Typifying HD to explain Judeophobia

An old misleading question was raised this year by the Knesset: whether Israel should recognize the Armenian genocide of 1915. An answer might share some light into what Judeophobia is.

Firstly, Israel doesn’t need to have a position about the First World War. Sates are not historians. They are not obliged to judge past events. It makes no sense to ask whether Israel recognizes the US invasion of Panama, or if Chile acknowledges the First Intifada.

Moreover, during the debate on April 24, the then president of the Knesset added confusion when he compared Holocaust Denial (HD) to “ignoring the tragedy of another nation.” Thus he missed the point, because the main problem with HD is not that it ignores history. In fact it has nothing to do with history, not even with the Holocaust itself. Historical lies aren’t necessarily a crime.

HD is one of the two most frequent expressions of current Judeophobia (the other one being anti-Zionism.) They usually appear together because both twist the Jewish past: “since Jews didn’t suffer as they claim, they are not entitled to a State as they claim.”

Among other reasons, HD should be rejected because it whitewashes Nazism and incites violence. The main Judeophobic aspect of HD is that it portrays the Jews as a bunch of paranoiac self-victimizing liars who through their world-control mislead everyone into an utter fabrication.

If the Shoah were a sham, the stereotype of the Jews as eternal deceivers is true. This is the main reason for which HD should be criminalized, something completely different to judging the Armenian or other genocides.

In 2007 a Spanish court decided that the denial of historical facts should not be penalized lest freedom of expression be restricted. As a result Spain withdrew the crime of HD from its penal code, although it had been thus defined in 2003 by the European Court on Human Rights. In this case, the Spaniards missed the point, because they treated HD as if it were an opinion –and not a Judeophobic aggression.

It is discouraging that educational courses on HD, even at prestigious institutions of learning, refute HD on the basis of historical evidence of the Shoah. It is as if someone published that Jews are malodorous, and the response would be to offer biological refutations.

To counteract HD you don’t dip into a historical debate, but into modern Judeophobia, in that it claims that Jews fabricate their persecution and manipulate everyone into an enormous lie.

As other variants of Judeophobia, HD can be deactivated through education. Yet, there almost no educational programs that deal with it.

During the last decade many initiatives were taken to teach about the Shoah. However, the Shoah is the consequence of a specific and singular group hatred; therefore the teaching about the source should precede the explanation of the resulting genocide.

Education on Judeophobia 

Four pedagogical guidelines help to educate on Judeophobia –two are theoretical (the definition and the characterization of the phenomenon), and two are practical (how to overcome qualms and to choose among different approaches.)

Follows a brief description of each guideline:

1)    The definition

Judeophobia is a frequent and efficient method to channel social resentments and frustrations.

  1. It is frequent because its mythology is always at hand and it can be used, even when the target of the hatred is absent.
  2. It is efficient because it is the most universal and ideologically “justifiable” group hatred.
  3. It is a useful disguise of brutal instincts as if they were a universal ideology –“the fight against the oppressors and the powerful,” no matter how defenseless the actual victim is.

2)   The characterization

Of the several group hatreds available to haters, Judeophobia is the oldest, and the most universal, permanent, deep, obsessive, dangerous, fictitious and easy. Each characteristic can be explained and exemplified.

Moreover, Judeophobia stands out in two practical ways. First, it is violent rather than discriminatory, even if in some cases it discriminates and thus coincides with other forms of bigotry.

Secondly, it is not a type of contempt -but of demonization. This is why Judeophobia has a penchant towards physical violence. People are not necessarily ready to attack whoever they disdain, but they would promptly attack someone who arise fearful stereotypes. Indeed, the mythology that has blemished the Jews (deicide, demonic, world-dominators, blood-thirsty, etc.) provokes fear and distrust rather than disdain.   Whenever the Judeophobe feels protected by law, by “ideology” and by social circumstances, violence shall break out.

The practical questions are: 

  1. Overcoming qualms

One of the obstacles of teaching about Judeophobia is that it wouldn’t be considered politically incorrect to mention its main current target –the Jewish State. Yet, Today’s Judeophobic mythology seldom targets the Jew as an individual, a community or a religion. The tendency to avoid an alleged political detour from the topic (talking Israel,) makes almost impossible to exemplify the main cases of today’s Judeophobia.

A second problem is that the best examples of today’s Judeophobes are not uneducated people but academics and prestigious personalities. Not Hugo Chávez has to be exposed, but Toynbee, Chomsky or Alice Walker.

Finally, a proper approach has to be chosen to respond to Judeophobia through education, among three current alternatives, namely:

a)    To exalt the victim by emphasizing Jewish contribution to civilization,

b)    To universalize the hatred, by showing how bad are prejudices in general, or

c)    To expose the evils that Judeophobia brings to society.

The first two approaches are frequently counterproductive. Exalting the Jews is irrelevant when considering persecutions, since no one could have ever deserved the Shoah, no matter how meager his contribution to mankind.

And universalization is a recipe for banalization. If all bigotry is lumped together the uniqueness of Jew-hatred is never properly understood.

HD is a good case to comprehend current Judeophobia and to deconstruct it.


About the Author
Gustavo D Perednik has lectured at universities in fifty countries and penned a dozen books, among them Judeophobia (2001) and To Kill Without a Trace (2009) about Prosecutor Alberto Nisman and Iranian terror in Latin America