On Anti-Semitism

I have today received a comment on the Neanderthals article which expressed much resentment at the influence of Jews in American politics, touching on some traditional antisemitic themes. I have left the comment to stand but I won’t repeat it here. I will repeat my reply however.

I have indeed taken an interest in Leo Strauss and read some of the critiques of his thinking. (Drury’s I thought was interesting–I wrote a little in the ‘neoconservative’ section of a previous article and here).

I think this whole area needs to be treated with great care and sensitivity. There is plenty of objective evidence that Jews on average are highly liberal, tolerant, educated and so on being much far more sceptical of the neocon nutty Iraq project than the population on average. As an ethnic group I find it particularly easy to think highly of them (and my ethics says that we should strive to think well of everyone).

There is peculiar post-Holocaust dynamic. I believe that Europeans have a horrible history of persecuting Jews and Europeans were collective collaborators in the mid-20th century attack on European Jewry, not just the ‘good Germans’ (and it may have been true of North America too, which is and was not so culturally separated from Europe).

Now we see a huge guilt complex which I think is unhealthy (see my recent post on modern guilt and why I think it is unhealthy). While the Holocaust traumatised the Jews I think it also traumatised gentiles, maybe equally.

The consequence is that unscupulous people, quite unconsciously I am sure, can exploit the the traumas of both parties and this I think is what we are seeing. Some of them may be Jews, but many aren’t, and in any case the unscrupulous ones are in such a tiny minority that it is a terrible mistake to spread the accusation beyond those responsible, and people should be very careful of doing this, especially given the well worn habit of blaming Jews once things go wrong. As I said, the objective evidence makes it really, really easy for me to dismiss any such thoughts.

Instead we must try and get beyond these guilty taboos and talk about the kind of issues you raised honestly.

That is why, after a hesitation, I decided to approve your comment. I think it is important that these things are discussed. The problem is that it is such a radioactive issue that people can easily get the wrong idea. I really much prefer to discuss these things openly, provided everyone is engaging in the discussion with the aim of reaching a better understanding. But at the same time I had to write a reply.

I hope you understand.

I am in a bit of a quandry. For the reasons I state above I think it is actually not a good idea to suppress such arguments but to unpack them and reach a rational conclusion. But I don’t want the blog to become a platform for demonising any group. The issue remains such a raw wound that it is really tempting to just avoid it altogether (as is the standard practice), but I believe there are risks in everyone just letting it fester. For the moment I will let it stand and I remain open to well-motivated comments and advice but will close the discussion down if it starts generating more heat than light.

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