Sunday, July 22, 2007

Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology at University of Kent, and author of "Politics of Fear, explains his view of the meaning of the New Antisemitism. His conclusion reads as follows:

For a variety of reasons, Israel has come to bear the cross of the West’s sins. In Europe in particular, there is a powerful sense of weariness towards Israel. ‘If only it would go away, then we would have a chance for peace in the Middle East’, is the fantasy view of some European officials and writers. Others simply resent Israel’s claims to special status on the basis of its links with the Holocaust – which is why there is a growing trend to turn the moral power of the Holocaust against Israel. The West’s estrangement from Israel today does not mean it is ready to rethink its transformation of the Holocaust into a new moral symbol. All that it means is that the West increasingly embraces the ‘good Jews’ who were the victims of the Nazis, while distancing itself from the ‘bad Jews’ who are alive and kicking in Israel.

In today’s climate of self-censorship, moral uncertainty and competition over the Holocaust, it does not look as if the genie of the ‘new anti-Semitism’ will return to the bottle anytime soon.

So, the age-old European ugly saw that "the only good Jew is a dead Jew" has now become the new morality of European (and other) thinkers.

Furedi says:

"However, combining forensic skills, interpretive wits
and moral judgements is not necessarily conducive to searching for the truth.
Rather, such methods of ‘investigation’ might lead individuals to see something
that isn’t there. Making a moral judgment call about what an individual really
means is a highly subjective act, which can be influenced by the judger’s own
prejudices and by other cultural and political assumptions."

Furedi's rebuttal here is flawed. He quotes Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal as suggesting a three-way approach to investigate whether antisemitism resides in someone's position about Israel and Jews, but in his critique of it , Furedi ignores the first two stipulations and concentrates on the third one which is moral judgment and therefore can easily be dismantled on the basis of subjectivity. Stephens takes his linguistic cue from the world of law and order. You have an event (or a certain position) which calls for a closer look at motivation. How do we decipher motivation if we do not have access to the services of Macbeth's witches to look into the heart of man? We examine their words. This is the "forensic skills" that Stephens calls for. It means we read the words and try to understand their meaning, based on the assumption that most words convey more or less the same meaning to most people. Once we have established that we understand what is being said, we can then try to interpret it in terms of a larger context. How what is said make sense, when other factors are present in the analysis? Only then, do we make a moral judgment. It is possible, of course, that the whole process will be undermined by a persistent, a-priory urge to indict, but then, it would be very easy to poke holes in the interpretive process and point out where the weaknesses and distortions take place.

It is my own position that Jewish people are never in a rush to invoke antisemitism. Antisemitism is, first and foremost, a hatred and in my experience no sane person likes to declare, gratuitously: people hate me! No one likes to think, and certainly not admit, that he/she is not as well liked as the next person. However, we do sometimes accept that someone hates us and we try to understand why. Usually we can come up with a number of plausible reasons. When we fail to do that, not because we are dishonest about our own responsibility, but because the facts simply do not support the lurch into hatred, that's where we begin to suspect that we are dealing with an irrationality here. And unless the irrationality is a symptom of some mental illness and deserves our pity, then we must face the fact that it is a gratuitous malevolence rooted in some factor over which whatever we do or say will have no effect at all.

And this is how antisemitism can be spotted.


In this post I furnish an example of such irrationality.


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