I think I have a very good idea why it is that anti-Semitism is so tenacious and so protean and so enduring. Christianity and Islam, theistic though they may claim to be, are both based on the fetishizing of human primates: Jesus in one case and Mohammed in the other. Neither of these figures can be called exactly historical but both have one thing in common even in their quasi-mythical dimension. Both of them were first encountered by the Jews. And the Jews, ravenous as they were for any sign of the long-sought Messiah, were not taken in by either of these two pretenders, or not in large numbers or not for long.? I myself certainly hope that it will not. The Jews have seen through Jesus and Mohammed. In retrospect, many of them have also seen through the mythical, primitive, and cruel figures of Abraham and Moses. Nearer to our own time, in the bitter combats over the work of Marx and Freud and Einstein, Jewish participants and protagonists have not been the least noticeable. May this always be the case, whenever any human primate sets up, or is set up by others, as a Messiah.
In the early days of the December that my father was to die, my younger brother brought me the news that I was a Jew. I was then a transplanted Englishman in America, married, with one son and, though unconsoled by any religion, a nonbelieving member of two Christian churches. On hearing the tidings, I was pleased to find that I was pleased.
Antisemitism is unique among religious hatreds. It is a racist conspiracy theory fashioned for the needs of messianic and brutal rulers, as dictators from the Tsars to the Islamists via the Nazis have shown. Many other alleged religious 'hatreds' are not hatreds in the true sense. If I criticise Islamic, Orthodox Jewish or Catholic attitudes towards women, for instance, and I'm accused of being a bigot, I shrug and say it is not bigoted to oppose bigotry.
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.
Long before it was known to me as a place where my ancestry was even remotely involved, the idea of a state for Jews (or a Jewish state; not quite the same thing, as I failed at first to see) had been 'sold' to me as an essentially secular and democratic one. The idea was a haven for the persecuted and the survivors, a democracy in a region where the idea was poorly understood, and a place where—as Philip Roth had put it in a one-handed novel that I read when I was about nineteen—even the traffic cops and soldiers were Jews. This, like the other emphases of that novel, I could grasp. Indeed, my first visit was sponsored by a group in London called the Friends of Israel. They offered to pay my expenses, that is, if on my return I would come and speak to one of their mee
But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jewish swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.
I became aware of Jews in my early teens, as I started to pick up the signals from the Christian church. Not that I was Christian – I’d been an atheist since I was five. But my father, a Congregational minister, had some sympathy with the idea that the Jews had killed Christ. But any indoctrination was offset by my discovery of the concentration camps, of the Final Solution. Whilst the term 'Holocaust' had yet to enter the vocabulary I was overwhelmed by my realisation of what Germany had perpetrated on Jews. It became a major factor in my movement towards the political left. I’d already read 'The Grapes of Wrath' by John Steinbeck, the Penguin paperback that would change my life. The story of the gas chambers completed the process of radicalisation and would, just three years later, lead me to join the Communist Party.
The little boats cannot make much difference to the welfare of Gaza either way, since the materials being shipped are in such negligible quantity. The chief significance of the enterprise is therefore symbolic. And the symbolism, when examined even cursorily, doesn't seem too adorable. The intended beneficiary of the stunt is a ruling group with close ties to two of the most retrograde dictatorships in the Middle East, each of which has recently been up to its elbows in the blood of its own civilians. The same group also manages to maintain warm relations with, or at the very least to make cordial remarks about, both Hezbollah and al-Qaida. Meanwhile, a document that was once accurately described as a 'warrant for genocide' forms part of the declared political platform of the aforesaid group. There is something about this that fails to pass a smell test.
I have been taunted on various platforms recently for becoming a neo-conservative, and have been the object of some fascinating web-site and blog stuff, from the isolationist Right as well as from the peaceniks, who both argue in a semi-literate way that neo-conservativism is Trotskyism and 'permanent revolution' reborn.Sometimes, you have to comb an overt anti-Semitism out of this propaganda before you can even read it straight. And I can guarantee you that none of these characters has any idea at all of what the theory of 'permanent revolution' originally meant.
It is possible that the next economic downturn--or stock market crash--will bring on further developments. During the recession at the end of the 1980s, ex-Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke gathered strong support from disgruntled citizens in Louisiana for his gubernatorial and US Senate races. Voters did not seem to be bothered by his record, which included plenty of statements like: The Jews have been working against our national interest. . . . I think they should be punished.Bertram Gross and Kevin Phillips had each foreseen part of a process that engendered remarkable tolerance for authoritarian political solutions. Gross correctly identified the kind of authority that the corporate world wanted to exercise over working- and middle-class Americans. Phillips was perceptive about the way ordinary Americans would participate in actually constructing a more harsh and restrictive social milieu. By the 1990s the two strands were coalescing into something we could call Authoritarian Democracy. Today it is clear that the goals of the corporate rich can be furthered by the enthusiasms of the popular classes, especially in the realms of religion.
He looked like an excited sixteen-year-old with his tousled hair and shining eyes. Barbara could not deny she liked him, even though every word he said was repellent to her. With an eloquence that frequently tied itself in knots but was of an unflagging vehemence he explained to her that the faith for which he was fighting was basically revolutionary. 'When the day arrives and our Führer takes over supreme power, then that's the end of capitalism and the economy of the big bosses. The servitude of usury will be abolished. Big banks and stock exchanges that bleed our national economy white can close their doors, and no one will mourn them.Barbara wanted to know why Miklas did not join the Communists if he, like them, was against capitalism. Miklas explained as eagerly as a child reciting a lesson learned by heart. because the Communists have no patriotism for the fatherland, but are supranational and dependent on Russian Jews. AndCommunists don't know anything about idealism-all Marxists believe that the only purpose in life is money. We want our own revolution-our German, idealistic revolution. Not one that will be directed by Freemasons and the Elders of Zion.
I think I have a very good idea why it is that anti-Semitism is so tenacious and so protean and so enduring. Christianity and Islam, theistic though they may claim to be, are both based on the fetishizing of human primates: Jesus in one case and Mohammed in the other. Neither of these figures can be called exactly historical but both have one thing in common even in their quasi-mythical dimension. Both of them were first encountered by the Jews. And the Jews, ravenous as they were for any sign of the long-sought Messiah, were not taken in by either of these two pretenders, or not in large numbers or not for
There's a certain amount of ambiguity in my background, what with intermarriages and conversions, but under various readings of three codes which I don’t much respect (Mosaic Law, the Nuremberg Laws, and the Israeli Law of Return) I do qualify as a member of the tribe, and any denial of that in my family has ceased with me. But I would not remove myself to Israel if it meant the continuing expropriation of another people, and if anti-Jewish fascism comes again to the Christian world—or more probably comes at us via the Muslim world—I already consider it an obligation to resist it wherever I live. I would detest myself if I fled from it in any direction. Leo Strauss was right. The Jews will not be 'saved' or 'redeemed.' (Cheer up: neither will anyone else.) They/we will always be in exile whether they are in the greater Jerusalem area or not, and this in some ways is as it should be. They are, or we are, as a friend of Victor Klemperer's once put it to him in a very dark time, condemned and privileged to be 'a seismic people.' A critical register of the general health of civilization is the status of 'the Jewish question.' No insurance policy has ever been devised that can or will cover this risk.
Even at the very dawn of Christianity, there was a commonly-accepted theory known as the Blood Libel, which stated matter-of-factly that Jewish people regularly sacrificed non-Jewish babies and used the blood of those babies in Judaic rituals. Later, in medieval times, plagues and other diseases were commonly blamed on Jews, resulting in the enforcement of Apartheid-like conditions, separating Jewish communities from the rest of the population throughout Europe. For example, in the Papal States – territories in the Italian Peninsula that existed throughout the middle ages and medieval times that were governed directly by the Pope – Jews were only allowed to reside in neighborhoods called ghettos. They were regularly forced to convert to Christianity in various barbaric ways such as involuntary baptisms. The stealing of Jewish babies from their parents by Church officials was also not uncommon and the children would often then be brought up as Catholic orphans never knowing of their Jewish heritage.
Caution in handling generally accepted opinions that claim to explain whole trends of history is especially important for the historian of modern times, because the last century has produced an abundance of ideologies that pretend to be keys to history but are actually nothing but desperate efforts to escape responsibility.
And thus to my final and most melancholy point: a great number of Stalin's enforcers and henchmen in Eastern Europe were Jews. And not just a great number, but a great proportion. The proportion was especially high in the secret police and 'security' departments, where no doubt revenge played its own part, as did the ideological attachment to Communism that was so strong among internationally minded Jews at that period: Jews like David Szmulevski. There were reasonably strong indigenous Communist forces in Czechoslovakia and East Germany, but in Hungary and Poland the Communists were a small minority and knew it, were dependent on the Red Army and aware of the fact, and were disproportionately Jewish and widely detested for that reason. Many of the penal labor camps constructed by the Nazis were later used as holding pens for German deportees by the Communists, and some of those who ran these grim places were Jewish. Nobody from Israel or the diaspora who goes to the East of Europe on a family-history fishing-trip should be unaware of the chance that they will find out both much less and much more than the package-tour had promised them. It's easy to say, with Albert Camus, 'neither victims nor executioners.' But real history is more pitiless even than you had been told it was.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, historians have become both more accurate and more honest—fractionally more brave, one might say—about that 'other' cleansing of the regions and peoples that were ground to atoms between the upper and nether millstones of Hitlerism and Stalinism. One of the most objective chroniclers is Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale University. In his view, it is still 'Operation Reinhardt,' or the planned destruction of Polish Jewry, that is to be considered as the centerpiece of what we commonly call the Holocaust, in which of the estimated 5.7 million Jewish dead, 'roughly three million were prewar Polish citizens.' We should not at all allow ourselves to forget the millions of non-Jewish citizens of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and other Slav territories who were also massacred. But for me the salient fact remains that anti-Semitism was the regnant, essential, organizing principle of all the other National Socialist race theories. It is thus not to be thought of as just one prejudice among many.
The most striking difference between the ancient and modern sophists is that the ancients were satisfied with a passing victory of the argument at the expense of truth, whereas the moderns want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality. In other words, one destroyed the dignity of human thought whereas the others destroy the dignity of human action. The old manipulators of logic were the concern of the philosopher, whereas the modern manipulators of facts stand in the way of the historian. For history itself is destroyed, and its comprehensibility—based upon the fact that it is enacted by men and therefore can be understood by men—is in danger, whenever facts are no longer held to be part and parcel of the past and present world, and are misused to prove this or that opinion.
A group of ten prisoners from Dachau, I was with them, we hid in the forest to wait for the Americans. The Germans had already left everything behind. We had food but no weapons. For days we could hear bombs exploding around us. We just wanted to survive long enough for the Americans to control the territory. We didn’t want to die. At that point, our prison uniforms were the only things to keep us from being shot on the spot by the Americans. That was all we had. Who would the Americans believe? Real prisoners or guards dressed as prisoners? Those devils might even say we were the Germans. This was our nightmare.
What do you want with these special Jewish pains? I feel as close to the wretched victims of the rubber plantations in Putamayo and the blacks of Africa with whose bodies the Europeans play ball… I have no special corner in my heart for the ghetto: I am at home in the entire world, where there are clouds and birds and human tears.
The bottom line, as Raul Hilberg put it, was that most people thought that, even if Jews shouldn't be killed, they weren't worth saving.
And just like that, as if I hadn't said anything at all, the ladies sprang into a conversation about the sinful nature the Jews possessed when killing their Lord Jesus. I didn't know if I was hearing this right because I had become so intoxicated, but I couldn't believe that anyone would talk about religion while on vacation. How could Miss Nebraska think this was a proper environment to discuss something so controversial? One woman went on to say that if she had her way not only would President Bush serve a second four-year term, but she hoped they would overturn Roe v. Wade. This woman was obviously a menace to society and needed to be stopped.
As far as the Jews were concerned, the transformation of the crime of Judaism into the fashionable vice of Jewishness was dangerous in the extreme. Jews had been able to escape from Judaism into conversion; from Jewishness there was no escape. A crime, moreover, is met with punishment; a vice can only be exterminated.
When we consider that so few generations had passed since thechurch left off disemboweling innocent men before the eyes of theirfamilies, burning old women alive in public squares, and torturingscholars to the point of madness for merely speculating about thenature of the stars, it is perhaps little wonder that it failed to thinkanything had gone terribly amiss in Germany during the war years.
Equality of condition, though it is certainly a basic requirement for justice, is nevertheless among the greatest and most uncertain ventures of modern mankind. The more equal conditions are, the less explanation there is for the differences that actually exist between people; and thus all the more unequal do individuals and groups become. This perplexing consequence came fully to light as soon as equality was no longer seen in terms of an omnipotent being like God or an unavoidable common destiny like death. Whenever equality becomes a mundane fact in itself, without any gauge by which it may be measured or explained, then there is one chance in a hundred that it will be recognized simply as a working principle of a political organization in which otherwise unequal people have equal rights; there are ninety-nine chances that it will be mistaken for an innate quality of every individual, who is “normal” if he is like everybody else and “abnormal” if he happens to be different. This perversion of equality from a political into a social concept is all the more dangerous when a society leaves but little space for special groups and individuals, for then their differences become all the more conspicuous.
Race theorists, who are as old as imperialism itself, want to achieve racial purity in peoples whose interbreeding, as a result of the expansion of world economy, is so far advanced that racial purity can have meaning only to a numbskull.
Progressive thought is blind when it suggests that there can be no anti-white racism or an anti-semitism among the formerly oppressed or the young people in the projects because they themselves have suffered from this evil. They are the victims; they are exempt from the prejudices that affect the majority of the population. But the reverse is true: racism is multiplying at exponential rates among groups and communities, taboos are collapsing, and everything is explained in terms of physical characteristics, identity, purity, and difference. and this is a racism that is all the more certain that it is right because it is regarded as a legitimate reaction on the part of the persecuted. now we see the obsession with the pedigree and the old distinctions derived from slavery being revived, and prejudices accumulating in the name of racism. This is the end of the concept of humanity as union in diversity and the triumph of human species incompatible with each other.
Other unsolved murders or untimely deaths were readily blamed on the supposedly sinister Jews: If a Jewish doctor failed to save a life, the whole Jewish community might be attacked and fined.
May 20, '95 - Mississippi calls. She says, All my working life I have done things to help black people. I can drive into the black part of town where no white person would dare to go. I have nothing to fear. They say, 'Hi there, Mizz Mississippi.' I still call them niggers, but only because of the way they act. I'd have an affair with Johnnie Cochran in a minute. Once she said to me, I don't see why I should have to feel guilty about the Holocaust. It's not my fault. I hadn't been talking or thinking about the Holocaust, and hadn't told anyone to feel guilty. Her remark came out of nowhere. We were in a diner, about to have a sandwich and suddenly the moment was explosive. Simply being a Jew arouses a peculiar expectation mixed with resentment, even in a highly intelligent woman. Amazing to me is that she doesn't do much but watch television, drink beer, and smoke Marlboros, and yet seethes with dark thoughts and tumultuous feeling.
Whether religious or racial, anti-Semitism is always repugnant, one of the most destructive manifestations of human stupidity and evil. What is profoundly expressed in it is man's traditional mistrust of the man who is not part of his tribe, that 'other' who speaks a different language, whose skin is a different color, and who participates in mysterious rites and rituals.
At first glance it seems strange that the attitude of the anti-Semite can be equated with that of the negrophobe. It was my philosophy teacher from the Antilles who reminded me one day: “When you hear someone insulting the Jews pay attention; he is talking about you.” And I believed at the time he was universally right, meaning that I was responsible in my body and my soul for the fate reserved for my brother. Since then, I have understood that what he meant quite simply was the anti-Semite is inevitably a negrophobe.
The sad truth about bigotry is that most bigots either don't realize that they are bigots, or they convince themselves that their bigotry is perfectly justified.
The birth and growth of modern antisemitism has been accompanied by and interconnected with Jewish assimilation, the secularization and withering away of the old religious and spiritual values of Judaism. What actually happened was that great parts of the Jewish people were at the same time threatened by physical extinction from without and dissolution from within. In this situation, Jews concerned with the survival of their people would, in a curious and desperate misinterpretation, hit on the consoling idea that antisemitism, after all, might be an excellent means for keeping the people together so that the assumption of external antisemitism would even imply an external guarantee of Jewish existence. This superstition, a secularized travesty of the idea of eternity inherent in a faith in chosenness and a Messianic hope, has been strengthened through the fact that for many centuries the Jews experienced the Christian brand of hostility which was indeed a powerful agent of preservation, spiritually as well as politically. The Jews mistook modern anti-Christian antisemitism for the old religious Jew-hatred—and this all the more innocently because their assimilation had by-passed Christianity in its religious and cultural aspect. Confronted with an obvious symptom of the decline of Christianity, they could therefore imagine in all ignorance that this was some revival of the so-called Dark Ages. Ignorance or misunderstanding of their own past were partly responsible for their fatal underestimation of the actual and unprecedented dangers which lay ahead. But one should also bear in mind that lack of political ability and judgment have been caused by the very nature of Jewish history, the history of a people without a government, without a country, and without a language. Jewish history offers the extraordinary spectacle of a people, unique in this respect, which began its history with a well-defined concept of history and an almost conscious resolution to achieve a well-circumscribed plan on earth and then, without giving up this concept, avoided all political action for two thousand years. The result was that the political history of the Jewish people became even more dependent upon unforeseen, accidental factors than the history of other nations, so that the Jews stumbled from one role to the other and accepted responsibility for none.
If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?. - (Act III, scene I).
But Anja. I hear Anja's voice. Maybe I am insane. I hear her crying. I see her alone in the trees. I remember being alone and humiliated. I remember, too, the fat little boy hiding in the bathroom. And I see this man, Ariane. I see this evil man, Ariane. He laughs everyday still. He has had years of laughter. He has triumphed over the screams of others, he has triumphed with blood on his hands. And he laughs still. God has cursed us! He has either cursed us or He was never here to begin with. We've pretended God was here for our own sanity! That's the truth! We've pretended evil is punished and good is rewarded. A perfect scheme!
The Jews could be put down very plausible as the most unpleasant race ever heard of. As commonly encountered they lack any of the qualities that mark the civilized man: courage, dignity, incorruptibility, ease, confidence. They have vanity without pride, voluptuousness without taste, and learning without wisdom. Their fortitude such as it is, is wasted upon puerile objects, and their charity is mainly a form of display.
After Portia has trapped Shylock through his own insistence upon the letter of the law of Contract, she produces another law by which any alien who conspires against the life of a Venetian citizen forfeits his goods and places his life at the Doge’s mercy. […] Shakespeare, it seems to me, was willing to introduce what is an absurd implausibility for the sake of an effect which he could not secure without it: at the last moment when, through his conduct, Shylock has destroyed any sympathy we may have felt for him earlier, we are reminded that, irrespective of his personal character, his status is one of inferiority. A Jew is not regarded, even in law, as a brother.
The antisemites who called themselves patriots introduced that new species of national feeling which consists primarily in a complete whitewash of one's own people and a sweeping condemnation of all others.
There was no one to blame but the mighty, ruthless stranger. Thus was complexity reduced to demonology, which is a defining feature of anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, or, indeed, any anti-ism.
There is, therefore, a temptation to return to an explanation which automatically discharges the victim of responsibility: it seems quite adequate to a reality in which nothing strikes us more forcefully than the utter innocence of the individual caught in the horror machine and his utter inability to change his fate. Terror, however, is only in the last instance of its development a mere form of government. In order to establish a totalitarian regime, terror must be presented as an instrument for carrying out a specific ideology; and that ideology must have won the adherence of many, and even a majority, before terror can be stabilized. The point for the historian is that the Jews, before becoming the main victims of modern terror, were the center of Nazi ideology. And an ideology which has to persuade and mobilize people cannot choose its victim arbitrarily.