Jeffrey Goldberg’s fantasy world

In his review of Hilaire Belloc’s The Jews, Andrew Joyce writes:

 Belloc pours scorn on this falsehood [i.e., falsifying history to always portray Jews exclusively as victims] not only because it “corrodes the souls of those who indulge in it (134),” but also because it “produces in the Jew a false sense of security and a completely distorted phantasm of the way in which he is really received in our society (134).” The more this falsehood is pursued, “the more the surprise which follows upon its discovery and the more legitimate the bitterness and hatred which that surprise occasions [among Jews] (134).”

This is a good point. Studying Jewish reactions to the rising tide of inter-ethnic friction in Central Europe at the start of the twentieth century, one is indeed struck by the “profound shock, the utter disbelief, among the Jews.” ( Y. M. Bodemann, Jews, Germans, Memory: Reconstructions of Jewish Life in Germany (University of Michigan Press, 1996), p. 266.)

A recent rather egregious case of refusing to come to grips with Jewish behavior as part of the phenomenon of anti-Semitism  is Jeffrey Goldberg’s comment in The Atlantic on reactions to the Gaza war in Europe:

A few days ago, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, tweeted the following statement: “Germans rally against anti-Semitism that flared in Europe in response to Israel’s conduct in Gaza war. Merkel joins.” Roth provided a link to a New York Times article about the rally, which took place in Berlin.

Roth’s framing of this issue is very odd and obtuse. Anti-Semitism in Europe did not flare “in response to Israel’s conduct in Gaza,” or anywhere else. Anti-Semitic violence and invective are not responses to events in the Middle East, just as anti-Semitism does not erupt  “in response” to the policies of banks owned by Jews, or in response to editorial positions taken by The New York Times. This is for the simple reason that Jews do not cause anti-Semitism.

It is a universal and immutable rule that the targets of  prejudice are not the cause of prejudice. Just as Jews (or Jewish organizations, or the Jewish state) do not cause anti-Semitism to flare, or intensify, or even to exist, neither do black people cause racism, nor gay people homophobia, nor Muslims Islamophobia. Like all prejudices, anti-Semitism is not a rational response to observable events; it is a manifestation of irrational hatred. Its proponents justify their anti-Semitism by pointing to the (putatively offensive or repulsive) behavior of their targets, but this does not mean that major figures in the world of human rights advocacy should accept these pathetic excuses as legitimate.

This is a rather stunning example of completely removing behavior from having any role in attitudes toward ethnic or religious outgroups (no mention that the behavior of Whites is irrelevant to anti-White attitudes).

There is no question that negative attitudes toward ethnic outgroups can be exaggerated or even completely removed from reality. But to generalize that behavior is always completely irrelevant is pure ideology — nothing more than an example of extreme ethnocentrism itself  completely removed from reality.

Another example: Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Liberman recently claimed that Arab hostility toward Israel has nothing to do with the Arab-Palestinian conflict:

Liberman characterized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “a marginal problem” which he said is a way for Arab leaders to avoid their own domestic problems. The real problem he said is domestic tensions in Arab society.

Liberman went so far as to say that he does not see any linkage in the dispute between Israel and the Arab world and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and charged that its use is simply an attempt to avoid reality.

Who’s avoiding reality?

Goldberg then makes a concession.

There are, of course, non-anti-Semitic ways to protest Israeli policy and decision-making, and many in Europe walked this path: Demonstrations denouncing Israeli behavior were staged outside Israeli embassies; other anti-Israel activists called for arms embargoes, and so on. Many hundreds of opinion pieces critical of Israel were published in Europe over the summer, and I’ve only seen a handful that resorted to anti-Semitic tropes in order to make their case.

But it’s not really much of a concession. The idea is to promote the theory that the behavior of Israel has nothing to do with the behavior of diaspora Jews supporting Israel — a prominent theme of Jewish discourse in the wake of the Gaza conflict.

But this flies in the face of common sense. Unconditional military (U.S.-made weapons, such as the Hellfire missile, were on prominent display in Gaza) and diplomatic support for Israel by the world’s most powerful country enables Israel to essentially do what it wants to the Palestinians, even when Israeli behavior is in sharp conflict with contemporary liberal American values.  A recent example from a long list: U.S. support for Israel was not affected when the Israeli Supreme Court upheld a law allowing housing discrimination against Palestinians that would be anathema to elites in the U.S. (It’s probably relevant here that, as far as I can see, this ruling was unmentioned in the mainstream U.S. media.)

Goldberg’s implicit logic (I think it’s obvious why he doesn’t spell it out) is something like this:

Diaspora Jews have no influence on foreign policy of Western governments;
Israel would behave exactly the way it does absent the support of Western governments;
Therefore, the behavior and influence of diaspora Jews is completely irrelevant to the behavior of Israel.

As Belloc and Joyce note, false perceptions on either side can have disastrous consequences. Ex cathedra pronouncements by people like Goldberg — ethnic activists with access to the elite media — benefit Jews in the short term because they remove the behavior and influence of the Israel Lobby from public discussion of incidents like the Gaza war. But in the long run, when uncomfortable reality becomes too patently obvious to deny, it may have explosive results.

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