Beware the claim that it’s Jews themselves who cause anti-Semitism
Hatred needs no reason, but it often offers a reason. Racial inferiority. International control. Blasphemy. Job theft. Language. The list of reasons is obviously much longer, and the list varies in accord with the ethnicity, religion and national origin — and many more characterizations — of the hated. Particularly pernicious in the old hatred is the claim: Jews bring it on themselves. Anti-Semitism is the Jews’ own fault.
It’s particularly pernicious because the arguments against it are taken as circular. If Jews are accused of, for example, hoarding others’ wealth, and Jews defend themselves by pointing to the charity Jews give, the response is: There you go again. You Jews never face up to the evil you do.
This brand of anti-Semitism — it’s the Jews’ own fault — has its own, 21st-century flavor: the claim that anti-Semitism is due to Israel. Since Israel is said to be the cruel oppressor of the Palestinians, it’s only natural to hate the oppressors. Who, of course, are Jews.
The same circularity obtains. If the point is made that claims against Jews in the Middle East predated West Bank settlements and even predated Israel itself (and even a Jewish majority in Palestine), the conversation is not joined. The Jewish response is taken as the failure to face Jewish responsibility. The haters of Jew embrace their position comfortably, naturally and maliciously.
Not that the old saws have disappeared: Jews control the media (see the rantings of Kanye West), Jews control the world to its detriment and their benefit (see the ugly anti-Semitic flyers distributed in Grand Junction, Colorado, Dec. 24-26), Jews are disloyal (see Russia, post-Ukraine invasion).
Hatred harbored by an individual can often be softened or eliminated through reasonable discourse.
Hatred harbored by groups, however, is rarely given to rational discussion; group hatred requires other groups to stand up against it loud and clear. All groups must be mobilized. The fight against anti-Semitism cannot be outsourced to the ADL, which would be the first to say that allies are essential. Law enforcement, professional associations, legislatures, sports leagues, churches and mosques — all groups on deck.
We cite the emergent, particularly pernicious, Israel-centered, blame-it-on-the-Jews-themselves type of anti-Semitism because the temptation is so strong to rebut it. False claims about Jews in or out of Israel are absurd on their face; so, refute them!
It’s the wrong way to go. It’s doesn’t work. Haters aren’t given to reason. What is required is for all other groups to speak loudly and collaboratively — to drown out the haters.
The claim that Jews bring anti-Semitism on themselves is particularly pernicious for another reason: the retrospective lens. Not all, to be sure, but most anti-Semites will reject the worst anti-Semitism and claim that they’re different. We’re not Nazis! they say. Hitler was horrible! they say.
This tack generates its own circularity. I reject Nazism, so how you could you say I’m an anti-Semite? Conventional wisdom notwithstanding, history does not repeat itself in precisely the same way. Anti-Semites can reject concentration camps and crematoria and still poison the culture.
To this lens on anti-Semitism, too, rational arguments fail. To these anti-Semites too, the response is to mobilize allies.To drown out the hatred. To motivate organizations representing masses of people to speak up. The NBA. Twitter. The Democratic Party. The Republican Party. The bar associations. The unions. The universities. The nonprofits. The churches. All groups on deck.
All this said, Jews do need to be careful not to give anti-Semites cause to bellow. Jews need to be more honest, more kind, more decent than others because, these days, the world is watching.
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