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“Do Jews Think Differently?”: Aspects of Jewish Self-Glorification
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“What hollow, offensive self-glorification! Here it is ‘proved’ that the nation of Kant was really educated to humanity by the Jews only, that the language of Lessing and Goethe became sensitive to beauty, spirit, and wit only through Boerne and Heine!”
Heinrich von Treitschke, A Word About Our Jewry, 1879.

As indicated by the above quote from the nineteenth-century German historian and politician Heinrich von Treitschke, self-glorification has long been a noted feature of Jewish ethnocentrism and has frequently contributed to anti-Jewish feeling in host populations. It is almost entirely absent, however, from existing studies of anti-Semitism. Primarily, this absence can be explained by way of the fact anti-Semitism is, in the received wisdom, something that Jews are subjected to by hostile host populations for irrational reasons, rather than something that Jews have a role in causing or provoking. Jewish behavior, especially the kind of behavior involving traits that are negative or antagonistic to outgroups, is therefore remarkably neglected in Jewish historiography and social science studies concerning Jews. A secondary explanation for the neglect of Jewish self-glorification in the development of anti-Semitism, or even simply as an aspect of the Jewish identity or personality, is the scarcity of serious studies of Jewish ethnocentrism. The following essay attempts to address this gap by exploring aspects and examples of Jewish self-glorification, and puts forward the hypothesis that Jewish self-glorification should be regarded as an example of both positive and negative ethnocentrism — that it reinforces in-group loyalties and self-esteem while weakening the loyalties and self-esteem of outgroups.

Jews have a joke among themselves that goes something like this: A class of schoolchildren is asked to produce an essay about giraffes; little Tom Smith hands in a piece on the neck; little John Baker writes about its diet; others write about the tail, the environment, and so on. Then little Benny Cohen hands in his paper, and it is titled “The Giraffe and the Jews.”

The joke, little-known among non-Jews, conveys an important truism — that, for Jews, everything, no matter how distant or abstract, often comes back to the idea and feeling of being Jewish. In other words, it is a joke about Jewish ethnocentrism. That non-Jews aren’t very familiar with the joke speaks to the fact that Jewish ethnocentrism is something that is very frequently discussed and celebrated by Jews, but also something that is frequently downplayed, obscured, or even denied when queried by outgroups. As such, it shouldn’t be surprising that there is very little objective scholarly literature that explicitly deals with the way in which Jews see and regard one another, and how they regard themselves as Jews. More generally, it has been noted that Jews are averse to being objectively studied at all, and are notoriously unresponsive to census questions, resulting in a persistent inability to accurately determine their population size in almost every Diaspora country.[1]Saxe, L. et al. “Measuring the Size and Characteristics of American Jewry: A New Paradigm to Understand an Ancient People,” in Rehbun, U (ed) The Social Scientific Study of Jewry. Sources, Approaches, Debates (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 37-8. This aversion to censuses has been explained as a cultural relic of reactive past responses to persecution, although there is a case to be made that it developed over time for more proactive, deliberate and strategic reasons, such as assisting in the avoidance of military service in the Russian Empire, and the evasion of quantitative population restrictions in Jewish residence charters issued in early modern Europe.[2]See, for example, the Charter Decreed for the Jews of Prussia (April 17, 1750) by Frederick II, which outlined the number of Jews, by occupation, permitted to reside in Berlin.

Jewish Ethnocentrism

In addition to census avoidance, it is notable that there is a general air of hostility towards other forms of gathering data about Jews and their behavior. It is especially interesting that, while studies of Jewish ethnocentrism carried out in the last fifty years are rare, objective studies of Jews have frequently been regarded as controversial or even as examples of prejudice. The quintessential case in this regard is of course that of Kevin MacDonald, but as Sander Gilman has demonstrated in Smart Jews: The Construction of the Image of Jewish Superior Intelligence (1996), there have also been very negative responses to work carried out on Jewish intelligence and behaviors by Gregory Cochran, Jason Hardy, Henry Harpending, Charles Murrary, and Richard Lynn. One could speculate that Jews are averse to objective studies of their aptitudes and behaviors because they are aware that at least some of these findings would reflect negatively on their group and provide some cause for revising the prevailing understanding of anti-Semitism and contemporary Jewish politics. Jews, it could be argued, are averse to studies of Jewish ethnocentrism because they are probably aware that such studies would reveal them to be highly ethnocentric, a fact that could prove extremely problematic if it became widespread cultural knowledge in a host population.

The small number of studies that have explicitly and directly examined Jewish ethnocentrism have unanimously concluded that Jews are a highly ethnocentric group that scores very highly in both positive (ingroup self-esteem) and negative (hostility to outgroups) ethnocentrism. Jewish children identify themselves as Jews as early as five years of age.[3]Hartley, E. L., Rosenbaum, M., & Schwartz, S. (1948). Children’s Perceptions of Ethnic Group Membership. The Journal of Psychology, 26(2), 387—397. Smooha’s 1987 study of Jewish ethnocentrism in Israel, published in the Routledge journal Ethnic and Racial Studies, found it to “contain an excessive or unjustified element of superiority,” and “an unwarranted expectation of Jews to be treated preferentially.” Smooha’s findings “clearly expose ethnocentric excesses among the Jews,” and indicated that by certain metrics “virtually all Israeli Jews are racist.” It was found that while Arab ethnocentrism in Israel was “mainly reactive and transformable,” “Jewish ethnocentrism looks both genuine and intractable.”[4]Smooha, S. (1987). Jewish and Arab ethnocentrism in Israel. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 10(1), 1—26. In a more recent study (2003), Brown et al. examined ingroup romantic preferences among American Jewish and non-Jewish White undergraduates and found that Jews had a “significantly greater” preference for their own group, and that the stronger a respondent identified as a Jew, the stronger was the respondent’s preference for a Jewish romantic partner.[5]Brown, L. M., McNatt, P. S., & Cooper, G. D. (2003). Ingroup romantic preferences among Jewish and non-Jewish White undergraduates. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 27(3), 335—354. These respondents were also more likely to more favorably evaluate the Jewish people as a whole “on every target rating.” In short, Jewish identity is very strongly linked to positive ethnocentrism and endogamy (marrying within one’s group).

A particularly interesting aspect of the study by Brown et al. is the response to increasing rates of intermarriage among American Jews. Jewish intermarriage has been raised as evidence by some scholars objecting to analyses of Jewish ethnocentrism, most notably and recently by Nathan Cofnas.[6]Cofnas, N. (2018). Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy. Human Nature, 29(2), 134—156, (153). However, as Brown et al. note, given more than a century of intense assimilation and acceptance by the host population and a population size of only around 3%, “an endogamy rate [among Jews] of 50% is surprisingly high.” They add that intermarriage rates are highest in those areas where the number of eligible in-group partners is very low, and point out that their study of college students indicates that ethnocentric preferences remain very strong in Jews, even the young. Cofnas has also posited that intermarriage and subsequent gene dilution should be regarded as evidence against Kevin MacDonald’s theory that Jews have acted to facilitate the continued genetic distinctiveness of the Jewish gene pool in the United States. Here it is worth considering the Judaic scholar Simon Rawidowicz who coined the term “the ever-dying people” to describe the Jews. In every generation, he noted, there are concerns (real or imagined) about Jewish survival. Yet this very concern about survivability was what helped to ensure that the community would continue to live, and even thrive. In plain terms, Jews, still enjoying a “surprisingly high” rate of endogamy, can afford the collateral damage of moderate levels of intermarriage, and in some respects the panic it causes can even be beneficial in facilitating the continued genetic distinctiveness of the Jewish gene pool among the strongly-identified and highly ethnocentric core of the population.

Jewish Self-Glorification

As a highly ethnocentric population, Jews would be expected to exhibit high levels of self-esteem at group level. Individual self-esteem has been linked to both sense of ethnic identity, and to ethnic self-esteem,[7]Rosenberg, M. (1989) Society and the adolescent self-image (Rev. ed), Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. and although direct studies of the extent and nature of Jewish self-esteem are almost non-existent one study of Jewish adolescents has indicated a strong correlation between feeling Jewish and feeling good about oneself and one’s group.[8]Markstrom, C. A., Berman, R. C., & Brusch, G. (1998). An Exploratory Examination of Identity Formation among Jewish Adolescents According to Context. Journal of Adolescent Research, 13(2), 202—222. In fact, one 1968 study found that Jewish individuals with low personal self-esteem could boost their overall self-esteem by adopting a stronger group identity and, in a sense, drawing on the self-esteem of simply being Jewish.[9]Rutchik, A. (1968). Self‐Esteem and Jewish Identification. Jewish Education, 38(2), 40—46. Similarly, a 1981 study found that Jews, as a group, had higher self-esteem than both Protestants and Catholics, who were roughly equal in self-esteem.[10]Rovner, R. A. (1981). Ethno-Cultural Identity and Self-Esteem: A Reapplication of Self-Attitude Formation Theories. Human Relations, 34(5), 427—434. A more anecdotal indicator of Jewish self-esteem at the group level is the very strong group reaction towards those Jews who are even slightly critical of Jewish identity and “being Jewish,” most obviously in the form of the obviously excessive “self-hating Jew” accusation that is often made against Jewish defectors from the self-esteem norm. It is especially interesting that scholars who oppose work on Jewish ethnocentrism are also prominent in making Jewish “self-hatred” accusations, and Sander Gilman is again notable in this regard with his Jewish Self-Hatred (1986). This policing of positive perspectives of Jews among the in-group and outgroup is an excellent example of the dual function of Jewish self-glorification, which is arguably the most flamboyant and contentious aspect of Jewish positive ethnocentrism and high Jewish self-esteem.

Self-glorification is commonly defined as the exaltation of oneself and one’s abilities, though one could add that it entails excessive or unjustified elements of superiority. Individually, high levels of self-glorification are correlated strongly with psychopathy.[11]Hofer, P. (1989). The Role of Manipulation in the Antisocial Personality. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 33(2), 91—101. A small number of studies have found that groups demonstrating feelings of exaggerated self-love and superiority were more prone to desires or attempts to dominate other groups.[12]De Keersmaecker, J., Onraet, E., Lepouttre, N., & Roets, A. (2017). The opposite effects of actual and self-perceived intelligence on racial prejudice. Personality and Individual Differences, 112, 136—138. It is interesting in this respect that Patai (1996) quotes Menahem Nahum, an eighteenth century rabbi as follows: “All nations, with the exception of Israel, lack understanding [intelligence], and because they lack understanding no country can forgo Jewish leadership.”[13]Patai, R. (1996) The Jewish Mind Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 324. Jews have exhibited excessive or unjustified elements of superiority for many centuries, most evidently in the foundational texts of their religion which posit Jews as favored by a sole universal deity, destined to dominate other groups, and establish moral hierarchies in which outgroups can be treated badly. Even in the New Testament of Christians, one finds the statement that “Salvation is from the Jews (John 4:22), and Jesus is mentioned as comparing a non-Jew to a dog (Matthew 15:26).

Later, in their interactions with Western culture, Jews frequently had recourse to the exaltation of themselves and their real or imagined abilities. Patai argues that by the twentieth century such forthright confessions of supremacist thinking had evolved into a more guarded “environmentalist explanation of Jewish superiority.” These explanations follow a formulation that asserts Jewish superiority from a less aggressive stance, often accompanied by claims that Jews simply don’t have the cultural baggage of their hosts. As an example, Patai cites French Jews of the nineteenth century who claimed superiority over Frenchmen because they didn’t have the religious and cultural baggage of a Catholic upbringing. This compares remarkably well with a writer in the Times of Israel who, commenting on the activities of the Jewish politician Alan Shatter in promoting divorce and contraception in Ireland, has argued that Shatter’s Jewishness “appeared to put him at an advantage, freeing him from the baggage that weighed on his Catholic counterparts.” Similarly, David Dresser and Lester Friedman, Jewish scholars of the media, maintain the position that Jewish filmmakers have a unique, untainted objectivity because of their Jewishness. They write that “Jewish artists’ marginality allows them a vantage point denied other, more culturally absorbed, creative thinkers.”[14]Dresser, D and Friedman, L. (2004) American Jewish Filmmakers University of Illinois, 7.

Environmentalist explanations of Jewish superiority, and therefore examples of Jewish self-glorification, are certainly alive and well in the present. On October 5th, Norman Lebrecht, the Jewish British commentator on music and cultural affairs, published a piece at The Spectator titled “Do Jews Think Differently?,” in which he argues that Jews possess “a common ancestral way of thinking” that has allowed them to “change the world as we know it.” He insists that there exists “a way of thinking that has allowed Jews to see the world from an oblique angle,” and continues “Do Jews think differently? The moment I asked that question, there could be only one answer. … Some dissenting Jew, somewhere, right now, is about to change the way the world revolves.” Lebrecht refers at length to his recently published Genius & Anxiety: How Jews Changed the World, 1847–1947 (Simon & Schuster, 2019), in the course of which he profiles 36 Jews who he claims are responsible (in a positive sense) for modernity. Lebrecht is a strongly identified Jew who clearly has a high level of self-esteem at the group level. He also has a history of producing texts that have advanced Jewish self-glorification. For example, in a 2011 Occidental Observer review essay (of Lebrecht’s Why Mahler? How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed the World), Brenton Sanderson argues that

The focus here is on alerting us to fact of Mahler’s towering genius, and how this genius was inextricably bound up with his identity as a Jew. Overlaying this, as ever, is the lachrymose vision of Mahler the saintly Jewish victim of gentile injustice. Lebrecht’s new book is another reminder of how Jewish intellectuals have used their privileged status as self-appointed gatekeepers of Western culture to advance their group interests through the way they conceptualize the respective artistic achievements of Jews and Europeans. … This betokens an acknowledgement of the importance of ethnic role models in the promotion of ethnic pride and group cohesion, and how ethnocentric Jews, like Lebrecht, have hyped the former to promote the latter. This form of Jewish intellectual activity is clearly directed at influencing ‘social categorization processes in a manner that benefits Jews.’

The unique aspect of Jewish self-glorification is not just the production of books like Lebrecht’s, but the scale and uniformity of such production, and the resulting broader cultural impact. Other groups have at times produced self-glorifying texts, for example, Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization (1995), and Arthur Herman’s How the Scots Invented the Modern World (2001), but these are extreme rarities, these authors have also written about unrelated subjects, and these texts do not appear to be accompanied by particularly high levels of ethnic self-esteem or associated factors of ethnocentrism in their respective ethnic groups. By contrast, Lebrecht’s book is simply part of a steady production of texts in which Jews celebrate themselves, often with extremely tendentious claims and outlandish and misplaced self-congratulation. Lebrecht’s latest text, for example, is almost a reprint of Jacques Picard’s Makers of Jewish Modernity: Thinkers, Artists, Leaders, and the World They Made (Princeton, 1998), and this in turn is part of a tradition that includes Heinrich Graetz’s 11-volume Geschichte der Juden (1853-1870), Cecil Roth’s The Jewish Contribution to Civilization (1938), Fredric Bedoire’s The Jewish Contribution to Modern Architecture (2004), and Rebecca Goldstein’s Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity (2006) ( see here for an examination of how Spinoza has been a particular focus for Jewish self-glorification).

A fundamental problem with many of these texts, and a contributing factor to anti-Semitism, is that they very frequently involve Jews taking exclusive credit for accomplishments in which their role has been disputed, minor, or even entirely absent. Heinrich von Treitschke’s 1879 complaint at the opening of this essay concerned the efforts of the Jewish historian Heinrich Graetz to promote the idea that Jews were due credit for the work of Kant and the literature of Lessing and Goethe. It is noteworthy that the effort to claim credit for the work of Goethe is ongoing among Jews today, most prominently in two works, Klaus Berghahn’s Goethe in German-Jewish Culture (2001) and Karin Schutjer’s Goethe and Judaism (2015). Efforts have also been made, on the flimsiest of evidence, to suggest that Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote (1605), was Jewish, and as Sanderson has noted, there have been claims that Shakespeare’s works were actually written by a Jewish woman named Amelia Bassano Lanier. Jews have also attempted to demonstrate the Plato’s “dependence on Moses” (see, for a modern example, Carlos Fraenkel’s Philosophical Religions from Plato to Spinoza).

Richard Popkin (1923–2005), a Manhattan-born Jewish academic working in the history of philosophy, was particularly notable for his efforts in Jewish self-glorification. While working on raising the profile of Spinoza via dubious methodologies, Popkin employed equally questionable methods and arguments to raise the profile of another Enlightenment-era Jew, Isaac La Peyrere. Popkin wrote: “I have tried for over a decade to make him one of the central figures in modern thought, but have not yet succeeded in completely rescuing him from obscurity.”[15]Popkin, R.H. (1978) ‘Spinoza and La Peyrere’ in R. Shahan and J. Biro, Spinoza: New Perspectives Norman, Oklahoma. Even though La Peyrere’s accomplishments are regarded as marginal by almost every non-Jewish academic in the field, Popkin was at the forefront of efforts in the 1970s to displace Thomas Hobbes with La Peyrere as the most influential and significant critic of the idea of Mosaic authorship of the Old Testament, an attempt which ultimately failed because of a resolute scholarly consensus on the “archetypal originality” of Hobbes’ critique of religion. Popkin later turned his attention to linking La Peyrere to Spinoza, even though he admitted “no document attesting to this has been found,” and that in relation to Spinoza’s supposed use of La Peyrere’s works “one can only speculate.” Elsewhere, Popkin devoted himself to “proving” the “Jewish inheritance” of Isaac Newton, whom he wished to present as a “follower of Maimonides.”[16]Popkin, R.H. (1990) Essays on the Context, Nature, and Influence of Isaac Newton’s Theology Boston: Kluwer.

The Zionist thinker Walter Goldstein wrote in 1942, in relation to figures like Goethe, Mozart, Bach, Schiller, Lessing and Kant, that the meaning of the Diaspora was to “absorb the alien and learn from it — but to learn from it for us, for our own purpose”[17]Quoted in Biemann, A (2012) Dreaming of Michelangelo: Jewish Variations on a Modern Theme Stanford, California. [emphasis in original]. Trends in modern Jewish academia and culture suggest that a quite literal absorption is taking place, whereby almost every major figure of Western culture is being reinterpreted by Jews as owing much of their accomplishment to Jewish sources. Other major European figures and events that have been subjected to revisionist interpretations for Jewish self-glorification include John Milton (Jeffrey Shoulson’s 2012 Milton and the Rabbis: Hebraism, Hellenism, and Christianity), Leonardo Da Vinci (Leonardo Da Vinci’s Musical Gifts and Jewish Connections, 2010), and the scientific revolution (André Neher’s 1986 Jewish Thought and the Scientific Revolution of the Sixteenth Century). Dante Alighieri is now said to have been influenced by Kabbalah (Mark Mirsky’s 2003 Dante, Eros, and Kabbalah), while Louis Pasteur’s revolutionary research on immunization is now said to have been based on the Talmud. Other figures claimed as Jews, or to have been heavily influenced by Jews and Judaism, include Pythagoras (Louis Feldman’s 1996 Jewish and Gentile in the Ancient World), Christopher Columbus, Rembrandt (Steven Nadler’s 2003 Rembrandt’s Jews), and John Locke (Yechiel Leiter’s 2018 John Locke’s Political Philosophy and the Hebrew Bible).

Another aspect of Jewish self-glorification is implicit in claims that certain aspects of modern society would not exist without Jews, and even that outgroups need Jews in order to survive. A good example in this regard is the blurb for Norman Lebrecht’s latest book, Genius & Anxiety: How Jews Changed the World, in which it is argued: “Without Karl Landsteiner, for instance, there would be no blood transfusions or major surgery. Without Paul Ehrlich no chemotherapy. Without Siegfried Marcus no motor car. Without Rosalind Franklin genetic science would look very different. Without Fritz Haber there would not be enough food to sustain life on earth.” These incredibly hyperbolic claims are demonstrably false from a factual point of view. The case of Siegfried Marcus is worth discussing. The earliest form of the automobile was pioneered by François de Rivaz around 1808, and the four-stroke petrol internal combustion engine that still constitutes the most prevalent form of modern automotive propulsion was in fact patented by Nikolaus Otto in the 1860s. While some have claimed that Siegfried Marcus had developed a fully functioning motor car by the 1870s, there is remarkably little evidence for this. By contrast, in 1885, Karl Benz developed a petrol or gasoline powered automobile, and this is also considered to be the first “production” vehicle as Benz made several other identical copies. In either event, it is clear that Benz was operating independently of anything Marcus was building, and that Marcus himself was dependent on technological innovations developed by non-Jews in order to pursue his project. In short, without Siegfried Marcus we would indeed have the motor car, and since the chain of modern production goes back through the Benz technological genealogy, it can be confidently asserted that we did in fact have the motor car without Siegfried Marcus.

The same pattern can be ascertained in every example given in the blurb for Lebrecht’s book, and it is particularly ironic that Lebrecht should include Landsteiner who was an excellent example of a defector from the Jewish norm of high ethnic self-esteem. Landsteiner, a convert to Catholicism, took legal action in 1937 against an American publisher who had included him in the book Who’s Who in American Jewry and was highly ambivalent about his Jewish origins. One assumes that, had he been alive today, he would have taken legal action against Lebrecht also. The inclusion of Landsteiner in Lebrecht’s book is, however, indicative of another aspect of Jewish self-glorification — a tendency to exaggerate the Jewishness of the subject so that his ‘world-changing’ achievement is held to be the natural expression of his Jewish origins and identity.

This pattern is observed even in circumstances where there is ample evidence that the subject distanced themselves from Jews and Judaism, and even held hostile attitudes towards them. The best example in this regard is Spinoza, who was exiled from the Amsterdam Jewish community and later survived an assassination attempt arranged by the same Jews. Spinoza also wrote very disparagingly of Judaism and Jews in his 1670 Tractatus Theologico-Politicus in which he expressed his thoughts on Judaism. According to Spinoza, Judaism “commands the hatred of the enemy,” and is “carnal and particularistic.”[18]Strauss, L. (1965) Spinoza’s Critique of Religion New York, 18. Spinoza argued that Mosaic Law was “merely national,” and was “a particularistic and tribal law that serves no other end than the earthly or political felicity of the Jewish nation.” Claims that Judaism was a universal religion were seen as nonsense by Spinoza, who saw in the God of Israel only “a tribal God who is not the God of all mankind.” He stated that, in relation to the Jews “it is the hatred of the Nations that above all keeps them in existence as a people.”[19]Donagan, A. (1988) Spinoza New York, 9. Such statements and contexts haven’t prevented Spinoza from being adopted by an extraordinary Jewish academic cottage industry as the quintessential Jewish genius who saved outgroups and ushered in modernity with his putative Jewish brilliance.[20]See, for example, Harry Wolfson’s two-volume The Philosophy of Spinoza, Joseph Dunner’s Baruch Spinoza and Western Democracy, Lewis Feuer’s Spinoza and the Rise of Liberalism, Leon Roth’s Spinoza, Descartes, and Maimonides, the many works of Richard Popkin, Margaret Jacob’s The Radical Enlightenment, Marjorie Glicksman Grene’s Spinoza and the Sciences, Steven Nadler’s Spinoza: A Life and his Spinoza’s Heresy: Immortality and the Jewish Mind, Jonathan Israel’s Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650—1750, Michael Mack’s Spinoza and the Specters of Modernity: The Hidden Enlightenment of Diversity from Spinoza to Freud, Steven Nadler’s A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age, and Rebecca Goldstein’s Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity.

A further aspect of Jewish self-glorification is the promotion or exaggeration of Jewish figures whose accomplishments would ordinarily (without Jewish self-glorification efforts) be regarded as moderate to mediocre. Lebrecht’s book is again a useful example because he cites figures like Franz Kafka and Marcel Proust as world-changing. While these authors produced works that are unquestionably unique and, if nothing else, interesting, their status as world-changing is hyperbolic by any objective standards. The works of both authors, which equally orbit the same themes of neuroticism and paranoia, did not resonate in the mass cultural consciousness in the same way that some of their non-Jewish literary contemporaries did (Joyce, Woolf, Beckett, Eliot, and Yeats to name just a few). And, in any event, there are questions as to why novelists (especially those of long-winded niche texts like Proust’s In Search of Lost Time) should be considered world-changing at all, especially in a century that saw multiple major wars, massive innovations against disease, and the development of the television and aircraft. Lebrecht’s focus on Jews is instead highly revealing of a certain type of Jewish perspective prominent in strongly identified Jews exhibiting high levels of ethnocentrism and ethnic self-esteem. From the perspective of these extraordinarily ethnocentric individuals, only Jews matter — regardless of the meaning or meaninglessness of their work or achievement. Perhaps the quintessential example in this regard is the reception by Jews of the Jewish Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko. Sanderson (2011) comments:

For critics like [Klaus] Ottmann, Rothko’s genius is indisputable and he possessed an “extraordinary talent” that enabled him to transfer his metaphysical “impulses to the canvas with a power and magnetism that stuns viewers of his work. … In fact Rothko’s skill in achieving this result — whether intentional or not — perhaps explains why he was once called “the melancholic rabbi.” For prominent Jewish art historian Simon Schama, Rothko’s “big vertical canvasses of contrasting bars of colour, panels of colour stacked up on top of each other” qualify Rothko as “a maker of paintings as powerful and complicated as anything by his two gods — Rembrandt and Turner.” For the ethnocentric Schama “these [Rothko’s] paintings are equivalent of these old masters … Can art ever be more complete, more powerful? I don’t think so.”

A Rothko Masterpiece
A Rothko Masterpiece

In trying to explain these aspects of Jewish self-glorification, one can’t escape the possibility that the most ethnocentric strata of Jews have indeed retained the same perspective of Menahem Nahum, the eighteenth-century rabbi who insisted that all nations, with the exception of Jews, lack “understanding” and that no country can forgo Jewish leadership. It is likely that the level of ethnic self-esteem in such individuals is so high that they, in some sense, simply find it inconceivable that outgroups could succeed, let alone outperform Jews. Such a perspective would certainly go some way to explaining what appears to be an obsessive search for the often-imagined Jewish origins of leading Western figures and their accomplishments, and an equally obsessive search for Jewish figures who can be successfully boosted in the popular consciousness of outgroups, and positioned as lightning rods for Jewish ethnic pride.

Adaptive Qualities of Contemporary Jewish Self-Glorification

There are a number of features of Jewish self-glorification that could be regarded as highly adaptive in the contemporary social and cultural environment. Most obviously, by creating and sustaining an environment in which the in-group is seen as uniquely gifted and tasked with a world-historical mission, Jews promote high levels of ethnic cohesion and discourage defection. The most remarkable example of this dynamic at play can be found during the Middle Ages when some Jews opted for suicide over conversion to Christianity. The argument could be made that, for those choosing suicide, it was psychologically easier to die as a member of a gifted chosen people than to defect to a status that, in elements of Jewish theology, was less than human.

High self-esteem is also very strongly correlated with the General Factor of Personality (GFP), which in turn is associated with high degrees of social success and effectiveness.[21]Erdle, S., Irwing, P., Rushton, J. P., & Park, J. (2010). The General Factor of Personality and its relation to Self-Esteem in 628,640 Internet respondents. Personality and Individual Differences, 48(3), 343—346. In essence, by promoting high levels of in-group self-esteem, Jews make themselves more effective as individuals in acquiring, and helping to expand, positions of social, economic, and political influence for the broader group. In short, high self-esteem produces better and more effective activists. The generally higher level of self-esteem found among Jews, when compared to Catholics and Protestants[22]Rovner, R. A. (1981). Ethno-Cultural Identity and Self-Esteem: A Reapplication of Self-Attitude Formation Theories. Human Relations, 34(5), 427—434, would indeed suggest an elevated GFP and social effectiveness in general. It could also be reasonably posited that feelings of high ethnic self-esteem would provide encouragement and justification for psychological aggression and various forms of activism against outgroups, assumed to be intellectually or morally wrong in issues of inter-ethnic dispute, and this aggression could extend to attempts at cultural and political domination. An interesting case study in this respect is the Jewish New Left of the 1960s and their self-concept as engaging in “heroic action” against outgroup norms. Both Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin quite literally used superhero allegories to describe themselves and their activities, with Rubin comparing himself to the Lone Ranger and Hoffman claiming “I’m just the guy who flies around in a cape and has the hots for Lois Lane.”[23]Jezer, M. (1993) Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel Rutgers University Press. In such cases, highly narcissistic Jews act aggressively in the cultures of outgroups at least partly, or ostensibly, in the belief that Jewish heroic “assistance” is required for the outgroup’s own good — with the outgroup patronizingly seen as incapable or unready to even understand what that “good” is. Some degree of self-deception among Jews would be required in such cases, and this is discussed further by the present writer elsewhere.

A further adaptive quality of contemporary Jewish self-glorification is that there is always a possibility that outgroups, in whole or in part, might be convinced by the cultural atmosphere of Jewish self-glorification, accept it as truth, and willingly submit themselves to Jewish leadership. This can occur on an individual level, in which outgroup members are so accustomed to believing that Jews are uniquely talented or gifted that they are more prone to following certain Jewish ‘guru’ figures, or it can occur on a more broad ethnic basis in which Jews in general are regarded as a special people by outgroups. In the former case, there are certainly no shortage of examples of Jews of moderate significance gaining very widespread followings and acclaim from outgroup members, with all the allusions to “Jewish genius” one might expect from such a scenario. In the latter case, Jews have long held a privileged status as victims and gurus on the Left (though this is now waning), and Jews and Israel continue to hold Christian Zionists and aspects of the European Right in thrall, and are indeed regarded by many as “the apple of God’s eye.” Examples of non-religious ethnic Europeans producing texts glorifying Jews include Paul Johnson’s 1987 A History of the Jews and Thomas Cahill’s 1998 panegyric The Gifts of the Jews.

Yet another adaptive quality of Jewish self-glorification, and related to the one above, is that it can act to simultaneously reduce ethnic pride among outgroups and elevate Jewish prestige. If highly ethnocentric Jews can successfully disseminate the falsehood that the outgroup’s accomplishments are in fact Jewish accomplishments, then there will be a clear diminishment in the level of ethnic self-esteem in the outgroup. A similar effect can be accomplished by culturally “spamming” the outgroup with discussions of Jewish genius and exceptionalism, and these can be exacerbated further by combining such efforts with cultural “spamming” depicting Jews as the blameless victims of irrational violence perpetrated by the same outgroup. In this case, the Jews become intellectual and moral heroes, boosting in-group self-esteem, while the outgroup is paralyzed by a twin sense of inferiority and guilt.

The converse, of course, is that Jews have been prominent in promoting White guilt—in effect glorifying their own past while vilifying the people and culture of the West. Mainstream media messages promoting White guilt are ubiquitous, and Jewish involvement with the media and projects such as “Whiteness Studies” is notorious.

Maladaptive Qualities of Jewish Self-Glorification

The most obvious maladaptive quality of Jewish self-glorification is its potential to provoke anti-Semitism, as seen in the quote opening this essay. It is especially interesting that the rise of modern forms of anti-Semitism coincided with the rise of European nationalisms, which could in some sense be regarded as a form of political activity designed to raise ethnic self-esteem. Jewish attempts to assert cultural superiority over the highly-accomplished and pride-filled Germans of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries appear to have been an especially volatile source of ethnic friction.

Jewish self-glorification is also something that needs to be carefully expressed, and even highly ethnocentric Jews appear to be aware of safe limits to the expression of their ethnic pride. For example, Cecil Roth in his The Jewish Contribution to Civilisation wrote:

The Jew is distinguished, perhaps, by a slightly greater degree of intellectualisation, possibly by a freshness of outlook, natural in one whose approach tends to be external; and, in consequence, by a faculty for synthesis and for introducing new ideas. He is apt to show, in fact, certain characteristics inevitable in persons who belong, through the circumstances of their history, to a single sociological group. To say more is hazardous. [emphasis added]

Not only is Roth’s comment an excellent example of an environmentalist explanation of Jewish superiority, but his caution is also extremely noteworthy. Jewish self-glorification can be hazardous because the very point of contending for credit for a particular invention/accomplishment is a potential point of ethnic conflict. Additionally, Jewish self-glorification takes the risk of publicly posturing Jews as a group, a position that is normally avoided and downplayed by Jews in almost every other cultural scenario. Jews must also exercise caution in what exactly the claim credit for. Claiming Karl Marx, for example, despite his baptism and some anti-Semitic remarks, is an endeavor not without risk, and the same can be said for texts like Neal Gabler’s 1998 An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood. Jewish claims of responsibility for creating “modernity” and the “modern world” also assume a level of cultural consensus that these are in fact good things worth taking the credit for. One imagines that if a cultural consensus was reached that “modernity” was bad, or negative for Europeans, texts like Norman Lebrecht’s latest book would quietly disappear.

Most catastrophically, Jewish self-glorification efforts can potentially be identified for what they truly are, with these efforts failing and then in fact coming to reflect badly on Jews. Writing in the 1970s, Dutch Spinoza expert, Hubertus G. Hubbeling, expressed awareness of the fundamental and longstanding difference between Jews and non-Jews in interpretations of Spinoza’s importance. Hubbeling, with barely concealed irritation at the specifically Jewish character of the effort to exaggerate Spinoza’s significance, wrote towards the end of his Spinoza’s Methodology that:

there are some Jewish writers who emphasize very strongly the importance of Spinoza’s contribution to the development of democratic ideas. Joseph Dunner, for example, places him above Locke in this respect. L. Feuer makes of Spinoza the first democratic political philosopher: ‘The political philosophy of Spinoza is the first statement in history of the standpoint of democratic liberalism’ … According to the opinion of the present writer Spinoza’s importance is exaggerated here.[24]Hubbeling, H.G. (1964) Spinoza’s Methodology Royal Van Gorcum, Netherlands. [emphasis added]

If the full implications and impact of Jewish self-glorification became common knowledge, fuelling anti-Semitism, it would clearly have a deleterious effect on the Jewish position in Western culture and society.

Conclusion

Although Jewish self-glorification is almost entirely absent from existing studies of anti-Semitism, it has played an important role in generating inter-ethnic friction over historical time. Jewish self-glorification, which continues to thrive both in Israel and the Diaspora, should be regarded as an extreme example of both positive and negative ethnocentrism — that it reinforces Jewish in-group loyalties and self-esteem while weakening the loyalties and self-esteem of outgroups. At time of this writing, Jewish self-glorification is highly adaptive for Jews who occupy a position of cultural prestige in almost all sections of Western culture and society, and who use self-glorification to secure this prestige and expand it further. Jewish self-glorification has been highly successful in boosting Jewish activism against outgroups, and together with victimhood narratives, which are themselves a form of historical glorification, have succeeded in paralyzing European outgroups with a twin sense of inferiority and guilt. Attempts to further lower European ethnic pride, through accusations of putative historical evils or by co-opting, relativizing, or universalizing their ethnic achievements will continue to be a key point of inter-ethnic conflict between Europeans and Jews. A crucial task for those interested in improving the prospects of the European peoples will therefore rest to some extent in finding ways to elevate group pride and creating a cultural consensus to diminish that of the Jews.

Notes

[1] Saxe, L. et al. “Measuring the Size and Characteristics of American Jewry: A New Paradigm to Understand an Ancient People,” in Rehbun, U (ed) The Social Scientific Study of Jewry. Sources, Approaches, Debates (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 37-8.

[2] See, for example, the Charter Decreed for the Jews of Prussia (April 17, 1750) by Frederick II, which outlined the number of Jews, by occupation, permitted to reside in Berlin.

[3] Hartley, E. L., Rosenbaum, M., & Schwartz, S. (1948). Children’s Perceptions of Ethnic Group Membership. The Journal of Psychology, 26(2), 387—397.

[4] Smooha, S. (1987). Jewish and Arab ethnocentrism in Israel. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 10(1), 1—26.

[5] Brown, L. M., McNatt, P. S., & Cooper, G. D. (2003). Ingroup romantic preferences among Jewish and non-Jewish White undergraduates. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 27(3), 335—354.

[6] Cofnas, N. (2018). Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy. Human Nature, 29(2), 134—156, (153).

[7] Rosenberg, M. (1989) Society and the adolescent self-image (Rev. ed), Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

[8] Markstrom, C. A., Berman, R. C., & Brusch, G. (1998). An Exploratory Examination of Identity Formation among Jewish Adolescents According to Context. Journal of Adolescent Research, 13(2), 202—222.

[9] Rutchik, A. (1968). Self‐Esteem and Jewish Identification. Jewish Education, 38(2), 40—46.

[10] Rovner, R. A. (1981). Ethno-Cultural Identity and Self-Esteem: A Reapplication of Self-Attitude Formation Theories. Human Relations, 34(5), 427—434.

[11] Hofer, P. (1989). The Role of Manipulation in the Antisocial Personality. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 33(2), 91—101.

[12] De Keersmaecker, J., Onraet, E., Lepouttre, N., & Roets, A. (2017). The opposite effects of actual and self-perceived intelligence on racial prejudice. Personality and Individual Differences, 112, 136—138.

[13] Patai, R. (1996) The Jewish Mind Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 324.

[14] Dresser, D and Friedman, L. (2004) American Jewish Filmmakers University of Illinois, 7.

[15] Popkin, R.H. (1978) ‘Spinoza and La Peyrere’ in R. Shahan and J. Biro, Spinoza: New Perspectives Norman, Oklahoma.

[16] Popkin, R.H. (1990) Essays on the Context, Nature, and Influence of Isaac Newton’s Theology Boston: Kluwer.

[17] Quoted in Biemann, A (2012) Dreaming of Michelangelo: Jewish Variations on a Modern Theme Stanford, California.

[18] Strauss, L. (1965) Spinoza’s Critique of Religion New York, 18.

[19] Donagan, A. (1988) Spinoza New York, 9.

[20] See, for example, Harry Wolfson’s two-volume The Philosophy of Spinoza, Joseph Dunner’s Baruch Spinoza and Western Democracy, Lewis Feuer’s Spinoza and the Rise of Liberalism, Leon Roth’s Spinoza, Descartes, and Maimonides, the many works of Richard Popkin, Margaret Jacob’s The Radical Enlightenment, Marjorie Glicksman Grene’s Spinoza and the Sciences, Steven Nadler’s Spinoza: A Life and his Spinoza’s Heresy: Immortality and the Jewish Mind, Jonathan Israel’s Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650—1750, Michael Mack’s Spinoza and the Specters of Modernity: The Hidden Enlightenment of Diversity from Spinoza to Freud, Steven Nadler’s A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age, and Rebecca Goldstein’s Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity.

[21] Erdle, S., Irwing, P., Rushton, J. P., & Park, J. (2010). The General Factor of Personality and its relation to Self-Esteem in 628,640 Internet respondents. Personality and Individual Differences, 48(3), 343—346.

[22] Rovner, R. A. (1981). Ethno-Cultural Identity and Self-Esteem: A Reapplication of Self-Attitude Formation Theories. Human Relations, 34(5), 427—434

[23] Jezer, M. (1993) Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel Rutgers University Press.

[24] Hubbeling, H.G. (1964) Spinoza’s Methodology Royal Van Gorcum, Netherlands.

(Republished from The Occidental Observer by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: History, Ideology • Tags: American Media, Anti-Semitism, Jews 
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