Jordan Peterson’s Hitler And Holocaust Obsessions – The Forward

Interesting and I find nuanced profile of Peterson. But equally true, fairly or unfairly, one is judged by the company one keeps and one’s supporters:

Jordan Peterson is a public intellectual adored by neo-Nazis, white supremacists and conspiracy theorists. The neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer called Peterson, a Canadian psychology professor-turned-self-help-guru, “The Savior of Western Civilization.” Paul Joseph Watson, a prominent conspiracy theorist for Infowars, has tweeted, “Jordan Peterson for Canadian Prime Minister.”

Part of why people on the far right like Peterson is because he is not afraid to talk about the Jews, and he has a lot of people to talk to. Peterson is on a 50-city tour of North America and Europe to promote his best-selling new book, “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.” His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers. He has answered questions about global Jewish influence several times, in person and online. In an April blog post, he attributed that alleged influence to Jewish intelligence —an old anti-Semitic dog whistle.

Yet Peterson rarely speaks about anti-Semitism itself, even though he says he’s been obsessed with the Holocaust since he was a teenager and lectures on it frequently. Critics say this omission may encourage anti-Semitism among Peterson’s followers, who range from avowed neo-Nazis communities like the Daily Stormer to frustrated young men looking for a scapegoat. In an interview, Peterson told the Forward he feels that he is battling anti-Semitism through his work.

“Part of your responsibility when you have a platform like that, especially when you present yourself as an academic, is to make sure that you’re giving those audiences the full truth,” said Jared Holt, a researcher for People for the American Way who studies far-right media. If Peterson were to be more forthcoming about the importance of anti-Semitism in the Holocaust, it “might allow some of his viewers to think about course correcting,” Holt added.

Peterson, 55, used to be an ordinary academic at the University of Toronto. His first and only other book, published in 1999, was a 600-page tome chiefly about Jungian psychology. He taught at Harvard in the 1980s before moving to Toronto; back then, his “audience” was his students. Now, he posts lectures on everything from Palestine to parenting, the Book of Genesis to psychobiology, on YouTube. Supporters gave him $70,000 through the website Patreon in April 2017, compared with $700 in April 2016. “12 Rules For Life” has sold over 700,000 copies since its publication in January, the Washington Post reported.

Peterson didn’t reach these heights because of his discourses on Jewish topics. His primary preoccupation is healing broken masculinity, and his main following is the young men with whom such a focus resonates. Peterson is nowhere near as toxic as various other internet cultures, like the “incels” who blame women — and sometimes murder them — because they’re not having sex. Yet behind the father figure role he affects lie darker preoccupations with Hitler, Marxists and the “radical left” on college campuses. That’s where his teachings can provide fodder for conspiracy theorists and bigots.

Peterson opposes Jew hatred, he says, and claims that leftist members of the media tried to hurt him by linking him to white supremacists. He has accused white supremacists of having a “pathology of racial pride,” and written that “identity politics” –- the idea that drives white nationalism — is “misguided.”

Peterson told the Forward he felt he had to answer the question of Jewish influence in order to undermine the far right’s anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Other scholars don’t think that’s a sound strategy.

He has addressed the subject several times in public and online, most recently in a blog post published on his website, when he talked about Jewish IQ. It’s higher than average, he said, and that’s true also for people in power. Therefore Jews are accurately represented among the cultural and financial elite of the world. Peterson didn’t mention anti-Semitism directly in this lecture, but he was thinking about it, he said.

“You can assume that they [Jews] are intelligent and have a culture of learning, or you can think that there’s some kind of cabal,” Peterson told the Forward. “So if I’m gonna hit the hornets nest, I might as well hit it on the side that takes the wind out of the sails of far-righters and their idiot anti-Semitism.”

Peterson’s willingness to answer questions about “Jewish success” and his interest in IQ literature is “suspicious” said Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of history at Emory University and author of “Denying the Holocaust,” who won a libel case in Britain against prominent Holocaust denier David Irving.

Lipstadt said that Peterson’s statements on Jewish intelligence reminded her of Kevin MacDonald, a professor of psychology who the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as “the neo-Nazi movement’s favorite academic.” MacDonald has written several books criticizing Jewish intellectual culture. (Peterson links to a critique of one of MacDonald’s books at the end of his blog post on Jewish intelligence.) Lipstadt said that MacDonald’s academic language obscures the anti-Semitism behind his opinions. She worries the same is true of Peterson.

“It’s not [Holocaust] denial, but when people start asking questions like that, I begin to get leery,” Lipstadt said. “The question is, is he a self-help guru who find the Holocaust a convenient way of attracting attention, or is there serious thought going on here?”

Likewise, Lipstadt wonders why Peterson rarely mentions anti-Semitism in his work on the Holocaust. Peterson more often attributes the cause of the Holocaust to human nature.

“Anyone who really diminishes the importance of anti-Semitism — who says, ‘Oh it was an afterthought, a cover’ — I think has got it wrong,” she said.

Peterson says he has been preoccupied with the Holocaust since he was a teenager. He once told an audience that he wrote an essay about Auschwitz at age 13. In “Maps of Meaning,” his 1999 book, he writes that he based his career on trying to understand what drove fascist regimes like the Nazis. “I could not make sense of the human propensity for belief-inspired violence,” he wrote.

Peterson thinks that peer pressure is nearly always stronger than one’s inner moral compass. Anyone has it within them to be Hitler if given enough power, he claims.

“If you think that you wouldn’t be tempted by having 20 million people worship you, then you don’t know yourself at all,” Peterson told the Forward.

He also believes almost anyone would have become a Nazi if they were a German living under Hitler — that “everyone participated” in the Holocaust.

“His audience is without a doubt a large chunk of people in the ‘alt-right,’ and that’s the kind of signaling that would appeal to them,” said Heidi Beirich, the director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “If you play fast and loose with the issue, you’re going to be seen as a possible ally in Holocaust denial.”

Peterson admits he has a dim view of human nature. But he has a much rosier picture of humanity’s potential to learn from its mistakes. He believes that sufficient Holocaust education is the key to preventing genocide. In fact, he says, the reason genocides continue to happen is that Holocaust education is not good enough. People don’t understand that it was a feature, not a bug, of human behavior.

“It hasn’t been transformed into deep and practical psychological knowledge,” Peterson added. “You can tell by the rise of publicly accepted anti-Semitism in the last five-to-10 years. Whatever we understood of that education, it wasn’t enough.”

Holocaust education is not a silver bullet, according to Sander Gilman, a professor of history at Emory University who has written extensively about anti-Semitism. Teaching about Nazism and the Holocaust is extremely important, Gilman said. But it doesn’t explain – and can’t prevent – modern anti-Semitism.

“If you have a fantasy that that is going to be a kind of vaccination against hate, that’s wonderfully naïve,” Gilman said. “The rise of anti-Semitism today has to do with situations today.”

Joe Flanders, an assistant professor of psychology at McGill University who was mentored by Peterson as an undergraduate, says that Peterson is “bizarrely preoccupied” by the Holocaust, along with the Cold War. But he pushed back against the possibility that Peterson’s views were evidence of any anti-Semitic feeling.

“He’s interested in how it’s possible for something so evil to manifest in the world,” Flanders said. “It’s an expression of the darkest part of humanity, which we don’t have access to now in the news cycle we consume these days.”

Peterson has repeatedly said that instead of being suspicious of Jews, the world should be grateful that there are so many Jewish geniuses.

“They’re a resource you don’t want to squander,” he said.

via Jordan Peterson’s Hitler And Holocaust Obsessions – The Forward

Reuven Firestone: Muslims and Jews are ‘manipulated by fear’

Interesting and relevant historical and social context:

With attacks on Jews in Germany increasing, DW spoke with the renowned theologian Reuven Firestone, about the complex relations between Islam and Judaism, and how Muslims and Jews could be brought closer together.

Deutsche Welle: There are studies that claim that the religion of Islam is essentially against Judaism? Do you agree with this theological position?

Reuven Firestone: Islam emerged in an environment in which major religions already existed. The birth of a new religion is always seen as a critique of the old religions. Its very existence is a statement that says, “Well, the old religion is not good enough; otherwise why would God reveal a new scripture that corrects or nullifies what is currently practiced?” So the followers of established religions always resent the newcomer.

At the time of Islam’s birth in Arabia in the seventh century, all established religions resented it and attacked its prophet. The Quran records their criticisms and their attacks, and it replies with attacks of its own, criticizing Jews and Christians and believers of the local religions, whom it calls “mushrikun,” or “those who join” other deities with God — i.e., polytheists.

So, yes, the Quran does contain negative references to Jews, but not only about them. It talks negatively about other threatening communities (I should add that it also contains positive references to Jews and Christians, although not to polytheists). The important point is that the Quran and the early Muslims did not criticize Jews exclusively.

We must not forget that the same scenario played out with the emergence of Christianity. The Jews resented those who claimed that Jesus was the Messiah, and especially that he was God’s incarnation. And the New Testament criticizes Jews in response to attacks on the new community.

Similarly, the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) slams the older religions that were clearly against the Israelites.

During the early phase of Islam, Muslims and Jews coexisted peacefully. When did the rifts begin to appear, and were the reasons more political than theological?

As I said, there were always tensions between Muslims and Jews over the authority of their respective faiths. It was both a political matter and a theological issue. When Islam became the dominant power, like all pre-modern and non-democratic powers, it privileged the people it identified as its own over all others. Therefore, while Jews (and Christians) were considered citizens of the Muslim world and protected by the law of the land (including religious law, the Sharia), they were given a second-class status that was defined by restrictions in position, prestige and freedom. How this actually worked out in history varied from time to time and place to place. In some situations, Jews were treated essentially as equals, but in others they were persecuted severely.

Explanations such as mine should be understood in a context. Keep in mind that minority communities were not treated equally under law or custom in pre-modern, non-democratic regimes. All historians agree that, on average, Jews suffered more under Christian rule than they did under Muslim rule.

The Prophet Muhammad’s time in exile in the city of Medina provides some great examples of Muslim-Jew coexistence, but at the same time violent conflicts marred their ties. How do you see that phase of Islam, and do the events in Medina, in which the Jewish tribe of Qurayza was said to have betrayed Muhammad, shape present day “Muslim anti-Semitism”?

The tensions, and the violent conflict that eventually broke out between Muhammad and the Jews of Medina, have become points of heavy stereotyping on both sides. A separation between the two communities has grown over the years. Jews were accused of betraying their equal religious and civil status in Medina by trying to aid an enemy intent on destroying Muhammad, and even of trying to assassinate him. As a result, the Jewish communities of Medina were forcibly exiled, and one Jewish community was massacred.

Many Jews and Christians point to this period as a prime example of what they consider the fundamentally violent behavioral norms exhibited by Muhammad that are established in Islam. Many Muslims point to this as a prime example of how Jews are, by nature, deceitful, corrupt and can never be trusted.

There are mixed accounts of those events, and we have no Jewish versions of the story. What is tragic about this is that an incident a millennium and a half ago has become a tool for some radicals in both communities to try to vilify and defame the other.

Although both Judaism and Islam are Abrahamic religions, why do they appear to be so far apart?

Actually, Judaism and Islam are essentially quite close in many ways. In fact, most religious scholars consider them closer to one another than either is to Christianity. The theology of divine unity in Judaism and Islam is understood in Christianity through the Trinitarian nature of God. Jews and Muslims agree that this is simply impossible to accept. Even the theological terminology between Judaism and Islam is quite similar. For example, iḥūd in Hebrew and tawḥīd in Arabic are linguistically related terms that refer to the same essential nature of the absolute unity of God.

What needs to be done to bridge the gulf between Muslims and Jews? What inspirations can be taken from the religious texts?

The tension between Muslims and Jews today cannot be resolved simply by taking inspiration from the sacred texts. Both Judaism and Islam are great and complex religious civilizations. The sacred texts have been read in a variety of ways by people through the ages. One can cite texts that inspire fear and hatred in both religious traditions, and one can cite texts that inspire appreciation and love.

The core of the conflict between Muslims and Jews is a willingness to be manipulated by fear. Fear allows people to draw false conclusions that would not otherwise be possible. All people, with very few exceptions, strive to do good and avoid evil. We must check our impulse to draw negative conclusions based on fear and rumor. Both the Bible and the Quran emphasize that one should not succumb to the fear brought about by evil, but one should only fear God.

Reuven Firestone is the Regenstein Professor in Medieval Judaism and Islam at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, which has campuses in Cincinnati, Ohio, New York, Los Angeles and Jerusalem. Firestone has written over one hundred scholarly chapters and articles and eight books, with translations into many languages. Having lived with his family in Israel, Egypt and Germany, he regularly lectures in universities and religious centers throughout the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Source: Reuven Firestone: Muslims and Jews are ‘manipulated by fear’

A Modest Immigration Proposal: Ban Jews: Stephens – The New York Times

Good column and reminder:

Until his dying day, my dad’s Uncle Bern was a communist sympathizer. I remember him as an affable old man with a gracious wife who made a modest living selling antique lace. He probably wouldn’t have hurt a fly. Yet he found much to admire in the most murderous ideology of the 20th century, responsible for tens of millions of deaths from the killing fields of Cambodia to the gulags of Murmansk.

If you’re Jewish in America, chances are there’s at least one Uncle Bern somewhere in your family tree. As the scholar Ruth Wisse noted last year in Tablet magazine, Jewish intellectual life in the 1930s and 40s was largely defined by one’s stance toward one thing: The Party. Historians reckon that Jews accounted for nearly half the Communist Party’s total membership in those years, while many other Jews were close fellow travelers.

Most of these people, like my great-uncle, were deeply misguided idealists who otherwise led quiet and decent lives. A tiny handful of others — including atomic spies Julius Rosenberg, David Greenglass, Harry Gold and Morton Sobell — betrayed America’s most important military secrets to Stalinist Russia and did incalculable damage to the country and the world.

Here’s a thought experiment: Would the United States have been better off if it had banned Jewish immigration sometime in the late 19th century, so that the immigrant parents of Rosenberg and Sobell had never set foot here? The question is worth asking, because so many of the same arguments made against African, Latin-American and Muslim immigrants today might have easily been applied to Jews just over a century ago.

Consider some of the parallels.

Crime? In 1908, the New York City police commissioner, Theodore Bingham, caused a public uproar (for which he later apologized) when he claimed that half the city’s criminals were Jews. The truth was closer to the opposite: Jewish crime rates, at about 16 percent, were considerably lower than their roughly 25 percent share of New York’s overall population. The same goes today, when, contrary to much Trumpian propaganda, incarceration rates for immigrants are nearly half what they are for native-born Americans.

Racial desirability? Just as Donald Trump wants more Norwegian immigrants and none from “s-hole countries,” the early 20th-century eugenicist, conservationist and immigration restrictionist Madison Grant was obsessed with protecting the “Nordic” races against those he termed “social discards” — including “the Slovak, the Italian, the Syrian and the Jew.”

Assimilation? This week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked, in an interview with Fox News, “What good does it do to bring in somebody who’s illiterate in their own country, has no skills and is going to struggle in our country and not be successful?” That seems to be the general way of thinking in this administration.

Now compare that to a 1907 article in McClure’s magazine, titled “The Great Jewish Invasion,” which observed of Russian Jews, “no people have had a more inadequate preparation, educational and economic, for American citizenship.” Henry Adams, the great American patrician, wrote of “furtive Yacoob or Ysaac still reeking of the ghetto, snarling a weird Yiddish.” In 1914, Edward Alsworth Ross, the famous progressive sociologist from the University of Wisconsin, called Jews “moral cripples” whose “tribal spirit intensified by social isolation prompts them to rush to the rescue of the caught rascal of their own race.”

Subversion? During the campaign, Donald Trump said at a New Hampshire rally that Syrian refugees “could make the Trojan horse look like peanuts.” His campaign then infamously called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”

Similar charges have long been leveled at Jews. Henry Ford accused Jews of causing the First World War. A generation later, famed aviator Charles Lindbergh charged Jews with trying to inveigle the United States into war. Lindbergh was the leading champion in his day of “America First.” Still later, Jewish “neocons” somehow became the shadowy instigators of America’s wars in the Middle East.

O.K., you get the idea. And it’s worth acknowledging there are often kernels of anecdotal or statistical truth for nearly every ethnic stereotype. Jews were indeed overrepresented in radical political circles. Jewish gangsters — a.k.a. the “Kosher Nostra” — were nearly as notorious as their Irish and Italian peers in the early 20th century. There were Jewish students who rallied against the draft during the First World War, just as many more would rally against it over Vietnam.

Yet imagine if the United States had followed the advice of the immigration restrictionists in the late 19th century and banned Jewish immigrants, at least from Central Europe and Russia, on what they perceived to be some genetic inferiority. What, in terms of enterprise, genius, imagination, and philanthropy would have been lost to America as a country? And what, in terms of human tragedy, would have ultimately weighed on our conscience?

Today, American Jews are widely considered the model minority, so thoroughly assimilated that organizational Jewish energies are now largely devoted to protecting our religious and cultural distinctiveness. Someone might ask Jeff Sessions and other eternal bigots what makes an El Salvadoran, Iranian or Haitian any different.

via A Modest Immigration Proposal: Ban Jews – The New York Times

Muslims and Jews find common ground in faith, hope — and security

Good example of communities working together even if the circumstances which compelled this cooperation are unfortunate:

From the outside, the mosque is an unremarkable, warehouse-like building in an industrial pocket of central Mississauga. Away from city lights, a few streets down from the highway, its doors are always open, the Islamic school brimming with women and children during the day, the echoes of Arabic prayer quietly streaming in its halls.

Jeffrey Brown, an Orthodox Jew from Thornhill, spent the last day of Hanukkah there meeting with three police officers, five Muslim men, and a Muslim woman. In December, the unlikely congregation had gathered in the teal-coloured carpeted prayer hall to talk about restoring a sense of security in their places of worship.

For more than 10 years, Brown has served as a community security volunteer at his synagogue. He has developed relationships with police, created a pool of volunteer patrols, and established a security infrastructure.

He’s clear-eyed about the need for security. “People in a house of worship have to be comfortable where they are,” Brown said. “They should be able to concentrate on prayers and know if something happens, plans are in place.”

But until last year’s mass shooting at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre, Brown had not had any close interactions with the Muslim community.

Where a shocked nation saw the faces of the six Muslim men who were killed there, Brown saw an open and unguarded door.

“There was nothing there,” said Brown. “No one there.”

For months after the shooting, a single-shooter scenario played in Mohammed Hashim’s mind every time walked into a mosque. He imagined where a gunman would come in from, where the children would hide, where the exits were.

Hashim is a crisis manager for the Canadian Muslim community — stepping in to help whenever, and wherever, they need it. He went to Quebec City the day after the shooting to witness “everyone’s worst nightmare.”

In May, he attended a rare interfaith event for the first time. Held at Brown’s synagogue, Hashim walked through metal detectors, as people with walkie-talkies stood inside, and police cars stood outside.

“I thought it was overdone at first — whoa, it’s Thornhill, not a war zone,” said Hashim. “But then, as I started thinking about it, it felt like deterrence. There was a sense of prevention conveyed to those who seek to do harm.”

Brown said that there was chatter about protests in the lead-up to the interfaith event, so he told his police contacts and made the necessary arrangements.

“Critical to community security is knowing who to work with in the police department,” said Brown. “This requires proactive work before incidents happen. It’s a two-way street — you have to learn about the police while they learn about the community.”

At the interfaith dinner, Brown surprised Hashim by offering to share his experience with the Muslim community.

“I don’t think we could’ve gotten this level of help from anyone other than the Jewish community because I don’t think any other faith group has felt under siege as much as them,” said Hashim.

“They’re so advanced in their state of security that it’s only natural that it was someone like Jeffrey,” he said.

“It’s his job now: To teach Muslims how to do security.”


Until last year, Atif Malik had never spoken to an Orthodox Jew. When Hashim persuaded him to meet Brown, Malik hesitated. He didn’t know how to speak to someone from the Jewish community. He didn’t know how he’d react if the interaction didn’t go well, if one of them got offended.

Hashim, a big brother figure to Malik, 32, connected the two because of how similar they are. Both are members of the legal profession with a desire to help their respective communities, and to learn. Malik could be the Muslim counterpart to Brown, said Hashim.

Malik’s hometown of Mississauga has one of the largest Muslim populations in Ontario. He calls in “an incubator” that has largely insulated him from racism.

After 9/11, the mosques he attended made a conscious effort to open themselves, to ensure they remained part of the community and not boxes of seclusion. Even if there was only one person inside, the doors to his mosques were always unlocked.

The Quebec mosque shooting shattered his incubator. Imams and mosque volunteers began talking about cameras and protocols.

All of this feels like “a conversation that should’ve happened a long time ago,” said Malik, who feels guilty that he didn’t prompt them earlier. “I question now why I didn’t make the effort to reach out and make connections with other communities, regardless of faith group,” he said. “Could we help them? Could they help us?”

He found empathy in Brown, who spoke about the same fears and complicated emotions. The Jewish community “has gone through a learning curve that we haven’t gone through,” Malik said. “Now, they’re handing us the information — here’s how you do it, if you have any questions come back to us, our doors aren’t closed. It’s mind-blowing.”

Now, they are working together on common security practices to be shared with all mosques, beginning with three in Mississauga and one in Brampton.

Neither will specify the practices being discussed or prevented, for fear of compromising their efficacy. Security is dealt with as quietly as possible, said Brown, apparent only to the person who wants to cause harm.

In this way, both men have become crisis coordinators for their communities, someone who, in the event something happened, would have police on speed dial and a response at the ready.


“Here in Canada, we have a complacency when it comes to houses of worship,” said Bernie Farber, executive director of the Mosaic Institute. “We just don’t believe something like [the Quebec mosque shooting] can happen here.”

Farber was one of the first to respond to the shooting, calling imams and volunteers like Hashim to offer his condolences and support. The former chief executive officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress oversaw security and safety for the Jewish community for 30 years, beginning in 1986.

In the 1980s and 1990s, having a security officer at large congregations of events was discomforting — an uncomfortable sign that the world had changed, and places of worship weren’t the sacrosanct sanctuaries that could be left unguarded.

Events like the Quebec mosque shooting change everything, said Farber. “The place no longer feels the way it should feel. Whether you ever regain that sense of safety, I don’t know.”

“People come to mosques to find peace, but that sanctuary was violated in the most horrific way,” said Hashim. “I think people saw that as a violation of one of our most basic provisions and rights, which is the right to practice freely and safely.”

Watching and facilitating the Muslim and Jewish community come together with police organisations to try and regain a sense of safety, however, has been a unique experience for Farber and Hashim. “I suppose between every bleak, dark avenue there is a pinpoint of light, said Farber. “This terrible tragedy brought together two communities that are united by hateful acts against them.”

Jeffrey Brown, left, who has served as the lead community security volunteer at his synangogue for 10 years, has been working with mosques and their members in Missisauga for the last six months. He's training a counterpart, Atif Malik, and leading an interfaith conversation about security and safety.
Jeffrey Brown, left, who has served as the lead community security volunteer at his synangogue for 10 years, has been working with mosques and their members in Missisauga for the last six months. He’s training a counterpart, Atif Malik, and leading an interfaith conversation about security and safety.  (RICHARD LAUTENS)  

Such acts can be deadly, as the Quebec mosque shooting, or just a series of less threatening acts: Putting bacon on a mosque’s door handle. Carving swastikas onto a synagogue. Graffiti of hateful messages.

Rabbi John Moscowitz, who also reached out to imams in the wake of the shooting, believes that social bonds constitute a different type of security. “When you can trust people of different faiths from you and stand together in the wake of something like the mosque attack, it deepens relationships,” he said. “And that deepens the bonds of trust, commonality and brotherhood.”

“Sometimes security feels less secure because you’re aware of why security is there” said Moscowitz. Community bonds, he added, are an “antidote to loss of faith” that heal.

At that first conversation in Mississauga, the unlikely group of one Jew, six Muslims and three police officers shook hands and promised that the conversation would continue.

“Both our faiths and our country demand a sense of respect and friendship amongst peoples,” said Hashim, “and I don’t think I witnessed that so clearly as I did that night.”

“This is about new communities getting established and getting comfortable,” said Brown. “We too were once strangers in a strange land.”

“When we had that meeting, we felt God’s presence.”

via Muslims and Jews find common ground in faith, hope — and security | Toronto Star

The taint of anti-Semitism from Europe’s left: Ian Buruma

Good piece by Buruma:

When the state of Israel was founded in 1948, the Soviet Union and leftists in general were sympathetic. For several decades, socialists of Russian and Polish extraction dominated Israeli politics. Zionism was not yet regarded as a noxious form of racism, along with apartheid in South Africa. Things began to change in the early 1970s, after the occupation of the West Bank and other Arab territories. Two intifadas later, the Israeli left finally lost its grip, and the right took over.

Israel became increasingly associated with the very things leftists had always opposed: colonialism, oppression of a minority, militarism and chauvinism. For some people, it was perhaps a relief that they could hate Jews again, this time under the guise of high-minded principles.

At the same time, and for much the same reasons, Israel became popular on the right. People who might have been fervent anti-Semites not so long ago are now great champions of Israel. They applaud the Israeli government’s tough line with the Palestinians. Israel, in a common right-wing view, is a bastion of “Judeo-

Christian civilization” in the “war against Islam.”

It is remarkable how often the old anti-Semitic tropes turn up in the rhetoric of these cheerleaders for Israel. But this time it is Muslims, not Jews, who are the target. Muslims in the West, we are repeatedly told, can never be loyal citizens. They always stick to their own kind. They will lie to people outside their faith. They are naturally treacherous, bent on world domination. Their religion is incompatible with Western values. And so forth.

The genuine threats coming from a violent revolutionary movement within the Islamic world can make such assertions seem plausible. But, in most cases, they should be recognized for what they are: tired old prejudices meant to exclude an unpopular minority from mainstream society. Islamist violence only helps to boost the politics of hatred and fear. Many Western warriors in the so-called war against Islam are nothing but modern-day anti-Dreyfusards.

None of this excuses the vile language of Mr. Livingstone and others like him. Left-wing anti-Semitism is as toxic as the right-wing variety. But the role of Israel in Western political debate shows how prejudices can shift from one group to another, while the underlying sentiments remain exactly the same.

Source: The taint of anti-Semitism from Europe’s left – The Globe and Mail

A leap forward in Catholic-Jewish relations: Marmur

Dov Murmur on both current developments and the historical context:

In order to explain and strengthen the relationship between Catholics and Jews the Vatican has followed up its historic document Nostra Aetate that initiated the dramatic shift half a century ago and about which I wrote last October. Over the years the Church has issued statements which amplify its stance. Five aspects are particularly significant.

  • The Church no longer sees itself as having superseded Judaism. It now speaks of Jews as elder brothers and sisters. It maintains that God’s covenant with the Jews has not been abrogated by Christianity.
  • The accusation that the Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus has been revoked. The possibility that his contemporaries were involved in the crucifixion in no way puts the burden on their descendants.
  • Christian anti-Semitism that has been the cause of persecution and extermination of Jews to this day has been repudiated in the light of what had befallen the Jews by the hands of believing Christians and subsequent secular imitators.
  • Affirming incontrovertible historic facts about the roots of Judaism in the Land of Israel, the legitimacy of re-establishing a Jewish homeland there has been affirmed. The Vatican maintains diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. The fact that Christianity was born in that land is being celebrated by Christians without in any way denying Jewish rights.

As a result, as David Berger put it in the online journal Tablet, “No longer could a loyal Catholic assert that Jewish dispossession from the land resulted from sin of the crucifixion and that unrepentant Jewry must remain in its exile.”

Berger also reminds readers that the Catholic Church has come to occupy the middle ground between most evangelicals’ unconditional support of Israel, including the policies of the current government, and at the other end of the wide spectrum, the stance of many Protestant denominations that tend to repudiate virtually everything Israel does, at times perhaps even questioning its right to exist.

  • The latest Vatican elucidation of Nostra Aetate came last month. It states that the Church “neither conducts nor supports” any institutional missionary initiative directed toward Jews. Not only has the legitimacy of Judaism been affirmed, the accusation of deicide withdrawn, the concomitant persecution of Jews repudiated, but now also attempts to make Jews “see the light” and embrace Christianity have been removed from the Church’s agenda.

Source: A leap forward in Catholic-Jewish relations: Marmur | Toronto Star

Jews can show Christians how to live as a minority: Marmur

Interesting reflections:

I thought of that encounter recently when I read an article in the American-Jewish online journal Mosaic by Bruce Abramson under the title, “How Jews can help Christians learn to succeed as a minority.” What the Canadian clergy group anticipated long ago has become commonplace today in the United States and in many other countries.

Though Abramson’s interest is in law and public policy, not theology, his insights will be helpful to all who wish to understand what’s happening to mainstream Christianity. In his words, Christians are now facing the reality of being “but one more of America’s many minority groups.” As a result, “the sudden need for an effective defence will take them into terrain that Jews have occupied most of American history.”

Abramson distinguishes between “the classical liberal preference for freedom and the rule of law” and “the progressive preference for equality and justice.” Though the two don’t seem to be mutually exclusive, he appears to opt for the traditional liberal American opposition to government infringing on individual rights over “the progressive preference for ‘positive’ rights like housing, food and health care that someone must provide.” Most Europeans and Canadians are likely to advocate the latter way because it cares for people least able to fend for themselves.

Though the “liberal” stress on individual rights is essential for their survival in the Diaspora, Jews are nowadays also seeking allies to champion “progressive” government programs that provide basic needs for citizens. Theological differences are often set aside in favour of social action advocacy that brings together different religious groups. These groups live their faith as interfaith despite their divergent theologies and join forces to be effective despite their minority status.

When I spoke to the Canadian clergy group I suggested that being a minority shouldn’t alarm them: it may be bad for wielding power but it’s good for practicing religion. Think of the havoc caused by the might of the Church for much of its history, say in persecuting minorities such as Jews, or the devastating effect today in countries where all-powerful Islamic clerics have the last word.

Ironically, contemporary Judaism in Israel is now also struggling with the quest for power by some of its exponents. Orthodoxy that mixes utopian Messianism with radical nationalism is endangering Judaism in the Jewish state. Faith is the foundation of Judaism, but fanaticism is its sworn enemy. Hence the laudable attempts by “liberal” and “progressive” minorities in Israel to champion the separation of religion and state for the sake of the integrity of both.

Seen in this light, the loss of power by religious bodies is the great opportunity for exponents of genuine faith to act as true witnesses to God’s redeeming power. The weakening of ephemeral institutional clout that to some seems so alarming is really religion’s great opportunity to advance the sovereignty of the Kingdom of God on Earth.

S. Africa may cancel dual citizenship to curb IDF enlistment | The Times of Israel

Foreign military service in principle suggests a greater loyalty to the country of military service, but this measure seems unduly targeted at South African Jews who join the IDF:

Obed Bapela, a senior ANC official who heads its National Executive Committee on International Relations, said the “model” of dual citizenship may not have “a place in the world,” the South African daily The Sunday Times reported.

The government in Pretoria has been among the most hostile to Israel in recent years. South Africa’s minister of higher education Blade Nzimande, a member of the Communist Party, has openly campaigned to boycott Israeli universities and other institutions, and was denied entry into the country for a working visit to Palestinian Authority areas in April.

An ANC party conference discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the issue of South Africans serving in the IDF, in July. The issue would be taken up again in the party’s National General Council in October, the Times said.

The country’s Jewish Board of Deputies has accused ANC officials of singling out South African Jews.

While IDF enlistment was cited explicitly by Bapela and others as the reason for reconsidering South Africa’s acceptance of dual citizenship, no figures have been provided by the party for how many South Africans actually serve in the IDF. With a population over 53 million and large immigrant populations from Asia and other parts of Africa, any change to the South African constitution to enable stripping South African migrants to Israel of their citizenship may end up affecting millions of other citizens.

Jews account for an estimated 0.2 percent of the country’s population. It is not known how many currently serve in the IDF.

Source: S. Africa may cancel dual citizenship to curb IDF enlistment | The Times of Israel

For A French Rabbi And His Muslim Team, There’s Work To Be Done

Good example of grass roots engagement and outreach in the banlieues:

“In these places they often have specific ideas about Jews,” says [Rabbi Michel] Serfaty. “And if they’re negative, we bring arguments and try to open people’s eyes to what are prejudices and negative stereotypes. We try to show children, mothers and teenagers that being Muslim is great, but if they don’t know any Jews, well this is how they are, and they’re also respectable citizens.”

Serfaty says people need to realize they must all work together to build France’s future.

The rabbi takes advantage of funding from a government program that helps youths without work experience find their first job. Serfaty takes them on for a period of three years, giving them valuable training in mediation and community relations. Serfaty’s recruits also study Judaism and Islam. And he takes them on a trip to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp.

The rabbi takes advantage of funding from a government program that helps youths without work experience find their first job. Serfaty takes them on for a period of three years, giving them valuable training in mediation and community relations. Serfaty’s recruits also study Judaism and Islam. And he takes them on a trip to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp.

Serfaty is looking to hire three or four new people. With his affable manner and easy laugh, the job interviews are more like a friendly conversation. He needs Muslim employees for his work, but French laws on secularism forbid him from asking applicants about their religion. So Serfaty draws out the candidates’ views and beliefs in discussion — and through provocative questions.

“What if I say to you Jews are everywhere and run the media and all the banks?” He asks one young woman. “What would you think?”

For A French Rabbi And His Muslim Team, There’s Work To Be Done : Parallels : NPR.

Mideast conflict affects all Muslims and Jews: Marmur

Interesting column by Dow Marmur, rabbi emeritus at Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple, and the need to focus on relations between Jewish and Muslim communities at home, as some of the recent tensions at demonstrations attest:

Christians act as catalysts here. Thus the proposed centre is to be built on a site where churches had stood since the Middle Ages; the last was damaged in the Second World War and subsequently demolished. Berlin is now to have a home promoting religious tolerance erected on Christian ground.

Christians in post-war Germany have a history of trying to bring Jews and Muslims together without meddling in the politics of the Middle East. Already more than 40 years ago, Christian institutions in what was then West Germany helped to create an organization called Jews, Christians and Muslims in Europe. To this day JCM promotes fruitful interfaith encounters, particularly between theology students. The Berlin House of Prayer and Learning would be a logical and more far-reaching extension of this work.

Toronto has a sizeable Jewish community and an even larger Muslim minority. Canada is known for its commitment to multiculturalism and peace. This city may, therefore, be the right place to imitate and fine-tune what’s being done in Berlin, not by seeking to import the Palestinian-Israeli conflict but by bringing together committed Christians, Jews and Muslims who would help to enrich our lives here despite the tensions there.

The Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims is already engaged in this kind of non-political work. What I know of it suggests that it could benefit from active Christian involvement and resourcefulness reflecting Canada’s commitment to peace and coexistence. Where Chicago and Los Angeles failed, Toronto taking its cue from Berlin might succeed.

Mideast conflict affects all Muslims and Jews: Marmur | Toronto Star.