Thursday, March 26, 2015

David Brooks on Three Kinds of Anti-Semitism

David Brooks

Since I've been speaking of religious intolerance lately, let's take a glance at an Opinion piece by David Brooks titled "How to Fight Anti-Semitism" (NYT, March 24, 2015), in which makes a threefold distinction among types of Anti-Semitism:
In the Middle East, anti-Semitism has the feel of a deranged theoretical system for making sense of a world gone astray . . . This sort of anti-Semitism thrives where there aren't that many Jews. The Jew is not a person but an idea, a unique carrier of transcendent evil: a pollution, a stain, a dark force responsible for the failures of others, the unconscious shame and primeval urges they feel in themselves, and everything that needs explaining. This is a form of derangement, a flight from reality even in otherwise sophisticated people . . .

In Europe, anti-Semitism looks like a response to alienation. It's particularly high where unemployment is rampant. Roughly half of all Spaniards and Greeks express unfavorable opinions about Jews. The plague of violence is fueled by young Islamic men with no respect and no place to go . . .

The United States is also seeing a rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents. But this country remains an astonishingly non-anti-Semitic place. America's problem is the number of people who can't fathom what anti-Semitism is or who think Jews are being paranoid or excessively playing the victim . . .
I would alter what Brooks says about Anti-Semitism in Europe. It's not primarily a response to alienation, not among Muslims, anyway. The "young Islamic men" who turn to violence are absorbing much of the Middle East's "deranged theoretical system." This system, as described by Brooks, sounds like a religious one, given the talk of Jews as "evil," as a kind of "pollution," as a "dark force," even as the reason for this "world gone astray."

An article by Bernard Lewis, "The Roots of Muslim Rage," is good for understanding why much of the Muslim world has grown delusional about its failures. You can read this article in The Atlantic (but after clicking on the link, you have to wait for about 15 seconds for some sort of ad to disappear).

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