Saturday, February 18, 2012
Anti-Semitism & the Pseudo Intellectual question
Whenever someone in the news asks the question “why are ‘the Jews’ an object of persecution” and “are they responsible for their own suffering” (“why are people anti-Semitic” is a slightly more subtle take on the question) I momentarily sadden and then in a rush of mental images I formulate the answer. Only afterwards do I feel any anger towards the questioner.
The question is no more than a pseudo intellectual dialectic employed to sanitise a racists’ position. I will not dwell on the identity of the most recent questioner (a leading British Catholic writer) because to do so is arguably irrelevant. He could have been as easily a she and ethnicity or faith is similarly of little consequence other than to provide the historical fertiliser for this fetid and facile denunciation of me and my kind. Repetition reinforces prejudice and promotes bigotry. We have banished an anti-black narrative and are wary of stereotyping Arabs. In Britain Anti-Muslim sentiment has been similarly cast out from the quality media. In fact the BBC has stated publicly that it would trash the Talmud and bury the New Testament but will never touch the Koran.
So excuse me if I decline the opportunity to regurgitate someone else’s discrimination. I will however, answer the question my way.
We are all moulded by history. Two thousand years ago The Romans had an empire. The only significant opposition to Roman civilisation was Israel. The Jews had their own god and their own culture; they had a unique economic structure and an ethical system of government. By their celebration of the Sabbath they rejected unrestrained capitalism and put limitations on the institution of slavery, both of which sustained the ancient world (and not just the ancient world, for without the two missionary faiths slavery could not have survived for as long as it did).
Israel and the Jewish system that clothed it was adopted by huge numbers of converts throughout the Roman Empire. Judaism was embraced by patricians, by plebeians, by slaves and by barbarians alike. Roman ethics were suited to conquest, domination and self-adulation. Israel was not. In order to survive, early Christianity had to distance itself from both its roots and its ethical antecedents. Rendering unto Caesar ‘that which was his’ was a cop-out but it did enable Christianity to take control of Rome and ultimately the empire. But in distancing itself from its roots it also had to justify its distance and the hatred it encouraged in order to convince Rome that it was not a threat was the price the Jewish people paid in facilitating the accession of Christianity to dominance.
There are two missionary faiths on planet Earth (if, that is, we exclude the extremist political movements that mimic religion in all but ceremony). A faith that declares itself to be universal can only prove its worth by reference to its numeric superiority and the constant stream of converts to its flag. Dehumanisation, persecution, conspiracy theories, violence and ethnic cleansing are tools without which a missionary faith soon loses focus and purpose. Without ‘the other’ to demonise, its own internal contradictions create a spiral of decay and violent renewal; unless its theological focus shifts away from and is a rejection of the original sin of its aggressive birth, entropy is as inevitable as the violence from which it is nourished.
1.700 to 1,800 years of anti-Semitic instruction, defining us as inferior, as worthy of derision, ridicule and hatred, will inevitably lead to intermittent rounds of persecution, ethnic cleansing and genocide. This is Christianity’s legacy and few are willing to admit to this fact. The Church spent almost 2,000 years telling its parishioners that they must turn the other cheek. But that instruction counted only to reinforce the control of the church hierarchy over its constituents and never applied to its conduct towards those it perceived as either competitor or enemy.
Islam, the other missionary faith, rejects ‘turning the other cheek’ as a meaningless concession to opposing forces and a theologically unacceptable sign of weakness. At best it is permitted to agree to a ‘Hudna,’ the Arabic term for an armistice. Based on an incident that is alleged to have happened during Muhammad’s conquest of Saudi, a truce is permitted as long as ten years is the maximum period required to overcome any disadvantage and defeat the enemy. Ridiculing the infidel (the non-Muslim or non-believer) has been intrinsic to Koranic lore since Islam’s creation almost 1,400 years ago. It is this active imposition of inferior status that reinforces the tension existing between the global Islamic nation and the rest of humanity. I have known an eight year old Muslim child from an African refugee family to verbally abuse his teacher because she was inferior, Christian and a woman. This 8 year old child spat out his words with an indifference that showed he was not angry, he simply lacked any sympathy for the other. The child could only have absorbed this internal emotional and intellectual narrative from his parents.
Two missionary faiths have fought each other for as long as they have interacted with each other. But the balance of terror has been sufficient to create uneasy fault lines which only occasionally slip. As a perpetual minority the Jews have never been lucky enough to stand at a safe distance from the fault lines of religious struggle.
History is a cruel teacher. If you tell enough lies about someone and if you hit them often enough; it is almost impossible to stop. By example: all those bleeding hearts that accept ‘Palestinian’ (i.e. Christian or Muslim) immigration to Palestine but label me ‘a colonialist’ are either intentional or unintentional anti Semites; intentional if they appreciate the dishonesty of their position, remarkably stupid if they do not.
A neat definition of an anti Semite is a person who treats a Jew in a way that is different to the way he treats anyone else.
Despite my history I refuse to hate, but do not ask me to respect the questioner.