I just googled “combating antisemitism” and got 7.5 million results. Apparently a lot of people are thinking about this. And well they should, given that Jew-hatred is rising sharply everywhere in the world, especially in the West. The old-style “paleo” antisemitism is going strong almost everywhere, Muslims have added some of the older European themes to their Koranic and anti-Israel narratives, and the Left is taking its obsessive anti-Zionism to new heights. Meanwhile, Right and Left are coming full circle to tell neo-Nazi stories about Rothschild and Soros (as if Soros is a friend of the Jews!)
So while all this is happening, everyone is in a tizzy about “combating” it. For example, the European Union has a basketful of programs to do so, led by a “coordinator on combating antisemitism,” and including a working definition, Holocaust remembrance observances, a program to monitor and report on it, special legislation making it illegal, and of course above all, education. At the same time they are pumping Euros into subversive NGOs in Israel and financing illegal Palestinian construction in Judea and Samaria, but that is another story.
Everybody wants to get into the act. The US Department of State (the one that still refuses to put “Israel” on the American passports of people born in Jerusalem) has a “Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism” to, er, monitor and combat it. Jewish federations, Hadassah, Chabad, B’nai B’rith, the Union for Reform Judaism, Germany, the UK Labour Party, and countless other rights organizations, religious groups, political parties, and national governments are doing it. Even some people at the UN have joined in.
How do you combat Jew-hatred? Most of those fighting it seem to think that the answer is education: the theory seems to be that if you teach people about the horrors of the Holocaust and the moral evil of bigotry, they will stop hating Jews. A great deal of resources are expended on doing this, but antisemitic incidents keep increasing.
Which is not surprising, since the theory is ridiculous. Jew-haters love to hear about the Holocaust. For one thing, it reinforces their beliefs to know that they are not alone. It gives them a warm feeling to think that a major nation led by a charismatic figure actually tried to carry out a genocide they would heartily approve of. Ridding the world of Jews isn’t just an impossible dream, they realize; someone almost succeeded! It also provides ammunition for demonstrations and Twitter campaigns: without Holocaust education, who would know to shout “Jews to the gas” at football/soccer games? And how better to exacerbate hatred of Jews than by accusing them of fabricating the Holocaust for financial gain?
Of course it is absolutely essential to preserve the historical memory of the Holocaust out of respect for the victims, as well as to teach Jews or other peoples threatened with genocide to take the threats seriously. But while Holocaust education is necessary for these reasons, it doesn’t reduce Jew-hatred – it facilitates it.
Telling people “not to hate,” and explaining that bigotry is wrong is of very marginal utility. Nobody in the West thinks that hating an ethnic group is morally good, but that doesn’t change their feelings. And in the Muslim world, hating Jews is an indispensable part of their culture. Even if people can be conditioned to reject prejudice against individuals, there seems to be no moral stricture against irrational hatred of the Jewish state, which is both a form of Jew-hatred itself and an excuse for other forms of it.
Probably the least helpful kind of “education” is that which lists the accomplishments of Jews: so many Nobel Prizes, great composers, performers, artists, scientists, writers. Look how good they have been for society, runs the argument. It should be clear that this simply feeds the envy of the Jew-hater, something that is almost always part of his psyche. It also is evidence (not that evidence is needed in the mind of the Jew-hater) for the correctness of the theory that there is an massive Jewish conspiracy, even a secret ruling class. Of course the Jews can control the world, they are so smart!
So how do we “combat antisemitism?” We can’t, directly. But we can combat antisemites. This is especially clear for the kind of Jew-hatred that expresses itself as hatred of Israel. Recently Israel allowed herself to be humiliated by Hamas, which burned thousands of acres of her fields and forests, and then launched the most intense rocket bombardment in Israel’s history. Our response, bombing unoccupied military targets, was tactically significant but psychologically impotent. The Jew-haters were gratified, because the Jews lived up to the stereotype: powerful and controlling, and yet at the same time weaklings who are afraid to fight.
Suppose Israel had mounted a massive, “disproportionate” response. Perhaps we would have had to deal with legal and diplomatic attacks, as we have after previous conflicts. Perhaps there would have been strategic concerns, such as the possibility of a multi-front war. But from the psychological point of view, it would be a victory. The Jew strikes back! The Jew-haters wouldn’t stop hating us, but they would be the losers. Jew-hatred would be less attractive, because nobody wants to be a loser.
Everyone, as bin Laden said, wants to bet on the strong horse. We need to be the strong horse. If that means that we can’t live up to the moral standards proposed by the “morally enlightened” Europeans (who themselves are even less able to live up to them), so be it. People like winners. The way to make people like us is not to try to be kind to our enemies – by sending food and fuel to Gaza while they incinerate the southern part of our country and make our children scuttle into shelters – but to crush them. Probably we can’t make them “like” us, no matter what we do. But we can make them fear and respect us.
I often write about the importance of maintaining respect and honor as a part of creating deterrence. They are important in fighting Jew-hatred as well, because they neutralize the contempt that is a key part of Jew-hatred. But let’s face it; the usual programs to “combat antisemitism” are useless at best, and either feed it or are used as cover by those (e.g., the UK Labour Party and the UN) who in truth don’t see antisemitism as a problem.
It’s easy to see what Israel’s strategy in the psychological struggle against Jew-hatred should be, if not the tactical means of implementing it. But for Jews in the diaspora, who are a small minority surrounded by a large non-Jewish population, a significant portion of which hates them, the difficulties are greater. The nature of diaspora existence is that the Jews are dependent on the good will of their hosts – a fact that strengthens the antisemitic stereotype of the parasitic Jew with great influence although physically weak, and makes an aggressive posture difficult.
One solution is aliyah. Short of that, it doesn’t hurt for diaspora Jews to align themselves with a strong, potent Israel. Standing up for your homeland makes you stronger, even outside of it. Hint: attacking Israel won’t make the Jew-haters like you any better.
Diaspora Jews can fight the stereotype by developing an image of self-reliance and self-protection, of physical power that must be respected. The Jewish Defense League had mixed results, but ultimately failed for various reasons, in particular its rejection by the self-appointed “responsible” (liberal) Jewish community. Perhaps a revitalized JDL could renew its appeal in today’s more dangerous climate? I don’t know if it’s possible, and I am sure liberal Jews would fight it tooth and nail.
But if I have one piece of advice for the diaspora, it’s this: be Harrison Ford, not Woody Allen.