Saturday, February 02, 2013

Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism

Next week Brooklyn College will be hosting an event planned by the B.D.S. movement, an activist group dedicated to encouraging "boycott, divestment, and sanctions" against Israel. The gathering is being co-sponsored by the Department of Political Science, and will feature Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti as principal speakers. Critics of the event have questioned the propriety of the involvement of the Department of Political Science, charging that their co-sponsorship amounts to the endorsement of political views that will be offensive or intimidating to some students.

As a Brooklyn College faculty member I feel obliged to defend my colleagues' decision. The issue of Israeli-Palestinian relations is complex and highly emotionally charged, but that should not place it beyond the realm of discussion. Moreover, the basic logic of the criticism hurled against the Department does not hold up to scrutiny. One could use the same arguments to protest against an invitation extended to, for example, Mitt Romney (what about the Democrats in the student body? won't they be offended/intimidated?), but the upshot of such arguments (if they prevailed) would be to deprive students of a unique learning opportunity.

That being said, I am moved, in the spirit of open discussion and debate that animates the planned meeting and in the interest of facilitating dialogue, to contribute to the conversation initiated by the event and its co-sponsors. In particular, I am intrigued by arguments put forward by Judith Butler that I anticipate will form part of the substance of her talk next week. In a 2003 article for the London Review of Books entitled "No, It's not Anti-Semitic," Butler (in response to remarks made by Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard University) critically engaged the question of whether anti-Israeli views, "in effect if not their intent," could be deemed "anti-Semitic," arguing that they could not.

Butler's analysis is thoughtful and sophisticated, and I will not engage all of her points here. In general I agree with her that to equate "Jews" and "Israel" is false, and that criticisms of Israeli policy (even very vehement critiques accusing Israel of "apartheid") can not be deemed, on their face, anti-Semitic. But I would like to offer her and her supporters a counter-proposition, one that informs my world view and, I suspect, that of many other Jews (whether they are self-consciously aware of its principles or not). As my title suggest, my basic assertion is that anti-Zionism is, in fact, anti-Semitism.  Unless she can empathetically and robustly engage this idea, she will have little hope of effective communication with the larger Brooklyn College community.

To begin this discussion, definitions are in order. As Butler notes in her article, Zionism over time has been a variable and internally contradictory movement. How then do we define Zionism and "anti-Zionism?" In simple terms, all historical Zionisms share the belief in the right of a Jewish state to exist. In the post-1948 era, this would translate into a belief in the right of Israel to persist as a Jewish state. Conversely, anti-Zionism would entail a denial of Israel's right to persist as a Jewish state. These definitions leave many open questions, as what makes Israel a "Jewish" state is the focus of constant and heated debate even within Israel itself. Lack of resolution on that score, however, does not deter us from understanding that an outright denial of the right for a Jewish state to exist has profoundly anti-Semitic consequences.

The arguments equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism do not hinge on the history of Zionism or of the Jews, but rather on that of anti-Semitism. If anti-Semitism had not evolved in very particular and pernicious ways, there is little chance that Zionism would have developed as it did, and its fruition in the existence of the Israeli state would have been virtually impossible. Traditional religious anti-Semitism was amenable to an array of escapes and remedies. On the one hand, conversion and assimilation could enable Jews to evade persecution, on the other hand, the advocacy of secularism and religious tolerance could create a social climate in which Jewish life was no longer threatened.

The advent of modern, secular anti-Semitism, however, created new and vastly more lethal conditions. "Jewishness" became an inescapable "racial" identity, one that could not be ameliorated by any degree of assimilation or religious apostasy. Atheists and Christian converts went to the gas chambers alongside the pious and the orthodox. In this new climate being Jewish is no longer entirely a matter of choice, subjecting millions to arbitrary attack and persecution whether they personally identify with the Jewish community or not.

This is the context in which the significance of Zionism and anti-Zionism must be contemplated. The question of who is a Jew and what it means to be a "Jewish" state is separable from that of whether the targets and victims of anti-Semitism can and do benefit from having a sovereign advocate in the community of nations. Wherever one falls on the former question, the answer to the latter question is emphatically "yes." Given the mechanics of international politics, if a Jewish state had existed at the time, it is unlikely that Nazi Germany could have perpetrated the Holocaust.

This principle is more than an abstract counterfactual- it bears out in the experience of the post-1948 world. Even as Israelis have struggled among themselves over the personal and collective meaning of Jewish identity, Israel has served as a defender against anti-Semitism, broadly defined, all over the world. Jews in Yemen, Ethiopia, the Soviet Union, and throughout the globe have benefited from the military and diplomatic efforts of the Israeli state. Since its inception, Israel has been the single greatest impediment to institutionalized anti-Semitism in the international arena. The end of the Jewish state would, over time, remove concrete protections from Jewish communities throughout the world, and would create a more favorable climate for the growth and spread of anti-Semitism than has existed since before World War II. For example, those alarmed by the recent appearance of neo-Fascist groups in places like Greece and Russia might pause to imagine what greater scope those groups would have to grow in the near- and long-term in a world in which Israel did not exist.

This is the larger framework within which I and many other Jews approach any and all questions pertaining to Israel and Palestine, which does not preclude there being deep divisions over policy. I, for example, stand with the Palestinian people in demanding their right to statehood, and decry the injustice of the Israeli occupation, positions that Butler and the B.D.S. movement embrace and that many of my Jewish students and colleagues at Brooklyn College would reject. Where I and these latter individuals agree, however, is in our insistence that Israel must continue to exist, both for its own sake and for the protection of Jews everywhere. Any group seeking to engage a Jewish community largely animated and informed by this basic perspective on behalf of Palestinians would be well advised to clarify its position on how the crisis and occupation should or can be resolved. The only type of arguments that will achieve traction in the discourse I exemplify are ones that at least acknowledge the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Anyone who advocates the necessary dissolution of the Israeli state, or is perceived to be evasively concealing such an agenda, will meet at Brooklyn College with poor prospects for a meaningful conversation that genuinely engages the larger part of the community.

25 comments:

Harry Hochheiser said...

Andy:

Good points, and well-argued, as usually. That said, I'd like to suggest another way of looking at it.

Israel is in many ways more than just a "Jewish state". As we both know, the concept and the reality of Israel has been loaded with a great deal of ideological and emotional baggage, largely by large subsets of American Jews, who have promoted a solidarity that attempts and largely succeeds in making Zionism and Judaism interchangeable topics. In this model, it is of-course true to say that "anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism."

Unfortunately, this formalism has been co-opted by folks who reduce it to an ad hominem attack to cast aspersions on the legitimately of anyone who dares to even question Israeli policy. With all due respect (ie., none) to Dershowitz and such colleagues, this is an excuse for demagoguery - right up there in political subtlety with "your either for us or against us."
As Jews, we do ourselves, our religion, and our brethren an Israeli a huge disservice in acquiescing to such theatrics.

Certainly, Israel has done much to discourage anti-Semitism. Israelis and Israeli policy have also acted in ways deserving of criticism - from the vicious attacks on women who have tried to pray at the wall to the mistreatment of Palestinians, which has made Israel a virtually pariah state. We must have the room to say that these things are wrong. If equating Zionism with anti-semitism takes away the room to discuss these questions, I must reject the equation.

I'd like to suggest an alternative definition of anti-Zionism: a rejection of the practices and policies that have come to define the Israeli state. By that definition, anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. Even by your definition - a denial of Israel's right to persist as a Jewish state - there might be legitimate critiques that are anti-Zionist that are not anti-Semitic. Some of those who question the viability of a two-state solution suggest that a single unified state might be more workable. I can't claim to know that they are wrong.

Harry Hochheiser said...

Andy:

Two quick follow-on points.

1. I mentioned Mr. Dershowitz before reading the NY Times article. It was certainly no surprise to see his name pop up in this context.

2. You might be interested to read the blog of the Pittsburgh Middle East Project: http://www.pittmep.com/. It's run by my friend and colleague Naftali Kaminski - an Israeli pulmonologist who's been vocal in the BDS efforts...

Madman of Chu said...

Harry,

Thanks for the feedback, as always. I don't see many points in your comments where we disagree. Like you, I would reject the notion that any and all criticisms of Israeli policy rank as "anti-Semitic." That being said, however, I don't think that any of the kinds of criticism you describe deserve to be called "anti-Zionist." To call the current state of occupation apartheid or to condemn attacks upon women who worship at the Kotel is not to deny the right of Israel to exist. Both of those problems and many others can (and, to my mind, should) be remedied without dismantling the Jewish state. There is a vast range of criticism, both of Israeli policy and of the institutional form within which Israel persists as a "Jewish" state that does not, in fairness, rise to the level of being either "anti-Zionist" or "anti-Semitic." I would reserve that judgment to those that deny the legitimacy of a "Jewish" state altogether.

In that regard, the question of a "bi-national" state presents a gray area. I would agree that having Israel and Palestine merged as a bi-national state with equal citizenship rights given to all residents regardless of ethnicity is preferable to the indefinite persistence of the status quo. I would only insist, however, that this does not HAVE TO be the only fair resolution of the situation. It is possible for a two-state solution to serve the just and rightful interests of all the peoples of Israel- Palestine, and since the existence of Israel is so materially beneficial to the interests of Jews everywhere, it is natural for Jews to defend a two-state solution as the acceptable alternative. I would consider a bi-national state only the solution of last resort, and anyone who insists that it is the only acceptable alternative to the exclusion of a two-state solution is, to my mind, anti-Zionist.

Harry Hochheiser said...

Andy, I agree that we're agreeing. That said, I think the line of thought of the Dershowitz's of the world is something like the following: 1. All criticism of Israeli policies is anti-Zionist. 2. All Anti-Zionism is anti-semitic. 3. Therefore, there is no legitimate criticism of Israeli policy. This is an exaggeration, but only slightly - witness the skewering that Chuck Hagel got for some ultimately benign comments..

As far as one-state or two-state, this is definitely one area where I can't presume to known what is right. I think you stated the goals nicely. I have no idea how those goals might best be met.

Neal said...

Last time I posted on your site, we had a heated discussion. I hope to avoid that here.

In any event, you have written a thoughtful article. I commend it very, very highly.

I do think it worth noting that if anti-Zionism is Antisemitic - which I think it clearly is -, why on earth would any academics want to have a university department to provide its sponsorship for an event? While the department obvious had the legal right to present whatever program it wanted, where is the judgment of these people? What is the educational benefit to inviting someone to express a bigoted opinion in polite, academic language? Does the department want to be seen as promoting bigotry? Take things a bit further. Would a department invite a person to speak who advocates the return of Israel's Jews to Europe (e.g., like the reporter Helen Thomas did)? Or, is that a step further than merely sponsoring an Antisemitic theory, as BDS promotes?

I think there is another point. On both the radical left side and radical right side of the political spectrum, there has always been the view that Jews have some cosmic role that overrides the right of Jews to do, whether moral or not, what all other people on earth do as a matter of course and that, because Jews do not fit the role such people ascribe to them, they have done some great evil. The list of right wing bigots can fill too many books to jot them all down. The far left, of course, can trace their Antisemitism all the way back to the Young Hegelian thinkers and to Marx's equating Judaism with exploitative commerce.

So, now we have people - true to Antisemitic tradition - who claim that Israel did not get it right on its founding. Did not do things as the Antisemites would have Jews do them; that they were not angels when they were attacked in 1947, the day after the UN voted to partition the country. Nothing from these Antisemites about dissolving all of the countries in the Americas for doing things that make the allegations against the Israelis sound pretty trivial. Nothing from these people against remaking Poland due to the manner of the founding of modern Poland, with its expulsion of all people of German extraction and the founding of the former modern Czechoslovakia, again with the expulsion of all people of German extraction. And, that was a far greater number of people (2.5 million, if I recall correctly) who were alleged to be pushed out of what became Israel - and in Poland and Czechoslovakia, such people were not combatants at the time; WWII had already ended, so there was no justification for the expulsion other than revenge and the view that Europe's problems would be fewer if the ethnic German minority problem that had been used as an excuse by Hitler to invade could be solved by eliminating the ethnic German minorities from those countries. And, those two events in Europe are more or less at the same time that Israel was founded!!! And, those expelled and their offspring have never been allowed to return!!!

One point of contention with your article. The rise of anti-Jewish ideology that is racial came to the forefront in 15th Century Spain. It was the ideology asserted by certain Christian Spaniards against the Conversos, namely, the Antisemites claimed those Jews who converted to Christianity remained Jews and could not, as a matter of their supposed racial make up, have converted from Judaism and that their children, over the course of multiple generations, remained Jews in the eyes of such ideology, even if such people knew nothing about Judaism and were, in reality, devout Christians. The terminology there used is "limpieza de sangre" - trans. "pure blood."

So, it is not quite the case that modern Antisemitism was the source of the racial version of Antisemitism. It predates the rise of modern Antisemitism by centuries.

Madman of Chu said...

Neal,

The concept of "limpieza de sangre" does resemble modern racial antisemitism in certain respects, but they are not the same. First, "limpieza de sangre" could be impeached by either Jewish or Muslim ancestry- it wasn't specific to Jews. Secondly, the stigma of failing the test of "limpieza de sangre" was variable in a way that "Jewish" identity is not for modern antisemites. Being judged "impure of blood" was bad, but it was still better than being an actual Jew or Muslim. This is manifest in the fact that "limpieza de sangre" continued to be an issue long after any actual Jews or Muslims were to be found anywhere in Spain. Moreover, "limpieza de sangre" began to fade in importance in Spain just as modern racial antisemitism was gaining traction in other parts of Europe.

On your other points, I am unsure how to comment. I agree that Israel's right to exist is not negated by any sins committed at its founding. If every nation that committed atrocities had to be dissolved, few nations would survive that test (one of the first to go would be the US). I would only add that this is a pretty low threshold. A nation's past crimes don't disqualify its existence, but that doesn't absolve its government and citizens from accountability for them. It is, in my view, antisemitic to assert that Israel uniquely must be dismantled for its past misdeeds. It is not antisemitic to assert that the Israeli state is obligated to redress past wrongs.

As to why an academic department would co-sponsor an event- as I explained in my blog I feel that an academic department has a right to invite whomever it would like, the only criterion on which their decision may be impeached being whether the students could learn from the event. You and I could argue about whether there was anything to learn from this event- but please, let's not. I don't agree with some of what Butler has written, but I can't deny that she is a substantial and sophisticated thinker, and that students would be challenged by being exposed to her arguments. With respect to my political differences with her, I feel that speech to which one objects is best countered by one's own speech, and that is what I have attempted to do here.

Neal said...

I can accept most of your comments without futher discussion. However, "Limpieza de sangre" developed specifically with respect to Jewish converts. It was justified explicitly based on the Biblical distinction between Jews and gentiles. There are literally thousands out pages that document this ideology. While it was used against Muslims, it was principally directed at Jews.

You might read Professor Netanyahu's book, The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth-Century Spain. Several hundred pages of the book are directed to quoting from the theological tracts that set out the ideology. The ideology was solely about Jews.

Consider, the Nazis used their formula against the Roma. The ideology was about Jews. The was true in Spain.

Madman of Chu said...
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Madman of Chu said...

Neal, you are wrong. "Limpieza de sangre" wasn't an issue for overtly practicing Muslims and Jews. For those groups the crime was heresy, not impurity of blood. If this was genuine racism like that the Nazis leveled against the Jews and the Roma (and others) there could be no amelioration of the stigma through conversion. For a Nazi a Jew was a Jew was a Jew, no matter what religion s/he practiced. For the Spanish there was a distinction to be made between a genuine converso and an unrepentant (or secret) Jew or Muslim. Otherwise one cannot explain why so many thousands of conversos and their descendents were allowed to remain in Spain.

Neal said...

Yours is a myth which Professor Netanyahu - the leading scholar on the subject has convincingly dubunked. He demonstrates beyond doubt that the movement was racist through and through. Please read his book above noted. It is considered the leading book on the topic. Sincerity has little to do with it, nor was getting rid of all Conversos. The issue was theft of their property, since they were the tax collectors for the nobility. They were resented for retaining the same posts they held before conversion and this was later directed at their offspring. Most of the offspring were devout Christians and their persecutors likely knew as well. He shows there were very few secret Jews after the fIrst genrratIon in 1391 - the date when the mass conversion occured. Those who fled were not accepted as Jews. They were ALL required to convert to Judaism if they wanted to join any Jewish community because they had no background or knowledge of Judaism.

Madman of Chu said...

Neal,

This is becoming a long, pointless argument like the one we had before. If the issue was property, that is not racism. Many sincere conversos were persecuted by the Spanish, like the tax collectors you mention and other people that ran afoul of powerful interest groups like the nobility or the church. That does not change the fact that Spanish leaders made an ideological distinction (being compelled to do so by their theology) between a "converso" and a "Jew" that would not have been recognized by later racist anti-Semites like the Nazis. The fact that the Spanish did not observe the distinction between "Jews" and "conversos" consistently or honestly makes them greedy hypocrites, but not racists in any meaningful sense of the latter term. The distinction is more than merely academic. Conversos whose persecution was of no profit to the powerful often escaped torture or exile in Spain. That was not the case in Nazi-controlled Europe, where Jews were hunted and exterminated comprehensively and indiscriminately.

Neal said...

The point here is that the ideology was racial, based on the biblical distinction drawn between Jew and gentIle. The argument was that the Bible made the distinction permanent. If that is not racial, nothing is.

You are simply mistaken.

Madman of Chu said...

The distinction the Bible makes between Jew and gentile is not a racial one. If "Jew" were an inescapable racial identity in Biblical terms, it would be one that applied to Jesus and all of his apostles as thoroughly as it did to the conversos of Spain.

Neal said...

What you state is correct. What you are missing is that a heretical view arose by which it was claimed that it was an inherited trait unique to Jews that was not lost by converting. The Church fought the heresy for awhile before backing down. This is all documented carefully in the noted book.

Madman of Chu said...

I've read parts of Netanyahu's book, Neal, and I will look at it again. Answer this question, though- was there or was there not a difference between a "Jew" and a "converso," in theory and practice, in 15th-16th century Spain?

Neal said...

There were still Jews in Spain until the expulsion of Jews at the end of the 15th Century. There were also Converso there, the largest group of them being those who converted around 1391. So, there was a difference in reality between the two groups. The issue - the heresy - related to showing that the Conversos were, in reality, still Jews by virtue of having been either born Jewish or have descended from a Jew. This was said to be proven in the Bible. Which is to say, it was said that the Bible distinguished Jews, racially, from non-Jews.

The part of Professor Netanyahu's book that makes this all so real - apart from his claim that the Conversos were nearly all true Christians within a generation or so, and not secret Jews - is the portion that discusses the theological theory that distinguishes Jews from gentiles. It has to go down, in my view, as one of the truly great pieces of history writing, a history written by someone who understood Christian theology remarkably well. I believe that several hundred pages of the book are directed to setting out the heresy. It is a truly a tour de force.

Madman of Chu said...

You haven't answered my question, Neal. In Spain Conversos were not identical to Jews in theory or practice, even after 1492. Jews had been expelled, and by 1492 there were too many "New Christians" to expel them all. I'll grant you that limpieza laws were precursors to later antimsemitic theory, but they were not the same. Racial antisemitic theories of the 19th century and thereafter admitted to no degree of remediation or differentiation such as was possible between "conversos" and "Jews."

Neal said...

I am not quite sure I understand your point. If you mean that the Conversos were not all expelled in 1942, hence they were not simply treated as Jews, I think you are missing the point. Please also note that I last read the noted book two years ago. I read it very thoroughly, most especially the part that deals with the heresy, as I was, at one time, a student very interested in religious history and theology. So, on the heresy, my memory is quite exact. On how the heresy was implemented, my memory is, while I think, pretty good, it is not perfect.

There was, to my memory, aside from the ideology, a serious practical question involved. Those practical problems were associated with getting rid of people, based on a view that, to traditional Catholicism, was a ghastly stupid heresy and which was, as such, not universally accepted. Moreover there were, in a great many cases, Conversos associated closely with the ruling and clerical classes and, for many in such classes, the allegations of being secret Jews were not universally or, at least, not always accepted. Moreover, it was directed at people who were, for all practical purposes, Christians.

And, there was the issue of actually figuring out who were and were not Conversos. How many generations had passed since the conversion? The ideology itself, like Nazi ideology, counted the number of generations back to the Jewish ancestry.

I might add: This was not the modern world where you could look these things up easily. So, you had people who, for all practicality, were indistinguishable from others and who held positions, for example, in the Church including in its upper echelon and who were the tax collectors, tax farmers and accountants for the nobility.

Even the Nazis had to justify what they were doing by stepping beyond the mere claim that Jews are Jews, not Germans. After all, they wanted to get rid of people. That requires more than an ideology. It has to be justified to others. And, to outward appearance, the Conversos were Christians; hence, the need, in view of opposition, to prove (sometimes with show trials) their lack of bona fide belief.

The doctrine - so that we are clear - viewed Jewish converts as being, by the mere fact of their Jewish origin, insincere. The practice, as always occurs, was far more difficult.

The doctrine - heresy - that developed was in place during the 15th Century. It was an explicitly racial doctrine. And, it had its rules, counting back, for the number of generations it would take for Jewish blood to be eliminated.

Maybe, since the Inquisition lasted for centuries, new doctrines were developed after the 15th Century or maybe the argument was put forward after that century that, since there were supposedly "secret" Jews, that those who continued to practice could not rely on the antiquity of their conversion. I do not know the answer to that question.

The Nazis, as you know, also employed a generation counting method to distinguish Jews from non-Jews. Those who were a certain number of generations removed from full Jewish ancestry were not considered Jews any more. American racial doctrine also counted back generations. And, like them, so did the Spanish heresy.

I guess, if you read Prof. Netanyahu's book carefully, you will see that one of his points was to note just how similar the ideology - racially speaking - was in Spain and, centuries later, in Germany. And, of course, Prof. Netanyahu was, in a way, making an argument towards the view that Jews are to Christians, in the end, always Jews, whether or not they assimilate and even if they become in reality Christians. And, he points to the lessons of Spain and Nazi Germany for his view. It is not for nothing that he was, until his recent death, the father of the Israeli PM.

I hope I answered your question. If not, then I still do not fully know the question you are asking.

Madman of Chu said...

You articulated my point- conversos were not viewed as identical with Jews, they had avenues of escape (albeit avenues that were often partial or unsuccessful) that Jews did not have, by virtue of their religious status. The issue in Spain was still at basis a *religious*, not a racial one. The charge of "congenital insincerity" was still being used to taint the accused with the stigma of *heresy*, thus there were various ways open to defend oneself against those charges through demonstrations of faith and piety (or through finding powerful patrons that would vouch for one's religious bona fides). No such recourse was open to the targets of Nazi racist doctrine- the mere existence of a Jew was deemed anathema, regardless of their creed or behavior. Jews and converts were treated identically by the Nazi regime, there was not a shade of difference to be found between what was done to an orthodox rabbi and what was done to a devout Catholic whose parents were atheists of Jewish descent.

Neal said...

You have not made a real point. The ideology was entirely racial. RACISM IS AN IDEOLOGY. Conversos were hated racially.

I never said it was Nazism. I never said there was no possible escape. I never said that unaccused Conversos were treated like Jews. Once accused, they were, so you have not really made a real point.

AgaIn, racism is an ideology. It killed or ruined the lIves of large numbers of people in Spain. The distinction you draw does not make the ideology - IDEOLOGY - non-racial. And it is the first known racist ideological movement, which is all I claim. That Conversos could sometimes avoid prosecution does not change the IDEOLOGY.

Madman of Chu said...

The Spaniards had an ideology. The Nazis had an ideology. Those ideologies were different from one-another, in the ways I have described. Although the Spanish IDEOLOGY may have labeled the conversos as bearing a hereditary stigma, it was not a thoroughly racist IDEOLOGY like that of the Nazis, as the "crime" for which the conversos were being persecuted (as a matter of IDEOLOGY) was not one of "racial pollution" but remained one of religious heresy- a fact that created both IDEOLOGICAL and pragmatic consequences that materially impacted the experience of the conversos and differentiated it, in small ways and large, from that of twentieth-century European Jews.

I know that you are appealing to the authority of Benzion Netanyahu in calling the Spanish ideology racist, in that this is his claim (which others follow). I disagree. He is anachronistically conflating different kinds of ideological expressions in "making an argument towards the view that Jews are to Christians, in the end, always Jews, whether or not they assimilate and even if they become in reality Christians." This, from my perspective, is a rather distorted reading of the evidence, and helps explain some of the objectionable aspects I perceive in the world view and politics of his son. If you want to take a serious historical approach to the issue of anti-Semitism, you should be ready and able to distinguish between the varying social and cultural circumstances under which it arises and to acknowledge the variations which these contingencies produce.

At this point I see very little purpose in continuing to argue, Neal. I see little hope that you are going to understand my position.

Neal said...

First, you claimed you had not fully read the book. Now you claim, without having fully read the book, that you disagree.

The more honest thing for you to have said is that you want to stick by your theory even when confronted with contrary facts. On top of that, you make believe that the only racist ideology ever was Nazism, as if that was the only racist formula possible. That, dear Professor, is demonstrably untrue.

Madman of Chu said...
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Madman of Chu said...

Neal,

The claim with which I am fundamentally disagreeing is the one that, I am accepting on your testimony, is central to Netanyahu's book, that "Jews are to Christians, in the end, always Jews, whether or not they assimilate and even if they become in reality Christians." In this respect I am confident that my own knowledge of history presents plenty of evidence to contradict this claim. Even if we accept that what arose in Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries was a form of racist antisemitism (with which I still disagree, but which is a rather academic point in the face of this larger issue), that would not prove the assertion about Jewish-Christian relations more generally.

I am not pretending that Nazism were the first racists, nor even that they were the first racist antisemites. I would argue (and I see lots of evidence for this in Netanyahu's book) that they were purveyors of a kind of secular racist antisemitism quite distinct from that of late medieval and early-modern Spain, and that while both were destructive the Nazis (and their secular antisemitic forbears and legates) were obviously worse, for reasons that were in part intrinsic to the differences in *ideology* underpinning these various movements. Even if one grants that earlier Spanish antisemitism was racist, the fact that it was a form of religious racism distinguished it from later secular antisemitism in meaningful ways. As you admitted (and as again there is plenty of evidence for in Netanyahu's book) the principle of "limpieza de sangre" was never wholly reconcilable with the theology of the Catholic church- it created doctrinal and institutional tensions that were never wholly resolved and that impacted the social expression of antisemitic policies throughout the history of the Inquisition. The secularization of antisemitism in the 18th and 19th centuries removed these kinds of tensions, creating an even more pernicious social climate for the expression of even more nihilistically destructive antisemitic policies.

Could I suggest, Neal, that these exchanges are not producing much of value, either to us or to anyone that might come across this blog? You've now had plenty of opportunity to register your lack of respect for my intellect. I would very much appreciate it if you would refrain from commenting on my blog in future.

Neal said...

I certainly respect your intellect. I just thought you were being disingenuous. I still do. I'm fine with going away. I said lastly that such was the message to take away from the book, rather than the actual theme of the book.