Anti-Semitism Is a Hatred Unlike Any Other

August 10, 2021 | Ruth R. Wisse
About the author: Ruth R. Wisse is a Mosaic columnist, professor emerita of Yiddish and comparative literatures at Harvard and a distinguished senior fellow at the Tikvah Fund. Her memoir Free as a Jew: a Personal Memoir of National Self-Liberation, chapters of which appeared in Mosaic in somewhat different form, is out from Wicked Son Press.

In a recent speech that caused much controversy in the Israeli press, Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid equated anti-Semites with the Hutus who slaughtered Tutsis in Rwanda, “those who beat young LGBT people to death,” and other perpetrators of violent discrimination. He went on to argue that “anti-Semitism is racism, so let’s talk to all those who oppose racism. . . . Anti-Semitism is hatred of outsiders, so let’s recruit anyone who was ever an outsider and tell them—this is your fight too.” But to Ruth Wisse, anti-Semitism isn’t just a generic form of bigotry:

Anti-Semitism is a form of hatred, but it’s more than that. People organize against the Jews as part of an ideological struggle. Scapegoating Jews for the suffering of another people provides an explanation for its misery, an outlet for its anger, and a target for its aggression. From its founding in the 1870s to its current American intersectional variant, anti-Semitism has the unique power to build grievance coalitions between Marxists and Muslims, fascists and fundamentalists, atheists and believers, nationalists, internationalists, CEOs, and academics.

Zionists who thought anti-Semitism was directed against them because of their dispersion were surprised to find it was even easier to blame them in their homeland. But a small people with a hugely magnified image proved the perfect foil for any anti-liberal cause. When Representative Rashida Tlaib claims that people working “behind the curtain” to stop a “free Palestine” are “profiting” off Americans, she obviously isn’t talking about Tutsis or gays.

While Israelis have no choice but to repel those who attack them, some Americans and Jews prefer to ignore or justify the aggression. Progressives say: Who, us? We’re anti-fascist, so how can we be Jew-baiters? Ignorant or disingenuous, they ignore that the driving force of anti-Jewish politics since 1945 has been not fascism but the Arab-Muslim war against the Jewish state, supported by Marxist ideology.

More than hate, anti-Semitism deforms all those who organize politics against the Jews.

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