They’re recruiting. Superficially relatively innocuous-looking groups like the Lads Society are their first ports of call. But their conversations have been infiltrated so we can be alerted to the threat:
At the end of 2020, I began to see the requisite social media posts asking what we’re tired of hearing or seeing in the news, and which words or terms we hope never to hear again. Not surprisingly, several people cited “systemic racism” (or, for that matter, systemic anything).
Throughout the previous year, pundits on the left (i.e., centrist liberals) and the right posted responses to what they see as the overuse of the term systemic racism. Disingenuous conservatives warned that blaming the system for generating racist ideas and exclusionary behavior would tend to absolve individuals for moral failings.
On the surface, they may seem to have a point. If the system causes people to behave the way they do, then how can we blame anyone? You may recognize this sort of argument when, for example, centrists and conservatives reflexively point toward the sin of greed rather than the underlying system that rewards or even requires it. They redirect our attention to failing people so that we don’t look too closely at the failing structure that nurtures and supports them. By focusing our attention on the actions of individuals they hope to prevent meaningful change.
Before continuing, we need to be absolutely clear about what we mean by “systemic.” In the mainstream press, we frequently see references to ideas, policies, and behavior that pervade the system. However, they focus our attention on the people who hold those ideas, promote those policies, and engage in that behavior. And where the right sees only bad actors, centrist liberals see bad actors working in a system that needs to be reformed. Neither view is particularly helpful; however, the notion that the politico-economic framework is a neutral playing field that just needs a fairer rulebook and better referees is comforting, but seriously wrongheaded. Continue reading “What the Left Means by “Systemic””
Rather than try to cover for now the many sides to the racism question that Reni Eddo-Lodge raises in her book Why I’ve Stopped Talking to White People about Race, I’ll just mention one thought that has lodged uppermost in my mind as I think back on my reading.
I know the Australian situation better than either the British or American experiences and for the first time, at least as far as I can remember, I paused to try to imagine what it might be like being born into an aboriginal family. Healthwise, what are their chances compared with a white person’s? We know the expected life-span of aboriginals is significantly less than it is for whites. What sorts of supports do children have at home with their schooling and how likely is it that aboriginal adolescents will escape brushes with the police — and what are their chances of seeing the inside of a prison compared with white people? And then why is it that we keep hearing of deaths in custody? Having lived for some years in the Northern Territory did make me far more aware of aboriginal conditions and experiences than I would have had had I never left the major urban areas on the east coast of Australia.
Poor comparisons can also be made with suburban areas where first and second-generation non-English speaking immigrants tend to live. Would a white person feel comfortable imagining being born into one of those communities as opposed to a stable white one?
Thinking of it like that drives home, at least for me, the reality of what is meant by systemic racism. We can expect that Australians would be outraged and governments would act the highest priority reforms and assistance packages to make the lives of (white) people in such communities on a par with the rest of the population with respect to genuine equality of opportunities in life. The rest of the (white) population would, in the main, surely expect the government to take those urgent measures.
What dismays me is when I hear some white Australians, including elected representatives, complain about unfair welfare “handouts” to aboriginal and other minority groups. Those complainants demand “equality” and “fairness” for all — and call for policies to be colourblind as the way to being truly fair and equal. Those calls fail to understand — as Reni Eddo-Lodge makes readers all the more starkly aware — that being colourblind in the current situation is only perpetuating a system that sets aboriginals at a disadvantage from the moment of their birth. And that’s where the anger and hostility start: with the failure to recognize the currently unequal experiences of whites compared with black and brown races. The anger surfaces when there is blindness to the white experience of privilege in what is touted as a multiracial society.
I see from some of the comments on the earlier posts that I am happily not alone having these thoughts. It’s something a white person has to make an effort to understand, I think.
We have moved on from the days of racial hostility but we are still in a state of acute discomfort about racial difference. . . . There are far less interpersonal bigotry and abuse. People don’t hate other people because of their colour, as would have been the case 50 years ago. But that is different to saying: ‘Do I feel comfortable in the company of a lot of people who are not like myself?’ — Trevor Phillips, The Guardian 2014
Reni Eddo-Lodge in her book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race makes it clear that racism today is not mostly about malicious and ignorant people who hate others who are different from themselves. That kind of racism still exists but it is easy to identify and condemn: it is continued in white supremacist, anti-immigrant and far-right groups. Further, when Reni Eddo-Lodge speaks of white people she is not referring to every individual white person but to whiteness as a political ideology or identity. I believe that concept sounds bizarre to most white persons when they first hear it. It is only after reading the details of how persons of colour are handicapped at every stage of their lives that one can begin to become conscious of the privileges we white people take for granted. The challenges facing coloured people from infancy and on throughout their lives all too rarely make themselves known among whites in a white society. The problem is not white hostility so much as white ignorance. I think white people do have a responsibility to make the effort to listen to the experiences of minorities in their midst.
More quotes from Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book:
But this isn’t about good and bad people. The covert nature of structural racism is difficult to hold to account. It slips out of your hands easily, like a water-snake toy. You
In the same year that I decided to no longer talk to white people about race, the British Social Attitudes survey saw a significant increase in the number of people who were happy to admit to their own racism.4 The sharpest rise in those self-admitting were, according to a Guardian report, ‘white, professional men between the ages of 35 and 64, highly educated and earning a lot of money’.5 This is what structural racism looks like. It is not just about personal prejudice, but the collective effects of bias. It is the kind of racism that has the power to drastically impact people’s life chances. Highly educated, high-earning white men are very likely to be landlords, bosses, CEOs, head teachers, or university vice chancellors. They are almost certainly people in positions that influence others’ lives. They are almost certainly the kind of people who set workplace cultures. They are unlikely to boast about their politics with colleagues or acquaintances because of the social stigma of being associated with racist views. But their racism is covert. It doesn’t manifest itself in spitting at strangers in the street. Instead, it lies in an apologetic smile while explaining to an unlucky soul that they didn’t get the job. It manifests itself in the flick of a wrist that tosses a CV in the bin because the applicant has a foreign-sounding name.
The national picture is grim. Research from a number of different sources shows how racism is weaved into the fabric of our world. This demands a collective redefinition of what it means to be racist, how racism manifests, and what we must do to end it.
Those points in a black person’s life where the difficulties start:
Black students are far more likely to finish their university education with a lower ranking pass than white students; (Recall that black students are more likely than white students to move into higher education so it is not likely that the gap is due to “lack of intelligence, talent or aspiration.” Almost 70% of university teachers are white, “a dire indication of what universities think intelligence looks like.”
Black people are far morelikely [links are to PDFs] to be unemployed than white people;
“black people are twice as likely to be charged with drugs possession, despite lower rates of drug use. Black people are also more likely to receive a harsher police response (being five times more likely to be charged rather than cautioned or warned) for possession of drugs” (Report – PDF);
Commenting on the above hurdles (with my own highlighted emphasis),
Our black man’s life chances are hindered and warped at every stage. There isn’t anything notably, individually racist about the people who work in all of the institutions he interacts with. Some of these people will be black themselves. But it doesn’t really matter what race they are. They are both in and of a society that is structurally racist, and so it isn’t surprising when these unconscious biases seep out into the work they do when they interact with the general public. With a bias this entrenched, in too many levels of society, our black man can try his hardest, but he is essentially playing a rigged game. He may be told by his parents and peers that if he works hard enough, he can overcome anything. But the evidence shows that that is not true, and that those who do are exceptional to be succeeding in an environment that is set up for them to fail. Some will even tell them that if they are successful enough to get on the radar of an affirmative action scheme, then it’s because of tokenism rather than talent. enough to get on the radar of an affirmative action scheme, then it’s because of tokenism rather than talent.
Structural racism is never a case of innocent and pure, persecuted people of colour versus white people intent on evil and malice. Rather, it is about how Britain’s relationship with race infects and distorts equal opportunity.
Eddo-Lodge, Reni. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. London Oxford New York New Delhi Sydney: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018.
Serendipity in a local bookstore led me to read a new book on a subject I have been slow to understand for much of my life. I grew up with parents who deplored racism (they said so themselves) yet at the same time explained to me that the removal of aboriginal children from their families and placing them in missionary institutions was for their own good. At school we learned that the White Australia Policy at the time was not racist but was introduced to protect the wages and living standards of Australians.
We know our histories have been bloodied with racism for centuries yet we seem so easily to think that our generation today is not widely racist. I wonder if some slave owners would have said they, too, were not at all racist because they believed they treated their slaves well.
Today, racists are easy enough to spot among fringe extremists. They advertise their hatred. Yet so often I have heard minorities speak of problems they face with racism in our society and fellow whites reply indignantly that there is very little racism. How there can be such opposing perceptions is something that has intrigued me and obliged me to dig deeper over the years into what, exactly, racism is.
Enter Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. Reni writes from the heart of both her own experiences and background history she has read to understand what has brought us to today. I found many old thoughts and experiences of my own expressed in novel ways that set me on spirals of rethinking so much of what I have so long taken for granted.
The Preface alone pulls the reader up with a start (at least it did for this reader):
On 22 February 2014, I publisheda post on my blog. I titled it ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race’. It read:
I’m no longer engaging with white people on the topic of race. Not all white people, just the vast majority who refuse to accept the legitimacy of structural racism and its symptoms. I can no longer engage with the gulf of an emotional disconnect that white people display when a person of colour articulates their experience. You can see their eyes shut down and harden. It’s like treacle is poured into their ears, blocking up their ear canals. It’s like they can no longer hear us.
This emotional disconnect is the conclusion of living a life oblivious to the fact that their skin colour is the norm and all others deviate from it. . . . I just can’t engage with the bewilderment and the defensiveness as they try to grapple with the fact that not everyone experiences the world in the way that they do. They’ve never had to think about what it means, in power terms, to be white, so any time they’re vaguely reminded of this fact, they interpret it as an affront. Their eyes glaze over in boredom or widen in indignation. Their mouths start twitching as they get defensive. Their throats open up as they try to interrupt, itching to talk over you but not really listen, because they need to let you know that you’ve got it wrong.
. . . . Even if they can hear you, they’re not really listening. It’s like something happens to the words as they leave our mouths and reach their ears. The words hit a barrier of denial and they don’t get any further.
. . . . Watching The Color of Fear [a 1994 documentary about race] by Lee Mun Wah, I saw people of colour break down in tears as they struggled to convince a defiant white man that his words were enforcing and perpetuating a white racist standard on them. All the while he stared obliviously, completely confused by this pain, at best trivialising it, at worst ridiculing it.
. . . . So I can’t talk to white people about race any more because of the consequent denials, awkward cartwheels and mental acrobatics that they display when this is brought to their attention. Who really wants to be alerted to a structural system that benefits them at the expense of others?
I can no longer have this conversation, because we’re often coming at it from completely different places. I can’t have a conversation with them about the details of a problem if they don’t even recognise that the problem exists. Worse still is the white person who might be willing to entertain the possibility of said racism, but who thinks we enter this conversation as equals. We don’t.
. . . .
Amid every conversation about Nice White People feeling silenced by conversations about race, there is a sort of ironic and glaring lack of understanding or empathy for those of us who have been visibly marked out as different for our entire lives, and live the consequences. It’s truly a lifetime of self-censorship that people of colour have to live. . . . .
So I’m no longer talking to white people about race. . . . Their intent is often not to listen or learn, but to exert their power, to prove me wrong, to emotionally drain me, and to rebalance the status quo. I’m not talking to white people about race unless I absolutely have to. If there’s something like a media or conference appearance that means that someone might hear what I’m saying and feel less alone, then I’ll participate. But I’m no longer dealing with people who don’t want to hear it, wish to ridicule it and, frankly, don’t deserve it.
I feel privileged to have lived to see some remarkable changes happening in the UK, Europe and the United States. It’s really quite amazing to be writing this so soon after my recent depressing thoughts about the United States.
Some places in the U.S. are beginning to explore genuine alternatives to the traditional police forces — outsiders have for years been fairly stunned by how often we hear of wild west type violent acts by U.S. police. The stories have become hideously depressingly routine.
I understand that much of the change has been a consequence of the power of the video capture. The Vietnam war was said to be the first war telecast live into living rooms on the invading nation. That helped add momentum to the protests. But it takes time, years, for sanity to spread widely and deeply enough so that there is finally a critical mass of activists demanding change and being heard in some quarters so that at last change is actually beginning to happen. Small steps, but that’s how we all learn to walk.
Our nations have been built on racism, including various forms of genocide, sins that have been sublimated beneath the imperial “greatness” and national prosperity that were their fruits. It’s amazing to see how far we have finally come now that we can contemplate on an international scale the tearing down of monuments glorifying white supremacist imperialist histories.
This surely is a cultural and ethical turning point, or at least a signpost that times have indeed been changing.
The news item that was the final straw that prompted me to write this post was downgrading of Little Britain by the BBC. The few times I tried to watch it I simply couldn’t. I failed to understand how certain groups that were being satirized could generally find it funny. Punching down is not funny. I’m relieved to now learn that my problem was that I was ahead of my time.
It’s a very different world from a few decades ago. Some things really are far, far better and promising than ever before. Now, if only we can make it through climate change as organized societies. . .
. . .
(I wonder what the future holds for all of that stolen loot in the British Museum?)
This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion. — Patrick Crusius, El Paso mass murderer
We saw the rise of “cultural racism” in France in the first post. Another term for the same type of racism found in the literature is the “new racism”. In a future post I’ll outline the rise of this new racism in Britain as a companion to the first post on its rise in France. For now, however, I present a description of the new racism as explored by Martin Barker in The New Racism: Conservatives and the Ideology of the Tribe (1981). Yes, it’s another old source. As mentioned earlier, I’m going through the sources I find often cited in more recent literature first.
The Components of the New Racism
The first point we notice in surveying the debates over and the expressions of the new racism is the centrality of the idea of a “way of life or a culture”
National consciousness is the sheet anchor for the unconditional loyalties and acceptance of duties and responsibilities, based on personal identification with the national community, which underlie civic duty and patriotism[Sherman, Alfred. ‘Why Britain can’t be wished away’, Daily Telegraph, 8 September 1978].
Thus Alfred Sherman, Director of the right-wing Institute for Policy Studies in one of the Daily Telegraph‘s regular centre-page pronouncements on race. We are bound together by feelings of oneness, and indeed these are strengthened by recognition that others are different. ‘It is from a recognition of racial differences that a desire develops in most groups to be among their own kind; and this leads to distrust and hostility when newcomers come in’ [Page]. Thus Robin Page, in another of these pronouncements. But Page was aware that this left him open to a charge of racism which he was keen to avoid. So he made it clear that ‘the whole question of race is not a matter of being superior or inferior, dirty or clean, but of being different‘ [ibid.].
(Barker, 20. My bolding in all quotations. I have exchanged Barker’s end-note numbers with full references in-line.)
Immigration posed a threat because it meant “aliens” would destroy the “homogeneity” of the insiders. Enoch Powell was a strident voice in the 1970s and proudly announced that “heroic measures” were called for: “repatriation”. The justification: “human nature”.
They would indeed be heroic measures, measures which radically altered the prospective pattern of our future immigration, but they would be measures based on and operating with human nature as it is, not measures which purport to manipulate and alter human nature by laws, bureaucracy and propaganda [Powell, Enoch. ‘Speech to Stretford Young Conservatives,’ in Daily Telegraph, 22 January 1977].
And here we have reached the core of the new racism. It is a theory of human nature. Human nature is such that it is natural to form a bounded community, a nation, aware of its differences from other nations. They are not better or worse. But feelings of antagonism will be aroused if outsiders are admitted. And there grows up a special form of connection between a nation and the place it lives: ‘Britain is not a geographical expression or a New-World territory open to all comers with one foot in their old home and one in their new. It is the national home and birthright of its indigenous peoples’ [Sherman, ‘Why Britain . . .’ ]. It is becoming clear that expressions of this sort are not just rhetoric, but rhetoric whose emotional content is warranted by an emergent theory.
“Nothing racist”, goes the idea, because it only being kind to the foreigners, too! Barker continues:
Foreigners too have their natural homes. Stopping immigration is being kind to them as well. When we consider the East African Asians, for example, it would be kinder to stop them coming here; after all ‘what would have been more natural than for them to quit their Diaspora and return to help build their independent homelands, Mother India, Pakistan, Bangladesh?’ [Sherman, ‘Why Britain . . .’ ]. John Page represented this point of view in Parliament: ‘I fail to see’, he argued, ‘how the natural home of an ex-Malawi Goan can be Harrow West’ [Hansard. House of Commons Official Report, vol. 914, no. 137, Monday 5 July 1976 p. 1077]. Your natural home is really the only place for you to be; for that is something rooted in your nature, via your culture. ‘Parliament can no more turn a Chinese into an Englishman than it can turn a man into a woman’, wrote Sherman [‘Why Britain . . .’ ].
But why not? It is not anywhere claimed that it is because Chinese, or Africans, or Jamaicans or whatever have different human natures. No, we are biologically all sufficiently alike that they too form communities in the same way.
Let’s move from France in the 1970s and 80s to the USA, specifically Los Angeles, in the 1960s. In this post I address another frequently cited work in the subsequent literature:
Sears, D.O., and D.R. Kinder. 1971. “Racial Tensions and Voting in Los Angeles.” In Los Angeles: Viability and Prospects for Metropolitan Leadership, edited by Werner Z. Hirsch, 51–88. New York: Praeger.
In the previous post we saw cultural racism emerging in Europe; in this post we look at Sears and Kinder study what is termed symbolic racism. Symbolic. It sounds innocuous, doesn’t it. Not real. But that’s far from its intended meaning.
The occasion of the study by Sears and Kinder was change in Los Angeles and southern California in “rolling back the generous Democratic liberalism of the early 1960’s and replacing it with a tense and preoccupied conservatism” with the victory of Ronald Reagan (p. 52). My interest and focus is on understanding what lies behind the term “symbolic racism”.
Compared with the 1950s the dominant views and attitudes towards blacks among voters in Los Angeles by 1970 were racially liberal.
Respondents do not believe in racial differences in intelligence, and there is virtually no support for segregated schools, segregated public accommodations, or job discrimination. Moreover, most of the sample recognizes the reality problems that blacks face in contemporary American society. They perceive Negroes as being at a disadvantage in requesting services from government, in trying to get jobs, and, in general, getting what they deserve. And they feel that integration can work: they feel the races can live comfortably together. . . .
No doubt they feel rather moral on racial grounds and would hotly deny the contention that they are “white racists.” Indeed, they seem to have learned quite thoroughly those moral lessons conventionally taught a decade or two ago, and they represent that way of thinking rather well. It is just that they are ten or fifteen years out of date now. The attitudes that characterized a “racial liberal” in the middle 1950’s are not enough to keep one from being perceived as a “racist” in 1970. (p. 63)
Nonetheless, despite being “racial liberals” by the standards of the 1950s, it was still discovered that
racism was the single most important predictor of mayoralty voting in our survey.
I was reminded of Brenton Tarrant’s words in his manifesto, The Great Replacement:
Brenton Tarrant, you will recall, was the murderer of 51 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. He declared that he had no ill-will towards any race on earth. So long as they stayed in their “natural” borders.
Ever since I posted Strategies of Denials of Racism back in early June I have been trying to get a better handle on the subject. Islam is not a race, of course, so how does anti-Muslim sentiment get mixed up in a discussion of racism? Is it fair or just to brand as a racist someone who feels no ill-will to any other race, does not look down with loathing on another race as if they are in any sense inferior but respects them as “different but equal”?
Since early June I have read a fair amount about racism since the Second World War, and especially since the 1960s and 1970s, and had been toying with the idea of bringing a lot of that reading together for a single post. But now that the time has come I have decided to post about it an easier way. I’ll introduce one by one some of the core readings of mine and over time bring key points together into more integrated discussions.
I begin with an old one, but a good starting point nonetheless:
Taguieff surveys the way one particular part of the New Right movement in France (the Club de l’Horloge) positioned itself with new arguments that were designed to dissociate itself from the crude racist hatreds of the past (Hitler had given that sort of racism a bad name, after all), from state authoritarianism, and from fascism, and to even throw those labels back on to their left-wing, socialist and democratic opponents. In this post I focus only on the arguments relating to racism.
Traditional anti-racist groups in France were targeted by the New Right as being “anti-French, anti-Western, or anti-White” racists who supported the enemies of France, the West, and White nations. Other New Right factions (e.g. Groupement de Recherche et d’Etudes pour la Civilisation Européene, GRECE) joined with the Club de l’Horloge to reverse the traditional understanding of how racism was defined. Differences, racial and cultural differences, were eulogized.
This praise of difference was reduced to the claim that true racism is the attempt to impose a unique and general model as the best, which implies the elimination of differences. Consequenlty, true anti-racism is founded on the absolute respect of differences between ethnically and culturally heterogeneous collectives. The New Right’s “anti-racism” thus uses ideas of collective identities hypostatized as inalienable categories. (p. 111, my own bolding in all quotations)
Conversely, the racist was now defined as the one who appeared to want to “deny” or “erase” differences between the races, even allowing for a multicultural society where differences were supposedly compromised. Multiculturalism was thus, in effect, branded as “racist” — the view that genuine racial differences should (supposedly) be somehow eliminated.
In the 1970s the “right to be different” was a slogan deployed by the Left in the call for respect for minorities. In the 1980s the same slogan was appropriated by the New Right to mean something different: to claim the right for whites to be different from blacks and for those not belonging to the traditional European culture to be sent back to their ancestral homelands.
Hence in the early 1980s the French New Right presented itself as
against all forms of racism, without any bad conscience or self-hate
Speakingofdenialism, . . . . or rather, painfully thinking back on the unpleasant experience of sitting in a plane for three hours next to a racist jerk who clearly assumed a fellow Aussie would love to be “entertained” with racist jokes and anecdotes against aboriginal Australians and Muslims (of any country). . . .
The painful part of the experience was that it was evident that my “guest” could not see that he was a racist or all-round ignorant bigot. In his mind he was simply acknowledging what he considered to be the “unfortunate realities” of the world. It’s the old line, “I have nothing against blacks, but . . . ”
(Were such persons willing to make the effort to check the full story, the facts behind the assertions, the other perspectives, then they would, I think, learn that their perception of “reality” has been very blinkered and that there are other “realities” — especially from the perspective of the minorities — that are worthy of appreciation and acceptance.)
It turns out that there is a vast scholarly literature on this very thing — denial of racism by those who speak and act racism. I’ll discuss just a small portion of one 33 page article that I have found cited in several other works:
Dijk, Teun A. van. 1992. “Discourse and the Denial of Racism.” Discourse & Society 3 (1): 87–118.
It is not appropriate or even moral in this day and age to be thought of as racist. We have laws against racist acts and even some forms of racist speech. Besides, it’s just not socially acceptable to be accused of racism. A decent person, it is assumed, abhors racism.
Would that the human race can just turn off bad attitudes like a tap. After how many centuries of slavery, genocides, race-riots, ethnic cleansings, can we really have suddenly moved into a utopian wonderland where we are all anti-racists? I don’t think that’s a likely reality.
Therefore, even the most blatantly racist discourse in our data routinely features denials or at least mitigations of racism. Interestingly, we have found that precisely the more racist discourse tends to have disclaimers and other denials. This suggests that language users who say negative things about minorities are well aware of the fact that they may be understood as breaking the social norm of tolerance or acceptance. (Dijk, 89)
Charges of anti-Semitism are ever in the news: UK’s Labour Party defections over accusations of anti-Semitism; Macron’s move to criminalize anti-Zionism as covert anti-Semitism; the Ilhan Omar debacle in the U.S., Netanyahu accusing a UN report seriously critical of Israel’s killing of Gazans last year of being “based purely on an obsessive hatred of Israel.”
Time for some clarity of thought:
True anti-Semitism conceives of Jews as being different from other people, in various invidious ways, which gives those others license to single them out and persecute them in both large and small ways. Anti-Semites maintain that Jews who are engaged in what seem like legitimate political activities—running for office, contributing to political campaigns, writing articles and books, or organizing lobbying groups—are actually engaged in dark and secret conspiracies. Real anti-Semites sometimes favor harsh measures to deny Jews full political rights and at times advocate even more violent persecution of Jews. Even in its milder forms, anti-Semitism indulges in various forms of stereotyping and implies that Jews should be viewed with suspicion or contempt, while seeking to deny them the ability to participate fully and freely in all realms of society. In its essential features, true anti-Semitism resembles other forms of racist or religious discrimination, all of which have been roundly condemned in Europe and the United States since the end of World War II.
By contrast, almost all of the many gentiles and Jews who now criticize Israeli policy or worry about the lobby’s impact on U.S. foreign policy find such views deeply disturbing and categorically reject them. Rather, they believe that Jews are like other human beings, which means that they are capable of both good and bad deeds, and that they are entitled to the same status as other members of society. They also believe that Israel acts like other states, which is to say that it vigorously defends its own interests and sometimes pursues policies that are wise and just and sometimes does things that are strategically foolish and even immoral. This perspective is the opposite of anti-Semitism. It calls for treating Jews like everyone else and treating Israel as a normal and legitimate country. Israel, in this view, should be praised when it acts well and criticized when it does not. Americans are also entitled to be upset and critical when Israel does things that harm U.S. interests, and Americans who care about Israel should be free to criticize it when its government takes actions that they believe are not in Israel’s interest either. There is neither special treatment nor a double standard here. Similarly, most critics of the lobby do not see it as a cabal or conspiracy; rather, they argue—as we have—that pro-Israel organizations act as other interest groups do. While the charge of anti-Semitism can be an effective smear tactic, it is usually groundless.
Mearsheimer, John J., and Stephen M. Walt. 2007. The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. pp. 194-95.
Justifying a view of Muslims as essentially untrustworthy and potentially violent by quoting the Koran has an interesting historical analog.
In 1700 Johann Andreas Eisenmenger collated and published a comprehensive account of the reasons Jews posed a threat to Christian society. Translated, the title was Judaism Unmasked. The Jewish religious texts, Eisenmenger warned, were the evidence that the Jews hated and sought the harm of non-Jews. He brushed aside contemporary Jewish intellectuals who interpreted their own writings more in accord with modern values and went straight to the sources themselves.
. . . casting aside the interpretations accepted by his contemporary Jews in his quest to reconstruct the world of Judaism by studying the sources themselves.
From a range of Jewish texts he set out
to prove the worthlessness of the Talmud to which the Jews attribute religious authority close to that of the Bible. Five chapters are devoted to Jewish beliefs regarding the Messiah and to eschatology and resurrection. All this is intended to prove that the Jews are ingrained with superstitions and illusionary conceptions.
However, Eisenmenger attacks Judaism principally for its attitude toward other religions and their adherents. The point of this attack is to show that the Jews are commanded by their religion to abuse that which is sacred to all other religions, and above all that which is sacred to Christianity. The Jewish tradition prohibits robbery, deceit, and even murder only in relations between Jews, while the property and even the life of the Christian are as good as outlawed. If that is the tenor of the tradition into which Jews are initiated from childhood, one should not be surprised by their actual behavior should they be found abusing articles of Christian worship, that is, desecrating the host, or be caught in deceit, robbery, or even murder. (Katz, 17-18)
He supported his belief with Jewish texts saying that the Jews were commanded by their religion to commit the very crimes he accused them of.
Eisenmenger . . . wanted to demonstrate that everything derogatory or discriminatory that appeared in the Jewish tradition regarding any people whatsoever was seen by the Jew as applicable to his Christian contemporaries. The Christians are identified with the minim of whom it had been said, “Lowering down, but not raising up”; with Amalek, whose memory the Jews are commanded to blot out; and even with the seven nations whom the conquerors of Biblical Canaan were commanded to destroy. In the future, in the Messianic age, the commandment of destruction would apply to all mankind save the Jews. As the Jews awaited their redeemer every day, it stood to reason that they would carry out the commandment of destruction even in the present on those whom it was within their reach to injure and harm.
Eisenmenger’s point of departure was the belief that the Jews were habitually robbing and murdering their Christian neighbors. He believed the tales of ritual murder, of the desecration of the host and the like, regardless of whether they stemmed from folklore or from medieval chroniclers who failed to distinguish between fact and fancy. He supported his belief with Jewish texts saying that the Jews were commanded by their religion to commit the very crimes he accused them of. In his attempt to make this point, Eisenmenger drives his interpretation to the height of absurdity. In every case where he found such expressions as “deserves death” . . . he explained them as requiring a death penalty to be imposed by human hands. . . . Jewish scholars would also interpret metaphors and figures of speech literally whenever the conclusions to be drawn from such interpretations corresponded to their views. . . . To anyone who is knowledgeable in traditional Jewish literature, Eisenmenger’s interpretations read like a parody of both the legal and homiletic literature. . . . . [F]or the reader who is unfamiliar with that literature: he may fall for Eisenmenger’s conclusions, not knowing that they are no more than the very assumptions that preceded the writer’s examination of the material. He may accept the image of the Jews as a community of superstitious fools, hostile to those around them and despising whatever is holy to their neighbors. Completely unscrupulous in their behavior toward the stranger outside their community, therefore they cheat and wrong those who have business contacts with them, and this they do by command of their religion. If they are brought to court, their oaths are not to be trusted because they regard lying under oath of little consequence when their fellow litigant is a non-Jew. Their loyalty to the state is no more than lip service; and, in fact, they violate the law with impunity and are willing to betray their king and serve his enemies as spies and secret agents. The Jew cannot even be trusted in matters of life and death, and Christians who take treatment from a Jewish doctor endanger their lives. Eisenmenger fully believed the reports, in Christian chronicles and folk tales alike, that many a child had died at Jewish hands in order to satisfy ritual needs. Eisenmenger tried to gain the reader’s confidence by quoting chapter and verse demonstrating that the absolutely unethical behavior of the Jew derived from that decadent source of his religion, the Talmud and Rabbinical literature. (19-20)
According to […], Islam does not develop, and neither do Muslims; they merely are. . . .
Jewish history was also conceived as a single historical unit both by Jewish tradition and by Christianity, the latter, of course, regarding the appearance of Jesus as a decisive turning point. However, while the traditional concept, Jewish or Christian, was that the unity derived from a divine mission, Voltaire explained it in terms of permanent qualities deeply rooted in the spirit and character of the people. Evidence of these characteristics could be taken from any period in the history of the people: after all, periodization is essentially an external matter, and time creates no barriers between generations. Consequently, Voltaire’s method allowed him to transfer his data from one period to the next and to attribute the basic characteristics of the Biblical people to later generations. Likewise, it is hardly surprising to find the converse: qualities discovered in later periods are attributed to Biblical Jews. That Jews are drawn to money and that they deal in business transactions and usury could be postulated in the light of their occupation in the Middle Ages and modern times, and Voltaire projects this stereotype back to the Biblical age. For example, the Bible does not indicate explicitly any desire on the part of the Jewish people to rule over other nations, but in the Talmudic and medieval periods deluding images of the Messianic era did arise. These were the basis for the Christian polemic contending that the Jews sought world domination. Ex post facto, polemicists found supporting material for this view in the Bible as well; Voltaire accepted their Christian accusations and incorporated them in his rationalistic indictment. (42-43)
Katz describes a list of other prominent names through history who followed the arguments and methods of Eisenmenger and Voltaire, too many to cover here in any sort of detail. The point is clear:
The reference to the Talmudic sources, usually based on Rohling’s Talmudjude, became a steady feature of anti-Semitic propaganda.
Or if not the Talmud, it was the Old Testament that rang out the warning:
Duhring, on the other hand, held, as we have seen, the Old Testament’s teaching responsible for Jewish immorality and regarded the “recent citation of Talmudic instances” to be superfluous. (267)
One dramatic scene . . .
In a gathering of some five hundred participants in April 1882, a speaker named Franz Holubek declared that “The Jews have not shown themselves worthy of emancipation . . . The Jew is no longer a co-citizen. He made himself our master, our oppressor . . . Do you know what gives these people the right to put their foot on our neck? The Talmud, in which you Christians are called dogs, donkeys, and pigs.’’ This invective provoked an uproar in the audience, causing the police to dissolve the meeting. Holubek was indicted for interreligious incitement but in the ensuing trial, defended by Pattai, he was found innocent. The line of defense was that the alleged invective conformed to scholarly established truth as stated in the learned treatise The Talmudjude, by August Rohling, professor of Hebrew literature at Charles University in Prague. (285)
Katz, Jacob. 1982. From Prejudice to Destruction: Anti-Semitism, 1700–1933. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.