Friedrich Nietzsche Wasn’t an Anti-Semite. Or Was He?

Having called Jews “a people gifted with the very strongest vitality” while heaping all sorts of insults on them, and having been given to attacking anti-Semites even more vociferously than he attacked Jews, the notoriously hard-to-pin-down philosopher did not make it easy for historians trying to make sense of his views in this area. Robert Holub, in Nietzsche’s Jewish Problem, presents a thorough evaluation of Nietzsche’s attitudes toward Jews and Judaism, based primarily on his private writings. Benjamin Silver writes in his review:

Nietzsche, Holub concludes, was not an anti-Semite in the late-19th-century sense of the term. After briefly flirting with that ideology during his years [of friendship with Richard Wagner], Nietzsche “recoil[ed] from the crude excesses” of such political anti-Semitism, finding it vulgar and, probably, unphilosophical. But Nietzsche, Holub is quick to qualify, was no friend to the Jews, ether. Even his seemingly positive remarks “often amount to a validation of existing stereotypes.” Moreover, Nietzsche held views that “we would categorize today as biased and perhaps even racist.” Contextualizing Nietzsche turns out to mean that he was not an anti-Semite then, but that he would be now. . . .

While Silver calls this persuasive, he finds lacking Holub’s analysis of the role Judaism played in Nietzsche’s mature thought:

Biblical Judaism, according to Nietzsche, slowly developed “slavish” values and, in so doing, eventually launched a Christian revolution. The significance of Nietzsche’s schema here must not be overlooked. At first blush, Nietzsche’s view would seem to put him just as much at odds with Jews as he was with Christians. For him, Christianity was the one great curse visited upon humanity, and it was visited upon humanity by the Jews. . . .

[Thus] Nietzsche’s philosophy is itself of interest, and his project of . . . tearing down the “slave morality” of Christendom is necessarily connected to Judaism. But for those concerned with that issue, Holub’s study is of little help. It’s very hard to see how Nietzsche’s refusal to remain within the Wagnerian fold, in combination with his employment of certain anti-Jewish stereotypes, helps us make sense of his philosophical-historical understanding of the Jews as “gain[ing] satisfaction from [their] enemies and conquerors only through radical revaluation of their values, . . . in an act of the most deliberate revenge.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, Friedrich Nietzsche, History & Ideas, Philosophy

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy