Jonathan Ferguson
The New Understanding: Post-Secular Pluralism and Universalism!

The Risk of Israel (IV): You Can’t Understand Antisemitism Without Hegel!

To speak of a blessing is to speak of a curse.

To speak of a curse is to speak of a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

The risk of Israel can be understood in many ways.

But one of the key insights this essay series (and eventual book) is intended to evoke, is the true metaphysical significance of Jews, Judaism, Zionism, Zionists, Israel, Israelis…

As a rejection of a certain intolerable false dilemma which may perhaps be familiar to those of you more or less well acquainted with continental philosophy and indeed critical theory!

Antisemitism’s true significance lies in its obstinate refusal to acknowledge that the particular is the one and only gateway to the universal. From an Hegelian perspective, remaining trapped in the bare immanence of bourgeois identity politics or being suffocated in the airy heights of pure transcendence (bourgeois humanitarianism, a purely abstract and empty ‘universality’) are both singularly unappealing prospects. Jews and Israel have transcended this false opposition, and their Promethean presumption, like all good deeds, has not gone unpunished.

At the bottom of antisemitism is a deep logical and metaphysical insecurity. One might call it ‘dialectical Angst.’ A nameless dread of resolution and irresolution. The dialectic’s dread, and not a fear of a person or a people only. Scarce wonder then that as Zizek has audaciously noted, ‘the Jew’ has become a placeholder of myriad diffuse and ungrounded insecurities that needed a name.

One could go further and say that by naming this profuse tissue (or foaming brew) of insecurities, the anti-Semite community have given concrete and determinate form to the Many, but have in turn distorted the One in a most unconvincing manner; in which case, the act of naming has not dispelled their terror.

The irresolubility of dialectical scapegoating has, sad to say, made Jews a perpetual sacrifice to the metaphysical ressentiment of the logically distorted and dialectically deviant. To be a loyalist either of Darwinian particularism or Comtean abstract universalism is to take up arms not only for or against a specific logical process of becoming, but a concrete and determinate interest group or being. That which is despised in the realm of metaphysics of logic, of the dialectic, must be ruthlessly punished in the world of actual human Dasein.

Or less eruditely, and rather more concisely: Jews represent the rejection both of identity politics (civic paganism) and abstract universalism (civic Tawhid). And both the lumpenproletariat of sophistry and the aristocracy of bourgeosi philososiphastering alike are acting as though they somehow feared to despise them for refusing to lean on either side.

Surprise! Can you but imagine!

Last year, the controversial and widely-criticised Gilad Atzmon went beyond criticising Zionism into criticising ‘Jewishness,’ whose purported engine is chosenness; something Atzmon consider a form of Judeo-centrism, a kind of exceptionalism.

And in recent times, an apparent Corbyn supporter sarcastically noted:

They are ‘God’s Chosen people,’ so they can do what the f**k they like.

These two quotations are very important, as they can help draw out a key reminder that is of non-negotiable importance, and yet may be easily forgotten. While Jews are threatened by the explicit and brutal paganistic ‘civic polytheism’ of white nationalists, the self-styled ‘Alt-Right,’ this is not the only threat. Now of course, whether it be white nationalism, black nationalism, or various religious and national supremacisms that is at stake, what every one of these particular forms of hate has in common is a fundamental obsession with the particular, parochial, zero-sum claims of a specific interest group!

So, this is a horizontal battle between two purely immanent groups (or more) that cannot transcend the limitations of the foul and fetid, cramped and narrow Darwinian dreamscape they are doomed to do battle in until the end of time. But the two quotations above potentially point to a rather more different battle. One that is rather more vertical in character…

For instead of the radical immanence of bourgeois identity politics or other forms of inhumane and barbaric splitterism, it is also perfectly possible to discuss the purely empty and abstract transcendence of bourgeois humanitarianism, as well as its unresolved and irresolute socialist internationalist surrogates. I am here using ‘humanitarianism’ in the sense used by Max Scheler, the author of my much-beloved Ressentiment. While Scheler himself was not free of contentious views on Jews (and others!), his term of art ‘humanitarianism,’ as rendered in English by the Manfred Frings translation, signifies a departure from the importance of the concrete human individual, towards a purely abstract ‘Humanity’ of everyone and non-one; scarce wonder that later in time, the Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises, in Human Action, would call the ‘Humanité’ of August Comte a ‘god.’ A kind of substitute deity, if you will. This is almost literally so, in fact. Because Comte wanted to replace traditional religion with an actual cult of devotion to Humanity. Sound familiar…?

Well, there’s a lot of it about! Anyone remember the humanitarian bombs of Vaclav Havel? Well, the idolatrous Moloch of ‘Humanity’ is still inviting us all to cast the least powerful in society and in the world between the fire. Humanity and his evil sister, the ‘Global Village,’ have in turn spawned some puny, incestuous little bastard known as ‘the International Community.’ The self-appointed guardians of global justice and hollow universality have a great revulsion towards God’s people, whether in Israel or in the diaspora. There is much talk of ‘Crimes Against Humanity,’ but not so much about ‘Crimes For Humanity,’ and those are precisely what bourgeois humanitarians want to viciously inflict upon Israel, purely for having the temerity to defend herself against her abusers.

The crassness, the vulgarity, the unfeeling, uneducated depravity of Israel’s hysterically enraged accusers (or ‘satans,’ ironically enough!) leads us to another insight from Scheler: ‘love for Humanity’ is not love for the higher qualities of human nature, nor anything remotely divine. Purely love for the immanent, empirical, untranscended self. Bourgeois postmodernism is a key ideological weapon of what you might justly call the L’Oreal Generation: “Because I’m worth it, baby!” You are fine just as you are… Everybody is equally right and good, only so that nobody can be right or good at all! And this very lack of respect for virtue and the higher, finer things in life is itself an abortive backstreet hangover from bourgeois humanitarianism’s philistine contempt for the good, the true and the beautiful.

So in the end, it is not surprising to see words like these deriving from an actual universalist, rather than from some blue-haired, chubby-armed, omni-pierced, perpetually-betriggered and fauxmatised SJW snowflake:

The truth of the matter is that Corbyn has managed to touch the most sensitive Jewish collective nerve. In Corbyn’s universalist egalitarian offering, there is no room for tribal exceptionalism. In Corbyn’s universe, Jews are just ordinary people and not God’s chosen people. Corbyn’ s ‘for the many, not the few’ doesn’t conform to chosenness, whether the Jewish or identify type. But we can see that this universalist perception of the ‘many’ is interpreted by British Jewish leadership as a casus belli – a call for a war.

As Edward Said used to say of Bernard Lewis, the Jewish historian he used to unkindly caricature in Orientalism in rather Wagnerian terms as a hysterical Mime: Atzmon shows a talent here for gloriously missing the point!

Of course, in a way, Atzmon has actually managed to hit on something rather important: the savage, undisciplined, incontinent scorched earth furnace of identity politics has nothing remotely valuable to offer the discussion on Jews, on Zionism, on Israel. However, the spare and austere socialist universalism on offer here is strongly reminiscent of the bourgeois humanitarianism that Scheler has denounced. There is something deeply undialectical about these words from a Socialist Worker’s Party activist (a Trotskyist revolutionary organisation in the UK).

And why is this?

Because the dichotomy between particularism and universalism here appears to foreclose upon another intriguing possibility:

That universalism is superior to particularism in terms of the good, the true and the beautiful; but on condition only that one begins with the particular, and then gradually works one way outwards, like all people of true wisdom, knowledge and discernment have done since the days of Adam and Eve.

And Rabbi Hillel would say no different, if he were here with us today.

And so would Jesus.

And this is also a well-respected Confucian teaching, whose relational ethics are commonly characterised nowadays as representing a series of ‘concentric circles.’

Love for the neighbour is always love for someone.

Some one.

And natural, meaningful, concrete human relationships of solidarity and loyalty being first established, it then becomes possibly to extend this love and faithfulness further outwards.

However, in order to finally gravitate towards the universal, one must first have a firm foundation.

This is what the enemies of Israel, both particularist and universalist, either cannot or will not understand.

This is greatly to their detriment, but it is also a grave tragedy for all free spirits, intellects and hearts.

About the Author
Dr Jonathan Thomas Ferguson is an alumnus of the University of Leeds and King's College London. He is interested in interfaith dialogue, international relations, the Apocalypse of Hope and spiritual matters generally.
Related Topics
Related Posts