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Why the Jews?: The Reason for Antisemitism Paperback – August 12, 2003
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"The wisest, most original and provocative book on the subject I have ever read." (Harold Kushner)
About the Author
Dennis Prager, one of America’s most respected thinkers, is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host and syndicated columnist. He has written four books, including the #1 bestseller Happiness Is a Serious Problem. He has lectured on all seven continents and may be contacted through his website, DennisPrager.com.
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The country where I live, is periodically rocked by nationwide paroxysms of vicious rage and murderous hate of the tiny nation of Israel,encouraged by the ruling party and it's allies, civil society, universities and the media.
This is the world's latest incantation of Jew-hatred, the world's longest and most intense hatred, as Dennis Prager explains in this fascinating and illuminating work.
Prager begins by outlining some of the violent attacks on Jews and Israel in Europe and elsewhere, which has become the disease permeating the world as we begin the 21st century.
Prager mentions the United Nations-sponsored World Conference on Racism, in Durban, South Africa in August 2001, which, while failing to mention human rights abuses and genocide in China, Rwanda or anyplace in the Arab world, turned into a violent fest of hate and rage against Israel.
While anti-Semitism was traditionally associated with rightwing populists, vicious anti-Israelism is becoming the culture and raison d etre of 'progressive' intellectual communities.
Prager illustrates that:
* Thousands of academics around the world, have called for an end to support for Israeli researchers, though not an end to support for researchers from any other nation.
* Israeli scholars in Spring 2003 were forced off the board of an international literary journal.
* And many at universities across the world, including North America, have called for their universities to single out Israel among all nations as the lone country where it is inappropriate for any part of the university's endowment to be invested.
Prager marvels how in a world filled with enormous evils-such as totalitarian states that make their countries into large prison camps (Iran and North Korea); that massacre and enslave millions of citizens (Sudan) , that wage deadly war against their own populations (Zimbabwe and Myanmar) that destroy entire cultures (As China is doing in Tibet), it would seem a puzzle as to why the Jewish State and America are the two most villified countries in the world.
Prager points this out as being a violent rejection of the American and Jewish values of Judeo-Christian civilization, justice, freedom, democracy and humanity as a source of light to the world. He explains the reason why the USA supports Israel as being because of the USA's Judeo-Christian values and her realization that Israel is a tiny island of democracy and human rights in a sea of totalitarianism.
It is against this background that Prager delves into the roots of Jew-hatred to attempt an explanation of this phenomenon.
The basic source of ancient Jewish history, the Bible, depicts two attempts at anihilation of the Jewish people: that of Pharaoh and the Egyptians (Exodus 1:15-22) and that of Haman and the Persians.
On three occasions in the last 350 years, anihilation campaigns have been waged against the Jews, the Chmelnitzky massacres in Eastern Europe in 1648-1649, the Nazi destruction of Europe's Jews between 1939 and 1945 , and the current decades long campaign to anihilate the Jewish State by it's enemies.
Prager holds out four basic reasons for Jew hatred (and it's latest incantaion, Israel-hatred)
* The hatred of Judaism and ethical monotheism
* The chosen people idea as a cause of Jew-hatred
* The moral challenge posed by the Jews for a better world.
* The higher quality of Jewish life as a cause of Jew-hatred
Chapter 5 deals with the topic of Non-Jewish Jews and anti-Semitism. This is particularly interesting to me, because leftwing diaspora Jews who hate Israel, are a major source of anger and disgust for me.
Prager is also vexed by the question of explaining Jews who devote their lives to hurting Jews. He points out that "Among no group in the world are there so many individuals who so single-mindedly attempt to damage the group into which they were born".
He gives as examples the loathsome Noam Chomsky who has dedicated much of his life tro defending those who wish to destroy Israel, and to demonize Israel and her people, frequently comparing Israelis to the Nazis; and Norman Finkelstein who lectures throughout the world , calling Israel a Nazi State and demanding it's destruction.
Indeed many Jewish ultra-Leftists lead the "burn Israel" movement, sponsoring pro-Palestinian hate rallies, leading campaigns for divestment from Israel, and demoinzing Israel and her people in the media and universities.
The author expalins this phenomenon as being that Jewish radicals, like other radicals, lack roots, and hate Jews (such as the Jews of Israel) who do have roots and a national identity.
"The Ubermensch, which is how they see themselves, rises above such parochial indentities."
Also they likely believe that if they side with those who hate Jews, they will not be hated by them.
Prager refutes the Marxist view of anti-Semitism that it is caused by Capitalism, pointing out that in Communist societies anti-Semitism has often been at it's worst.
He also easily refutes the myth that anti-Semitism is purely a rightwing phenomenon, pointing to Soviet persecution of Jewry , and the new anti-Semitism of today, which eminates mainly from the Left.
Prager go's on to examine the historical evidence of anti-Semitism with histories of ancient anti-Semitism, Christian anti-Semitism, Islamic anti-Semitism, Secular Enlightenment anti-Semitism, Leftist anti-Semitism, Nazi anti-Semitism and anti-Zionist anti-Semitism.
He continually draws parralels between historic anti-Semitism and today's new anti-Zionist version, for example discussing the mediaeval libel that Jews poisoned wells, and deliberately spread disease , to lies by the Palestinian Authority and Leftist NGO's that the Israelis have poisoned Palestinian water supplies and deliberately infected Palestinian children with the HIV virus.
In the section on Islamic anti-Semitism, he outlines bloody pogroms carried out against Jews in Arab countries, in the 20th century. He also explains the real reason behind Arab hatred of Israel. The idea of Jews as free people in their own state cannot be tolerated, they can only be tolerated as subordinate or degraded. The basis of Arab hatred of Israel is the hatred of Jews refusing to accept an unequal, inferior status, that they lived under for centuries of Arab rule.
He also deals with the Arab-Nazi connection of World War II, and beyond.
In the chapter on Leftist anti-Semitism he observes how the further left one goes the greater the Jew-hatred. The propaganda peddled by far-left ideologues, academics and journalists today is a reproduction of the propaganda manufactured in the old Soviet Union, during the Cold War, when the USSR was persecuting Jews and working for the destruction of Israel.
Letwing anti-Semitism revolves around the denial of Jewish nationhood, and therefore of Israel's right to exist, leading to a hatred of all Jews who affirm Jewish nationhood and particularly of all Jews who live in the Jewish homeland. It also involves a gross Orwellianism whereby Israel is accused of genocide, when the truth is that the Arabs and their allies are the ones pushing for the destruction of Israel and thereby a second holocaust against Jews.
Because anti-Zionism's goal would lead to a second holocaust against five million Jews, it cannot be distinguished from anti-Semitism.
Furthermore there is only one posible reason why people isolate Israel of all the countries of the world to deny it's right to existence. Because Israel is a Jewish State. Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.
Finally Prager deals with the 8 most common lies about Israel, and the truth behind them, examines what the solutions are to Jew-hatred, and his epilogue ends with a warning that anti-Semitism/anti-Israelism is the problem not only of Jews, but of all decent human beings because what begins with the Jews seldom ends with the Jews. Jew-hatred and Israel-hatred is the moral litmus test of nations, regimes and individuals.
The authors of WHY THE JEWS? propound a really dumb and self-centered idea: Realization of the Jews' superior monotheistic-moralistic code and their firm adherence to its rigorous strictures has so dismayed all the "gentiles", because of their stupid, slothful and profligate inability to live by similar ideals, that they have universally envied and hated the Jews. Purest crap and arrogance in the bargain. (One hears Jews speak of Arab antisemitism.)
A whole lot of questions come up:
1. The authors divide the world into three places: a. Those that want to actively destroy Jews; b. Those that support countries/ civilizations that want to destroy them; c. The United States. But it is so interesting: There are many elements within the United States that are making a very slow, determined effort to destroy it from within (ACLU, academia). It seems like there are proportionally many more Jews in those places. With respect to things outside of the United States, the left wing gives a lot more moral support to Islamism (the red-black-green axis)-- or at least gives them a sympathetic hearing. More of people giving those sympathetic hearings are Jewish. And so the question asks itself: "If you find yourself on the opposite side of what's in your best interest, where IS the enemy? Is it out there or is it in the mirror?"
2. No hatred has been as persistent as Anti-Semitism? Try walking a mile in the shoes of a black person. (Black Like Me).
3. What is with these circular definitions? People don't hate Jews because of [insert specific Reason X]. They hate them because they are Jewish and only because they are Jewish. But then what is being Jewish? And is that definition exclusive? (Do all people who are defined in that way inspire such hate? And does such hate correspond to only those types of people?)
4. There are some things on which the authors are flat-out wrong. There is a genetic component to being Jewish, and there is a such thing as Jewish race and an average Jewish IQ. For recent examples of this: Legacy:A Genetic History of the Jewish People and The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. They are also flatly wrong about conversions. I have been working to find an Orthodox Rabbinical Court somewhere on this Earth that will convert me. There appears to be none-- in spite of the fact that one Rabbi and two Orthdox Jewish men would be enough to make said court for said conversion.
The authors essentially come up with four reasons that people hate Jews:
1. They have their own God, which they consider to be the God of all mankind-- thereby implicitly lowering the value of local Gods.
2. Their notion of Divine Election (the Chosen People).
3. Attempts to make moral demands on others (even if the moral demands are not in the name of "religion")/ change the world.
4. Envy of their superior status.
But as I see it, then Chinese people could (without much stretching) also fit onto the definition of Jews.
1. They have their own God/ founding myth (the Chinese state at some times and the mythical Yellow Emperor at others) and consider their civilization to be the foundation of/ prior to all others.
2. They have something like a notion of Divine Election (because China is the Middle Kingdom and all other barbarian countries on the periphery learn from its example).
3. Attempts to make moral demands on others/ change the world. China became a very large country over many centuries in the process of trying to foist Han culture off onto other places/ absorbing neighboring countries. (They have been mostly successful at that.)
4. Overseas/ Diaspora Chinese in SE Asia have a shorter history than Diaspora Jews (it's been so long since the Second Temple was destroyed that that word does not even make sense), but they live better than their neighbors in Malaysia/ Indonesia/ Philippines. Those people also live in intact families and are better educated than their neighbors (at least in the Diaspora).
Yet has the hatred of Chinese people been as severe/ persistent/ traumatic as it has of Jews? Not quite. And some authors (Thomas Sowell) have suggested that the Chinese domination of SE Asia is much greater than any comparable Jewish hegemony.
The authors give another example of Amish people. (This is one example of MANY strained explanations.) These are a religious minority that have some very strange customs. And yet no one bothers them. So is it enough to have different religious customs? Or to segregate oneself from society at large? The explanation that the authors seem to point directly to (but won't conclude) is: You can be part of/ live in a society, and that's fine. (Think all the various ethnic groups that have come to America and become "White.") You can go away from that society and NOT be part of it (Amish. Indians on reservations.) And that's fine, too. But you cannot expect to get a warm reception living in a society *and* deliberately trying to destroy it (what authors suggest--at length in the "Non Jewish Jews" chapter-- that Jews consciously do). A bit of definitional tightening would have avoided this sloppy reasoning.
There is no discussion of the difference between what *does* need explanation (i.e., is systematic) and what *does not* (i.e., is random/ idiosyncratic). So, the events of WWII are something that I would see as idiosyncratic. Germany was trying to rally a defeated nation and the Germans needed a rallying point. It just so happens that Anti-Semitism was familiar and so it could be used in that capacity. Had there been no Jews in Germany, then there just would have been someone else or some other reason would have presented itself. (Anti-Semitism started around the destruction of the Second Temple and has been a convenient rallying point for many peoples, but that does not mean that it is systematic.)
Christianity started out as a offshoot of Judaism (the same way that Satmar are a subsect of Hasidism which are themselves an offshoot of normative Judaism). Can the authors say that if history was allowed to run its course again that Judaism would not become the religion of the Roman Empire and Christianity would not be relegated to the status of a religion fighting for survival for the next 2,000 years? And if they can't, then their thesis (i.e., that people hate Jews because they are Jewish) starts to crack-- badly. And so does their attempt at developing a systematic explanation as opposed to explaining a random event.
The authors talk about Communism as being bad for Jews. But if Communism is properly understood as a religion (and it is), then anti-Semitism starts to look very much like old wine in new bottles: some clergy (cadres) waging a war against recalcitrant proselytes. If Anti-Semitism is religious in nature and Communism is a religion, then what needs explaining? Don't all religious people hate each other and try to convert each other (Sunni vs. Shia or Sunni vs. Ahmadis?)
Re: Islam (another question that the authors didn't answer to my satisfaction). If Muslims started out hating Jews for religious reasons (and their treatment under Muslim subjects was relatively less bad than it was under Christians), and that hatred persisted for such a long time, then is it a surprise that the nature of the hatred can change from religious to political (the same way it did when the Bolsheviks came into power after taking over from the Tsar)?
The authors write a very interesting chapter on "Non Jewish Jews." They point out that most Jews are not radicals but that a great many radicals are Jews. (They estimate that 5% of Jews of radicals but that 50% of radicals are Jews.) This observation is probably correct, but it calls into question some part of their thesis (again: "What is a Jew?"). They point out the vicious hatred that many of these "Non-Jewish Jews" have for America (and did have for the Weimar Republic in Germany).
In a nutshell.....1) I'm not convinced by their explanations; 2) More is necessary. Their definition needs to be formulated in such as way as to exclude other possibilities. They need to add some other qualifications/ refinement to their model of what creates hatred. Or perhaps their thesis is just not salvageable without a lot of straining.
What the authors could have concluded (and seemed to allude to) was a different set of factors that made Jews unpopular:
1. Being a middleman minority (that's an old story and has been told *many* times before-Parsis in India/ Igbos in Nigeria/ Chinese in SE Asia/ Indians in Africa).
2. Being a prominent fifth column inside of a country/ society (another old story and one that will not make an ethnic group friends), and the authors go through a litany of examples of Jewish fifth columns in the chapter on "Non Jewish Jews."
3. Being a religious minority that's a target of a clergy that's in bed with the government (Shia as targets of the Sunni establishment in Iraq/ Muslims as targets of the Hindu establishment in India).
These factors seem to have been different amounts of the hatred at different points in time.
They do do a good job documenting the various abuses that Jews have suffered and their true status in Muslim lands (thereby debunking the "Jews were happy and well treated in Muslim lands" myth.)
Verdict: Not worth the Kindle price. Worth the time to read, but only as a way to pick apart the arguments (which required a bit of work).
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