Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Madness of Anti-Semitism

Historian Paul Johnson gives a brief survey of the long history of anti-Semitism in this article in Commentary, calling the mode of thought a brain disease.

He uses the disease metaphor not to shift victimhood to the perpetrators (there's enough of that going on), but to point out a couple of traits: first, it's contagious; second, it's so irrational as to be counterproductive.

One link of contagion he explores is from the Nazis to the Middle-Eastern Islamists: Chief Nazi Stormtrooper Heinrich Himmler gave a copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a forged document about a Jewish plan for world domination) to a wealthy, anti-Jewish Palestinian landowner, Muhammad Amin al-Husseini.

Al-Husseini, who later became the mufti of the region turned a dislike of the Jews turned to a slathering hatred that produced Wahabbism, as well as the idea among many Arabs, especially Palestinians, that life can't continue as long as Jews live nearby.

The other characteristic is that anti-Semitism is inherently suicidal. Here's where Johnson shows one of those historical trends that violate all the common wisdom until somebody points out where the common wisdom is wrong. Spain, France, Russia, Nazi Germany and most recently Palestine and the Middle East fell into corruption and chaos because of anti-Semitism.

Spain in evicting the Jews just as the wealth of the New World was overwhelming the state. France in its convulsions over the Dreyfuss affair. Russia in pushing its Jews into Western Europe (Johnson notes that the Soviet system was just a matter of extending the Tsars' persecution against the Jews onto the rest of society).

In Nazi Germany, he says, Hitler achieved leadership because of his ideas and in spite of his anti-Semitism, which led to stupid decisions like turning on Stalin and attacking the United States.

And finally in Palestine, for example, we've seen how billions of dollars in foreign aid over the past 50 years have done nothing but enrich the leaders, who use the money to kill Jews and, in even greater numbers, moderate Arabs. In the same period of time, Japan and Germany both rose from total defeat to be world powerhouses, while many refugees of Palestine still live in tents.

The other effect of anti-Semitism has been to push the Jews into places that were friendly to them, or at least left them alone to live and practice their religion: the Netherlands and Belgium, which became the world center of trade and finance in the 18th century; into England, where the Industrial Revolution was born in the late 18th century; into the United States, which has become, well, the Great Satan. Tapscott (H/T, by the way) posted on Johnson's comparison between anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism.

The madness is like the destructive force of conspiracy theories Umberto Ecco described in Foucault's Pendulum.

The article is well worth a read.

No comments: