September 11, 2012

The roots of antisemitism

Anti-Semitism doesn’t stem merely from Jewish difference. Chinese are very different from Westerners, economically successful, clannish, and arguably xenophobic, but not hated. Assimilated German Jews, Eastern European Jewish paupers, and cosmopolitan socialist Jews are all hated and murdered on occasion. Traits like visible wealth, exploitation, and misanthropy play a role in the development of hatred, but they are neither necessary nor sufficient. Poor, non-exploitative, and outgoing Gypsies are universally detested. Wealthy Swiss and swaggering French are universally respected. The difference in the treatment of Jews under pagan, Christian, and Muslim rule provides a clue as to the source of anti-Semitism.
Ancient Greek sources are somewhat respectful of Jews, while most Roman authors deride us. Both Greeks and Romans were religiously tolerant polytheists. Both staked their culture above others. Rome, unlike Greece, had an imperial ideology of totalitarian strength and cultural messianism. That mix, characteristic of Russia, now permeates the United States.
The major difference between Christian and Islamic attitudes toward Jews is the moderate institutional protection that exists in Islam (dhimmitude) versus the institutional condemnation in Christianity. Human societies are full of discontent and hatreds. People loathe to admit ethically censured feelings, and rationalize them instead.
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