The ghosts of history
The Jewish writer AB Yehoshua tries to explain the roots of antisemitism in Azure magazine. He rejects all the explanations based on proximate historical causes and comes to the conclusion that anti-semitism is something eternal: it has existed from the most ancient of times. He concludes that neither the Inquisition, nor Islam, nor Hitler nor anyone else can claim the dubious credit of inventing it. It is a reaction to the Jew himself.
Yehoshua makes the argument that there is something about the Jewish archetype that evokes an unreasoning fear among those who, looking for something to dread, always find in this archetype the easiest thing to hate of all.
George Steiner characterized Jews as the permanent 'other'. In that role, according to Yehoshua "the purpose of the Jews is to be wanderers, eternal guardians of alienation and foreignness". As such they constitute a channel for self-destructive hatred; and act as a lightning rod for anyone casting around for someone to blame. They are the ghosts of history, and like all ghosts, evoke fear.
Perhaps the most prominent and astounding proof of the existence of this absurd dread is to be found in the words of Hitler himself, spoken on the eve of his suicide in his Berlin bunker as it was bombarded by the approaching Soviet army in 1945. “I had underestimated the power of Jewish domination over Churchill’s England,” he said to his companions.11 And at the conclusion of his political testament, he wrote: “Centuries will pass away, but out of the ruins of our towns and monuments the hatred against those finally responsible whom we have to thank for everything, international Jewry and its helpers, will grow.”
The greatest criminal in history, knowing precisely how vulnerable and weak the Jews were and how easy it was to murder six million of them with no danger of any real resistance, could still express fear of their power, even after the catastrophe he had wrought on that same wretched people; he could attribute his terrible defeat not to the Russians or the Allies but to none other than international Jewry, which was proven powerless to save its people from a massacre unequaled in human history.
Yehoshua stops just short propounding the idea that Jews are condemned to be born boogeymen, who through some mysterious property, unintentionally and inescapably evoke hatred toward them; a hatred which, more often than not, consumes the hater more than the hated so that even Hitler's destruction -- the anti-semite's destruction -- which in Hitler's case was caused by his own murderous madness somehow becomes also the Jew's fault.
It's a metaphysical idea bordering on absurdity which is saved from total disrepute only by the fact that it might just be true. The contemporary spectacle of Muslim world, blessed with a vast population and wealth, which instead of dedicating itself to science, cultural and economic advancement, is seemingly compelled by mysterious tides to devote itself to the destruction of the Jew; is proof of a kind of inexplicable madness which ironically and unnecessarily may bring catastrophe on Islam itself.
Despite Yehoshua's declared intention to explain anti-Semitism, we are still left, after reading the Azure article, with an empty handful of sand: a mystery. We are no further ahead than Indiana Jones, who at the conclusion of Raiders of the Lost Ark, witnesses the destruction of a company of Nazis by the Power of the Ark of the Covenant. The scene is a metaphor for anti-semitism; and it is up to the viewer to conclude whether the destruction of the Nazis was visited by the Guardians of the Ark or the hatred within the Nazis themselves. Maybe the best course is to leave articles like that of Yeshosua alone; to close our eyes like Indy and live out our lives in the light of day. The Ark of the Covenent holds no peril for those whose hearts are full of laughter.
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