Tag Archives: Yair Rosenberg

Five myths about anti-Semitism

Yair Rosenberg at www.washingtonpost.com…: “For a phenomenon often dubbed ‘the world’s oldest hatred,’ anti-Semitism is not well understood.”

Jews in the US are annually subjected to the most hate crimes of any group in the US, even though we comprise only 4% of the population. In France, Jews are target of 51% of racist attacks, even though Jews comprise only 4% of the population.

Anti-Semitism crosses boundaries of left and right.

It’s OK to criticize Israel. Jews in Israel and everywhere in the world criticize Israel. But if you hold Israel to a different standard than other countries, congratulations, you’re an anti-Semite! The United Nations is a particular offender here, its “Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more often than all other countries combined, including Syria, North Korea, Iran and Russia.”

I quibble with the author’s fifth point — that anti-Semitism is unique among prejudice in that it harms the oppressors as much as the oppressed.

That’s because it often takes the form of a conspiracy theory about how the world works. By blaming real problems on imagined Jewish culprits, anti-Semitism prevents societies from rationally solving them. In one of the most famous examples, Nazi scientists shunned Einstein’s advances as “Jüdische Physik,” as opposed to “Deutsche Physik,” enfeebling their understanding.

As Bard College’s Walter Russell Mead has put it: “People who think ‘the Jews’ dominate business through hidden structures can’t build or long maintain a successful modern economy. People who think ‘the Jews’ dominate politics lose their ability to interpret political events, to diagnose social evils and to organize effectively for positive change. People who think ‘the Jews’ run the media and control the news lose the ability to grasp what is happening around them.” For this reason, Mead has warned, “Rabid anti-Semitism coupled with an addiction to implausible conspiracy theories is a very strong predictor of national doom.” This is one case where the hatred ultimately destroys the hater.

Partially true, but it is also true that societies based on bigotry are handicapping themselves no matter what the nature of the bigotry. Oppressed populations are, by the nature of oppression, blocked from contributing to the society as a whole to the fullest extent they might. And every oppression has its unique problems. Antebellum white American Southerners lived in terror of slave uprisings and had to devote considerable resources into policing the enslaved populations. The slaves themselves had no incentive to work harder than necessary to avoid the lash, and every incentive to undermine the system. In any society where members of an oppressed minority are closed to business, members of that minority will often turn to crime when they can’t get ahead any other way. And so on.

But, yeah, many societies, sadly, do manage to prosper, for a while at least, despite racism, whereas widespread anti-Semitism in particular seems to be a symptom of a society in its death throes.