Sunday, November 2, 2014

Addressing Antisemitism Today; Some Thoughts

I just received an email from a fellow scholar who is working on antisemitism. He asked for my thoughts. I typed up the post, below, very quickly.

Anyone concerned about antisemitism needs to realize that the world is changing rapidly on this topic.

Many of my students are black, Hispanic, first generation, and not at all acculturated into mainstream American life. They know hip-hop and they have street smarts but they don't know who John Adams was. They haven't been socialized with the kind of shame that was widespread in American culture after cultural leaders like Hollywood director George Stevens witnessed and filmed the liberation of concentration camps. Many of my students don't know, and more importantly don't feel the words "Never again."

Many of my students are often openly and unashamedly anti-Semitic. They take it for granted that Jews blew up the World Trade Center. They say so without any shame or hesitance. They aren't aware that there is any reason to feel shame or hesitance for saying such a thing.

The antisemitism they pick up often comes from inner city sources like the Nation of Islam and Muslims who inhabit the inner city alongside them. It is my subjective impression that antisemitism is stronger among African Americans, even those not affiliated with the Nation of Islam.

Anyone working on antisemitism right now needs to know that antisemitism is rife in current Muslim American culture.

This is my subjective impression. I was born in, and currently live in, Passaic County, which, I have read, has the second highest Muslim population in the US. I do not know if that statistic is accurate. I do know many Muslims.

Very nice Muslims have looked me right in the eye and told me that Jews are responsible for the majority of the world's ills. Have told me that Jews are responsible for everything that goes wrong in the Muslim world. Jews are behind ISIS. Jews were behind Mubarak. Very nice Muslims, people I consider friends, have looked me right in the eye and told me that when Muslims are ready, someday, they will kill entire populations of Jews. All the Jews in Israel, or maybe in the world.

I emphasize that nice people have said these things to me because no one should be so naïve as to assume that genocidal hatred of Jews and utterly irrational Jewish conspiracy theories are limited to screaming extremists. They are part of everyday life among many nice Muslims.

How many? I don't know. I haven't done the research. I just did a quick Google search and found a web page that includes the following quote:

"From the study, it became clear that the Muslims interviewed were more anti-Semitic than Christians in the United States and Canada. The average or mean test scores endorsing negative Jewish stereotypes – after statistically separating out anti-Israel sentiment items – were more than double those of North American Christians. When separating culture from religion, Arab Muslims came out as the most anti-Semitic. Arab Christians and Non-Arab Muslims from Bosnia and Pakistan were less so, yet still anti-Semitic. Mainstream North American Christians were not very anti-Semitic at all."

I can't vouch for this study or this page. It's just something I found doing a Google search. Here is a link.

I strongly recommend Neil J Kressel's book "The Sons of Pigs and Apes" review here.

I also recommend Andrew Bostom's "The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism" review here.

Anyone who really wants to address antisemitism needs to also address anti-Christian prejudice amongst Jews.

I am a non-Jew who is horrified by antisemitism. I am supportive of Israel – see my essay "Coming Out As Pro-Israel on Facebook" here. Many Jewish authors and speakers lose me – lose my support, my attention, and my interest, lose me as an ally – as soon as they open their mouths. Why? Because they are not so much about fighting antisemitism as about bashing and smearing Christianity.

This is a huge mistake on a factual level and a tactical level.

Jews make a mistake when they conflate antisemitism and Christianity. And Jews do it a lot. They do it because doing so is an identity-firming aid. As a minority in a largely Christian world, many Jews decide, "We are the folks who don't celebrate Christmas, and, further, the folks who celebrate Christmas are inferior, and are out to get us."

Melanie Philips lost me with her June, 2014 article in Commentary entitled "Jesus was a Palestinian: The Return of Christian Antisemitism." I knew she was trying to say something important, something I care about. I could not grok her message because I was so turned off by her gratuitous and false anti-Christian prejudice.

A very good Facebook friend lost me when she posted a web page that claimed that Catholics in Poland used to use Christmas as an excuse to murder Jews. The web page tried to look authentic. It purported to be recounting genuine history. It was a Jewish cultural website. I sent the link to Antony Polonsky, himself Jewish and the premier historian of Polish Jews. He said that the page was false.

My friend who posted the link to this bogus page is herself a highly educated woman. She's a physician. Yet she uncritically assumed that a made up story about evil Polish Catholics was true, without any evidence to back it up.

Those concerned about antisemitism should educate themselves about Christianity. There are verses in the New Testament that are critical of Jews; these verses are comparable to verses critical of Jews in the Old Testament. In fact the Old Testament verses are harsher. This makes sense; the authors of the New Testament were Jews themselves, with the possible exception of Luke, who may or may not have been Jewish. There are other verses interpreted to mean that the chosen-ness of Jews is unchanging (Romans 11:29). There is much discussion of these matters; the discussion means that disagreement is possible.

There are no verses in the New Testament that call on Christians to murder Jews, and Christians who have done so have done so in contradiction to the New Testament. Popes, bishops, and local priests have repeatedly commanded those Christians who were killing Jews to stop doing so.

Christian crimes against Jews have always been specific to a given set of geographic, historic, and economic circumstances. At the same time that Spain was a bad place for Jews, equally Catholic Poland was a good place for Jews.

European Christians who harmed Jews did so not in obedience to the New Testament, which counsels love, but rather more typically in response to an economic caste system. I hope anyone interested in antisemitism will read my own book, "Bieganski."

I think that those who want to fight antisemitism should educate themselves about Christianity and Christian antisemitism to better prepare themselves for the fight. I also think they should do so in order better to understand Muslim antisemitism.

Compare and contrast the Koran, hadith, and the example of Mohammed with the New Testament and the example of Jesus. Jesus never killed a Jew. Mohammed killed, tortured, raped, and enslaved Jews. Mohammed is Islam's "perfect example, worthy of emulation." The Koran describes Allah turning Jews into monkeys and pigs. A famous hadith, or saying of Mohammed, reports that the time will come when stones and trees will order Muslims to kill Jews hiding behind them.

There is no analog to the Good Samaritan story in the Koran. The Good Samaritan story, of course, demonstrates the Christian concept of universal brotherhood and love.

As for the myth that Islam was a tolerant place for Jews, quoting Wikipedia "Mark Cohen, Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, in his Under Crescent and Cross, calls the idealized interfaith utopia a 'myth' that was first promulgated by Jewish historians such as Heinrich Graetz in the 19th century as a rebuke to Christian countries for their treatment of Jews."

I mention these facts for this reason: If you think battling Christian antisemitism prepares you for battling Islamic antisemitism, you are naïve. Christendom has had leaders who preached against antisemitism. Christendom upholds scripture that counsels love. Christianity's founder was a Jew who killed no one. You confront a different reality in the Muslim world.

Some people conflate Christianity with Nazism. There is more about that in "Bieganski." The conflation of Christianity with Nazism is a big lie that distorts history. And it's more than that. It's a tactical error for those who want to fight antisemitism. People are amazed that antisemitism is rife on college campuses and among the Politically Correct, atheist left. They should not be amazed. If you say "Antisemitism equals Christianity," all atheists are absolved. I know people who are self-righteous, anti-fascist leftists who hate Jews and want Israel to be destroyed. They don't see themselves as anti-Semitic at all, because they equate antisemitism with Christianity, and they are atheists.

One last thing. We tend to be blinded by the concept of universal human progress. There is this idea that things are always getting better. This process is inevitable. This idea is so pervasive people don't even realize that they are subject to it. It is ingrained in language, eg, "That was then; this is now."

Bibi Netanyahu revealed that he is subject to the fantasy of universal human progress. In a September, 2012 UN speech, he contrasted the medieval – bad – with the modern – good. I wish I could grab Netanyahu by the lapels and remind him that there was nothing more medieval than the university, and nothing more modern than Nazism.

Universal human progress is a chimera. In fact the very worst things that we could imagine could happen tomorrow; they could happen right now. As many Jews as were murdered by the Nazis could be murdered again. There is a critical mass of hate in the world right now. We trivialize it at our peril.

I wish I could end on a more positive note.

Oh, let me add this positive Bible verse, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." 

1 comment:

  1. Your comments about the frequent attacks on Christianity are spot on.

    ReplyDelete

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