The Respectable Prejudice (Part One)
Topic: Liberal Fascism
In his 1945 essay, “Antisemitism in Britain,” George Orwell noted that:
It so happens that the war has encouraged the growth of antisemitism and even, in the eyes of many ordinary people, given some justification for it. To begin with, the Jews are one people of whom it can be said with complete certainty that they will benefit by an Allied victory. Consequently the theory that “this is a Jewish war” has a certain plausibility, all the more so because the Jewish war effort seldom gets its fair share of recognition.
Whenever I have touched on this subject in a newspaper article, I have always had a considerable “come-back”, and invariably some of the letters are from well-balanced, middling people—doctors, for example—with no apparent economic grievance. These people always say (as Hitler says in Mein Kampf) that they started out with no anti-Jewish prejudice but were driven into their present position by mere observation of the facts. Yet one of the marks of antisemitism is an ability to believe stories that could not possibly be true.
Suitably updated, this would be a reasonable description of the situation in America and Europe today, where in paleoconservative and progressive circles at least, anti-Semitism is clearly on the rise. Scarcely had the dust settled on 9/11 when scurrilous stories about Jewish complicity began to make the rounds. It was alleged, without evidence, that Jews in New York danced in celebration of the attack, or that the whole thing had actually been engineered by the Israeli secret service. In the years that followed, a hardy perennial of the antiwar Left was the charge that George W. Bush was acting at the behest of his neocon puppet masters—“neocon” being a code word for “Jew.” Most recently, anti-Semitic attitudes were well on display at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.
In his essay, Orwell opined that anti-Semitism is a neurosis supported by arguments of varying plausibility. I believe this to be true. Anti-Semitism is the father of all race prejudice, the great original, tracing its ancestry back to the early days of Christianity. Over the centuries it has taken various forms: the Jew as Christ-killer, the Jew as alien, the Jew as exploiter, the Jew as sinister puppet master. These various strands came together in the eliminationist anti-Semitism that arose in turn-of-the century Central Europe and culminated in the Final Solution. And though the horrors of the Holocaust made anti-Semitism unfashionable, it was not stamped out.
Ironically, the foundation of the State of Israel gave anti-Semitism a new lease on life. Today’s anti-Semite typically claims that he has nothing against Jews, but opposes the existence of Israel, which he characterizes as illegitimate, racist and imperialist. He supports the Palestinians in their demand for a state of their own. Anti-Semitism is thus rationalized as a simple call for justice.
But the claim that one can oppose Israel without hating Jews collapses upon close examination. For to deny the legitimacy of the State of Israel is to deny the Jews something that is conceded, in principle at least, to all the other peoples of the world: a national homeland. It’s one thing to debate the rights and wrongs of the conflict between the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs. It’s something else entirely to demand a solution that entails the destruction of the Jewish state.
In Part Two of this series, I'll discuss where and how anti-Semitism expresses itself in America today.
Posted by tmg110
at 10:26 AM EST