Why is it that the subject of Jews enflames so many passions? I stand by my contention that paranoia suffused outgoing Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed’s Islamic Conference speech on October 16 in last week’s column Mahathir Is Right: The Jews Do Run The World. But paranoia is only part of the story; after all, Dr. Mahathir does not imagine that Gypsies or Armenians are out to get him.
There is something more to say about this, which the Jews will not admit to you, if indeed they admit it to themselves. It is what Protestant theologians once called “the scandal of election.” More on this below.
“Where there is smoke, there also must be fire,” many Asians think to themselves when they hear how much hatred the Jews seem to elicit. There must be more too it than a territorial dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is not just Muslims who hate and fear the Jews. In Europe, according to a November 1 report in the Spanish newspaper El Pais, a new opinion poll by the European Commission shows that Europeans think Israel is more dangerous than North Korea or Iran.
Is it possible that so many people hate the Jews for no reason whatever? How can a people that comprise just three-hundredths of a percent of the world population provoke so much rancor?
There is something more to it, and it is not the delusion that a Jewish conspiracy controls the United States. American Jews require no conspiracy to exercise influence, as they do so in the full light of day in the rough-and-tumble of democracy. Arab-American organizations do precisely the same thing, albeit with poorer results. So does Saudi Arabia. It is entirely possible to believe that American policy, too, heavily favors Israel, as do Howard Dean and Patrick Buchanan, without going over the deep end.
Jews protest that they are no different from any other minority, and that anti-Semitism amounts to a mental disease. Of these organizations, the most authoritative on matters of anti-Semitism is the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles, whose website offers the following gem:
“The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre … emphasized that it is not the anti-Semite’s personal experience with Jews that evokes his hatred toward them, but rather his tendency to see the source of his own personal failings in his abstract perception of Jews. Psychologists explain this type of antipathy in times of stress as a projection of the frustration of the modern anonymous masses and the consequences of this frustration on an object outside their circle. The Jew is the available scapegoat and meets these basically paranoid needs. In periods of crisis, or in the face of failure or public outbursts of anger, an accusing finger was pointed at the Jews.”
In effect, says the Wiesenthal Center, anti-Semitism is a simple paranoid delusion, like the madman’s belief that martians have planted a radio transmitter in his brain. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain. If there were no Jews, paranoids would talk of a Parsi or Mongolian world conspiracy.
Most Jews, from what I can tell, appear to believe this rubbish. I do not think the Wiesenthal Center dissimulates here, but rather that it has psychological problems of its own. The Jews do not wish to admit to themselves that Jew-hatred has profound roots which will not respond to psychiatric treatment.
The Jews are hated for many reasons, to be sure, not least of which is the fact that as the oldest of the Abrahamic religions, they have a claim to legitimacy which represents a stumbling block to Christians as well as Muslims. The two newer and larger Abrahamic religions would feel rather more comfortable if the Jews were perceived to suffer for rejecting Christ or Mohammed respectively.
Something else about the Jews, however, gnaws at the soul of Europeans as well as Muslims. The heart of the problem is the world’s perception that the Jews truly are an eternal people, not subject to the curse of mortality that hangs over the heads of the peoples of the world. Writing of Europe’s population crisis on April 8 (Why Europe chooses extinction)I cited the theologian Franz Rosenzweig: “All religion, Rosenzweig argued, responds to man’s anxiety in the face of death [against which philosophy is like a child stuffing his fingers in his ears and shouting, ‘I can’t hear you!’]. The pagans of old faced death with the confidence that their race would continue. But tribes and nations anticipate their own extinction just as individuals anticipate their own death, he added: ‘The love of the nations for their own nationhood is sweet and pregnant with the presentiment of death’. Each nation, he wrote, knows that some day other peoples will occupy their lands, and their language and culture will be interred in dusty books.”
Under globalization, the world faces a great extinction of the peoples, the worst since the collapse of the Roman Empire, I have argued on numerous occasions. Every week two languages of the 6,000 spoken on the planet become extinct forever. Most of these are tribal tongues from New Guinea, with only a few hundred speakers. At present birth rates, several European languages will be at risk some time in the next century.
Apart from China and India, of how many cultures can we say that they are not at risk? Despite its high rate of population growth, the Muslim world feels fragile. Few Muslim countries have adapted well to globalization, and the Muslim world feels besieged by the encroaching culture of the West. Jewish theology states that God elected the Jews as his people, and that the covenant between God and the descendants of Abraham never would perish as long as the Jews remained true to it. Most modern Jews are profoundly uncomfortable with this notion (“God of Mercy, choose a different people!” goes the joke).
Yet the Jews have existed for well over 3,000 years, and Hebrew is the only language West of the Indus that is spoken today more or less as it was spoken 3,000 years ago. How improbable is it that a nation of former slaves, a race of shepherds rather than city builders who had to hire outside contractors to build a temple to their God, is the sole survivor of the civilizations of the time?
Every people wishes to be eternal, to be, as it were, God’s chosen. Adolf Hitler’s notion of the Master Race, some commentators aver, is an adaptation of the Jewish notion of election. Hitler’s determination to destroy the Jews stemmed from his belief that Germany could not really be the Chosen People as long as the Jews remained in existence. The more vulnerable become the fading peoples of Western Europe, the hotter burns their wrath against the Eternal People. Americans, of course, are not a people but a concept. America is where individuals go to abandon their culture, language, customs and history, to be recast in the melting-pot and emerge as Americans.
As I have argued previously in this space, America comes closer than has any other political entity towards fulfilling the Christian idea of an ecclesia, of an assembly of souls called out of the nations. That is why Americans have no fundamental issue with the Jews. Americans enjoy the newborn’s sense of immortality, because they have exchanged cultural memory for the promise of a new beginning.
Indians and Chinese, for that matter, rarely take an interest in anti-Semitism, because their cultures are both ancient and robust. It is the peoples whose love for their own culture is sweet and pregnant with the presentiment of death that have deep cause to detest the Jews.