March 17, 2019

On Anti-Semitism and the Canary in the Coal Mine

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsAnti-Semitism is again, tragically, in vogue—especially among the misanthropes, conspiracy theorists, nativists, and supremacists of all stripes. They have always been society’s antagonists, and while their antagonism often begins with the Jews it rarely stops there. History teaches us that when anti-Semitism is on the rise no ethnic group is safe, nor is the society they call home. Like the canary in the coal mine, when Jews are targeted by our home-grown nativists, African-Americans, Muslims, Latinos, Asians, and every other ethnic American has cause for concern. When the canary falls, the mine is in deep trouble. Whether the outrage is visited upon Pittsburgh or Charlottesville, Christchurch, London, Paris or Berlin, history is always a lesson we fail to learn at our own peril.

Those who tolerate anti-Semitism and even toy with anti-Semitic stereotypes or fail to call it out are often ignorant of its history, and of the pain and misery they encourage and help sow. So it was in Washington last week when the United States House of Representatives could not bring itself to condemn anti-Semitism within its ranks, and so it was earlier when, after Charlottesville, the President of the United States took days to finally condemn the greatest display of anti-Semitism (and it’s perpetrators) since the heyday of the Nazi Bund.

It is often referred to as the oldest hatred. It is also, perhaps, the most irrational hatred, but often stoked by very rational tyrants. Ironically, the vast majority of people throughout the world who hold anti-Semitic views have never known a Jew. Those who taught or influenced them to be anti-Semites have, generally, also never crossed paths with a Jew. Modern anti-Semitism is a cultural phenomenon with an ancient pedigree, it is an effect without a real cause. It is a teaching based on a premise, and a premise based on a chimera—an assumed truth that is almost always false.

There is, of course, the ancient religious anti-Semitism, which no doubt still feeds resentment among some, even in the modern age. The Second Vatican Council convened by Pope John the 23rd midway through the twentieth century corrected the historical record and ushered in an era of reconciliation between Catholics and Jews. The Roman church was, for many centuries, indifferent and often hostile to the Jews who resided within its realm but welcoming to those Jews who abandoned their ancient faith and converted to Catholicism. The Spanish Inquisition changed that. It introduced the concept of Mal Sangre, “bad blood,” a grotesque teaching that endured through the centuries that followed and, ultimately, nourished the Nazi creed and resulted in what Winston Churchill famously called a crime without a name; a crime of unspeakable horror we know, today, as the Holocaust.

Religious resentment aside, however, over the centuries the cause of all manner of misfortune and calamity was often and maliciously placed at the feet of the Jews. Plagues, natural disasters, unsolved murders, poor harvests, stressful economic cycles, epidemics, all could unleash senseless and horrific retribution against the Jewish community.

Anti-Semitism is the ultimate meme, a notion easily remembered, and easily perpetuated, and, thereafter, easily triggered and passed along from person to person, family to family, generation to generation, down through the ages.  It is akin to a virus, a sickness that can be contagious to those who are exposed to it and is never quite eradicated. Sometimes it spreads virally like wildfire, and, as with pathological virus’s, it sometimes erupts when the body politic is sick, its morale and spirit weakened by stress or fear or anger.  Like many viral illnesses, it is never fully appeased and it always leaves its mark. It is always damaging, and all too often, it is as deadly as the deadliest plague.

The Jew is the perennial, enduring, other. And because of their steadfastness they are, by many, either admired or reviled. Mark Twain was fascinated by anti-Semitism and was discerning of, if not bemused by, its history. He famously wrote: “Tyrants and petty politicians stoke the flames of anti-Semitism when they think it serves their ambitions. It often does. And, then, sooner or later, it often consumes them. If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one-quarter of one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of.  He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.”

And from the smallness of their bulk they have produced Moses and Jesus, the Jonas Salk’s, the Albert Einstein’s, the Leonard Bernstein’s, Gustav Mahler’s, the Gershwin’s and the Mendelssohn’s, over twenty percent of all Nobel prize winners, the Eli Weisel’s, Henry Kissinger’s, Boris Pasternak’s, Saul Bellows, Milton Friedman’s, and the list goes on endlessly. The Jews have produced all manner of leaders in every field from philosophy to business, from music to medicine, from bankers and, yes, to a few bank robbers.

History teaches us that whenever anti-Semitism is on the rise, the health of the society that tolerates it is often in decline. Anti-Semitism is the canary in the coal mine. We must recognize it for what it is and we tolerate it at our own peril.

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12 responses to “On Anti-Semitism and the Canary in the Coal Mine”

  1. RedPillJew says:

    The home of anti-semtism in America is on the left. To be sure, there are anti-Semites on the right, but they’re granted no standing in modern culture. David Duke’s name is toxic. No respectable member of the right would pose for a picture with him. Yet, on the left, they elect and praise their Jew haters. Democrats have 100% normalized the idea that you can side with the worst Jew haters on the planet, while not being anti-Semitic. When will liberal jews wake up and stop supporting this madness? How many Louis Farrakhan’s and Ilhan Omar’s does the party need to embrace before lberal jews embrace a little healthy introspection?

  2. Ben Donenberg says:

    Readers might be interested to learn, if they don’t already know, that in 1290, Edward the Second issued an expulsion order to Jews in Great Britain that has not been revoked. Officially, it is illegal to live as a Jew in Great Britain. In mid Eighteenth Century, Parliament revoked the expulsion, but within a month’s time it was reinstated because the revocation was deemed a “threat to Christianity.”

  3. judy says:

    I agree with Red Pill Jew. ….. In my opinion we need to discuss loudly and often and stop it in its tracks, NOW. Congress failed to stand up for Jews plain and simple.

    In my opinion ……..

  4. Leonard Sherman says:

    You touched the cause of anti semitism but you did not come out in the open and tell of its origin. If you look behind the problem you will find the answer which was to preach and to teach to the world century after century that we the Jewish People killed God,s only son. That is how you learn to hate the Jews.

  5. Perry says:

    As long as Jews attain status and fail to understand that they
    must cherish their traditions they will be subject to scorn,derision and persecutions. Antisemitism has evolved into
    a new pattern orchestrated by a mid evil Middle East campaign
    and embraced by young millennia and both liberal and alt right in
    order to justify their own status.
    There is no question that Jew’s have enlightened the species,
    but many are still stuck in a neanderthal mind.
    Jew’s be they liberal or conservative face the same scourge of
    their ancestors. We will survive. We must be strong and remain leaders and thinkers.

  6. Norman Wine says:

    Antisematism may be likened to a canary in a coal mine but it is more like a virus which constantly mutates to avoid obliteration. Today antisematism is blatantly anti Israel Snd is now resurfacing in the diaspora..

  7. Marc Slavin says:

    What’s amazing to me is that the Jews vote for these morons. Omar, whatever her name is should be fired for her big mouth. If she was working in the private sector and said these kind of things on the job, she would be terminated. You want to see real antisemitism go to Wyoming, they think Jews have horns. Low class uneducated.

  8. Gerald S Kaufman says:

    “in vogue—especially among the misanthropes, conspiracy theorists, nativists, and supremacists of all stripes” – This seems to cover the far right, but omits the liberal , democratic, peace-loving, ACLU supporting, student and professor-college-educated, anti-semite – from whom we expected better.

  9. Larry Fox says:

    Blame is shared.

    Much – seems like a substantial majority – of the intolerance and anti-zionism is coming from the left, while the irrational, meme-based hatred, and most of the violent acts (as well as superstition-based support of Israel) seems to come from the right.

    Only as a ruse does either side caim history or fact as their source; there is nothing to debunk; they don’t care. Their unity of thought and purpose is grounded in their ignorance, covered by an insubstantial gauze of self-righteousness.

    That both are willfully and, in many cases, gleefully ignorant of who we Jews are bothers them not at all.

    Like most, this hatred and vitriol stems from a desire – a desperate need – to fit in to a social group, That the social group is anti-social doesn’t bother people desperate to fit in somewhere.

    We can, and we have an obligation to continue fighting against this willful ignorance, and desperate need for a group – however antisocial at its core.

    Our enemies are not consistently left or right; our enemies are ignorance and desperation to fit in… somewhere, anywhere.

    As in our politics, we will not be able to convince the dogmatics with facts, but we need to redouble our efforts with those who are capable of being rational, but do not agree with us.

    We don’t need to stop talking to our friends; but we need to focus more attention on those who may be or may become our friends, and we need to organize against those who make us their enemies.

    Talking to the convinced makes us feel good, but does nothing more than that.

  10. Jews MUST demand to be treated like everybody else. The one thing congress should have and could have done was not to water down the antisemetic comments made by their only Muslim member and make it a “kitchen sink” about all people.
    It was watered down and made meaningless…..
    We need to demand to be treated better. We need to stand up for ourselves as a people. We as the Jewish people historically have stood up for justice and equality especially during the Civil Rights movement.
    Why do we have a problem standing up for ourselves and Israel?
    It’s too much rhetoric about the left and the right, the liberals and the democrats and politics.
    The bigotry and hatred starts with the Jews and of course Israel, the new antisemitism. And the leaders of the world ignore it and will until the Jewish people stop taking it and DEMAND to be treated the way everybody else is.

  11. Linda Cooper says:

    We have many Jewish organizations, but at this time, only ZOA
    speaks out meaningfully against what is happening . Where is the Anti Defamation League (ADL)? Since
    the emergence of Jonathan Greenblatt as head of the organization, ADL does nothing to protect the Jews in this country. And why? Is he a self hating Jew? Is he part of the Leftist agenda which includes or ignores our plight? All he offers is lip service to the radical Muslims (Linda Sarsour, Omar, etc.) and others who hate us. We need a strong organization to replace ADL and Greenblatt as a unified voice. And AIPAC needs to be passionately supported. Obama has brainwashed liberals to believe that AIPAC is composed of only conservative Jews.

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