I've been bouncing various ideas around about this topic for a while now. The main immediate trigger is the discussion that developed around my post discussing the election result, but it's a general response to a whole bunch of things about the current political situation, discussions I've had or eavesdropped on via LJ...
I've spent most of my life in situations where being Jewish makes me a rarity. This has rarely been a problem; I've encountered a lot curiosity, some of it based on quite significant ignorance and some of it bordering on rudeness. But basically curiosity is a good thing, and (unlike many people who find themselves in a minority) I quite like being the go-to person for questions about Judaism. I've often been the first Jewish person someone has ever encountered. I tend to be fairly prominently Jewish too; it's an important part of my identity and it's something people are likely to find out about me fairly quickly when we interact.
My brother and I were the only Jewish kids in my primary school. When I was about six, we had to come up on the stage in assembly so that the headmistress could explain to everybody that we were Jewish, and look, normal children just like you and everybody else! Some children might have been mortified but I enjoyed the attention, and also quite liked the underlying message. A few years later (still the only Jewish kid at school), I ended up with a headmaster who used to give ranty sermons in assembly about how the Jews were evil because they had killed Christ. That led to some slight social awkwardness in the playground, but nothing I couldn't handle. And said headmaster was removed from his post and sectioned a few months after this incident anyway, confirming my solid impression that no reasonable person had a problem with Jews in modern times.
So I grew up thinking that antisemitism was just one of the horrors of history and had no current relevance. Anyone who possibly entertained any doubts on the subject would have given them up when they saw the consequences of prejudice against Jews in the form of Nazism. When I was in my late teens my parents hosted a teaparty for some of my Dad's colleagues, and I happened to be discussing with the sibs some Jewish event that we were planning to run. One of the newer members of Dad's department expressed horror that we could be so open about being Jewish in front of a group of near-strangers. We absolutely couldn't believe that he was even slightly worried about it; these were civilized, respectable people. He wasn't "out" about being Jewish at work?! That seemed like the weirdest thing ever.
In the current century, though, my attitude has shifted. It's certainly not that I live my life in fear; I wouldn't be making this kind of public post if I did! I still think it's far, far easier being Jewish than being gay, or Muslim, or gypsy / Romany, or trans, in this society. I still generally feel that the attitude towards Jews improved a lot over the course of the 20th century.
I would like, though, to make a list of my experiences of antisemitism in the past five years or so. I'm talking about incidents I have personal knowledge of, not on the level of "I read about it on the internet" or "it happened to my cousin's hairdresser's brother-in-law".
People shouting at me and calling me names in the street
It's happened when I'm dressed in an identifiably Jewish way, wearing a skullcap for example. It's happened in Oxford a couple of times, and in Dundee several more times. Pretty much, it's just arseholes being drunk or yobbish, but it's going in the list.
I've been called Yid, Jewgirl, Jew (as a perjorative), with various modifying adjectives. Never Kike, but I'm not sure that's something to celebrate.
Bad personal interactions
Not much in this category; a bunch of thoughtless remarks which might or might not be innocent. Curiosity, but with more malicious undertones than the stuff I mentioned earlier, such as innuendo about rumoured Jewish sexual practices. A couple of rather incoherent nasty comments on my journal. When I went up to speak to a student anti-war group at Freshers' Fair, I got an unexpected rant, which started I'm not antisemitic, I just think Jews are scum. I've had similar problems with various student left-wing groups, though that was the most extreme.
Someone with a strong Dundonian accent left a message on my ansaphone saying Why can't you fucking Jews just go home to Israel? Don't you think you've caused enough fucking trouble here already?! Disconcerting, but basically we're talking at the random idiot level here.
Some guy made a crude attempt to googlebomb such that searches for the Dundee synagogue would lead to a website full of nasty antisemitic remarks alongside some names and addresses. The names and addresses were actually incorrect, but the fact that he attempted to publish people's personal details in this context was enough to get a police injunction to alter his website. The website (when I last looked at it) had a bunch of rant about Jewish censorship, which is annoying but fairly harmless.
Attacks on synagogues I'm connected with
There was an attempt to firebomb the Edinburgh synagogue a couple of years ago. Nobody was hurt. It was barely reported in the media; I only happened to hear about it because I know people who belong to that community.
Both the Cambridge Orthodox synagogue and the Cambridge Reform community (which doesn't have an actual synagogue building, so someone must have done some research to work out where we were meeting) have had fake bombs left in their entrances, with threatening messages and so on. Could be just a prank, but it's a very poor taste one.
The Jewish part of the Dundee cemetery has been vandalized repeatedly. We don't have enough money to repair the damage, and the council have insisted that we have to cover all the gravestones with bright yellow plastic to warn people they are unsafe. I think this reaction is more about being officious about health and safety than deliberately insulting, but a lot of people are upset to see graves treated with such disrespect.
The Dundee synagogue was defaced in 2001 with swastikas and graffiti saying Yids fuck off! and Combat 18. When this was reported to the police, they said they weren't considering it a racially motivated incident and were very obstructive about trying to take action against the vandals. The local newspaper refused to print a report about it on the grounds that the F-word would offend its readers.
My brother's friend Jerry got involved in some fairly militant lefty anti-war stuff, like a lot of idealistic students. In 2003, he attended a conference in Germany that was billed as being an anti-war thing. It turned out that he was listening to speech after speech about how evil Jews are and how Jewish influence was responsible for the Iraq war. Jerry stood up and said something to the effect that not all Jews are militant Zionists, as he, for example, was very active in the anti-war movement.
It's very unclear what happened next; he made phonecalls to his mother and girlfriend in which he said he was scared. A few hours later he was dead, having run out into a busy road. The incident was initially described as suicide, but later investigation concluded that the circumstances were suspicious. There isn't sufficient evidence to say whether he was actually pushed into the road, or whether he was being pursued and was so terrified that he ran in front of a car. Either way I call it murder.
I made a post about this when the coroner's report came out in November 2003. If you weren't reading my journal at the time, that post contains links to several newspaper reports etc. So I'm repeating myself here, but I do feel it's important for people to know about this.
I don't think there's a conclusion to this. The statement that Anti-semitism is a very light sleeper has become such a cliché that I'm having a hard time finding who originally said it or the exact wording of the quote. But whoever it was summed things up better than I can.
Additional note: part of what I wanted to discuss in this post was a comment, I think by papersky, about how shocking it is to read novels from before WW2 in which sympathetic characters make antisemitic comments. Of course, now I can't find that comment at all; if anyone happens to know where it is I would be most grateful. I think it's either in papersky, rysmiel or lethargic_man's journal, sometime in late March or early April, and either of the latter two might remember the discussion I'm talking about.
a headmaster who used to give ranty sermons in assembly about how the Jews were evil because they had killed Christ
Stop me if I'm wrong, but given that (in a certain conception of things) God sent his Only Son to be sacrificed in order to redeem the world, if the Jews did kill Christ then in doing so they're rather instrumental in the salvation of mankind?
Bit reductive, anyway. I think lots of things killed Christ. Think your headmaster wants to have another look at the text.
This particular headmaster was clinically insane; he had bigger problems than difficulties in textual interpretation!
The whole thing of "The Jews killed Christ" is interesting in itself; it was a very common view in most of Christianity for most of history. I agree, it's not a very obvious reading of the literal text of the New Testament, but that's probably not the point. The Catholic church formally rejected this view at the Second Vatican Council; Protestants don't tend to do that kind of thing in quite such a definitively centralized way, but I think most generally accept that this is no longer doctrine. I'm not sure about the various Eastern Orthodox groups and some of the more extreme Protestants, though.
But yeah, from what I know, and you'd probably want to ask someone more expert than me, in the old days when a lot of Christians did believe this, there tended to be a lot of discussion around precisely the point you're raising. If the execution of Christ was necessary for salvation, then in some sense the Jews (or the Romans, or sometimes Judas Iscariot) were doing humanity a favour... but they're still evil for killing God. Part of it is a response to the problem of, well, if Jesus is the Saviour / the Messiah, how come the Jews are still around? An obvious way out of that bind is that the Jews are evil, and have deliberately rejected Jesus out of sheer perversity.
I've always been intrigued by the question "if the Jews are so evil, why did the Christians keep them around instead of killing them off," and was fascinated to learn that theologically (probably not any more, mind) it was deemed necessary to keep a minimum number of Jews alive, so that when the final salvation came, they could do something, I forget what exactly, but basically have it rubbed in that they were totally wrong.
You could probably find the quote you're after with site:livejournal.com and "rysmiel" and "antisemitic comments" or something of the sort, no?
if the Jews are so evil, why did the Christians keep them around instead of killing them off, I fear there are practical reasons. The technology for large-scale genocide didn't really exist before the 20th century. Also there was this whole usury issue for a lot of the Mediaeval period; Christians were forbidden to lend at interest, but actually you can't easily run an economy without some means of borrowing money. Since the Jews were pretty much forced into running the financial industry, they became relatively indispensable, at least in most of western Europe.
theologically (probably not any more, mind) it was deemed necessary to keep a minimum number of Jews alive, so that when the final salvation came, they could do something, I forget what exactly The amount of effort that was put in to coming up for theological justifications for why the Jews were still around is really quite staggering. Another argument is related to OT prophecies; since the final ingathering of the exiles is promised, there have to be Jews around in the End Times so that they can be gathered, otherwise God would be making false promises. (This is also the reason why some fundamentalist Christian sects are scarily Zionist; they believe that the State of Israel is a necessary precondition for the Second Coming.)
You could probably find the quote you're after with site:livejournal.com and "rysmiel" and "antisemitic comments" or something of the sort, no? I have tried this, but Google and LJ really do not play nicely together, for various reasons. Thanks for the suggestion though. It's really infuriating because I'm normally quite good at remembering where I read things!
The Catholic church formally rejected this view at the Second Vatican Council
I was of the opinion that some Pope-Or-Other had formally rebutted that view in something like the seventeenth century, but I'm sure that V2 was a place where an attitude like that would be strongly re-inforced, if not by the documents themselves then certianly by the commentary given around it (if it's in one of the docs then it'd be in Nostra Aetate, the decree on relationships with non-Christian religions).
Either way, when Matthew records the Jews present at Jesus' trial before Pilate shouting "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" I don't believe it likely that they were actually condoning anti-Semitic acts for the rest of human history. A footnote in my Bible says that this is a "traditional O[ld] T[estament] phrase by which they accept responsability for the death they demand."
I think the point originally brought up by lisekit is a very good one. I'm no Biblical scholar but my take is that the Jews' rejection of Christ was not a logcial given thing derived from the premises of the Creation itself, but rather from the Fall in Eden. The incarnation of Christ, that is, His birth and life on Earth, was part of The Plan anyway. However the original disobedience of Adam and Eve (and the cumulative effect in the meanwhile) meant that for Christ's mission to be effective given the Fall, he would be made to suffer by the people the Father had marked out particularly as his own.
Apologies if that wasn't clear, but I was doing my best.
I was of the opinion that some Pope-Or-Other had formally rebutted that view in something like the seventeenth century, You may well be right; you're far more likely to know Catholic history than I am! The thing about the Church, though, is that it sometimes takes a while for official policy to trickle down to actual people and churches. I know my mother, as a Jewish kid in a Catholic school in the 50s, was given a hard time by the nuns over the Deicide thing, and after Vatican II they not only stopped, but apologized to her. But it's quite possible they were just a couple of centuries out of date, it wouldn't be unheard of.
if it's in one of the docs then it'd be in Nostra Aetate, the decree on relationships with non-Christian religions That name sounds familiar, so this seems likely to me.
I don't believe it likely that they were actually condoning anti-Semitic acts for the rest of human history. You don't believe that, but you live in an era where church-sponsored attacks on Jews are, thankfully, unthinkable. Attitudes pre-Enlightenment were very different indeed.
Whether the Gospels are intentionally antisemitic in intent is a fraught question (I have a close friend who specializes in this topic for her post-grad studies). If you regard the Bible as Divine in origin then probably not, because it's reasonable to assume that God wouldn't tell God's followers to torture and kill people based on their race. But if you consider the human origins of the Bible, well, the Jews of the first and second centuries were making life very difficult for the early Christians, so it would be understandable if there were anti-Jewish polemic going on.
I'm no Biblical scholar but my take is that the Jews' rejection of Christ was not a logcial given thing derived from the premises of the Creation itself, but rather from the Fall in Eden. This is really interesting, thank you. I don't know a whole lot about the Christian tradition of the Fall and Original Sin, so I'm fascinated to hear this explanation.
The thing about the Church, though, is that it sometimes takes a while for official policy to trickle down to actual people and churches.
This is drifting slightly off-topic, but "new" doctrines taking more (or less) time to "seep down" to the person in the pew is both a good and bad thing: when it takes years, it takes longer than it should (assuming my thought that the Deicide thing had been rejected long before V2 was actually correct) for people as your mother to be apologised to for slander if nothing else.
On the other, a world where every new proclamation is available instantly online is also one where people are encouraged to scan a document and throw out an instant reaction, without taking time to mull it over and reflect on what it really means.
But that aside....
Whether the Gospels are intentionally antisemitic in intent is a fraught question.
I can imagine, and anyone who does postgrad work in Biblical studies in general has my admiration.
Maybe this is just something that I experience, but when I'm reading a commentary on a piece of Scripture, either in a stand-alone work or a simple footnote in a Bible, I often feel a bit uncomfortable when I see remarks like "A gloss, probably added between 20 and 30 years later," or "this passage properly belongs after v19 for continuity of the narrative."
There's often a part of me saying "If it's divinely inspired, then surely all of it is divinely inspired, including verse ordering and other such points, and thus speculating as to whether this bit or that bit is in the right place is not only pointless but blasphemous." But if that's true then that renders the whole field of Biblical scholarship pointless, which is a bit silly.
My point is that whilst I view Scripture as being divine, it is also undoubtedly a collection of human works, and thus in some ways (not all) susceptible to the foibles that come with human writings.
Untangling one part from the other might sound like a good idea, but is it really? Consider that in Islam the Qu'ran is literally the word of Allah, as dictated verbatim to Muhammed, and translation is forbidden, and yet commentary on it abounds just as much as they do for the Christian Scriptures. Perhaps the human participation in the production of holy texts, with all the possible pitfalls that this entails, is really a central part to the significance not just of the texts themselves but also to the idea of a holy text in the first place.
I don't know a whole lot about the Christian tradition of the Fall and Original Sin, so I'm fascinated to hear this explanation.
Someday I'd like to write a post going into my ideas on this more fully, in my LJ. But it'd come after the next few weeks, which are chocka with work, and then some time to really think out the dark corners to make it coherent. Of course there'd be one whoppa of a disclaimer in there too :)
it just pains me to think that you suffered through the experiences you describe That's what happens when I put all the bad stuff that has ever happened to me in one post! I mean, out of all the hundreds, probably even thousands, of people I've met who have no problems at all with my religion, you have this handful of bad experiences. I'm sure there are few people reading this who have never had morons yelling insults at them in the street.
others may be far more influenced--scared and angered and embittered--by a certain percentage of sorry excuses for human beings Yes, it's definitely a vicious circle. Sadly, I know far too many Jews who are pretty racist against Germans or Arabs or Christians or any other group whose members might have caused problems in the past. Just to make it clear, I think there's absolutely no excuse for that kind of thing, but further hatred is one of the consequences of hatred. Also people who are much less able to go about their lives than I am, because of fear of attacks.
but for myself, even just in an academic sense, I have never been able to find even the faintest echo of this phenomenon If I say that antisemitism is not dead, but just sleeping, that doesn't at all mean I think everybody is antisemitic! It is pretty obvious that most people are not.
I have always tried to avoid opening Judaism related subjects with you; not because I think you'd be uncomfortable with it, but rather to avoid saying something that would be misunderstood and taken in a negative way. However, I really feel like discussing this subject, and I'm hoping you – and your friends – don't misunderstand my intention.
I am an Arab and a Muslim; I am very opinionated about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and you probably have seen me rant about it some day or another. However, I do not bear any hatred to any Jew because of their race or religion; in fact, the fact that you are a Jew, if anything, made you more of a valuable LiveJournal Friend, and I think the reasons behind this are obvious.
Yet, I am sure I am considered by many to be Anti-Semitic; just because of my own race and my views against Israel. Not to mention how ironic it is to say I'm Anti-Semitic when, in fact, I am of Semitic origin as an Arab, but I know there is much to say about this part, so I won't go into it. In fact, I believe this very comment could cause some people to call me Anti-Semitic.
What I am trying to say is that Anti-Semitism is overrated from two perspectives: The first, that people are so easy to go to the conclusion that someone is Anti-Semitic, and the second is that people treat Anti-Semitism as much more of a crime than any other form of racism.
Racism, in all its forms, is bad. Humans shouldn't hate other humans for such a thing as race; whether this race is the Jewish race or any other race. Yet, we never see a big deal made when someone insults another race; I personally – a lay person in terms of world related issues, you could say – do not know of any Anti-Race term similar to that of Anti-Semitism.
Yes, Jews suffered under Nazism, and that was really racist; however, this could have happened to any other race. It's not an inherent quality of the Jewish race to be the targeted race (Trust me, Arabs – and Muslims generally – have this feeling that they are the targeted race in everything; I get disgusted reading about all the conspiracy theories they come up with). In fact, I find it ironic that the closest kind of treatment to that the Jews got during the holocaust (even if not as extreme) is that practiced by a Jewish nation nowadays in Israel. I am sorry, but this wall whose name I forgot has to say something about that.
I am not saying that the concept of Anti-Semitism should be scraped. No! I totally understand how annoying it could be to be treated badly as a minority, but I believe the way you are treated where you live is not much different than that in which any minority is treated; again, I am just saying that Anti-Semitism should be bad only on the merit that it is a form of racism, and not as a whole big thing on its own.
Comment cut into two parts due to its length. The remainder coming in a minute ...
Khalid, can I just say I'm really glad you commented on this post? You have a really different perspective from most of my friends list. And of course I am talking about the society I am familiar with, British society, as a subset of European society, as a subset of Western society. Most of this is not at all applicable to, for example, the Middle East.
I have always tried to avoid opening Judaism related subjects with you; Well, it's up to you to decide what topics you feel comfortable discussing, of course.
to avoid saying something that would be misunderstood and taken in a negative way I hope I'm not going to do that. I know you're a decent guy, and I also know that since we come from such different cultures, I need to be especially careful to avoid potential misunderstandings.
However, I really feel like discussing this subject, That's absolutely great, I really value your input.
I am an Arab and a Muslim And I would get very annoyed with anyone who thinks this is a reason we can't get on.
I am very opinionated about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, This is a subject that many people feel strongly about, and you can't always predict someone's opinion based on their religion.
However, I do not bear any hatred to any Jew because of their race or religion; I think the two issues of how you feel about Israeli politics, and what you think about Jews or Arabs in general, are completely separate, and it's racists, of various stripes, who want to conflate them. I never assumed you were racist just because of your vehement opinions about this political issue.
the fact that you are a Jew, if anything, made you more of a valuable LiveJournal Friend, *smile* I'm really happy to hear this. And I am likewise glad that LJ has given me the opportunity to meet people like you who are from outside my home culture.
Hmm, now the problem is how to reply to all this. :P I hate the LiveJournal 4500 character limit on comments. I'd get really lost if I were to respond to every comment where you said it (especially that there are many places), so I hope you'll excuse me if I'll do all my responses to this comment.
First of all, really thanks for this response. It's better than I had imagined (in terms of our ideas being compatible). I realized, after reading your comments, though, that I presumed something and never mentioned it, while you did not think the same. I am sorry for that, but really; when I responded, my response was not to the contents of your post exactly, but rather my general opinions of the subject.
All the instances you have mentioned are indeed acts of racism which you very well have the right to talk against, and I do understand that your post's contents was to state that Anti-Semitism is getting less, not more. Yet, my response was to the subject itself. My comments could be summed up in the question "Why does it have to exist anymore?" (Given what you've said and what I've said) which I asked in the end of the comment (and you have answered it). This is why I mentioned things that you clearly did not go into in the post. I'm sorry for the confusion.
And about the misunderstanding; it's not that you'd take what I say in bad faith, but I'm worried I'd say something that could be taken the wrong way, out of lack of understanding or otherwise, that could be offensive.
Could any of these situations be interpreted as not being antisemitic?
As I said; they are indeed racist situations, whoever they would be against. The only issue I had with them is the need to single them out as different from other sorts of racism.
However, I think I have understood an important point from your responses, which I think is the main thing. Your usage of the term is quite different from the common usage I've been seeing. Usually, the word has this vibe attached to it, that it's racism against a more important kind of people (I know this may sound funny, but it's the only way I can think of wording it; I'm not trying to be sarcastic or anything). When you're using it, it seems it's just to refer the same vile act of racism we hate about any human, just instead using a more specific term that doesn't need qualification (such as saying racism against the Jewish minority where I live, or such). I have absolutely no problem with that.
. The fact that sometimes other forms of racism are tolerated, when they definitely shouldn't be, does not make antisemitism ok.
Very good point; why do I blame someone for knowing how to defend themselves? Well, it's just that I like to see one standard, one caliber, on which any form of racism is measured. When the general public (including Jews) finds that doing x to race y is acceptable, but doing this same x to the Semitic race is not acceptable, it's questionable. It could be, I agree, that we should argue for making x unacceptable for everybody, but couldn't it be that x is just something reasonable. I'll give you an example; if someone calls Sharon a war-criminal, say (I think it has been done before), they'd be called Anti-Semitic, but this really has nothing to do with Semitism, other than the fact that this human, who is believed by his accusers to have done bad things, happens to be Jewish. This is the kind of immunity I am talking about. If I attack Bush, people could find me a bad guy, think I'm pro-terrorism, blame me for 1001 things, but they will not call me racist. If Sharon (or any other persona, doesn't have to be Sharon, it's just an example) had done those bad things he is accused of, then he is a war-criminal whether he's Jewish or not, his religion and race have nothing to do with it, it's his actions, yet Anti-Semitism gets raised.
These are the kinds of things I have problems with, really (and that is just one example). Not the normal kind of racism that we all should try to stop.
I think never is exaggerated here. You're right. A sweeping generalization here, I think I was just excited and forgot to qualify my statement. :P
This is a personal post though; I am not writing an essay about racism in general. I don't know from personal experience what it's like to go through life being black, or Arab, or Asian, or what have you. Yeah, I hope you understand now that I didn't mean a direct response to the exact points you raised, but more of a general view of the subject; I kinda went on a tangent without clarifying that.
However, to blame all Jews for the actions of some of the people who unfortunately have power in Israeli society is itself racist. Not that I have the impression that's what you're trying to say with this comment, mind you.
Oh, I am totally not suggesting that all Jews are to blame for this. In fact, one day in the past, I have mixed up the terms "Jews" and "Israelis" (you know, it doesn’t make a big difference around here, among most circles ...), and ended up hurting a Jewish acquaintance I knew online without even knowing I did (She happens to be one of the sweetest people I've ever known online, and would stay hurt alone without even talking about it ...); I learned about it very late from another person, and it was messy. I lost a very dear friend over this, and it was a tough lesson to learn.
What I meant, though, is exactly what you said in this paragraph. One would expect Jews to know better because of what they have faced racism themselves.
--However, they are one of the strongest races nowadays, economically and politically.-- That's simply not true. Some of the richest people in the world are Jewish, and some people in powerful political positions are Jewish. But that's irrelevant; to infer that Jews as a group (or as a race, if you prefer) are politically and economically powerful is a nonsense.
Actually, I think this is a disagreement in the way we look at economics and politics; I believe, and understand from the world of today, that those "few rich people", have a lot of power. Yes, you, even though you are a Jewish, have no say in worldly issues more than anybody of any other group. However, the compound wish of a group is usually realized by the strong among them.
Let me clarify my point. Now say there is this issue, 90% of the Jewish community have opinion A, 10% have opinion B. Say 10% (just any number for conveying the idea, I'm sure the percentage is much less in reality) are very rich. What is the likelihood those people are going to be among the 90%, and what's the likelihood they're going to be among the 10%? 9 out of 10 of them are going to be among the majority.
Thus, the opinions of the majority in this group are going to be most likely realized by the rich from the same group/race. Which is why, if there are (and indeed there are) a few very strong Jews politically and economically, then their opinions would give the Jewish community the strength I am talking about.
So, for instance (and this is – again – not based on facts, but merely assumptions to explain the idea; though it could be real), if there are more powerful people of Jewish inclination than Blacks (Or Arabs, or ...) in the American government (or the British government, or ...), you'd find that the Jewish opinion would be more prominent. If there were more Blacks, what is valued among most blacks would be given more importance than what's valued among most Jews.
When I talked about all these things that the Jews have nowadays, I am merely trying to say that the reason for them getting special treatment are no longer valid, which we obviously do agree on – more or less.
When I talked about the feedback loop, I think I was not clear. What I meant is: Jews have privilege to smite people who think of saying things against them with Anti-Semitism, would lead to them getting stronger, and eventually getting even more privilege, etc. So I don't mean people would hate Jews more, but rather, people would be allowed less to say about Jews (Like, at some point, you'd not be allowed to make a Jewish character in a story do something wrong, because that'd be Anti-Semitism, and after a while, you'd not be able to put a Jewish character in a story who isn't perfect ... etc). This isn't good because, if anything, it enlarges the rift between races.
I did not once mention the holocaust in my post, except very indirectly. Yeah, I'm feeling guilty for not mentioning that I'm not responding to your personal experience now. :P
When I mentioned the guilt about the holocaust, it's because people tend to say that all the discrepancy between the treatment of Jews in cases of racism and the treatment of others, is caused by the guilt Europe feels. Anyway, I have noticed (as explained earlier) this is not the case with you.
Okay, I know this has got to be the most unorganized response ever. Yet, for the most part, I understand – and agree with – most of what you said (except for the things I pointed I disagree about, mostly). I'm glad I raised this subject, because I've got a lot of insight from your response.
Thank you. :) If more Arabs got to know more Jewish people like you, I'm guess the hatred between them would've gone, and maybe they'd even decide that the whole Israel-Palestine thing is no big deal and learn to share. :P Unfortunately though, people tend to put a blinding barrier of hatred in front of them, and are very content with the darkness they see.
I am sure I am considered by many to be Anti-Semitic; just because of my own race and my views against Israel. *sigh* That kind of attitude is nothing but racism under another name. I'm really sorry you've had to deal with that, and if it's any comfort to you, I do argue against that nonsense whenever I encounter it.
Not to mention how ironic it is to say I'm Anti-Semitic when, in fact, I am of Semitic origin as an Arab, Historical accident, I'm afraid. I use the term indiscriminately when I really mean anti-Jewish, because it's the accepted term that everyone understands. But it was coined in a specific context and has spread way beyond that.
Anti-Semitism is overrated from two perspectives In some ways, yes. I would argue that there should always be a strong reaction against any racist comments, but there are definitely situations where people are being over-sensitive, or using the accusation as a gratuitous slur, knowing that it will normally be taken seriously.
people are so easy to go to the conclusion that someone is Anti-Semitic, This happens, and it's prevalent in some circles. But look at the examples I've cited here. Could any of these situations be interpreted as not being antisemitic? I'm not talking about subtle things, or ambiguous things, or unfortunate connotations here.
people treat Anti-Semitism as much more of a crime than any other form of racism. Again, this is applicable in some contexts and not others. My personal preference would be for other forms of racism to be taken more seriously, not for antisemitism to be trivialized. The fact that sometimes other forms of racism are tolerated, when they definitely shouldn't be, does not make antisemitism ok.
we never see a big deal made when someone insults another race I think never is exaggerated here. I can think of several examples of extremely big fusses being made about various kinds of racism, and I think this is right; racism should absolutely be unacceptable, always. This is a personal post though; I am not writing an essay about racism in general. I don't know from personal experience what it's like to go through life being black, or Arab, or Asian, or what have you. That doesn't mean I think racism doesn't matter when it's directed against such people; quite the contrary!
do not know of any Anti-Race term similar to that of Anti-Semitism. I think racism, without any qualifier, is often assumed to mean racism against black people. The cognate term for racism against Muslims is islamophobia, for instance.
It's not an inherent quality of the Jewish race to be the targeted race Absolutely not. I think it's easy for Jews to be more acutely aware of their own history than of the history of other groups. There is also the issue that in my culture, we tend to learn a very Eurocentric view of history. In Western Europe for most of the past 1500 years, Jews have been the major minority group, perhaps along with the Romany. Which is not to say there were no Muslims, black people etc in Europe, but for many centuries these groups were not as prominent as Jews.
Arabs – and Muslims generally – have this feeling that they are the targeted race in everything; I am not at all surprised by this, given the current political climate. The fact that both the US and the UK are currently at war with an Arab country, and the fact that cheap propaganda is an easy way for politicians to manipulate the public has led to some very frightening consequences. I am very vocal about this.
I get disgusted reading about all the conspiracy theories they come up with Yeah, we have that problem too. *sympathetic sigh* There are some Jews and Jewish spokespeople who see antisemitism everywhere, and I think that does a lot of harm.
the closest kind of treatment to that the Jews got during the holocaust (even if not as extreme) is that practiced by a Jewish nation nowadays in Israel. There is some very abusive and racist behaviour going on in Israel. To hope that Jews would know better because of their history of having been victims is unfortunately to be too optimistic about human nature. However, to blame all Jews for the actions of some of the people who unfortunately have power in Israeli society is itself racist. Not that I have the impression that's what you're trying to say with this comment, mind you.
I believe the way you are treated where you live is not much different than that in which any minority is treated I agree entirely. I hope I didn't give any different impression with my post. I wanted to talk about my own experiences, because I felt some of my flist would be interested. But I'm not in a competition of who's the biggest victim, not by any means.
I suppose part of it was a response to the common belief, which I myself used to hold, that antisemitism is no longer a problem at all, that Jews are effectively no longer a minority. I wish that were true, and I wish in fact that no minorities had to put up with this kind of thing, but ignoring a problem is not the way to make it go away.
I don't mind the name itself either; I mean we could give anything a name. However, racist remarks seem to only matter legally when they are thrown at Jews. If an author dares to say a tiny negative statement about something Jewish, it gets to legal levels and countries would have to apologize; if not more! I mean, we – as "other" races – began to feel unfairly treated and envy Jews for their immunity.
In fact, in the times in which the Anti-Semitism concept was coined, I could understand the motive behind it. Jews might have been in real need of support. However, they are one of the strongest races nowadays, economically and politically. They decide on so many things, so why do they get this against-racism-"protection", which they obviously don't need. They have their very own strong nation, which is allied with the strongest nation on Earth, and has great weapons it is not even questioned about (due to aforementioned alliance). In fact, I believe their strength is working as a feedback loop to the whole Anti-Semitism thing, making it even a scarier thing for other races to even consider.
I do not know what you think about all of the above, and I am not blaming you for any of it either (obviously!). The concept exists, has its ringing power, and you may use it, but my question is: Why does it have to exist anymore? Is it because the world still feels guilty about the holocaust thing? If so, don't you feel bad about using it?
Again, no offense meant to you or anybody reading this. I am just giving my honest opinion because I want to understand your perspective about the whole Anti-Semitism thing.
However, racist remarks seem to only matter legally when they are thrown at Jews. I don't think that reflects all of reality. Some of reality, yes, but there are situations where other kinds of racism are taken as seriously as they should be, and there are situations where antisemitism is not taken seriously at all.
we – as "other" races – began to feel unfairly treated and envy Jews for their immunity. Racism is by definition unfair treatment, and a political system which allows people to get away with racism is also unfair. But the fact that some racism exists and some racism goes unpunished is not the fault of Jews.
However, they are one of the strongest races nowadays, economically and politically. That's simply not true. Some of the richest people in the world are Jewish, and some people in powerful political positions are Jewish. But that's irrelevant; to infer that Jews as a group (or as a race, if you prefer) are politically and economically powerful is a nonsense. I actually agree that looking at my culture, Jews are relatively well integrated. For most Jews, being Jewish is not a big problem in their lives. This is a good thing, and while I'm being negative in this post I wouldn't want to deny that. But most individual Jews do not have any sort of personal power, certainly not any power just because they are Jewish.
They decide on so many things Again, this is untrue. "They" do not decide collectively on anything. My influence on government is limited to exactly that of any other citizen; I can vote, I can lobby and so on, but the government isn't going to listen to me just because I happen to be the same religion as some of the ministers! I mean, if I got to decide things just because I'm Jewish, I would "decide" that there should be an independent Palestinian state and every effort should be made to ensure its viability.
why do they get this against-racism-"protection", which they obviously don't need I would argue that anyone who suffers from racism needs protection. Again, people other than Jews should get more protection, rather than Jews getting less. I've told a story in this post about a murder; protection from murder is a pretty basic human right, and yes, Jews do need that protection.
They have their very own strong nation This is of very limited use to anyone outside Israel. It is a safety net in the sense that if things got really terrible here, Jews would have somewhere to escape to. But that doesn't give Jews power and influence. You could equally well say that Arabs don't need to worry about racism because there are many countries in the world where almost the entire population is Arab.
I believe their strength is working as a feedback loop to the whole Anti-Semitism thing, making it even a scarier thing for other races to even consider. I don't think it's reasonable to hate Jews for the fact that Israel has a lot of power in both military and economic terms. Antisemitism is still wrong, even though there is one tiny little country in the world where antisemitism is by definition not an issue as Jews are the majority. There is a lot of political resentment against Israel, much of it justified, and it's true that that resentment can sometimes feed into antisemitism.
I do not know what you think about all of the above, and I am not blaming you for any of it either (obviously!) I didn't think you were, but it's also good to be very clear about these things, thank you.
Why does it have to exist anymore? Believe me, I would be happier than anyone if it didn't! But when people are being targeted with violence, sometimes even lethal violence, because of their religion, that should be spoken about and protested about. There happens to be a word for this phenomenon, a word which in some circumstances is emotionally effective. But if I can prevent someone from being beaten up or killed by making accusations of antisemitism, I have no hesitation in doing so.
Is it because the world still feels guilty about the holocaust thing? If so, don't you feel bad about using it? I did not once mention the holocaust in my post, except very indirectly. I am talking about things that have happened in the past five years, things which have nothing at all to do with the holocaust. Murder is wrong. That's it, and I don't feel at all bad about saying so. It doesn't matter whose ancestors persecuted who else's, it's nothing to do with "using" guilt over the holocaust.
Again, no offense meant to you or anybody reading this I'm not offended, and I'm glad you are able to be honest with me on this difficult topic.
I've often been the first Jewish person someone has ever encountered Indeed - it may have been 15 years ago, but I'm sure this is true of me. I remember hearing about Saturday School and Hebrew lessons.....I have also learnt more about Judaism through reading your journal and find it particularly interesting since my husband is technically Jewish.
My mother-in-law was born in Vienna in 1935 to an Austrian Jewish father and Polish Jewish mother. They escaped to Switzerland in 1938, then emigrated to New Zealand 2 years after that (and left NZ in 1964 for Princeton, USA then on the the UK in 1970 - my father-in-law is an academic and went wherever there was an interesting job). She upset her parents by "marrying out", in spite of being brought up in a Jewish family and no longer has anything to do with the faith, to the extent that she will celebrate Christmas by eating roast pork! She doesn't talk about her past and upbringing at all, so information has to be extracted by carefully thought out questioning, because she doesn't understand why anyone would be interested rather than any deep-rooted traumas. Thus R has never been exposed to Judaism, although he was circumcised, and has only once been in a synagogue (on a school trip).
it's an important part of my identity
Interestingly, it would appear this is true of R too. He has always been proud of his Jewish roots, even when he was a choral scholar at Cambridge and spending large amounts of time in chapel! He is very interested in Jewish history and heritage, particularly the events in Austria during the war, so we have been learning together.
One of the newer members of Dad's department expressed horror that we could be so open about being Jewish in front of a group of near-strangers.
It would never occur to us that it might not be sensible/acceptable to mention R's Jewish heritage in any situation. It also came up in conversation when we went to talk to the vicar about getting married in church, and it didn't stop him recommending us to the Archbishop for a special license or carrying out the ceremony, although he won't perform marriage ceremonies for divorcees, or allow the bride of co-habiting couples to be "given away" by their father.
I don't think it had ever occurred to either of us that anti-semitism might affect him and it certainly never has to date. Perhaps this is a difference between now and 65 years ago - maybe only "practising" Jews are at risk of being singled out. Yet Hitler was unable to distinguish between them.....It saddens me to hear that such things as you describe do happen, and Jerry's story sickens me. There will always be an ignorant minority, but it would appear that minority is larger and more widespread than I'd realised.
I think the real problem is that hatred and the desire to make things us versus them never goes away. It shifts targets, but it's always there. And Jews are convenient group to target, so it often shifts to Jews. But it's the same hatred and desire to be superior by making some other group inferior in all cases. I wish we could somehow root that out of human nature, because while fighting it in each specific case is good; it's just not enough. And it keeps picking new targets or going back to old ones.
I was raised Jewish in an area that was about 50% Jewish. I was a female who was expected to learn how to program and to be good in math and science. This has always made things seem weird to me. My parents both faced discrimination. My father was rejected from several colleges because their Jewish quotas were already filled. My mother couldn't afford to go to college, since her family could only afford to send one child they felt they had to send the boy as she could get married while he'd have to support a family.
I was raised knowing about the Holocaust, and never as a distant past thing. Afterall, it was in my parents' lifetimes. It was a - this could happen again, be wary. Later, I learned that the Holocaust was only new in its efficiency, not in its nature. Pogroms were not new. The Spanish Inquisition wasn't really that different from the Holocaust; they just didn't have the technology to kill as many and the words they said were different, but the nature of it was the same. I've always felt that problems of these sort are a real possibility, and that you can't just focus on how Jews are treated, because it could be any target. And it could be some other aspect of who I am that is targeted, or maybe I'd be spared and I would have to see if I had the strength to save others. I've always had massive respect for the righteous gentiles who risked their own lives to save people. I hope never to be tested in that way, as I do not know if I have the strength to do the right thing, but I hope I do.
Yet... I've faced remarkably little anti-semitism (although I'm not very Jewish), if any. And remarkably little sexism (although definitly some). Although I am starting to be treated badly by people's assumptions because of my disabilities. Ahwell, I can't manage to fully escape people being stupid because I'm a minority.
I suppose it helps that I've mostly lived in liberal places. And I generally was not the only person of whatever minority status in the area. Plus, at times, being Jewish was likely the majority for my neighborhood. Although I'm glad it was never enough of a majority that people would assume what someone else's religion was. I do miss that about my hometown, no one assumed you had a particular religion or celebrated any particular religious holiday.
Yes, I think perhaps a comment here can't really do my opinion justice. Whenever I start on racism I end up ranting about prejudice in general (and especially one particular area which affects me). It would be leaving the topic of racsim/anti-semitism rather a long way away.
However, I can at least comment on your experiences. If you'd told me this four years ago I'd have been quite surprised. Although I knew racism (and anti-semitism) existed I'd never encountered it myself, and was generally of the opinion that while there were occasional problems in places it was basically gone. I'm not sure I ever witnessed it first hand and never knew about any people I knew having problems.
Since I got to know you and others at Oxford I obviously heard more about anti-semitism in action, and as such while I hadn't realised how common incidents had been for you I realised that it could still be a major problem.
Since moving to Brum I've found that racsim (generally of an anti-asian sentiment) is still rather common. There are black guys a work who constantly joke about casual racism in others (such as when one of them witnessed a robbery and the others joked that he'd been arrested as a suspect as he was 'acting nigerian' in the vicinity of the crime). The word 'paki' is used with annoying frequency by a fair number of the white workers. However, the polish contingent of the workforce are mostly treated fine (unless people suspect them of bending the rules, when they are treated slightly more harshly than an english person doing the same thing would).
As such, I'm not really surprised by your news. Racism and anti-semitism (I'm still baffled as to why they seem to come separately most of the time) are alive and although I'm sure things are better than they were and will continue to get better the standards set by today are still not to my liking. Here's hoping they die soon.
Note: I'm trying to understand rather than condone a nasty phenomenon here. Please don't flame.
From what I can tell, there are several reasons for anti-semetism being a very light sleeper.
The first, and most obvious is that Jews are different and don't assimilate. You have odd religious ceremonies, odd dietary requirements and odd dress-codes. Therefore, when xenophobia rears its ugly head (as it regularly does), you are an obvious target.
The second is that due to the emphasis on textual study and general education, the average Jew is better educated than most. This and thrift (which I believe correlates with expensive religous observances) have put the majority of Jews among the middle classes, known to rioters in the French Revolution as the Bourgoise and also the group that was actually targetted by the famous Shakespearean quote "The first thing we do, let's hang all the lawyers".
The third is that you have a fairly wealthy, able, influential and close-knit community which it is hard for an outsider to break into. Just the sort of thing to attract conspiracy theorists and those prone to believe conspiracy theories. It is therefore fairly easy to convince the less critical thinkers that you are a threat. (IIRC, almost all the groups Umberto Eco mentions as having been targetted by Protocols of the Elders of Zion before the Okhrana filed the serial numbers off again and targetted it at the Jews had these characteristics).
The fourth is that historically you have dominated some fairly vital professions in an attempt to make yourselves indespensible and that, by the same token, could have nasty side effects on the clients when things went wrong. In Venice (and much of the rest of rennaisance Europe), it was moneylending - and in early-mid 20th Century Germany, I believe most doctors were Jewish. This both had strengths and made for good scapegoats.
The fifth and final point is that as a group, you are strong enough to be percieved as a threat (not inconsequential numbers and quite a lot better educated and richer than average even in contemporary Britain (go look up British census data for an illustration*)), but there simply aren't enough of you to put the results of a mass confrontation in much doubt. You therefore make a pretty good target (along simmilar lines to current American use of Al-Quaeda).
No one of the above factors would account for anti-semitism being a light sleeper, but when you take all into account, if the mood is such that persecution is going to happen then the Jews make a very good target.
* No, I didn't set out to look it up- I was preparing a briefing on the Moslem community and other religious groups as part of my job.
Well, that's been substantially interesting reading (in between patients), especially the conversation between you and khalidz0r. Thank you both. :) I'm inclined to agree with a number of points that you've both raised, especially khalidz0r's... discomfort is probably the best word I can think of for it... at how the term anti-semitic is used and the concept applied.
I went to a high school where WASPs were quite possibly the minority. I jokingly tend to describe the student population as about 45% Asian (of all backgrounds), 45% Jewish (of all backgrounds), with the remaining 10% filled in by everyone else. I think the only major issue there that I was aware of was the envy all the non-Jewish kids felt about the seemingly vast number of religious holidays that got our friends out of school.
On the subject of Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus, it's already been pointed out that someone had to kill him. It could well be argued that the Romans shared equal responsibility, and yet (ironically) it's Rome that became the seat of the Christian Church for centuries. I wonder how devout Italians reconcile national pride and faith in that area. I don't imagine it's a big issue for them, but it's an interesting one to me. You could also argue that since Jesus came for the salvation of people from all cultures and ethnicities, we all share some responsibility. The Catholics seem to get hung-up on the guilt that this engenders sometimes, but I suspect that he would/will tell us to all stop being silly and just get on with it.
The stuff about Israel and various passages in Revelations is also interesting. I've come across it before, and my Mum seems to be one of the people who believe that it's Israel the rest of the world will be fighting against in the end times. Mind you, she's also firmly convinced that the end is nigh, and may be fitting current events and possibilities to suit the scripture a bit too closely. I admit the possibility, but since we're told that no-one will know the day or the hour, I also admit it could be something completely unforeseen in the year 5050. If it turns out to be Israel, then again Jews will be integral to the Plan, and have as much virtue or sin as anyone else. We're taught that God will deal with Jews and Christians separately, and frankly that's enough for me. To use the Bible as justification for attacking Judaism is just weird.
There's a scene in Julian May's Saga of the Exiles where a nationalist Tanu (alien race who colonised pre-historic Earth) is about to boot two old humans back through a time gate to the 22nd century to tell the future to stop sending humans to the past and wrecking a perfectly good alien society, which the above points make me think of. He magnificently tells the huamn pair to go back to where they came from (the future), and the elderly paleontologist who's been thinking about the effects of the Tanu invasion on proto-humanity tells him "You fool! We came from here."
Enough on religious thought at the moment. It's 03:00 here and I have yet more patient reports to write. Thanks again, and I empathise with being on the receiving end of abuse by morons. It sucks. However, you're not alone (both in the good way and the bad way).
Nice choice in music too. :) I really should get my hands of some more of Capercaille's albums...