An Ultra-Orthodox Perspective on the UK’s Anti-Semitism Crisis

Eli Spitzer
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Nov. 5 2020
About Eli

Eli Spitzer is a Mosaic columnist and the headmaster of a hasidic boys’ school in London. He blogs and hosts a podcast at elispitzer.com.

With the Britain Labor party’s suspension of its former leader—the Israel-hating, anti-Semite-loving Jeremy Corbyn—Eli Spitzer considers how British Ḥaredim have responded to Corbyn’s rise and fall in ways very different from the remainder of Anglo-Jewry:

UK Jews have often framed [Labor-party anti-Semitism] in terms of their terror at seeing an old enemy rising from the dead, or, alternatively, emerging from the margins and infecting mainstream society. For Ḥaredim, however, anti-Semitism is nothing new and its level of marginality or otherwise makes no difference. Any Stamford Hill Ḥasid can rattle off at least a couple of dozen incidents of being shouted and sworn at with no provocation in a supermarket or from a passing car. The vast majority of these incidents go unreported, rightly or wrongly, because they are perceived as a normal niggle of life.

But, Spitzer continues, the real difference in perspective has deeper, theological roots:

For the ḥaredi mind, the basic framework for understanding hatred of Jews doesn’t come from [the 1950 sociological classic] The Authoritarian Personality or any other work of sociology, psychiatry, or history; it’s right there in [Deuteronomy 28]. Jews, as punishment for their sins, must reside in the lands of other nations where they will suffer until national repentance brings about the end of exile once and for all. Of course, any conscious Ḥaredi is aware that our current situation [of living in a benevolent regime] is, by the standards of exile, remarkably good. However, our basic perception of reality is one where Gentile ambivalence is normal, hostility is frequent, and benevolence is an occasional welcome novelty.

The kind of shock and disgust felt by Anglo-Jewry at the exposure of Jew-hatred spouted by Labor councilors and activists, just has no analogue for Ḥaredim.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, British Jewry, Exile, Haredim, Jeremy Corbyn

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy