On the incapability of modern Jews to identify prejudice if its not anti-Semitism

by Yaniv Reich on January 10, 2010

Prejudice against Muslims is one of the few remaining “legitimate” forms of racism in the sense it is widely accepted in public in the western world. To cite just one example, GOP Congresspeople can call for all Muslim visa holders in the US to be deported without even sparking a substantive conversation on the racism inherent in such a policy. I have also highlighted a number of examples in this blog over the last few months in which Palestinians are victims of persistent dehumanization.

For Jews indoctrinated to see themselves as the world’s most unique and dramatic victims of prejudice (which at certain historical moments I would argue they were), any effort to highlight racism against Muslims is considered out of bounds. Rather than sympathizing with those who suffer dehumanization, Jews have, in the case of Muslims/Arabs/Persians, recreated exactly the conditions of discrimination that they know so well from previous times.

In Germany today, the head of the Berlin Center for Anti-Semitism Research, a renowned historian named Wolfgang Benz, has become the target of Berlin’s 12,000 strong Jewish community because of his thesis that “there are structural parallels” between anti-Semitism and hostility toward Islam and “the exclusion of something unknown [i.e. Islam] is as dangerous as anti-Semitism.”

This argument has initiated a furious response from critics in the Jewish community who argue that the Berlin Center is “marginalizing Holocaust history”, failing to understand the gravity of murderous anti-Semitism (Note: have these critics bothered to look at the number of deaths western Islamophobes have inflicted on the Muslim world in recent memory?), and engaging in a form of willful “schizophrenia”.

Most revealing among these reactions, however, is the (utterly prejudiced) sentiment by Arno Hamburger, head of Nuremberg’s Jewish community for the last 37 years, who asserts: “There is no acute danger coming from Jews,” in contrast to radical Islam.

Perhaps Hamburger has forgotten the Nazi propaganda used to portray Jews as thieving con-men responsible for Germany’s economic troubles. This one example suffices to show the direct link between racist attitudes and the imputation of danger and violent tendencies to an entire community. Yet all of this is conveniently discarded by Jews unable to identify victims anywhere except in their own souls.

As Jews, we no longer need to examine our own attitudes as long as we can project the same psychological structures that were used against us onto some other group. This, of course, results not only in the dehumanization of those we consider to be our enemies (thereby justifying any violence we use against them), but also our own psychological empowerment, for those who are the discriminators hold the power of agency, even if they unwittingly dehumanize themselves in the process.

This pattern of thought is one of the most important constraints to progress in the Middle East. It is what allows Jews to murder over 1,000 civilians in Gaza in order to end rocket fire that in the same year killed 7 Jews. Moreover, its the psychology that allows the wicked violence used against Gazans to be seen, even in hindsight, as a success.

This is not some ex-ante dithering about whether large numbers of civilian deaths makes our military attacks a good idea. This is ex-post justification for unnecessary attacks that really did murder over 1,000 noncombatants.

Such a revolting move can only be achieved through the type of racism embodied in Hamburger’s attacks on the Berlin Center.

Given Jewish persecution throughout history, we Jews should be leading the discussion of eradicating prejudice wherever it can be found, not finding new applications for racism.

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