General Antisemitism

The Anti-Semite’s Pointed Finger (An essay by Ruth Wisse)

Here is a powerful new essay by Ruth Wisse on anti-Semitism.  Wisse is the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, and is the author of, among other books, Jews and Power.  The present article is based on a talk delivered in August at the Conference of the Yale Interdisciplinary Initiative for the Study of Anti-Semitism. Here she argues that: (a) that anti-Semitism cannot be arrested by any remedial action of the Jews; (b) that there are harmful consequences for pretending that concessions from Jews can stop the aggression against them; and (c) that anti-Semitism forces a choice between protection of the Jews and, under the guise of liberalism, complicity with their enemies.

Why can’t we set ourselves the goal of eradicating anti-Semitism? All across the civilized world, people track anti-Semitism, expose it, oppose it, decry it. And yet no one seriously considers the possibility of bringing about its end. Is this because of some lack of capacity or courage? Or do we face in anti-Semitism something, to use the phrase of the Yiddish writer L. Shapiro, as eternal as the eternal God?

Two other scourges of modern times have seen their power greatly diminished if not eliminated. Fascism was crushed in World War II, and Communism lost its political base in 1991. These movements still have their adherents, but their sustaining polities went down to defeat. Yet anti-Semitism, which figured prominently in both, has metastasized and, according to one of its foremost historians, Robert Wistrich, “will probably get worse.”

Many reasons—historical, religious, sociological, ideological, even epidemiological—have been adduced for the persistence of what Anthony Julius has termed the “sewer” of anti-Semitism. All have merit. But the one reason that remains but dimly understood, and even stubbornly resisted, is the political—and yet it is the one, I believe, that accounts for the phenomenon’s continuing success. Politically, anti-Semitism succeeds by working through misdirection, and its opponents no less than its adherents tend to be taken in by some of its deceptive strategies.

A good place to begin probing the resiliency of anti-Semitic deception is with the origin of Zionism. Zionism arose, in part, as a response to modern political anti-Semitism, but the movement’s history reveals an early and profound misdiagnosis of the problem.

It was first and foremost a movement of national self-determination, a familiar force in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But unlike other national movements, whose efforts to liberate subjugated peoples was opposed by existing polities—-nations and empires—Jews confronted a transnational political force that would come to be known as “anti-Semitism.” Zionists believed that the way to address the problem was by normalizing the political condition of the Jews themselves. Jews had been for too long a dependent minority in other people’s lands. Since anti-Semitism attacked Jews as usurping aliens, the provocation would presumably be removed once the Jews packed up and went home. It seemed to make independent sense, at a time of proliferating nation-states, for Jews to re-establish their homeland: once they did so, logic suggested, they would at last become a politically unexceptional people.

Zionism achieved its primary goal. I will not dwell here on the marvels of Israel, except to emphasize that Zionism succeeded in accomplishing whatever depended on Jewish effort, energy, and will alone. But what about the expectations of political normalization its founders and builders possessed so fervently? Those who settled the land and attained sovereignty were entitled to expect that they, like the populaces of other new nations, would be accorded “normal” treatment commensurate with international custom.

In this, Zionism proved mistaken.

Read rest of essay, here: wisse2

10 replies »

  1. Excellent essay. The following sums up very well the essential cognitive dissonance about Israel/Zionism/Jews in the died-in-the-wool liberal mind, which Islamists are only too aware of and deliberately exacerbate wherever they can:

    “…. Yet here is the paradox: the
    fi ercer anti-Semitism grows, the more it forces a choice
    on liberals. The choice is between protecting the Jews
    and protecting the orthodox liberal belief in rational
    compromise, world peace, “getting to yes,” and all the
    rest. Protecting the Jews requires confronting hostility
    that is not subject to rational persuasion, does not obey
    the liberal version of the rule of law, does not abide by
    liberal ideas of fairness, and does not extend peace
    and goodwill to others. To side with Israel, therefore,
    leaves one exposed to the same hostility that assails
    the Jews—an uncomfortable position for individuals
    and governments alike. The dictates of self-interest
    persuade some to ignore aggression that presumably
    doesn’t concern them, and then to justify their callousness
    by holding Jews responsible for the aggression
    against them. Some Jews try to demonstrate their own
    innocence by dissociating themselves from those of
    their fellow Jews who are under attack …. “

    It explains, but it does not excuse the liberal woolly-mindedness which allows itself to be taken advantage of.

  2. A very good essay, apparently. I wonder why we spend so much time analysing our enemies and asking why they hate us or what we can do about it, when it’s obvious that there’s precious little, apart from reaching short-term accommodations with the Arab nations to ensure Israel’s security and being vigilant in daily life. Being popular is very nice, but a living dog is better than a dead lion, to quote Ecclesiastes.

    Is antisemitism as eternal as the Jewish people?.
    Is it all Israel’s fault? Will there be a lasting political solution in our lifetime? Will it be overcome through social progress and education?

    If I knew the answers, I wouldn’t keep asking these questions – would I?

  3. Back to antisemitism on CiF, there was a viciously racist posting earlier today on the Palestinian policing thread. I quote :

    1 November 2010 12:07PM

    This bloody situation
    is a poisonous boil that threatens the security of our world
    The sicologically damaged jews of the world ( a small minority ) are wreaking revenge for the holocaust
    it is a sign of the weakness of man and especially the democratic world that we allow this situation to fester
    The U.S and U.K are the most guilty, thinking naively they are protecting a vulnerable nation but are in fact upholding the bestial side of a small nation to destabilise the poorer muslim nations and wider world

    Within 5 minutes, the moderator had deleted it, thankfully.
    I think if anyone is “psychologically damaged”, it is ‘steeply’ and his Islamist chums.

  4. steeply is just in a tizzy because the Israelis are not willing to sit in the back of the bus, not willing to be defenseless victims of racists, and are able to defend themselves and punish their attackers.

    According to steeply, Jews not willing to be murdered are “psychologically damaged”.

    Clearly steeply is suffering from cognitive dissonance.

  5. There seems to be a problem with the wisse2 link.
    Otherwise, excellent, timely, and will enough people draw the appropriate conclusions?

  6. I like the conclusions of Ruth Wisse’s essay – instead of trying to defend themselves against their detractors, Jews should turn the tables, and countersue at every opportunity.

    The time is now right for this. The twin scourges of Islamofascism and creeping Islamization have now created a climate of resentment and fear that can be used to good effect against the enemies of the Jewish people.