Once again, the Jews

Friday, August 18, 2006
Nelson Ascher has an important essay up at Pajamas' Politics Central (HT: Adam). He reminds us that countless people in the west want to believe that Israeli actions, or the creation of the state of Israel, or Jewish politicians and essayists, are somehow to blame for the current turmoil and terrorism in the world. But even if this is on some level true, if certain actions taken in Jewish self-interest have caused resentment among the Jews' less capable neighbors, is the antisemitic finger pointing at all morally relevant in a world where the enemies of Israel stir up antisemitism to justify terrorism, a never-ending war, and apocalyptic threats? Don't the genocidal desires and rhetorics of the enemy have to be totally defeated before any negotiation of any Jewish injustice can be considered by serious people? If I beat you in a fight, and you threaten to destroy me (and perhaps much else) in turn, and show your serious intent to do just this, is it not you the world must now destroy? One might think so. So why is it that so many westerners fall for the victimary rhetorics that claim there wouldn't be so much resentment and violence in the Middle East if Israel somehow acted differently? Are we really to believe that most of Islam is simply at war with a few million Jews and not with the many hundreds of millions who have signed up to the global free market system and the modernity under which Islam has so far proven a great failure? Islam cannot face up to its failures, so it desperately spins lies and delusions which will inevitably bring more failures, if at first some victories for the forces of delusionary resentment. Ascher makes the comparison to Nazi Germany's use of antisemitism to divide and conquer the other states of Europe. He might also have noted Nazi Germany's inevitable failure given that its temporary victories were founded on a massive, self-deluding, irrational, resentment.

We all have spent too much time talking about the widespread anti-Semitism in the Muslim world and discovering, to our surprise, that many in the West actually share this feeling, while many more couldn’t really care less. This is a mistaken approach.

Instead of trying to understand “why they hate us” and why they (and many others) hate the Jews (something I hope we’ll be discussing for several generations), what we have to understand right now is: what is anti-Semitism good for? What are the uses of anti-Semitism?

Whether those who manipulate anti-Semitism are themselves anti-Semites (or anti-Zionists or whatever), whether they personally share the hatred, all that is irrelevant right now. The historical roots of the hatred, its psychology and so on are not questions we have the time to analyse, dissect, discuss endlessly nowadays. (And we’re still debating the Holocaust, how and why it happened etc., 62 years after the end of WW2, without having reached anything resembling consensual answers.)

We are spending precious time getting surprised or scared, wondering about the hatred itself, its depth and extension. That’s important, but not what’s most important right now. What we need to understand is that this hatred is being once again used cynically to obtain certain results.
Besides being anti-Semitic themselves, the Nazis used anti-Semitism brilliantly to subvert other countries and societies. Though Nazism was (among other things) a form of German expansionism, wherever there were anti-Semites the Germans would also find collaborators. Anti-Semitism was used by the Germans to undermine from the inside countries, societies and armies that could or would stand up to them.

The Nazis managed to convince millions and millions of Frenchmen and Poles, Belgians, Norwegians etc. and, yes, Brits and Americans that, since they were fighting a common enemy, the Jews, they weren’t really the mortal enemies of France and Poland and Belgium and Norway and England and the US. Untold millions were eager to believe that Germany wasn’t really threatening them and their countries, that the Germans didn’t really want to conquer, exploit and kill them. Why? Because they either thought that they could make a common cause with the Nazis against the Jews, or remained indifferent, neutral and defenseless because, being indifferent to the fate of the Jews, they believed it was none of their problem. Many of them even turned against those in their own countries who wanted to fight the Nazis and blamed them for putting everyone else in danger just to “protect the Jews”.

In short: if the Jews were used in the beginning as scapegoats, their main use throughout the war was as a tool to “divide and conquer”. Thanks to their sincere or opportunistic ant-Semitism the Germans were able to paralyse important forces in the countries and societies they wanted to defeat and submit.

That’s just what is happening once again before our very eyes. Though the Jihadists have their own clear, even megalomaniac goals, and while they kill thousands in the US or fight for Shari’a in Europe, while they complain about East Timor or fight for Kashmir, it is enough for them to involve the Jews, particularly Israel, in their struggle or their declared agenda to get the active support or at least the indifference of those in Europe, the US and elsewhere who would like to believe that their complaints, grievances and goals are restricted to or only motivated by Israel. Of course, they also declare they’re fighting against America, but then, for those who hate America anyway (and often the Jews and/or Israel too), the same logic works perfectly.

The Jihadists have shown us how brilliantly they can manipulate for their own purposes something as irrelevant as half-a-dozen cartoons in a Danish newspaper. Thus, it is rather unimportant whether Israel’s destruction is or isn’t their main goal (it isn’t). They seem to have discovered through trial and error that the hatred of Jews is alive and well in the West and, as the Nazis did before, they are using it not only to further their own different goals, but to recruit collaborators and to paralyze whole countries and societies as well. It goes without saying how terrible this is for the Jews themselves, but it is at least as dangerous to the rest of the West that is allowing anti-Semitism to be used against itself. Hatred of the Jews and of Israel is the loaded weapon the Jihadis are putting in the hands of a civilization that’s willing (again) to commit suicide.


terrye said...

but this is nothing new.

The other day an 82 year old woman from Brooklyn told me that the Jews were hated and had always been hated because they deserved it. If they did not deserve it why would people hate them? See the circular logic here? She tried the same thing with Bush, he must be bad or people would not hate him. I told her that I did not hate him or the Jews and it pissed her off. Italian American Catholic woman.

truepeers said...

Terrye, you failed to confirm her delusion, hence the anger. But what is the nature of her delusion? There is an argument that there is nothing about the Jews that explains (not justifies) antisemitism, that antisemitism is strictly a problem of the antisemite. I don't think this is correct. I believe resentment of the Jews stems from the Jewish discovery/gift of monotheism and nationhood and the many historical implications this has had, which is not to say this resentment is rational or just. It is in fact a failure to fully appreciate the liberating force of these discoveries/gifts for all humanity, because one is too busy begrudging the Jews for getting htem first.

Pastorius said...

I posted your essay on CUANAS. I hope you will forgive me for posting the whole thing without a link. I am stuck using a Mac this week, and as I do not know html coding, I am unable to create links.

However, I thought your essay was important, and I posted my brief thoughts over there.

Great job.

Barry Dauphin said...

Well, since the Islamists are victims of Western hegemony, according to the Anti-American crowd, they cannot be held responsible. Instead they apply the doctrine of infinite regress and blame the originators of Western traditions, the Jews, the first people of the book.

truepeers said...

Pastorius, my post here is just a comment on this essay by Nelson Ascher - I clarified this in comments at CUANAS. I share your enthusiasm in any case for the essay.

chuck said...

...Jewish discovery/gift of monotheism...

Ah, but is the singular a reasonable point of view? If there is one, why not many? Does many not make more sense? Even physicists now think there may be many universes.

A professor I took a class from, a specialist in the ancient Mideast and the rise of Christianity, liked to point out that the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me," was not a statement of singularity, merely of primacy. The singularity came later.

terrye said...

The Lord God is a jealous God. hence, the primacy.

truepeers said...


The discovery/gift of monotheism is less an assertion about the nature of God (e.g. singular or plural), as it is a new way of talking about God. The Jews were not the first to champion one God above the others. But they were the first to attempt to define God, or his Being, instead of simply invoking (a) god's presence by calling out a name.

When Moses asks for God's name at the burning bush, he is "only" given a definition of the divine - "I am what I am", not a name or figure. And thereafter follows a new kind of post-idolatrous discussion about the nature of God. Your own speculation above - is God singular or multiple? - falls within this "monotheist" tradition of defining not invoking God, as does the Christian trinity and some pre-Rabbinic Jewish speculation along similar lines.

The Jewish covenant with God is not based on the assumption that the jews have the one God who will help them defeat all enemies and vicissitudes. The covenant is forged on the flight out of an Egypt that can only be fled, not defeated, and it only promises that good and ill will befall the Jews through history according to the strength of their faith in this divine Being who subsists beyond this world. So, there'll be no more bloody sacrifices trying to win divine favours in the here and now.

Only one people can discover for the first time the God who is both universal - illuminating the anthropological truth (and it is really to anthropological not cosmological questions that the truth of monotheism speaks) that all humanity shares a common origin/god, that the differences among our gods and languages are not as fundamentally important as the fact that we all have the "same kind" of religion and language - and who also has a particular covenant with them. THose who come later will inevitably have a somewhat rivalrous relationship with the Mosaic revelation into the relationship of this particular people and the universal truth they discover, since the universal truth can only ever be discovered through one or another particular experience - and so, people ask, does the revelation of Christ or Allah surpass that of Moses, making the latter irrelevant or somehow incomplete? Or does the Jewish refusal to stop being particularly Jewish throw doubt on the truth of the later revelations?

And ultimately, it is in the lab. of history that the truth must be tested.
If you are a Muslim seeing a few millions Jews turning the desert green and defeating all the armies of the hundreds of millions of Arabs, it might give you reason to doubt the truth of your religion and drive you into mad conspiracy theories rather than admit to your own religion's failures under modern conditions.