Is anti-Semitism essentially envy?

In a week in which The Economist has run and then pulled an anti-Semitic cartoon, it is worth reflecting on the most enduring of all forms of racism

Why is anti-Semitism still with us?
Robin Mitchinson
On 22 January 2014 20:07

During a documentary aired on Israel's Channel 2, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, a man was interviewed and said that the Jews are to blame for all the troubles of the world, and that "Hitler was too nice."

What was most shocking, as one commentator put it, was that this was not a swastika-tattooed, swivel-eyed, card-carrying member of the Agitprop brigade. It was a seemingly normal middle class American. Indeed, "this is the face of modern anti-Semitism: not criminals, but your next-door neighbour, your bus driver, your child's teacher…"

It is just one illustration of the nasty and insidious anti-Semitism that is creeping into normal discourse, skulking under a cloak of support for the Palestinian ‘cause’. That cause is the annihilation of Israel from the face of the earth, although its Christian supporters and funders don’t often mention that.

They conflate Israel with Jewry as a way of disguising their hatred of Jews as a political statement. Anti-Zionism becomes anti-Semitism. They call Israel an ‘apartheid’ state, an insult to those who suffered under apartheid and ignoring the fact that Jews were very prominent in anti-apartheid protests.

Anti-Semitism is being espoused by the extreme left and extreme right. The ‘quenelle’, a new version of the Nazi salute is sweeping across Europe, frequently used at soccer matches and other crowd events.

One reason why anti-Semitism gathers momentum in difficult times is that people don’t look for reasons or solutions; they look for scapegoats. They need someone to blame.

Hitler understood this only too well. Times are very difficult indeed in parts of Europe and the growth of neo-Fascist politics is a consequence.

Oxford University's Brian Klug comments:

“The anti-Semite’s image of the Jew is always as a people set apart, not merely by their customs but by their collective character. They are arrogant, secretive, cunning, always looking to turn a profit. Loyal only to their own, wherever they go they form a state within a state, preying upon the societies in whose midst they dwell. Mysteriously powerful, their hidden hand controls the banks and the media. They will even drag governments into war if this suits their purposes. Such is the figure of 'the Jew,' transmitted from generation to generation."

It hardly needs saying that this image is mindless drivel.

Of course some Jews tend to live in their own neighbourhoods. So do we all, to some extent at least. It is part of the human condition to live with people like yourself; Sikhs in White City, Irish in Kilburn, Punjabis in Bradford, Ismaili Moslems in Leicester. Thee are obviously stereotypical representations, but there is surely enough truth to them to see the point.

But in the case of Jews they were often forced into ghettos by law; Russian Jews were pushed into shtetls ‘beyond the Pale’.

Control of banks? Given the recent record one might say, ‘If only!’ The media? Most is controlled by a handful of international corporations. But to some, everything is a Jewish conspiracy.

A simple question needs asking: What harm, in the whole of history, have Jews done to Gentiles?

They have certainly provided breath-taking talent in science, the arts, business, finance, and entertainment over the centuries. They have hoovered up a raft of Nobel Prizes. But harm?

The reverse is sadly true. Since Jews ever were, Gentiles have tried to exterminate them, from the Romans to the Persians to the Moors to the Spanish to the Catholic Church generally, and then to Hitler. Their sheer survivability is a miracle.

Can it be that in the dark recesses of the human psyche we are so screwed up by the Jewish people’s intellect, talent, wealth and resilience that the poison of envy begins to dominate?

Robin Mitchinson is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former barrister, he is an international public management specialist with almost two decades of experience in institutional development, decentralisation and democratisation processes. He has advised governments and major international institutions across the world

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