Jews have always been in the minority in their temporary diasporic homes, and so they have usually been at the mercy of antisemites. If at a given time and place they are not actively persecuted, the possibility of persecution always remains, as European and even American Jews are rediscovering today. The commandment to keep one’s suitcase packed is no less apt today than in previous centuries.
Despite the heartwarming (but illusory) feeling of a worldwide solidarity of good people engendered by Yair Lapid’s recent remarks that antisemitism is just a particular form of a much more general collection of religious, ethnic, racial (etc.) hatreds that all those of good will should decry, the pervasiveness of antisemitism over the millennia and its shape-shifting nature show that it is indeed sui generis, unique. And we learned from the Holocaust that the Jewish people ultimately must stand alone against it.
Early Zionists like Moses Hess, Leo Pinsker, A. D. Gordon, and of course Theodor Herzl thought that the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty would remove much of the basis for antisemitism, by ending the parasitic economic life of diaspora Jews and restoring to them their self-respect as productive beings. The world had forgotten that the Jews had a homeland and saw them only as a people who belonged nowhere, and who were permanently aliens no matter how long they lived in a particular place. Of course the Jews themselves never forgot, but that only added to their foreign and exotic nature in the eyes of their hosts.
Gordon thought that through the labor involved in the creation of a self-sufficient state, the Jewish people could be fundamentally changed. With the removal of the restrictions of the diaspora, Jews could now engage in truly productive work, especially agriculture, which would create a “new Jew,” a strong, self-reliant one, different from the cringing targets of diasporic pogroms. A Jew that for once knew how to defend himself! The socialist kibbutz movements that actualized Gordon’s program did in fact create such a Jew (although the loss of Jewish tradition and spiritual motivation that followed did not serve the state well. But that’s another story). Once the Jews became an “ordinary” people, with an ordinary homeland containing Jewish police and Jewish prostitutes, it was expected that antisemitism would die out.
Today Israel has plenty of both police and prostitutes. But antisemitism did not die with the reestablishment of a sovereign Jewish state. It simply mutated, and today its virulent “Delta Variant” is the extreme, irrational, obsessive hatred of the Jewish state that I’ve called misoziony. Hand in hand with traditional religious, racial, and political antisemitism, misoziony became a useful tool for Islamic dictatorships and other anti-Western forces. In particular, the Soviet Union invested a great deal of ingenuity employing it as a tool to develop an anti-American (and of course anti-Israel) bloc in the UN. Today, various forms of antisemitism permeate the world.
Imagine that it were possible to assemble Bogdan Chmielnicki, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Louis Farrakhan, Ismail Haniyeh, Jeremy Corbyn, Rashida Tlaib, Lara Friedman, and Gideon Levy in one room. Antisemites all, albeit of greater or lesser import. They would agree about very little except the vileness of the Jewish people. Their followers and their ideas are everywhere; the initial impetus by the KGB in the 1960s and 70s set fire to the latent Jew-hatred whose overt manifestation today is so shocking to those who don’t know the history of the Jewish people.
Most initiatives to “fight antisemitism” rely on some form of educational enterprise. These are doomed to fail, especially “Holocaust education,” which is intended to make people behave better toward Jews by making them feel sorry for them. Psychologically, this has the opposite effect, causing subjects to distance themselves from Jews. Antisemites respond that the Holocaust is either a Jewish lie, or if it did happen, it was because Jewish behavior precipitated it, and they are encouraged by Hitler’s partial success and want to finish the job. They add that Jews are like Nazis. Misozionists insist absurdly that their “criticism of Israel” is different from antisemitism rather than a mutant form of it. They too add that Israelis are like Nazis.
Misozionists will also say that the existence of the state is the whole problem. If Israel didn’t exist, there would be no conflict, no terrorism, no hatred. I point to the entire history of the Jewish people prior to 1948 as a counterexample.
One thing that has been learned is that Jews cannot end antisemitism by improving themselves, either by involvement in “social justice” activities to help other oppressed groups (many of whose members don’t like Jews much anyway), or by becoming “new Jews” who drive tractors and milk cows rather than lending money.
Bari Weiss wrote a book called “How to fight Antisemitism.” I liked the book, but the title is a poor one. The enemy is not “antisemitism;” it is antisemites. There is only one way to “fight antisemitism” and that is to instill enough respect for – and fear of – Jewish power in antisemites to deter them from their anti-Jewish activities. The ideology can die out on its own (or not, we don’t care). The real enemy is not an abstract ideology, but concrete and specific: we and they know who they are.
And that is why a Jewish state, even though the fact of its existence does not itself prevent antisemitism, is invaluable in ending it. A stateless people is a powerless one, and the use of power is the best remedy for Jew-hatred. The Jewish state has bombed nuclear reactors in enemy countries, and Israel’s covert services have arrested or killed terrorists all over the world. Jewish police protect Jews in Israel from terrorism, and Jewish diplomacy, backed by military and economic power, can defend them in the diaspora. Ultimately, persecuted Jews can go to the Jewish state; indeed, Israel has preemptively rescued Jewish populations in danger in places like Ethiopia and Yemen.
If there is a problem, it is that too many Israelis have forgotten Jewish history and even the history of their state. They think that now we are a “normal” people in a “normal” state, and so we can relax and live normal lives. We aren’t and we can’t. Our state has a unique responsibility: to protect and nurture our people in a hostile world.