How We Have Failed to Help the West Understand the Lessons of the Past
It began with the normalisation of antisemitism. In the most modern and progressive of European countries, which Germany was at the time, there was a rising up among academics of intellectually justified hate and resentment against Jews. We were variously accused of being responsible for Communism, Capitalism, controlling money and the banks, being disproportionately wealthy or poor, taking high level jobs away from Aryans and being “racially inferior” based on the “new science” of eugenics.
The internal contradictions of the rationalisations for hate were overlooked. The cognitive dissonance was suppressed. To be despised, likened and dehumanised to germs or rats and considered inferior because of poverty sat happily alongside accusations that highly educated Jews had somehow illegitimately stolen the best jobs, as doctors, lawyers or scientists, or that we had too much sway in political matters. In these ways, hatred of Jews was first “normalised”. Jews were hated for succeeding or failing, for contributing or for consuming too much.
I see it today in the sophistries of Western academia that argues that the Jews, alone of all ethnicities are not entitled to self-rule while championing the self-rule of a competing and non-indigenous group; that argues against nationhood for Jews while in favour of nationhood for Palestinians; that uses the rationalisation of antizionism as a vector for antisemitism by applying a different and higher standard against Israel than against her enemies in terms of faulting Israel’s right to self-defence, even as her methods are revealed in study after study to be the most humane in the world and certainly more so than that of her enemies. I see it in the way thinly disguised way that much of Western academia falsely frames its attacks as “criticism of Israel’s policies” rather than erosion of Israel’s right to exist.
Slowly and corrosively, the Western academic cartel is normalising antisemitism by carving this manifestation of racism and only this manifestation of racism, away from the social justice values of anti-racism, autonomy and self-rule for all other indigenous people and placing Israel, as the genesis of Jewish identity, as the one exception that cannot be empathised with and can never “get it right”.
Under this kind of propaganda, Israel’s right to exist is delegitimised and the status of Jews as an ethnoreligious minority group with all our attendant claims, is disregarded. In the current political and social climate, Jewish voices are the one minority group whose voices it is considered acceptable to silence.
Yet again, Jews are held responsible for the deaths of others while the deaths of Jews are minimised and overlooked. Yet again, Jews are unjustly accused of atrocities and murder when they are under attack, while the world watches on and criticises and accepts the accusations as facts. Yet again Jews are despised; in WWII for walking passively into the gas chambers, today for fighting tooth and nail for our survival.
Yet again, Jews are demonised even while bomb threats rain down daily on American Jewish Community Centres and Jewish cemeteries are being vandalised weekly and in the current American political climate, where does the focus end up? On blaming the election of Donald Trump, while ignoring the uptick in antisemitic hate crimes in the West under governments of all stripes over the past decade. How neatly the real problem, of antisemitism in American society is sidelined into second place behind petty, partisan politics.
France and Belgium have proved themselves unable to protect the Jews living within their borders, even paying for police and military protection at synagogues and schools at the expense of their taxpayers and European Jews are fleeing to Israel at ever accelerating numbers while Western academia turns its attention to delegitimising Israel’s right to exist; turns its attention to putting in place the building blocks of a critique that aims to destroy the only sanctuary that Jews have.
If you belong to any ethnic or indigenous minority group that hold claims to throw off the shackles of colonial oppression, I warn you now, this is the assault you will face if you assert your autonomy, independence and land rights. You will hear your historic oppressors redefine who you are to suit their own agenda, as they do today in the West with their arguments that Ashkenazi Jews are not “real Jews”. You will see your attackers misappropriate your history to validate their own claims, as they have in the U.N. by their ruling that makes the Temple Mount and Kotel the sacred places of Muslims and over-rides the historic claims of the Jewish people.
Most horrifying, you will see the educated classes, those who should know better concerning history and culture, nod their heads in agreement, minimise your claims and struggles, become blind to facts and empathy, and become mute in your defence.
You will see their values shift and distort. Indeed, they will argue that delegitimising and failing to support you in the face of inversions of the narrative by those who have sworn to kill you (see the Hamas charter which is aimed at all Jews and not just Israel) is a demonstration of empathy and social justice.
You will see the seeds that tell you that history is repeating itself. Like the central characters in a b-grade horror film, you will watch them walk back down the well-trodden path into the maw of hell, with their hands over their ears and their lips clamped firmly shut.