“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Antisemitism As A Distortion.

with one comment

Saul, one of the commenters on Engage wrote a rather nice summary in an exchange on the “Does Israel “cause” antisemitism ?” thread.

“Of course, Israel is at the root of current antisemitism, but not in the way it is currently being framed here. As often noted, it is antisemites that cause and are responsible for antisemitism, just as anti-Black racists are responsible for anti-Black racism and homophobes for anti-gay attitudes and acts. Antisemites, racists and homophobes will always project their own hatred onto the object of their hatred. That is what they do.

Antisemitism is the distortion and reduction of complex political and social relations to that of a simplistic Jew v non-Jew (in the past this has taken the form of Jews v Christians, Jews, v working class, Jews v nationals, Jews v Muslims; and now Jews v Palestinians and, concurrently, Jews v right-minded people).

What is unusual at present is that the appearance appears to match the myth since Israel is a, or rather, the Jewish state. As a consequence, the mythologies of Jewish wrongs and Jewish characteristics (whether from time immemorial or from 1945 (which many see as 1948) are not only given a new lease of life, but appear as if correct. And it is this what turns rational criticism of a state’s policies into a verdict on the Jews (see Sandra’s comments).

The point is, of course, that whenever Jews act in the world as Jews (or, rather, are believed to act “as Jews”) it would appear that it immediately falls victim to the conceptual schema that is part and parcel of antisemitism that stands, and has always stood, against the norms of rational political understanding. Instead, such understanding and criticism takes on the world view and language of Jew-hatred.

A few examples will illustrate this point,
1. A cartoon of Sharon eating babies (produced on Holocaust memorial day)
2. The analogy between nazism and the Shoah and Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians.
3. A belief in an omnipotent Lobby that is said to control the foreign policy of the most powerful state on earth (along with almost all its elected representatives).
4. The idea that Israel is the gravest danger to the stability of the world and that it is going to lead the globe to Armegedon.
5 Collective guilt and responsibility (illustrated most clearly by Sandra’s sinister use of “you” akin to the term “you people”, and owlinminerva’s point about “you won backyard).
6. That Jews are liars, that when they raise the question of antisemitism they are being duplicitous, that they are not to be trusted (owlinminerva’s point about “not pretending” to “really” be about Israel about a genuine and legitimate concern about antisemitism.)
7. That they have such immense power (as well as immorality) that the utterance of a single word – antisemitism – can stop all and any discussion, legitimate or otherwise.

The list could be extended.

The point is, of course, that these antisemitic myths are not only believed but are believed to express the truth of the situation in Israel and Palestine; that an understanding of the complexities of the Israel-Palestine conflict (its connections with, say, the divisions in the Arab world both within and between states to state only the most obvious) can be captured and adequately explained by the tempting simplicities of racism.

Well worth a re-read and ponder.

Written by modernityblog

12/08/2009 at 01:20

Posted in Uncategorized

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One Response

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  1. on point 4 (The idea that Israel is the gravest danger to the stability of the world and that it is going to lead the globe to Armegedon.) … dispensionalists among evangelicals/protestant fundamentalists would agree with it … but for them, it is something positive


    12/08/2009 at 09:45

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