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Anti-Semitism Is Not Like Other Forms of Prejudice

Reviewing an exhibit on anti-Semitism between the world wars at the New-York Historical Society, and another at the Center for Jewish History on the Nazis’ despoliation of Jewish property in Berlin, Edward Rothstein considers what makes hatred of Jews different from other hatreds:

Nazi analogies are too regularly invoked to simplify argument; and anti-Semitism is too often generalized, treated as another variety of racism. [But] I am struck by how singular anti-Semitism is, how cunning the Nazi use of it was, and how different it is from racism, with which it is often confused.

Of course, the Nazis calculatedly turned Judaism into a racial matter. . . . But if race can be an element of anti-Semitism, it is not the main point. For the Nazis it was an indicator of connection and collusion. Is there any other form of group hatred so preoccupied with conspiracy? The Jew, in this view, has hidden powers. The Jew is capable of imposing the Versailles treaty, devaluing currency, and manipulating commerce. . . .

These beliefs might seem beyond contemporary imagining. Yet today similar assertions have attached themselves to Israel—a Jew among nations. Arab media regularly invoke Nazi caricatures and references. Recently, the former mayor of London Ken Livingstone also suggested that Zionism and Nazism shared support from Hitler—adding to a string of comments by Labor leaders caricaturing Israel as uniquely satanic.

But there is no need to look so far afield. At Oberlin College, . . . [a] professor . . . accused “Rothschild-led banksters” of “implementing the World War III option” by shooting down a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine; and she attacked Jews and the Mossad for funding Islamic State. Such accusations are taken from Der Stürmer’s play book. . . . The Oberlin professor, unrepentant, has treated accusations of anti-Semitism as attempts to silence her by the very conspiracy she was drawing attention to.

Clearly, the virus thrives. No exaggerated Nazi analogies are needed to reveal the similarities.

Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: Anti-Semitism, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Museums, Nazism

 

Hannah Arendt, Adolf Eichmann, and the Jews

Feb. 23 2018

In 1963—a year after Adolf Eichmann’s sentencing by an Israeli court—reports on the trial by the German-born Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt appeared in the New Yorker and were soon published as a book. This “report on the banality of evil,” as the book was subtitled, outraged many Jews, including many of her erstwhile friends and admirers, on account of her manifest contempt for the entire preceding, her disgust for the state of Israel, her accusation that a wide array of European Jewish leaders (if not the majority of the victims) were complicit in their own murder, and her bizarre insistence that Eichmann was “not a monster,” or even an anti-Semite, but a mindless, faceless bureaucrat. While extensive evidence has been brought to light that Arendt was wrong both in her claims of Jewish passivity and her evaluation of Eichmann as the head of the SS’s Jewish section, her book remains widely read and admired. Ruth Wisse comments on its enduring legacy:

When Arendt volunteered to report on the Eichmann trial, it was presumed that she was doing so in her role as a Jew. . . . But Arendt actually traveled to Jerusalem for a deeper purpose—to reclaim Eichmann for German philosophy. She did not exonerate Nazism and in fact excoriated the postwar Adenauer government for not doing enough to punish known Nazi killers, but she rehabilitated the German mind and demonstrated how that could be done by going—not beyond, but around, good and evil. She came to erase Judaism philosophically, to complicate its search for moral clarity, and to unseat a conviction [that, in Saul Bellow’s words], “everybody . . . knows what murder is.”

Arendt was to remain the heroine of postmodernists, deconstructionists, feminists, relativists, and internationalist ideologues who deny the stability of Truth. Not coincidentally, many of them have also disputed the rights of the sovereign Jewish people to its national homeland. Indeed, as anti-Zionism cemented the coalition of leftists, Arabs, and dissident minorities, Arendt herself was conscripted, sometimes unfairly and in ways she might have protested, as an ally in their destabilizing cause. They were enchanted by her “perversity” and were undeterred in their enthusiasm by subsequent revelations, like those of the historian Bernard Wasserstein, who documented Arendt’s scholarly reliance on anti-Semitic sources in her study of totalitarianism, or of revelations about her resumed friendship with Martin Heidegger despite his Nazi associations.

At the same time, however, the Arendt report on the Eichmann trial became one of the catalysts for something no one could have predicted—an intellectual movement that came to be known as neoconservatism. A cohort of writers and thinkers, many of them Jews from immigrant families who had turned to leftism as naturally as calves to their mother’s teats, but who had slowly moved away from the Marxism of their youth during the Stalin years and World War II, now spotted corruption and dishonesty and something antithetical to them in some of their very models of the intellectual life.

They and their Gentile colleagues had constituted the only European-style intelligentsia to flourish in America. Most of them were only one generation removed from Europe, after all, so what could be more natural than for them to serve as the conduit of European intelligence to America? Arendt’s ingenious twist of the Eichmann trial showed them how Jewish and American they actually were—and how morally clear they aspired to be.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Neoconservatism, New York Intellectuals