croc hates the Jews so they choose to do the same. Europe is full of open antisemitism and Israel hatred today. You can't seriously argue they are not related. So why is it so important to prioritize motives?

truepeers said...

Seneca, I think I basically agree with you. All sacred things and signs are transient, in the sense that they can be eroded or consumed (like the animal at a sacrificial feast or the language and ideas that slowly change in history) and so they must be continually replaced by the next generation of sacred things and signs. Our relationship to the transient sacred can indeed be frustrating. It is our relationship to the divine being that/who is somehow behind the sacred and that guarantees - when we have good faith - that we can always renew the sacred, that really matters.

Seneca the Younger said...

Tru, I'm pretty sure you don't agree with me. Never mind, I'm not trying to start an argument; I just like to remind you that there are those, even on this blog, whose firm religious beliefs don't include transcendent Divine Persons, see ignorance where you see alienation, and who don't believe that Divine intervention is needed for people to escape ignornace.

truepeers said...

Well Sen, I did say a "divine being that/who" with the intent of deferring both to those who conceive said being as a person and those who do not. And since i recognize it is possible to transcend one's worldly desires, could we agree that that would be a positive form of "alienation", a word which perhaps need not always have a negative connotation implying, e.g., ignorance? Finally, whatever our religious beliefs would you not agree that they all stem from a common anthropology, and that this anthropology can only be well explored in a secular environment like ours with some such use of "religious" language, with deference also to the rules of observation and logic?