It is strange: Jews have been disliked everywhere and in all times. The dislike appears in odd places. I was astonished to find that my Nepalese trekking guides were intensely hostile to Jews. They said that Jews (actually Israelis in most cases I think, but the Nepalese do not seem to make the distinction) were loud, demanding, and always trying to force down the guides’ fees. Historically the hostility has often been powerful and, not infrequently, murderous. Jews have been expelled from country after country, excluded from polite society, subjected to quotas,and required to live in certain regions. Why?
How much anti-Jewish hostility is there today in America? A lot? A little? Is it negligible? Potentially explosive? It is hard to tell because disliking Jews is often a firing offense, and a controlled press makes discussion impossible. A clue can perhaps be found in the comments sections of political websites where, protected by anonymity, commenters are often bitterly anti-Jewish. But then, these comments may, or may not, be the work of a few cranks.
Today there appear news stories about growing hostility on campuses, that Jews are fleeing Paris because of increased or more openly expressed dislike, or that the German Right, never fond of Jews, gains strength.
Since the dislike has existed for at least two thousand years, there must be some enduring reason or reasons. What?
One I think is the Space Alien Effect. It is human nature to dislike people different from oneself. This fact runs against today’s cult of diversity, which accounts for the disastrous reality of American life, but a glance around the world reveals that diversity causes most of the planet’s troubles: Sunni and Shia, Jew and Muslim, Tutsi and Hutu, black, white and brown in America, Tamil and Sinhalese; Turks and Kurds; Turks and Armenians; Thais and Muslims, Germans and Jews. Protestants and Catholics in Ireland, on and on for a very long list of religious, ethnic, and racial differences. Diversity is nobody’s strength.
Diversity often disappears through assimilation. Today people named O’Toole and Libertini may be proud of their ancestry, but they think of themselves as American, not as Irish and Italian. So do others. Thus hostility to them, once intense, has vanished.
Jews do not assimilate. Yes, they speak the same language, wear the same clothes, and peck at smartphones like everyone else. Yet they think of themselves as Jews. So, therefore, does everyone else. While there is no legal or moral reason why they should not so think of themselves, there are consequences: Human nature is what it is, regardless of whether we think it should be.
Specifically, Jews are always Them. We are Us. We are aware that Feinstein is Jewish as we are not aware that O’Malley is Irish–because he isn’t. Difference alone doesn’t cause antagonism. but makes it much more likely.
Worse–and this has caused millions of deaths–Jews are often successful. It doesn’t matter whether the success arises from superior intelligence, greater drive, collusion, or the will of Yahweh. It happens. Thus the pattern repeated over and over and over down the ages. Jews prosper, become rich, gain power sometimes abused, and become arrogant. If Christians did this–Bill Gates, or the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age–they would be resented as individuals perhaps, not as an ethnicity. But Jews are Them. The surrounding population feels colonized–by Them, by Space Aliens, by internal foreigners–and deeply resents it. As noted, the reaction may take the form of ostracism, enforced quotas, confinement to the Pale of Settlement, expulsion from the country, ghastly pogroms, or Auschwitz.
Hitler’s complaints against the Jews were along usual lines, that Jews controlled German culture, finance, academia, and the media. These are also things said in America today today on the internet against Jews . Whether these criticisms are true, fair, justified, or make sense does not matter. What matters is that people feel, or can easily be made to feel, controlled, by Them. Making a list of powerful Jews is sufficient and, with the internet, easy.
The dislike is profoundly visceral, not rational, tapping into deep wells of instinct that make little sense–which doesn’t matter. This can be seen in the wild disproportion between offense given and reaction. How do you get rationally in Germany from growlings in beer halls, “There are too damn many Jews in everything,” to “We should kill all the Jews”?
Them, not Us. It makes little obvious sense to say that Jews are not Americans. Bob Dylan isn’t an American? Lauren Bacall? Yet this is clearly how anti-Jewish commenters on the web see it. Them, not Us. It is a matter of limbic tribalism, which does not map well onto legal principles.
The hostility is often to Jews more as a metaphysical category than as actual people. Many who loathe Jews have little contact with them. Ask, “What have Jews actually done to you? Hacked your bank account? Gypped you out of your house? Shot your dog?” and the answer will likely be, “Nothing.” Rachel Cohen, the dentist next door in Peoria, is not easily envisioned as trying to destroy America, impose communism, or wreck the currency. Thus, “some of my best friends…but….” While the Jews one actually knows probably are not bad people, or at most annoying, The Jews collectively are a sort of ominous barely visible miasma. (For the record, no American Jew has ever harmed me, and many have helped me in what I humorously call “my career.” Coupla girlfriends, too.)
Importantly, Jewish presence is seen as Jewish conspiracy. Four Jews on the Supreme Court? From two percent of the population? My God, they must be up to something. A conspiracy, doubtless. But a conspiracy to do what? A candidate theory, correct as it happens, is that Jews as a people do anything and everything they can to advance the fortunes of Israel. But on the Supreme Court…how? Other suggestions are a desire to destroy the white race (including themselves?), to bring America down (why?), to wreck the international monetary system (why?), or to impose a Zionist world empire. Most of these make between little and no sense, which doesn’t matter. Jews don’t actually have to sacrifice Christian children to die for it. They just have to be thought to do so.
It is interesting that these usually nonexistent Jewish conspiracies get enduring attention while other, demonstrably real, conspiracies do not arouse similar ire. For example, the Koch brothers, who are not Jewish, have funded and led a massive and disguised campaign to subvert American politics for the benefit of big business. The arms industry bribes, suborns, and finagles to get the government to buy hugely expensive weapons. The FBI was recently caught trying to prevent the election of Donald Trump. The Clintons are crooked as kite string in a ceiling fan. So why do Jewish conspiracies, sometimes real but, more usually, imagined, get attention on the web?
The Space Alien Effect. Jews are Them. We are Us. Both know it.
The importance of this tribalism should not be underestimated. I once walked down Main Street in Farmville, Virginia, a small town in the Southside, with a friend. He said–I forget how the subject came up–with some bitterness, “The Jews own everything on Main Street. Just like they do everywhere.” He pointed to Rose’s, a perfectly ordinary department store. It did nothing wrong or even interesting. But it was Jewish. That was enough.
Them, not Us. The Presbyterian owners of a store actually engaged in gouging would have been resented as individuals, not as a tribe. The Jews.
Power and wealth are not necessary to engender slaughter. Mere difference, specifically not being Christian, has often been enough. History is littered with examples, of which Jews are well aware. When the First Crusade took Jerusalem in 1099, the Christian armies immediately burned the synagogue with the Jews inside. Why? The Jews had no part in the war, which was between Muslims and Christians.
This explains why Jews do not like Christianity, though the antipathy typically is (wisely) disguised as a principled adherence to the invented constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state. Note that while Americans think of the Holocaust as something the Germans did (I do) to Jews it can look like just another attack by a Christian country (Poland, Russia, England, the Baltics, and so on.) A Jewish friend once expressed the attitude as sometimes being, “Look what they have done to us. We can do anything we want to them.”
Here we encounter the unfortunate human tendency to blame entire groups for what a few members did. For example, the Jews killed Christ. “(Gosh, Rachel, you don’t look old enough.”) Or whites enslaved blacks. Actually, no one in the United States has been a slave, or owned one, for a century and a half. Most of liberal politics would wither to nothing if we accepted that people cannot be guilty of things they did not do.
It is not necessarily wise to be seen as trying to eliminate a majority religion.
Note that a people, though living always among others, can maintain characteristic over long periods. Recently I was reading Las Novelas Ejemplares of Cervantes, specifically La Gitnailla, which means very approximately The Little Gypsy Girl. It begins,
“Parece que los gitanos y gitanas solamente nacieron en el mundo para ser ladrones: nacen de padres ladrones, críanse con ladrones, estudian para ladrones y, finalmente, salen con ser ladrones corrientes.”
“It appears that gypsies are born only to be thieves. They are born as thieves, raised among thieves, study to be thieves, and finally end by being common thieves.”
Cervantes died in 1616, which makes the story over 400 years old. Yet this description of gypsies is their reputation today, very much supported by police files.They haven’t assimilated, and they haven’t changed. Jews of course have never been associated with burglary or picking pockets, but the passage makes clear that peoples can maintain characteristics over centurions.
Jews with remarkable consistency have been described for centuries as smart, greedy, combative, clannish, “pushy,” exploitative, and arrogant. This is how I hear them described in Mexico, where I live. (I think of these as Middle Eastern traits, but never mind.) Then there is chutzpah. which in practice seems to mean “brashly walking over other people.” It can leave others feeling bulldozed, defeated, used. This bruising of the ego, of self-respect, arouses a hostility all out of proportion to actual damage done. It is, or so I think, a major cause of dislike for Jews. Such descriptions are dismissed today as stereotypes. A stereotype is just the aggregate observation of many people over time.
Of course the evidence does not always support a particular explanation for avisible effect. A Jewish friend says, “We’re no more greedy than anyone else. We’re just good businessmen so we make money.” Those with money are usually described as greedy. I don’t think I have ever met a greedy Jew, though I have met many who were very careful with money. It doesn’t matter whether you really are greedy only that people think you are.
Chutzpah: When I was seven we lived in Arlington, Virginia, next to the Furmans, recently someone said, of Hell’s Kitchen, which I didn’t know what was. The Furmans were by no means bad people. One day Mrs. Furman came over and gave my mother a hard time because my little brother, five was playing with a kid across the street instead of little Andrew Furman. Mom had done nothing to influence my brother’s choice of friends. She, a quietly genteel woman from the Southside of Virginia, was horrified by the aggressiveness. She told me of this decades later, so it clearly made a bad impression. Thereafter, Them were not our kind of people. Small things can produce lifelong dislike.
In sum, Jews seem alien, smarter than others and far more aggressive than Christians, whom they seem to trample. Christians feel that they cannot compete, that they are outsmarted at every turn, or at least pushed around, and made victims. This bruising of the ego sets off irrational, serious hostility. It is the attitude of blacks toward whites, for the same reasons.
Finally there is Israel, the albatross around the Jewish neck, making it impossible for Jews quietly to be more or less normal Americans. To Jews Israel is of immense and understandable importance, but this enthusiasm brings up charges of dual loyalty or, often, loyalty exclusively to Israel. The truth of this doesn’t matter. It looks true, which is enough. Does Rachel the Jewish dentist in Peoria back Israel? To what extent? What does she think of Israeli behavior? We don’t know. We know that Jewish lobbies like AIPAC and the Neocons back Israel one hundred percent. And they control American Mid-Eastern policy. This is much noted on the Web.
Jewish backing for Israel requires emotional contortions since Israel is everything liberals, to include Jews, profess to hate, being racist–just now it is expelling blacks–religiously exclusive, an apartheid state, militaristic, and brutal in its treatment of Arabs. This I suspect bothers some Jews, but assuredly is a grave PR problem for the country. But then, as a small coastal enclave in a part of the world intensely hostile to it, a sort of second Crusader Kingdom, it is hard to see what choices it has. If it becomes democratic or allows extensive intermarriage, for example, it will quickly cease to be a Jewish state, and there is no way to rule nicely over a sea of people who want to kill you.
Is there a possibility of active anti-semitism in America? Yes. Why is America immune to a dislike that has influenced all of history?
Yet at the moment, no. No overt expression will soon occur, and perhaps never will. But the classic preliminary conditions exist and grow. The appearance of Jewish power is strong. Four of nine justices of the Supreme Court, a majority of Ivy presidents, CEOs of television networks. Zuckerberg of Facebook, Sergei Brin co-founder of Google. the New York Times, Time-Warner, Disney, much of Hollywood, huge parts of retail, most of the big publishing houses in New York. Anyone who has worked in Washington knows that Jewish control of Congress and the media is near absolute. The list could go on for pages. Things like this create a propagandist’s paradise..If America’s tight control over expression ever slipped, a would-be Adolf with Google searches could come up with a shocking list.
A rational person might ask, “So what?” Do the Supreme Court’s Jewish justices make Jewish decisions–whatever that might mean? Or do they vote like any four NPR listeners chosen at random? Did Mark Zuckerberg do anything underhanded? Or was he a very bright Jewish kid who had an idea and the strength of character to push it into existence? Does Schultz of Starbucks do something evil, or does he, like, you know, sell reasonably good coffee at a reasonable price?
It doesn’t matter. They are there, so they must be conspiring. And their influence is becoming more obvious, as with Trump’s subservience (as seen by much of the world) to Israel in planning to move the embassy.
People who think they are defending Jews will point to Jewish contributions to nearly everything–science, music, math, technology, literature, charity, medicine, support for symphonies. These contributions are real and immense. With respect to anti-Jewish politics, they are also irrelevant or worse. Since the hostility to Jews rests largely on their excessive presence (again, in the eyes of the anti-Jewish) pointing to their intellectual contributions just increases the dislike. It emphasizes both the Jewish presence and apparent superiority.
Happy, prosperous societies seldom form lynch mobs. When things break down, when hope wanes, expectations fall, and near-desperation sets in, explosions come. Today the United States quite arguably heads into a Weimar-like future of chaos and social violence. This may sound crazy…but is it? Nobody thought such a highly civilized country as Germany capable of Treblinka.
America is not really stable. Political animosity runs high, racial hostility is great and growing, standards of living fall, offshoring and automation leave the young with nowhere for their lives to go. Wealth goes rapidly from the many to the few and what was the working class falls into drugs and anomie. The wars never end. Infrastructure ages and falls behind that of more advanced nations. Anger grows. As the pie shrinks, someone will have to get less pie.
It is hard to see how this can continue forever. My guess is that the fighting–”unrest” is the polite term–will break out first between white and black. Whites are quiescent now, but see their lives worsening and their world deteriorating. The kneelers in the NFL, the rioters in Ferguson are much more visible than Jews.
But if unrest starts, someone will say “Wall Street!” and that will mean “the Jews,” and all the rest will follow. Whether any of it makes sense will not matter in the least.
Let us hope I am crazy. But it is not, I think, the way to bet.