Jewish Writing on Anti-Semitism

Exodus Redux: Jewish Identity and the Shaping of History

“Under the pretext of recording fables and current reports about the Jews, he [Manetho] took the liberty of introducing some incredible tales, wishing to represent us as…condemned to banishment from Egypt.”
Flavius Josephus, Against Apion

I’ve been intrigued by the story of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt for more than a decade. More than any of its close rivals, including the tale of Haman in the Book of Esther, the Exodus looms large as an early and extremely influential psychological landmark in the lachrymose and highly dubious pseudo-history of the Jewish people. Most obviously, the putative liberation from Egypt is commemorated by Judaism every year, in the form of the Pesach, or Passover festival. Indeed, this festival is one of the most important features of the Jewish religious calendar. Historian Paul Johnson remarks that Exodus “became an overwhelming memory” and “gradually replaced the creation itself as the central, determining event in Jewish history.”[1]

Exodus has a power that exists independently from the trappings of religious myth, acting through the centuries as a defining narrative of victimhood, group vindication, and self-validation. Jews living under the Tsar produced endless Yiddish plays and satires containing barely concealed allusions to the Tsar as the latest incarnation of Pharaoh.[2] Exodus is a foundation upon which Jewish identity, as well as Jewish religiosity, is built, and for this reason it has greatly preoccupied even the most atheistic of Jews, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud among them. Moses, as a subconscious archetype, squats in the shadows of the Jewish psyche.

The early reception of Exodus by non-Jews also plays an important role in the Jewish worldview, in the sense that the “virus” of “anti-Semitism” is said to have originated in response to it. In this regard, there is an almost universal consensus among Jewish intellectuals that the earliest origins of “anti-Semitism” can be traced to the writings of an Egyptian priest allegedly offended by the account of the Israelite escape from Pharaoh. The theory relates specifically to a history of Egypt, the Aegyptiaca, written by an Egyptian priest named Manetho around the third century BC. Although the Aegyptiaca is lost to us, we are able to piece together much of its contents based on subsequent rebuttals by later Jewish writers such as Flavius Josephus, and also references to the text by several Greek and Greek-Egyptian intellectuals.

In summary, Manetho reported that centuries earlier a foreign population had entered Egypt’s eastern border via “infiltration of the Delta.” This foreign population subsequently rose in power within Egypt, becoming a burden and a pestilence to the natives. At some point, the foreign population developed a serious disease of the skin, and the Egyptians were finally motivated to expel the invaders, who later relocated to Jerusalem. Read more

The big chill on free speech hits Britain

It is a fair bet that any ‘media reform’ welcomed by Dr Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress, will be bad news for the defenders of free speech. So it is with his reaction to the British government’s groundbreaking new definition of anti-Semitism.

Kantor said:

We welcome the UK’s landmark decision to define anti-Semitism, particularly in the face of rising attacks against Jews. We must now look towards other European governments to follow the example set by the UK.

He is referring to the British government’s decision to adopt a “legally binding definition” which will be used by police forces, councils, universities and public bodies. This ratchets the law sharply in the direction of making Jews a legally protected group and placing them beyond criticism. It would certainly sharply curtail academic and journalistic discussion of Jewish group behaviour.

For if the ethnic agendas of this very powerful and ethnocentric group cannot be discussed, it would effectively end legitimate academic and journalistic inquiry on the matter. It would certainly curtail discussion of all unflattering examples of Jewish group behaviour such as those outlined in the Culture of Critique.

The definition drafted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition (IHRA) is broadly the same one contained in the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act that quietly went through the US senate. The aim seems to be to create a global standard on stifling free speech about Jewish power.

The definition itself is so open-ended as to be meaningless. Read more

T.S. Eliot and the Culture of Critique, Part Two

eliot

‘We must discover what conditions, within our power to bring about, would foster the society that we desire. … Reasons of race and religion combine to make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable.’
 T.S. Eliot, After Strange Gods, 1934.

One of the most striking features of Julius’s T.S. Eliot, Anti-Semitism, and Literary Form is that it is no mere literary critique. This basic and relatively short work is a multi-pronged and vicious ad hominem masquerading, with odious pretentiousness, as criticism. Eliot, the man, is attacked in multiple, often scurrilous, forms throughout.

These are subtle attacks, perpetrated under the cover of a flimsy, indeed petulant, thesis. This thesis, such as it exists, is two-dimensional. Summed up, it consists of two basic arguments. The first is that Eliot drew on “anti-Semitic” themes for some of his poetry, themes that were characterized by their disdainful attitude towards Jews. The second is that “anti-Semitism” was an intrinsic part of Eliot’s art, and therefore Eliot himself was ‘anti-Semitic.’ Of course, in and of itself, the accusation that Eliot wasn’t fond of Jews is hardly damning. However, in the hands of Jewish ethno-activists the accusation of “anti-Semitism” is often loaded with deeper and more insidious aspersions. As such, the thesis and the ad hominem nature of its arguments and content are bound up intricately via a single common thread: Julius’s own corrupt understanding of what “anti-Semitism” is.

Julius’s professed understanding of anti-Semitism is identical to that of other Jewish ethno-activists. In this perception, “anti-Semitism” is a mixture of “incoherent” discourses riddled with “internal contradictions.”[1] It arises, at worst, in the sick, irrational mind. At best, it develops ex nihilo, since, as Julius puts it, “no external factor can induce it.”[2] In this remarkable psychological bubble, Jews are entirely blameless. Ever passive, they lack all agency. They exist merely to register the irrational mental undulations of “the nations,” that confused, miasmic mass of humanity they have been tasked by Jehovah to act as a “light unto.” The problem with such a perception, of course, is the existence of an overwhelming amount of contradictory evidence. Read more

T.S. Eliot and the Culture of Critique, Part One of Two

ts-eliot

“My house is a decayed house,
And the Jew squats on the window-sill”
T.S. Eliot, Gerontion, 1920.

In a previous article I explored the nature of academic ethno-activism in the deconstruction of the cultural legacy of Ezra Pound. The article adopted the approach of a broad overview, emphasizing the scale of successive critiques and, to some extent, illuminating the psychology of those whose caustic attentions had been aroused by the interplay of Pound’s genius and politics. It was argued that these individuals exhibited a psychological duality of both attraction and hatred. The academic activists drawn to figures like Pound were “appalled because they perceived an unjustified critique upon their ethnic group, and they perceived this critique all the more keenly because of their ethnocentrism. They were impressed because they appreciated, and were threatened by, the talent of their target, often despite themselves. The ‘attraction’ arises from the desire to deconstruct and demean that talent, and thus avenge or assuage the critique.”

Although the previous article fulfilled its purpose of providing a succinct overview of the forms of the critical assault on ostracized cultural figures, in this article I wish to present a more thoroughgoing treatment of the psychology underpinning these forms. Included also are reflections on what this reveals about “anti-Semitism” as it exists in the socio-cultural consciousness of strongly-identified Jews. In order to explore this matter on a deeper level, and to keep our material fresh, we now turn our attention to the academic deconstruction of Pound’s associate, and fellow Modernist poet, T.S. Eliot. Read more

Review of David Cesarani’s “Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews, 1933–49” — Part Five of Five

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“I took a bit of revenge on the Germans…I also did some things with the German children.”
Jurek Kestenberg, 1946. 

“Aba Kovner, the leader of the Jewish partisan group that formed in Vilnius in early 1942, dedicated himself to mounting a major revenge operation. With other members of his unit he set about obtaining enough toxin to kill thousands by contaminating the water system of a German metropolis.”
David Cesarani, Final Solution.

Blood Feud, 1941? 

The “hot” war that occurred between 1939 and 1945 only overlapped with what had been a much older European inter-ethnic “cold war.” This “cold war” was built on centuries of suppressed “high pressure” that finally found its release in what descended into a carnival of death for all sides. As the war became waged more desperately, the means by which this conflict was fought were made more horrifying. As the Jewish book Germany Must Perish! suggested, the war was increasingly being framed not in terms of geo-political terms, but in terms of racial annihilation.

As 1942 approached, the Third Reich faced a “European-wide food crisis,” forcing it to tighten the rationing system in order to favor its own people. The rations of Poles, Jews and POWs would all be decreased. When the United States entered the war, the imbalance of German resources was made all the more obvious. In this context, a meeting was held at Wannsee to discuss the “Jewish Problem.” Although this meeting has been mythologized and seared into popular memory as the point at which a “Final Solution” involving murder by gassing was concocted, the most recent scholarship has raised some significant doubts. As Cesarani points out, while gas vans had indeed been very briefly experimented with during the German euthanasia program, they were quickly abandoned for a host of social and practical reasons. More pertinently, however, this supposedly meticulous, conclusive and “final” meeting to discuss the question of Jews in Europe didn’t even refer to the particulars of the euthanasia project, and did not connect any of their plans with this operation — “not even by cautious euphemisms.” Most modern scholars now conclude that for a “war against the Jews,” the German effort was “ill-planned, under-funded and carried through haphazardly at best.” Read more

Review of David Cesarani’s “Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews, 1933–49” — Part Four of Five

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Joyce04

It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner.
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West 

War and Death, 19391949

As I closed my introduction to this review, I noted that the only genuine mystery attached to the Jewish fate during World War II was that there should ever have been anything mysterious attributed to it at all. I may have been a little rash. You see, in more ways than one, “the Holocaust” as a cultural concept has performed one of the greatest vanishing acts in history — the disappearance of the Jews as active participants in a war that certainly took place between 1939 and 1945, but which began long before and continues until the present. Examining the thousands upon thousands of histories of World War II, one would get the impression that there was not only one war, but also only one aggressor. Quite how and why “the Jews” leave the historical stage as belligerents in 1939, when the preceding six years had witnessed them engaging in international propaganda wars, political manoeuvring, and targeted assassinations in several European countries, has been surprisingly overlooked.

Instead of answering genuine mysteries like this, the relevant historiography has been preoccupied by posing pointless questions that have obvious answers. For example, given the German-Jewish relationship prior to 1939, is it really so illogical to conceive that the German armed forces would view Jews as a security threat throughout Europe but especially on the Eastern Front? Further, is it really any wonder that the most common means of dealing with this threat would be the construction of what really amounted to POW camps for Jewish civilians, termed ghettos for the sake of cultural and historical familiarity? Or that rationing in these ghettos would be roughly equivalent to that seen in POW camps? Strangely enough, however, only in the second decade of the twenty-first century are we witnessing the emergence of histories that accept plain realities such as these.

Reflecting a growing scholarly consensus, Cesarani concedes at the start of his exploration of the years 1939–45 that what may have appeared at first glance as anti-Jewish measures during this period were not “necessarily driven by anti-Jewish sentiment.” In 1939 “the German economy had been revved up to breaking point.” As a result, from the beginning of the war effort, the German pursuance of armed conflict was fatally linked to geo-strategic and economic exigencies, and a fanatical concern with security. Food and fuel would always be scarce, meaning that almost every German move in the war was made with a degree of desperation. Germany had only one real chance at victory, and to achieve this victory it would have to overwhelmingly succeed in every tactical advance it undertook. It would also be forced to adopt unsentimental methods in order to secure these victories. Read more

Review of David Cesarani’s “Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews, 1933–49” — Part Three of Five

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vom Rath Grynszpan

Ernst vom Rath (right) and his Jewish assassin Herschel Grynszpan 

On the explicit order of the very highest authority setting fire to Jewish shops or similar actions may not occur under any circumstances.” Rudolf Hess, November, 1938.

The Complexities of Judenpolitik, 1933–1939, Continued. 

Until 1935 the security police (SD) “had only a minor interest in Jewish affairs and had no specific department dealing with the Jews.” Its focus only shifted to this domain in order to monitor public opinion on the Jews with the aim of preventing inter-ethnic violence. One 1935 report noted that because a Jewish “re-conquest of the economy” appeared imminent, further legislation was probably required to check such an eventuality and avoid public anger. After the Gestapo reported on East Prussia where “the number of cases where Jews sexually abused Aryan girls is also on the rise,” it remarked that local and police officials were struggling to keep popular anger and “defensive measures” within the law.

Although Cesarani doesn’t discuss the matter, at the heart of this increasing friction was the age-old tenacity displayed by Jewish populations even when faced with deep unpopularity. Raised— indeed indoctrinated — with the notion that they are resented by the surrounding population, Jews have proven adept at clinging to a host population even in extremely adverse conditions. Jews have also proven extremely capable of forming counter-strategies in which they can maintain or expand influence in such situations. For this reason the forced expulsion features to a significantly greater degree in Jewish history than the exodus. Read more