Jew-hatred and conspiracy theories

Western Jew-hatred is making a major comeback today on both sides of the Atlantic.

Muslim antisemitism, which is written into the Qu’ran, has always been there, has always expressed itself violently, and is only attracting particular attention today because of the increasing number of Muslims in Western countries.

But non-Muslims in greater and greater numbers, in Europe and North America, have recently been discovering the joy of hating Jews. There are various reasons for this. One is contagion from Muslims. This particularly applies to the political Left, which is rushing to embrace what they see as the oppressed, colonized Muslim world, despite the clear evidence that its culture is generally violent, anti-democratic, misogynistic, homophobic, and almost everything they purport to despise. Muslims, for their part, have been quick to pick up anti-Jewish themes that first developed in Christian Europe – and  then these ideas get fed back to post-Christian progressives, who lap it up.

The documented horrors of the Holocaust for a time served to immunize the West against traditional Jew-hatred (this is why Gen. Eisenhower went out of his way to publicize the atrocities of the Holocaust). But constantly repeated descriptions of horrible events caused those descriptions to lose their impact; and even had the opposite of the desired effect, causing recipients – especially in Europe where there are residual guilt feelings – to say “shut up, we’re tired of hearing about it.”

This is the paradox of “Holocaust education” and why there can be too much of it. On the one hand, it’s important to know the historical facts and to understand how genocide develops from popular hatred plus governmental, connivance (South African whites should pay attention to this dynamic). On the other hand, it can dull the feeling of horror evoked by those facts and even produce more hatred of targeted groups like Jews. Look at the veneration of Hitler by some Muslim students, or the prevalence of Holocaust denial in both traditional “right-wing” Jew hatred and the Islamic variety.

In recent years, the memes of Jew-hatred mutated into anti-Zionism. Instead of hating individual Jews, which is taboo, it’s possible to hate their collective expression of identity in the form of the Jewish state. This mutation did not trigger the same immune response, and anti-Zionism became the most common expression of Jew-hatred by progressives who wouldn’t be caught dead on the Stormfront website. But an interesting thing happened: hating Israel led to hating Zionists, and what is a Zionist but a Jew? Some of the old themes came back, like the blood libel – only instead of making matzot from the blood of Christian children, the IDF was accused of stealing organs from dead Palestinians, or deliberately targeting Palestinian children.

On the right, the themes are reminiscent of the 19th century political antisemitism that Hitler adopted. It features hook-nosed Jewish financiers (“Rothschilds”) running the world, financing wars and revolutions, Jews controlling media, the arts and education, “polluting” the culture with sexual deviance, atheism, and of course communism. Tying it all together is an overarching conspiracy.

Today’s proponents of this theory blame the Jewish conspiracy for trying to destroy “white” culture by importing Muslims into Europe and the US, and empowering racial minorities (exemplified by the Movement for Black Lives in the US). They point to the over-representation of Jews in finance, media, academics, and – importantly – leftist political movements. As the taboos against individual Jew-hatred have weakened for Muslims and the Left, they have also been lifted for the extreme Right.

The explosive growth of social media has been accompanied by an ideology that nothing is out of bounds anymore. The internet’s filter bubble effect has driven both Left and Right to greater extremism, and the widespread reach of the net, augmented by Twitter and Facebook, has resulted in a perfect storm of Jew-hatred in the developed world.

An interesting example is the controversy over an article by the conservative psychologist Jordan B. Peterson, in which he tackles the question of whether the theory of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy makes sense. Peterson grants the over-representation of Jews in critical areas, but argues that the explanation lies in the higher average intelligence and prevalence of the personality trait of “openness to experience” (in part, creativity and intellectual curiosity – here is a test for this trait*) in Ashkenazi Jews. Combined with the principle that one should favor the simplest explanation for a given phenomenon (“Occam’s razor”), he concludes,

So, what’s the story? No conspiracy. Get it? No conspiracy. Jewish people are over-represented in positions of competence and authority because, as a group, they have a higher mean IQ. The effect of this group difference (approximately the difference between the typical high school student and the typical state college student) is magnified for occupations/interests that require high general cognitive ability. Equal over-representation may also occur in political movements associated with the left, because high IQ is associated with Openness to Experience, which is in turn associated with liberal/left-leaning political proclivities.

There is no evidence whatsoever that Ashkenazi Jews are over-represented in any occupations/interests for reasons other than intelligence and the associated effects of intelligence on personality and political belief. Thus, no conspiratorial claims based on ethnic identity need to be given credence. [emphasis in original]

As you can read in the comments to Peterson’s article, many of his readers (and almost all those who commented aren’t buying it). Some of them argue that the over-representation of Jews is a result of “cultural nepotism,” the propensity to hire or appoint people that are like yourself. There is a great deal of offensive antisemitism in the comments, but cultural nepotism is real and can’t be discounted. I have noticed that Hispanics are over-represented in non-academic staff at Fresno State University, and Yemenite Jews among municipal employees here in Rehovot. These are not exactly conspiracies, but they didn’t happen by accident either.

However, regardless of the way the over-representation developed, it is not proof of a conspiracy. As Peterson implies in the second paragraph above, a conspiracy is collusion for a purpose, and there is zero real evidence for such collusion. In addition, there is one very important personality trait that characterizes Jews which both Peterson and the conspiracy theorists ignore.

That is what I call, for lack of a better word, the fractious nature of the Jewish people. Everyone knows the joke about the two Jews marooned on a desert Island who immediately build three synagogues: one Ashkenazi, one Sephardic (a variation has Orthodox and Reform), and one that neither will set foot in. Jews tend to violently disagree about almost anything – a visit to Israel’s Knesset will establish this – and especially politics.

In particular, they disagree about Israel. The greatest anti-Zionists are always Jews: two newspapers that attack the Jewish state on a daily basis, the New York Times and Ha’aretz, are both owned by Jews and have numerous Jews on their staffs. Jewish anti-Israel organizations include J Street, If Not Now, Jewish Voice for Peace, and more. Anti-Israel Jews in more mainstream organizations like university Hillel Foundations and Jewish Community Relations Councils work to subvert previously pro-Israel groups.

Virtually all the Jewish Hollywood moguls that are often cited by conspiracy theorists supported the presidency of Barack Obama, the US president least friendly to Israel since its establishment.

Even inside Israel, there is an active contingent of Jews who work for Israeli NGOs that accept funding from hostile foreign governments to produce propaganda against the state and to promote “lawfare” against  the government and the IDF.

The state is just one of the subjects that Jews bitterly disagree upon, but it is central to the conspiracy theories. One of Israel’s greatest enemies, the financier George Soros, is of Jewish extraction (although he is not a practicing Jew in any sense). Conspiracy theorists who almost always include Soros as one of the leaders of the conspiracy also believe that the conspiracy influences the US to provide military aid to Israel. Believe me, no conspiracy that included Soros would do that!

The Jew-hating Right and Left are often in violent opposition, but they came together in the Occupy Wall Street movement, which I was surprised to find was supported by the American Nazi Party and David Duke, as well as leftist groups, Hezbollah and the Council on American-Islamic relations.

Similar conspiracy theories have been around since the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were forged in the 19th century, and probably before that. The Protocols themselves, although known to be fiction, are still popular, especially in the Arab world but also in the West.

There have certainly been conspiracies in history, but the idea of a massive, worldwide cabal with great power that would have to include hundreds of members, and yet about which there is no real, documented evidence – although plenty of made-up stories – is so unlikely as to be considered impossible.

Peterson notes that “It hardly needs to be said that although conspiracies do occasionally occur, conspiracy theories are the lowest form of intellectual enterprise.”  He’s right.


* I took the test and came out “average,” because my high intellectual curiosity was balanced by my preference for routine and my conservative politics! So I am not sure about the utility of this concept.

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2 Responses to Jew-hatred and conspiracy theories

  1. David Rosenberg says:

    The “here is a test for this trait” link is to the Wikipedia article – not to a test. Googling for “test for openness” I found several sites and I don’t know which one you intended.

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