When Jew-hatred comes to America

At the end of the 19th century, Theodore Herzl and Max Nordau realized that Jews had no future in Europe. They understood that enlightenment and emancipation hadn’t put an end to Jew-hatred, and progressive politics wouldn’t either. Europe, they saw, gave the Jewish people two options: total assimilation or death (and later history showed that even assimilation wouldn’t save them).

The catastrophe that actually befell the Jews of Europe was more severe than Herzl had imagined in his worst nightmares. The Jewish state that he inspired ultimately came to be, as he accurately predicted, but unfortunately it happened too late to save most of the European Jews.

You can blame the British or the Arabs, and they certainly did their best to hold it back, but the main reason the state was not declared until 1948 was that so many Jews were unsure, diffident, afraid of provoking more Jew-hatred, or of the opinion that “something could be worked out” with the gentile world. For example, the influential British Jew Edwin Samuel Montagu, opposed the Balfour Declaration and was responsible for weakening its language.

American Jews have had an ambiguous relationship with Zionism. The Reform Movement was anti-Zionist from its beginnings until the 1930s (and even today their position — although they claim to be “pro-Israel” — is, in my opinion, not constructive). But liberal American Jews since 1945 are convinced that their position is secure and that they don’t need the protection of a foreign country that seems, well, foreign, to them and that is at odds with their popular president.

Now it appears that the Jews of Europe (this time there are fewer of them) are in trouble again.  I don’t think we can entirely blame the Muslims, either. Just as Hitler would not have been able to carry out his program without the cooperation of large segments of the non-Nazi European population, so today European Jew-hatred is not confined to Muslim immigrants, although they may be responsible for its most violent manifestations.

We can divide Jew-hatred into two kinds: that of the mob, which is violent and infused with crudely false beliefs, and that of the elites, which is more sophisticated and better hidden. While they would never explicitly encourage the mob, the elites see its anti-Jewish behavior as a result of Jewish actions and (especially today) the actions and policies of the Jewish nation-state. They believe that they can understand Arab and Muslim violence against Jews because, after all, everyone knows that Israel is viciously oppressing the “powerless, indigenous Palestinian people.” So mob behavior tends to be tolerated, or at least not effectively suppressed.

It’s important to note that official statistics about “anti-Semitism” — such as ADL surveys — are biased against Jew-hatred that expresses itself primarily as hatred of the Jewish state. Young people especially are very sensitized to avoid expressions of traditional prejudice against individual Jews, and will not respond to poll questions designed to elicit such attitudes. Studies of attitudes toward Israel, on the other hand, show increasing degrees of irrational hatred.

However, the fact that Jew-hatred is expressed primarily as Israel-hatred does not imply that antipathy to individual Jews doesn’t exist. It is simply that the verbal expression — or even self-awareness — of these feelings has become taboo. So although it is often said that traditional Jew-hatred has mutated into Israel-hatred, “the new antisemitism,” I think it’s more correct to say that we express the same ugly impulses differently.

A 2009 study confirms the hidden nature of much anti-Jewish feeling, due to the social opprobrium associated with admitting bias. It showed as well that Jew-hatred and opposition to Israel are closely related, with an increase in one causing an increase in the other. Although clearly it is possible to be opposed to Israel without hating Jews, the extreme and irrational nature of the Israel-hatred prevalent on the American Left implies that this is unlikely to be the case.

Many diseases have incubation periods during which a pathogen reproduces inside particular organs without causing noticeable symptoms, and then suddenly bursts out as a systemic infection with tragic consequences for the patient. In America today, the virus of Jew-hatred is incubating in the universities, where a cadre of activists — including many teachers — employ powerful opinion molding techniques, especially including academic, social and physical intimidation, to indoctrinate students with a worldview in which Israel and Zionists play the role of the devil.

In American universities today, the mob rules, with the direct support of the academic elites. Administrators often behave with striking cowardice, even while their cherished ideals of free inquiry, open debate and respect for others are trampled.

A leader of the anti-Israel campaign is “Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP),” founded at Berkeley in 2001, coinciding with the beginning of the Second Intifada. According to Wikipedia, there were more than 80 chapters by 2010. Activism against Israel existed before that, but SJP has combined a Middle-Eastern disdain for truth and democratic norms with Berkeley-style confrontational politics. Along with the almost universal anti-Israel slant in the center-left media, it’s been remarkably effective at creating a generation of young people who vehemently oppose the continued existence of a Jewish state. These students will soon become the opinion-leaders, politicians, bureaucrats and executives of America.

Somewhat arbitrarily, I take 2001 as the start of the incubation period of the Jew-hatred virus. And I think that in the last few years, we’ve seen the beginning of the breakout phase. One indication is the way anti-Jewish and anti-Israel themes appear in almost every protest movement or demonstration, like the ‘Occupy’ movement and now even the protests against alleged police racism that began in Ferguson, Missouri.

Does this suggest that the position of American Jews will become more precarious in the near future, like that of European Jews? I think the answer is yes — especially if the social and economic decline that characterizes the US in recent decades continues, and violent expressions of Jew-hatred become more common, as they have in Europe. This means that American Jews, like the Europeans of the 1890s and today, will soon find themselves considering possible solutions to the “Jewish Question.”

Some will certainly take the tack of assimilation. This seems to be the direction that will appeal to liberal Jews. But will they be prepared to totally discard all vestiges of Jewish identity? And even if they do, will it protect them against discrimination (or worse)?

Will some of them move in the direction of an increased Zionism, either to actually consider aliyah or simply to align themselves with the Jewish state? Or will they, like Lord Montagu, become even more anti-Zionist in the (mistaken) opinion that this will make them immune to the depredations of the Jew-haters?

Tune in again in 5-10 years to find out.

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5 Responses to When Jew-hatred comes to America

  1. Keefe Goldfisher says:

    My formative years at university were the mid-70’s and early 80’s, in California. By the late eighties, it was noticeable that the beginnings of Israel hatred were coming out into open air again, and by the 90’s, one could see the empowerment of Muslim organizations and the stronger emergence of what Caroline Glick calls brown-shirt tactics. These last are what rock the disinterested and uncommitted back on their heels. Since liberal American Jews are not going to produce dedicated, observant Jews, the sons and daughters, and, now, grandchildren of people like me (non-Orthodox, barely observant, but very pro-Israel, pro-Zionism, pro-Judaism) see that it’s a very rough go in liberal arts colleges for their progeny to maintain a pride in their essence, a background and pride suffused by Jewish accomplishment. And, with good upbringing that has prevented the lies being internalized, they also see that there is no factual basis for the antagonism. The spectacle of angry SJP and MSA members shouting down Michael Oren at one of my alma maters, UCI, looks instinctively ugly to Americans, not just Jewish Americans.

    The recent tumult in Ferguson, Missouri has a similar counter-factual behavior and narrative on display. What is at stake in the country is conceding the ground of truth to brutal tactics and a culture-denying impetus for tolerating the very worst of the bad behavior that you’re referring to as the mob. The American people, including many blacks, are not going to lightly concede this as acceptable.

    I’m an American first. It is a very successful idea, being American, and it requires the melting pot. It may all be slipping away before our eyes, facilitated by professors and meek administrators and a pliant press as the seedbeds of eventual destruction, but there is some number of American people out there who know that what they’re looking at is wrong and it is a culture killer. It cannot be allowed to stand. The Obamas and Sharptons, Holders and Bidens and Clintons and a host of others do not feel to me like they’re going to have their way carried forward for them by the rest of America. Obama himself spent 50 years of race capital in less than 6 years… all undone. Not that there will be a groundswell against blacks, but it will be easier to say to anyone that just because a black person says they’re experiencing prejudice, does not make it so.

    The thing to resist all of this decline is bravery. It may be in short supply in Europe, but we are, after all, the home of the brave.

  2. Tom E says:

    Again you get right to the nub of the issue. Yes, I think in Europe there is a violent, irrational mob who are not afraid to admit their Jew hatred, at least to themselves. They are enabled by a passive majority who prefer to ignore the issue or blame it on “an understandable reaction to the actions of Israel”. This passive majority wouldn’t dare to conciously think negative thoughts about “Jews” or “Judaism” but as long as their antipathy is towards “the right-wing government of Israel” they are completely comfortable with themselves.

  3. Robman says:

    I largely agree with Mr. Goldfisher above. I would emphasize that a huge role in this problem is played by Obama.

    Yes, he has indeed set back race relations at least 50 years, precisely the figure I’ve used in recent conversations on this topic. This will be a major part of his legacy that will defy correction for decades to come.

    I don’t think America is necessarily in ‘permanent’ decline. We have some very serious problems but we also have some major strengths and potential. We are a huge energy producer, and freed from the shackles of Obama’s over-regulation – as we no doubt will be in a couple of years – we will become much stronger that way. We still have a very powerful technological base, and by and large, Americans still have among the strongest work ethics in the world.

    We have a very corrupt media. I would say this is arguably our most serious problem today, and how we address this could well determine how we fare in the future, post-Obama. As an institution, the media here utterly failed us in the case of Obama. Even the American media of the 90s would not have allowed someone so toxically unqualified to be POTUS attain that office, or even to get nominated on a major party ticket. The corruption of our academe walks hand-in-hand with this problem, and also does not bode well for the future.

    Not all university professors are liberals, however. They tend to be in the liberal arts, but in the American economy of today and going forward, fewer and fewer Americans see the value of such an education, and they are tending to vote with their wallets. Many universities are pricing themselves out of the market. Also, in contrast to Europe, Americans as a whole tend not to take ‘intellectuals’ so seriously. These factors may somewhat dampen the impact of the anti-Israel academia segment somewhat, at least.

    Leaving the larger enabling factors of the media/academe aside, in the present moment, I see Obama as being at the epicenter of this increasing wave of anti-Semitism, not only here, but abroad. When the ‘Leader of the Free World’ uses his associated ‘bully pulpit’ as a platform from which to treat Israel with such unprecedented contempt and animosity coming from a U.S. president, this allows all manner of cretins to rationalize horrendous behavior, both at the level of the state and the street.

    But Obama is failing as a president. This is clear; even despite the still largely pro-Obama American media – pretty much all national-level media here outside of FOX, the WSJ, and conservative talk radio – a recent poll showed that 53% of Americans consider Obama a “failed president”. This is still not as bad as the 68% of Americans who felt that way at a similar point in Bush #43’s presidency, but in this latter case, the media was completely against him. That 53% of Americans consider Obama a failed president in the face of so much continued support by the media is nothing short of remarkable…and an indicator of how much credibility is being lost by the media today on the part of the American public. And, Obama’s standing is only going to get worse; he seems singularly unable to learn from his mistakes.

    With the decline in regard for Obama will also come a decline in the credibility of the policies associated with him, including his tendency to blame All the Problems of The World on those Stubborn, Intransigent, Greedy Zionists. And believe me, those protestors at Ferguson waving Palestinian flags are winning themselves NO friends at all among rank and file Americans. The results of the mid-term elections here are yet another indicator of the degree to which the American public is rejecting that which Obama stands for; the new leaders of the GOP-controlled Senate promise to be very pro-Israel both in word and deed.

    It is going to be a loooong two years…but there is hope for recovery. Not guarantees, but reasonable hope, at least.

  4. Shalom Freedman says:

    One brief historical point. Anti-Semitism is not new to America. I do not know whether it played any role in President Roosevelt’s great reluctance to save Jews during the Shoah. But there was in the thirties open hatred of Jews, and discrimination in many places, including universities.
    Perhaps the fifty years after the Second World War will be seen as the most positive period in America’s relationship to its Jewish population.
    Now however there is the active development of another form of anti- Semitism. This is the demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish state.
    The primary locus for this new Anti-Semitism is the university campus. Inroads against the legitimacy of Israel are being made by an unholy alliance of the Radical Left and the Arab and Islamic fascist fanatical students. The atmosphere of hysterical hatred is also promoted by many teachers of Middle Eastern Studies.
    Israel and the Jewish community are making efforts to resist this. On our side is the principle of academic freedom which the other side does not seem to understand and certainly does not respect.
    I cannot possibly measure the degree of influence this hate campaign is having. Boycott resolutions have been passed at a number of universities. But this does not mean that they express the sympathy of the great share of the students.
    There are many who claim support for Israel is as great as ever. And they point that no university has voted to boycott Israel.
    I do agree that there is however much to worry about. And I think it also relates to the ‘soul’ of America.

  5. Reliance says:

    “I don’t think we can entirely blame the Muslims, either.”

    True, but you focus on Muslim immigrants. The other great Muslim influencer is the trillions of dollars of oil money the petro-states have. And spend. Yes that’s trillions with a “T”.

    Even the Brookings institution sucks at the teat of Muslim funding. Western wealth coming back to subvert our own society.

    Islam was a problem in 1800, when the pirates of northern Africa made money from the Europeans and Americans. Islam was not a problem in 1900, when they were poor. In 2000, Islamic countries had great infusions of western wealth, and that is a terrible problem.

    War isn’t caused by poverty. War is caused by wealth.

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