Moral Paragons Need No Facts: The Pathetic Apologetics of Jonathan Sacks, Part 1

Brenton Sanderson


Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Jonathan Sacks has been acclaimed by the Jerusalem Post as “one of contemporary Britain’s most outstanding thinkers and spokesmen.” The former Chief British Rabbi, who has been showered with awards from Jewish organizations and appointed to professorships in New York and London, has been feted as a “brilliant philosopher and an enlightening presence for the whole world.” He has even been called “the outstanding moral authority of our time,” while the egregious Prince Charles once described him as “a light unto this nation.” Not surprisingly, given the Jewish stranglehold over the Western media, Sacks, who was made a peer of the House of Lords in 2009, is given a regular platform to peddle his brand of Jewish ethno-politics in a range of media outlets including the BBC, the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

Despite his high profile, and the honors and appointments that have been lavished upon him, an examination of Sacks’ intellectual output soon reveals it to be filled with feeble apologetics, empty platitudes and facile homilies. All of these are fully evident in a speech this “brilliant philosopher” recently gave to the European Parliament entitled “The Mutating Virus — Understanding Antisemitism,” (full text here) to open a conference on the future of Jewish communities in Europe hosted by Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament.

In his speech Sacks bewails the supposedly dire plight of European Jewry and offers his analysis of “what antisemitism is, why it happens, [and] why antisemites are convinced that they are not antisemitic.” Like the Jewish “historian” Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Sacks favors using the term “antisemitism” over the hyphenated “anti-Semitism” — doubtless because the latter implies the existence of a “Semitism” which could (and indeed does) provide the dialectical basis for “anti-Semitism.” In this way they signal their denial of the reality that hostility to Jews stems from conflicts of interest between Jews and non-Jews in a Darwinian world.

Given his status as one of Britain’s (and indeed the world’s) leading Jewish intellectuals, one would expect Sacks to be a veritable fount of intellectually-sophisticated Jewish apologetics. Instead, this “brilliant philosopher,” while claiming to offer “precision and understanding” about “a phenomenon full of vagueness and ambiguity,” offers his audience the usual litany of threadbare Jewish apologetic tropes. He begins by defining what “antisemitism” is:

First let me define antisemitism. Not liking Jews is not antisemitism. We all have people we don’t like. That’s OK; that’s human; it isn’t dangerous. Second, criticizing Israel is not antisemitism. I was recently talking to some schoolchildren and they asked me: is criticizing Israel antisemitism? I said No and I explained the difference. I asked them: Do you believe you have a right to criticize the British government? They all put up their hands. Then I asked, Which of you believes that Britain has no right to exist? No one put up their hands. Now you know the difference, I said, and they all did.

While initially claiming that criticizing Israel is not “antisemitic,” Sacks devotes much of his speech to arguing the contrary: that “anti-Zionism is the new antisemitism” and that criticizing Israel, e.g., on its land-grabbing settlement policy or its immigration and refugee policy, amounts to denying Jews the right to exist. Such “criticism” includes pointing out the obvious double standards of those who, like Sacks, promote “diversity” for the West while aggressively defending the ethno-nationalist state of Israel. Inevitably, like legions of Jewish apologists before him, Sacks flatly refuses to countenance the possibility that Jews are in any way responsible for the adverse reaction they have always elicited from those affected negatively by their behavior. Instead, he assures us that

antisemitism is not about Jews. It is about anti-Semites. It is about people who cannot accept responsibility for their own failures and have instead to blame someone else. Historically, if you were a Christian at the time of the Crusades, or a German after the First World War, and saw that the world hadn’t turned out the way you believed it would, you blamed the Jews. That is what is happening today. And I cannot begin to say how dangerous it is. Not just to Jews but to everyone who values freedom, compassion and humanity.

This perennial “Jew-as-the-eternal-scapegoat-for-the-psychological-inadequacies-of-non-Jews” narrative never loses its utility in accounting for “antisemitism” in a way that fully absolves Jews of all responsibility. With this theory, there is no need to delve into actual reasons why Jews have been hated in particular historical instances; the origin of anti-Jewish sentiment always resides in the fundamental incapacity of non-Jews to exercise reason and moral discernment. As with Jewish apologetics stretching back to the ancient world, Sacks yet again presents us with the conception of Jews as reasoning, intelligent moral paragons and non-Jews as brutish and irrational embodiments of evil. Reflecting on the countless Jewish narratives built on these underlying assumptions, sociologist John Murray Cuddihy observed in The Ordeal of Civility how “attention must be paid to the deeply apologetic structure of Diaspora intellectuality,” whereby the Jewish “intelligentsia ‘explains,’ ‘excuses,’ and ‘accounts’ for the otherwise offensive behavior of its people.”[i]

Sacks proceeds to chastise non-Jews for supposedly doing exactly what Jews do: never engaging in honest self-criticism and always blaming others for their problems. This is a classic case of psychological projection. According to Sacks:

When bad things happen to a group, its members can ask one of two questions: “What did we do wrong?” or “Who did this to us?” The entire fate of the group will depend on which it chooses. If it asks, “What did we do wrong?” it has begun the self-criticism essential to a free society. If it asks, “Who did this to us?” it has defined itself as a victim. It will then seek a scapegoat to blame for all its problems. Classically this has been the Jews.

This then reduces complex problems to simplicities. It divides the world into black and white, seeing all the fault on one side and all the victimhood on the other. It singles out one group among a hundred offenders for the blame. The argument is always the same. We are innocent; they are guilty. It follows that if we are to be free, they, the Jews or the state of Israel, must be destroyed. That is how the great crimes begin.

Rabbi Sacks naturally eschews any introspection about Jewish history and is content to focus all his attention on portraying Jews as quintessential victims. He is equally content to find a scapegoat for this eternal Jewish victimhood in the menacing specter of the ubiquitous and deranged “antisemite.” Sacks has elsewhere posited that the pursuit of truth regarding the origins of “antisemitism” must always give way to the maintenance of “Jewish pride,” claiming that “for Jews, the response to antisemitism must be to fight it but never to internalize it or accept it on its own terms.”[ii]  Rather than seeking a genuine understanding of it, Sacks insists that, for Jews, “the only sane response,” is to “monitor it, fight it, but never let it affect our idea of who we are. Pride is always a healthier response than shame.”[iii] This coming from the same man who claims to value intellectual honesty above all — that “intellectual honesty is a precondition for the religious life.”[iv]

Pursuing his basic theme that hostility to Jews is indisputable evidence of mental impairment — no need to discuss the facts — Sacks informs us in his speech that

antisemitism is a form of cognitive failure, and it happens when groups feel that their world is spinning out of control. It began in the Middle Ages, when Christians saw that Islam had defeated them in places they regarded as their own, especially Jerusalem. That was when, in 1096, on their way to the Holy Land, the Crusaders stopped first to massacre Jewish communities in Northern Europe. It was born in the Middle East in the 1920s with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Antisemitism re-emerged in Europe in the 1870s during a period of economic recession and resurgent nationalism. And it is re-appearing in Europe now for the same reasons: recession, nationalism, and a backlash against immigrants and other minorities. Antisemitism happens when the politics of hope gives way to the politics of fear, which quickly becomes the politics of hate.

Wishing away anti-Jewish attitudes with one-line explanations and no references is typical of Jewish writers confident that they will not be held to normal standards of scholarship and argumentation in the mainstream media or academic world. Of course, Arab conflicts with Jews in the 1920s in the Ottoman Empire might just possibly have had something to do with Zionist immigration to the area and conflicting nationalist aspirations. And explaining late-nineteenth-century and contemporary European anti-Jewish attitudes as having nothing to do with Jews as a powerful, influential elite whose interests conflicted with other sectors of the society is simply inexcusable.

Sacks insists that the evil “antisemite” has a monopoly on hate, and moreover

the hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. That is what I want us to understand today. It wasn’t Jews alone who suffered under Hitler. It wasn’t Jews alone who suffered under Stalin. It isn’t Jews alone who suffer under ISIS or Al Qaeda or Islamic Jihad. We make a great mistake if we think antisemitism is a threat only to Jews. It is a threat, first and foremost, to Europe and to the freedoms it took centuries to achieve.

Sacks naturally fails to mention the elite status of Jews in the early decades of the Soviet Union under Stalin. For Sacks, if Stalin was evil and murdered millions, Jews must have been among his victims, not prominent among the perpetrators — as was indeed the case (see previous link).  Also unmentioned is Israel’s cynical willingness to purchase oil from ISIS and to provide emergency medical treatment for radical Islamists to get these implacable “antisemites” back onto the battlefield in order to topple Assad.

According to Sacks, hostility to Jews is never rational and is always a manifestation of an anti-social mania on the part of the neurotic non-Jew which, while initially directed at Jews, is subsequently arrayed against other minority groups. This assertion is falsified by a quick survey of history where we find that hostility to Jews has, in most cases, existed independently of animus to other minorities, and complaints about Jews are always quite different from complaints about, say, Blacks or gypsies. In any case, Sacks neglects to explain why the hostility that has been directed at other minorities like gypsies, much less Mennonites or Mormons, trifles in comparison to that directed at Jews. Anti-Jewish feeling has been a defining component of major historical upheavals, such as the Spanish Inquisition and the rise of National Socialism — due in no small part to Jews being an elite with radically different interests than the people they have lived among.

For Sacks, hatred of Jews is ultimately hatred of humanity itself and, therefore, “Antisemitism is never ultimately about Jews. It is about a profound human failure to accept the fact that we are diverse and must create space for diversity if we are to preserve our humanity.”[v] While constantly invoking the necessity of “creating space for diversity,” Sacks never explores the actual nature of that “diversity” — like differences in mean IQ and associated behavioral tendencies, or entrenched cultural assumptions about women — and the disquieting implications these have for daily life in the diverse, multi-racial societies he advocates for the West (but not for Israel). Instead of addressing such considerations, he simply assures us that, “the only response to the fear and hatred of difference is to honor the dignity of difference. That is the Jewish message to the world.”[vi]

Sacks is an exemplar of that Jewish tendency to couch the pursuit of specific Jewish interests in a pretended universal benevolence. One of his oft-repeated themes is that “antisemitism — the hatred of difference — is an assault not on Jews only, but on the human condition as such,” and accordingly, “A world without room for Jews is one that has no room for difference, and the world that lacks space for difference lacks space for humanity itself.”[vii] Appeals to non-Jews to serve Jewish interests by fighting for “humanity” have been a consistent feature of Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy at least since the late nineteenth century (here, p. 192ff). Millions of White people (who are likely genetically predisposed to moral universalism) have been enlisted to fight for Jewish interests (and against their own ethnic interests) on the understanding they are upholding the “universal brotherhood of man.” This cynical Jewish strategy is based on the calculation of Jews that, as Sacks observes, “The only people who can successfully combat antisemitism are those active in the cultures that harbor it.”[viii]

Antisemitism is “the beginning of the end of Europe”

Turning his attention to the welfare of European Jewry, Sacks yet again peddles the kind of spurious Freudian diagnoses of “anti-Semites” that were a Jewish stock in trade throughout the twentieth century, informing us that “the appearance of antisemitism in a culture is the first symptom of a disease, the early warning sign of collective breakdown.” Consequently, if Europe “allows antisemitism to flourish,” then “that will be the beginning of the end of Europe.” This is reminiscent of Barbara Lerner Spectre’s famous comment that Europe must become transform itself into a multicultural society in order to survive.

Of course Sacks doesn’t conceptualize Europe as a biologically kindred community with a shared history and culture, but rather as a place governed by values and institutions that are either favorable or unfavorable to Jews. Sacks is unconcerned whether, for example, the native English, French or Germans become besieged minorities in their own lands, providing Jews can continue to flourish within these territories. Rather than denoting the demographic eclipse of actual Europeans, the “end of Europe” for Sacks means the end of Europe as an agreeable host society for Jews. He thus bemoans the fact that “In every single country of Europe, without exception, Jews are fearful for their or their children’s future. If this continues, Jews will continue to leave Europe, until, barring the frail and the elderly, Europe will finally have become Judenrein.”

His reflexive hostility to native Europeans is such that, despite Muslim immigration being the overwhelming factor behind any recent upsurge in hostility to Jews in Europe, Sacks refuses to single it out as a particular problem. To do so would bring the entire “diversity” project (the centerpiece of the Jewish ethno-political strategy for the West) into question. Careful to avoid this, he speaks as though the presence of very large numbers of Muslims in Europe (with their alien and belligerent culture) is uncontroversial and desirable. Indeed, in Sacks’ mind, these newcomers are Europeans and their attitudes and behavior are the responsibility of real Europeans.

Rather than seeing Muslim hostility to Jews as a distinct problem that has been latterly (and deliberately) injected into European societies, Sacks simply conflates it with Europe’s own supposedly long and lachrymose history of “antisemitism.” He claims that:

We are not today back in the 1930s. But we are coming close to 1879, when Wilhelm Marr founded the League of Anti-Semites in Germany; to 1886 when Édouard Drumont published La France Juive; and 1897 when Karl Lueger became Mayor of Vienna. These were key moments in the spread of antisemitism, and all we have to do today is to remember that what was said then about Jews is being said today about the Jewish state.

Complaints about Jewish power as an elite in nineteenth-century Germany and Austria are the same as today’s complaints about Jewish apartheid and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Israel? According to Sacks, the Muslim criticism of Israel and the physical and verbal attacks on Jews in Britain and France are not the inevitable result of an insane social experiment (multiculturalism) that could easily have been avoided. They are just another “mutation” of Europe’s long and inveterate tradition of Jew-hatred. To underscore his point, Sacks solemnly reminds us how “Europe’s treatment of the Jews added certain words to the human vocabulary: disputation, forced conversion, inquisition, expulsion, auto da fe, ghetto, pogrom and Holocaust, words written in Jewish tears and Jewish blood.”

According to Rabbi Sacks, Jews were hated through large stretches of European history not because their ethnic interests often ran directly counter to those of large segments of the European population, but simply because “they were different” and “the most conspicuous non-Christian minority in a Christian Europe.” One of the Rabbi’s central philosophical “insights” is that, at its heart, “Anti-Semitism has always been about the inability of a group to make space for difference.”

Multiculturalism is nothing if not a Jewish-originated, promoted, and now state-sponsored, program to “make space for difference” (prototypically for Jews). Mass non-White immigration and multiculturalism are the weapons Jewish activists have deployed to achieve what they regard as the preemptive denazification of entire Western world. The practical corollary of “never again” for Jews has been to never again allow the kind of homogeneously White society that was a precondition for the rise of National Socialism.

European Meltdown Threatens Jews

Using tens of millions of Muslims as the agents for this diversification has, however, provoked consternation among the ranks of Jewish neoconservatives with a different view of the long-term interests of Jews.

In a recent article for the Jerusalem Post entitled “European Meltdown Threatens Jews” the veteran Jewish leader and activist Isi Leibler laments the negative impact of large-scale Muslim immigration on European Jewry. He notes that: “With the indigenous population shrinking and the Muslim birthrate alarmingly high, unless the flow of migrants is stemmed, there is every possibility that by the end of the century the foundations of European civilization will be destroyed.” Through “dramatically destabilizing the social cohesion and security of countries harboring them,” Muslim migrants have led to Diaspora Jewish communities “suffering severe trauma as they experience the erosion of the acceptance and security they have enjoyed over the past half-century.” What makes this all the more concerning for Leibler is the fact that this influx of Muslims is, to a great extent, the direct result of Jewish ethnic activism. He observes how:

Yet ironically, many liberal Jews are at the forefront of campaigns to open the door to widespread immigration of Muslim “refugees” and even make ridiculous bleeding-heart analogies to the plight of Jews during the Holocaust. In so doing, they are facilitating the entry of hordes of embittered anti-Semites who have been brought up to consider Jews as the “offspring of apes and pigs.

For Leibler, flooding Europe with these “hordes” is regrettable, not primarily because, if the trend continues, “by the end of the century the foundations of European civilization will be destroyed,” but because the end result will be that Jews in Europe are increasingly forced to “live in societies where horrific terrorist attacks against their schools, synagogues, museums and supermarkets have necessitated military or armed guards to provide security.”

The mass importation of Muslims into Europe also presents a danger to Jews, according to Leibler, in fuelling the rise of the far-right. He notes that activist Jews, in advocating and facilitating the influx of Muslims into Europe, inevitably “enrage many of their neighbors who loathe these ‘refugees’ and fear that this flood of immigration will destroy their way of life.” The result has been “the meteoric rise of radical right-wing movements in all European countries — Jobbik in Hungary and the Golden Dawn in Greece [which] are outright anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi movements.” Despite nationalist leaders like Marine Le Pen having “vigorously condemned and disassociated her party from its former anti-Semitism,” Leibler insists the rank and file members of parties like the National Front that notionally “support Israel” remain “unreconstructed traditional anti-Semites.”

Leibler is part of the distinct (though growing) minority of activist Jews who regard the Jewish strategy of transforming Europe through mass Muslim immigration as “bad for the Jews.” In 2010 he voiced his strong support for non-White immigration and multiculturalism for Australia while rejecting these policies for Israel.  He thus accepts it to be in the interests of Jews to dilute and weaken the identity of the majority European-derived nations in which many live. For Leibler, however, this non-White diversification strategy for is only good for Jews providing “hordes of embittered anti-Semites” from Muslim nations aren’t the primary means of achieving it.

Isi Leibler

A silver lining of the rapidly-accelerating destruction of Europe for Leibler is that, unlike vulnerable Europeans, Jews can always flee to an ethnically-homogeneous “Jewish state” that provides “a haven for all Jews.” As an ultra-Zionist he naturally hopes that, as European societies become increasingly violence-plagued, dysfunctional and inhospitable to Jews, “many will leave and join us in Israel and participate in the historic renaissance of our people.” As a result of Jewish activism, millions of White people are also increasingly fearful of their or their children’s future. Unlike Jews, however, they don’t have the option of fleeing to the relative safety of an ethno-state.

Less resigned than Leibler to an eventual mass evacuation of Jews from Europe to Israel, Sacks, in his speech to the European Parliament, proposes that “European liberty” is entirely dependent on the ongoing presence of Jews on the continent, and warns Europe’s leaders that “If you do nothing, Jews will leave, European liberty will die, and there will be a moral stain on Europe’s name that all eternity will not erase.” In entreating the EU to do “something” to curb “antisemitism” in Europe, Sacks is not proposing they should stop Muslim immigration, but rather implement tougher and more far-reaching restrictions on speech than already exist throughout the continent. For the rabbi, seemingly unaware of the irony, unless European governments essentially make all criticism of Jews and Israel a criminal offence subject to harsh criminal sanctions, “European liberty will die.”

Go to Part 2


[i] John Murray Cuddihy, The Ordeal of Civility: Freud, Marx, Levi-Strauss and the Jewish struggle with Modernity (New York NY; Beacon, 1987), 6.

[ii] Jonathan Sacks, The Chief Rabbi’s Haggadah (Essays) (New York NY; HarperCollins, 2003), 41.

[iii] Jonathan Sacks, Radical Then, Radical Now (London; Bloomsbury Academic, 2004), 205.

[iv] Jonathan Sacks, One People?: Tradition, Modernity, and Jewish Unity (London; Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1993), p. vii

[v] Jonathan Sacks, Future Tense: Jews, Judaism and Israel in the Twenty-first Century (New York; Schlocken, 2012), 129.

[vi] Sacks, Radical Then, Radical Now, 88.

[vii][vii] Sacks, Future Tense, 111.

[viii] Ibid., 108-09.

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