General Antisemitism

Towards a new ‘liberation theology’: Will progressives ever learn to embrace Jewish success?


Here are the first few paragraphs of my Times of Israel essay published today:

If the progressive community was truly concerned about the fate of historically oppressed minorities, and sincerely moved by a passionate desire to find the social and economic remedies to ameliorate the condition of the marginalized, the example of Jews in the late 20th and early 21st centuries would serve as a model for all future campaigns.

Progressives who are unburdened by the fetishization of victimhood, and misplaced faith in ‘systemic’ root causes, would have to be inspired by the example of world Jewry – a community which not only survived the  Holocaust, but quickly re-established their communities and, within a short period of time, could boast of social, economic and political success (in Israel and the diaspora) quite ‘disproportionate’ to their miniscule numbers.

Howard Jacobson has forcefully argued that the world has never forgiven Jews for the collective guilt driven by memory of the Holocaust. However, it seems equally as urgent to acknowledge that the progressive movement seems not to have forgiven Jews for a success born largely of their own perseverance.

Read the rest of the essay here.

25 replies »

  1. “However, it seems equally as morally urgent to acknowledge that the progressive movement seems not to have forgiven Jews for a success born largely of their own perseverance and determination.”

    Spot on. Sadly.

    • That’s certainly part of it–but I also think that another part is the feeling that if people who are “supposed” to be weak and unsuccessful are somehow successful, then it must be because they used nefarious means to become successful.

      I think that’s what leads to the “excessive Jewish power” meme. Jews are more successful than they “ought” to be, so obviously it must be because they “stole” success that they’re not entitled to.

      • “I also think that another part is the feeling that if people who are “supposed” to be weak and unsuccessful are somehow successful, then it must be because they used nefarious means to become successful.”

        Very good point. So true.

        • ” It’s not that progressives’ resentment towards Jews is necessarily antisemitic – though there is indeed an element of this hatred – but that their favored moral paradigm of “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable” has no need for Jews whose success suggests that historic racism, austerity and capitalism may not in fact be responsible for the problems of underdevelopment.”
          This seems to me contradictorial as it confirms the old antisemitism who envied the social and economic success of Jews at the turn to the 20th century, albeit at another base.
          It is an elaborate, excellent analysis you provide, and thanks for it, but i`n`t the moral paradigm now the base for the new antisemitism or has antisemitism just found a new legtimisation, a new moral ground which makes it socially and politically acceptable again?
          The quick emergence of antisemitic slogans and notions during the economic crisis in 2009/2008, the occupy slogans, the global meme of “the Jewish lobby” directing the USA for the sake of Israel and so forth, are inidices to what cba is rightly pointing at.
          And the role of the forty years of Soviet bloc “antizionism”, propagated by maoists and trotskysts in the west, supporting Marxist and other left looking liberation organisations in the fight for the Third World, f.e. the terrorists of the PFLP, and its Impact on the progressive mind are omitted.

  2. Unfortunately, Adam has hit a nail on the head. The attitutde of many “progressives” today is acually selfish. WE make OURSELVES better people by caring for those poor unfortunates. This is exemplified to me by the posters that the Socialist Workers put up in the early 90s around London. They said “Berlin Wall – SMASHED; Maggie Thatcher – SMASHED; Poll Tax – SMASHED” and had the SW logo across them all.

    It wasn’t enough for them that these things had gone away – they were desperate for the credit.

    I am afraid it always stuck in my craw that the lyrics to the song “We Are the World” were very self-centred: “we make a better place”, “we are the ones to make a bright new day” etc, “we’re changing our own lives” etc etc. So it isn’t a new phenomenon.

  3. What you say is sadly certainly true for all too many individuals. But the “progressive community” as a whole?

    • Exactly. A true Progressive doesn’t bother with weak generalizations, but is rather interested in solving multiple issues and problems as efficiently as possible.

      Of course, this means taking wealthier people’s money away for the use of charity, social goodness, etc. And wealthy people tend to not like that. Folks who have all the money in the world want to keep making money. See, Koch Brothers and the ACA. How do the Kochs decide to beat healthcare funding? Why, to label it as Socialist when it’s not, and then spend more time smearing Obama as if he’s Mao.

      If a Progressive claims progress in denying Israel’s right to exist, for example, then that person isn’t much of Progressive by definition.

      • “A true progressive doesn’t bother with weak generalizations…”

        Ahem – are you not rather generalising about “wealthier people” here? For every Koch (and I have no idea who that is so I cannot comment about them per se) there is a Gates who gives away huge chunks of their fortune to “good causes”.

        • We can parse every term as generalizing, that is true. You can look the Kochs up…. they are the extreme of wealth, and they fund “think tanks” like Heritage Foundation that support what is near and dear to the Kochs (facts be damned) like, there isn’t climate change; or if there is climate change, it doesn’t affect anyone. A bunch of gobbledygook. As for Gates, he and his wife may very well contribute good to orphans and the sick, but he has gotten away with not paying his share of taxes in the States.

          That’s the big thing about the Wealthy in the States. They don’t want to pay taxes. Am I generalizing? In the history of the US, the Wealthy– the industry magnates likes JP Morgans and the Rockefellers, and political families like the Kennedys and the Bushes– pass laws to not pay taxes. It’s like they’re fighting each other to create their own version of the monarchy so that their future generations can live high off the hog, all the while destroying Mother Nature for a holy buck. Is it a generalization if it’s blatantly true? You named Bill Gates, but look at the practices of Microsoft. No matter his “true” personality, he ran a company that abused others for the sake of capitalism.

          Did you know that the owners in the NFL don’t pay their taxes? The NFL, with help from the US government, is a tax-free entity. Ridiculous. It doesn’t stop me from watching (American) football, and I still root for my team, but I don’t trust the owner. There is no reason to.

          But, yes, I see your point. I thought that I was painting myself into a corner as well. Message boards aren’t meant for dissertations and vice versa. The original point is that Progressives who fall on racism to make their cause worthy really aren’t Progressive. They can hem and haw all they want about folks twisting words around, but if they’re going to bash Israel and her supporters with cyclical arguments, then they’re not moving forward.

          • I completely agree with your point as set out in the last paragraph. That’s the main thing in the context of this blog, so I think we’ll leave it there (not that I disagree with any of the other things you say either).

            Aah. A nice friendly discussion about a difference of opinion. Isn’t that refreshing?

            • “Aah. A nice friendly discussion about a difference of opinion. Isn’t that refreshing?”

              No, boring.
              Let’s get back to the usual exchanges, which are just like car crashes you know you shouldn’t but you can’t help looking.

    • My language may have unintentionally been a bit broad. I was referring to a large segment of progressives, and much of progressive thought, but certainly not all people who identify as such.

      • Adam surely the point is that the stream of thought you are writing about, while it calls itself ‘progressive’, is more accurately described as regressive.
        Certainly when it comes to Israel and its continued existence they want to turn the clock back.

        So why allow them to get away with describing themselves as ‘progressive’, which is a positive action, when in fact they are the very opposite regressive and negative.

      • Adam there is a problem with your definition of “progressive”. You are speaking about people who declare themselves as such, but in the reality they are supporters of every possible ideology representing resistance to progress.

        • Terminology when it comes to broad ideologies is problematic. But, it seems that many who hold the views I commented on would at least classify themselves as “progressives”.

          • “But, it seems that many who hold the views I commented on would at least classify themselves as “progressives”.”

            Adam that is it exactly.
            They classify themselves as ‘progressives’. That does not mean that we have to follow them in their abuse of the term ‘progressive’.
            Apart from my disgust that they have taken the banner of progressive thought and action and trampled it into the mud, by allowing them to get away with using the cloak of being ‘progressive’ we are allowing them to cover up what they actually are and what their goals are.

        • “Progressives”, designations without concrete content (pardon me for my still leftist beliefs), but full of ideological symbolism.