How W.E.B. Du Bois Combated Anti-Semitism

March 8 2019

While attending the University of Berlin in the late 19th century, the African-American thinker W.E.B. Du Bois studied under the tutelage of the anti-Semitic historian Heinrich von Treitschke, and after returning to the U.S. occasionally deployed anti-Semitic stereotypes in his writings. By the second decade of the 20th century, however, he had rejected such ideas, as Harold Brackman writes:

Du Bois’s attitude . . . changed when he worked with Joel E. Spingarn, Henry Moskowitz, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, Lillian Wald, and other Jews prominent in forming the NAACP. Zionism [also] provided a model for Du Bois’s own pan-African ideology: “The African movement means to us what the Zionist movement must mean to the Jews,” [he wrote].

He condemned anti-Semitism in Poland and Hungary, as well as in Germany, and commended Albert Einstein. In May 1933, he editorialized about the dangers of Nazism, and [attending] Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics, . . . decided that Nuremberg was worse than Alabama.

In 1940, Du Bois warned against African-American anti-Semitism, inflamed by German and Japanese propaganda. Despite initial doubts about America entering World War II, Du Bois remained steadfast in denouncing Hitler’s war against the Jews and supporting Zionism. As the Nazi war machine rolled east in June 1941, Du Bois joined African-American intellectuals like Ralph Bunche in warning of the threat of “a new slavery and barbarism, terrorism and darkness” engulfing the world.

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More about: African Americans, American Jewry, Anti-Semitism, History & Ideas, Holocaust


War with Iran Isn’t on the Horizon. So Why All the Arguments against It?

As the U.S. has responded to Iranian provocations in the Persian Gulf, various observers in the press have argued that National Security Advisor John Bolton somehow seeks to drag President Trump into a war with Iran against his will. Matthew Continetti points out the absurdities of this argument, and its origins:

Never mind that President Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, and Bolton have not said a single word about a preemptive strike, much less a full-scale war, against Iran. Never mind that the president’s reluctance for overseas intervention is well known. The “anti-war” cries are not about context, and they are certainly not about deterring Iran. Their goal is saving President Obama’s nuclear deal by manipulating Trump into firing Bolton and extending a lifeline to the regime.

It’s a storyline that originated in Iran. Toward the end of April, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif showed up in New York and gave an interview to Reuters where he said, “I don’t think [Trump] wants war,” but “that doesn’t exclude him basically being lured into one” by Bolton. . . . And now this regime talking point is everywhere. “It’s John Bolton’s world. Trump is just living in it,” write two former Obama officials in the Los Angeles Times. “John Bolton is Donald Trump’s war whisperer,” writes Peter Bergen on . . .

Recall Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes’s admission to the New York Times Magazine in 2016 [that] “We created an echo chamber” to attack the Iran deal’s opponents through leaks and tips to the D.C. press. . . . Members of the echo chamber aren’t for attacking Iran, but they are all for slandering its American opponents. The latest target is Bolton. . . .

The Iranians are in a box. U.S. sanctions are crushing the economy, but if they leave the agreement with Europe they will be back to square one. To escape the box you try to punch your way out. That’s why Iran has assumed a threatening posture: provoking an American attack could bolster waning domestic support for the regime and divide the Western alliance.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Javad Zarif, John Bolton, U.S. Foreign policy