Anti-Semitism by Numbers: Honoring Hate

The wolves are howling again. The extreme right’s raw viciousness injures and kills what is in front of it, but it does not attract decent people. An extreme-left version of anti-Semitism, garbed in rational sheepskin, is more dangerous. The FBI calculates that 60 percent of physical American hate crimes target Jews, and in the outside world, more. But subtle thinkers on the extreme left have renewed a kind of religious hatred, an oxymoron of self-declared virtuous anti-Semitism that is widely attractive, using arithmetic as a substitute divinity. The strategy engages well-intended as well as vicious followers and is therefore more broadly dangerous than the murders that make headlines. It must be countered immediately.

When the monstrosity of the failed Nazi project, proudly documented on film by the sadists themselves, was revealed, clergy that had led religious oppression and their congregants, largely recognizing their past for what it was, turned away from hate, but that twisted faith has been replaced by belief in numbers.

Can arithmetic be wrong? No, and perhaps present self-declared virtuous anti-Semites are self-deceived when they use percentages to deceive potential followers. Their devious reasoning is wrong, and showing how may end its attractiveness.

Their argument goes this way. Minorities should have equivalent percentages of their numbers in government, management, the sciences and the arts. They want respected positions, awards and professional distinctions for their kind equal to their percentages in the world.

They look at present numbers and find that Jews — of whom little Israel is the national example — numbering far fewer than the minorities numerical advocates represent, have more distinctions than other whites. Jews do have their poor and variously unable, but they also have many brilliant scholars, politicians, Nobel Prize winners, technological successes and, in Israel’s case, a democracy protected by an independent Supreme Court and a powerful military. Numbers, the twisted argument goes, prove that they are more privileged than whites generally, and therefore numerical advocates oppose Jews before all. Their argument influences nations as well as individuals.

One fact destroys it: Jews are not privileged. They accomplish what they do while being opposed.

Professors refused Albert Einstein, after he wrote a paper that started quantum physics, recommendations for a position in a university. Then, working in a patent office, in a single year, he published four Nobel Prize worthy studies, including one that ended in E=MC2. Those essays, not his reviled ethnicity, earned him a place in history.

Anti-Semitism traces back to Ancient Greeks in Alexandria and ancient Christians in Rome, who were determined to win support and convert pagans to Christianity. They worshipped the radical Jew Jesus, who, influenced by the Pharisee idea that prayers should replace animal sacrifice and by the Essenes, who lived ascetically, preached that worship and abstinence, not Temple sacrifices, were the route to salvation. Beginning with Paul, to win over Roman support, Christians charged Jews with Jesus’s murder. Further appealing to pagans, Paul characterized his Lord as, like Bacchus/Dionysus, the divine human son of a divinity and a woman.

Eighteenth century deists rejected the idea that any god controlled the universe and along with it religious anti-Semitism. Leaders among their Enlightenment inspired creators of United States were not anti-Semitic, and Jewish Haym Solomon funded George Washington’s military. But such facts did not cure anti-Semitism among conventional believers, not even in America.

The history of that self-congratulatory moral disaster continued through the 1930s. In the early ’30s, New York Times correspondent Edgar Mowrer wrote Pulitzer Prize winning essays admiring Hitler. Mowrer soon saw that he was wrong and began writing attacks on the Nazis that got him banished from Germany, but the likes of Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh and Senator Prescott Bush, the father of two presidents, embraced Hitler.

Blacks, too, were held down, and Jews reached out to them. Julius Rosenwald, chair of Sears Roebuck, more generously supported Southern Blacks than anyone in history. Joel Spingarn helped to found the NAACP. Most of the lawyers who defended the civil rights movement in Mississippi were Jews. Abraham Heschel and other rabbis marched with Martin Luther King.

But for the numerical that is part of Jewish privilege. It is as if we are at the start of the twentieth century again, when Emil Zola was convicted of libel for correctly accusing the French of knowingly exonerating the guilty Christian and falsely imprisoning Jewish Alfred Dreyfus for treason.

The horrors of Nazi torture and murder, which the murderers proudly documented, largely put an end to that version of anti-Semitism. But only temporarily. The numerical advocates have reopened a seemingly virtuous argument by casting a percentage-blinded eye on Jewish accomplishments.

Why accomplished Jews exist is a subject for another inquiry, but privilege has nothing to do with it. Like the Black community, they suffer oppression. They like other gifted minorities should be welcomed with smiles.

About the Author
Albert Wachtel , a professor at Pitzer College, one of the Claremont Colleges in Southern California, and writes essays on politics, social and literary situations and short stories, often concerning Jews and Israel.
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