Sunday 27 May 2018

Save the Children

I keep coming back to the moment I heard a British Jewish acquaintance saying – with a wistful expression and a throaty voice:
“A lot of people here don’t like Jews”
What better definition for ‘modern’ antisemitism?  It is this ‘dislike’ for Jews as Jews that is the root of the problem.  It’s subliminal but visceral; rarely manifest but often present.

* * *

My father was a teenager in pre-World War II Romania.  One of his school teachers was a known member of the local fascist organisation – and a known antisemite.  Not unusual in that time and place, yet my father must have been terrified.  One day, in front of the entire class, the teacher asked my dad to stand up.  “Joseph,” he thundered, “you are a Jew, aren’t you?”  My dad nodded in meek admission of the crime.  “I don’t like Jews,” said the teacher.  “But that does not mean I don’t like you.  You’re a good kid”.

I keep remembering this story, because it is characteristic of the mindset of many antisemites.  It is why the statement “Some of my best friends are Jews” has become not just a cliché, but almost a litmus test for antisemites.  Most antisemites do not hate (or even ‘dislike’) every individual Jew.  What they hate, dislike and fear is ‘the Jews’ – that vague but (in the antisemitic mind) omnipresent collective.  It is that collective – and not the individual Jew – that is the ultimate, the quintessential ‘Other’.  That’s why the ‘modern’ antisemites dislike, hate and fear the State of Israel: with its Jewish majority and character, Israel is the tangible, physical embodiment of that ‘Jewish collective’.  That’s why antisemites argue that ‘anti-Zionism is not antisemitism’: because they feel they can tolerate individual Jews – though not ‘the Jewish collective’.

* * *

What most antisemites ‘don’t like’ is – paradoxically – not Jews as such, but Jewishness.  It is the Jewish identity – religious, cultural and (in ‘modern’ antisemitism) especially national, that is the red cloth to the antisemitic bull.  And that identity is especially obvious when Jews ‘get together’ (or indeed ‘stick together’); when they become not Jews but Jewry.

And that’s why antisemitism is tolerated – some would say embraced – by the (declaredly ‘anti-racist’) far-left.  Universalism, which has become a defining value on the far-left (I prefer to call far-leftists ‘extreme universalists’ or ‘uniformists’) provides an ideological justification for disliking the nation while proclaiming tolerance for the individuals.  Extreme universalism provides base racism with a noble mantle.  Is it a surprise, then, that Jeremy Corbyn can’t even order an inquiry into antisemitism without adding “Islamophobia and other forms of racism”?  To do otherwise would, to an ideologically-intoxicated mind, be in itself a deviation from the ‘value’ of universalism taken to extremes.

Extreme universalists ‘don’t like Jews’; because in their eyes Jews – with their obstinate wish to retain their specific culture and character – are the very embodiment of particularism.  As I mentioned in another recent article, extreme left ideologues want to change ‘the Jew’, to ‘better’ him; in other words, to make ‘him’ disappear in the amorphous ‘masses’ of a humanity robbed of identity.

* * *

Here’s a stereotype: one is more likely to meet other Jews around a table laden with food, then anywhere else.  It was around a table laden with food that, a couple of months ago, I was having a discussion with some Jewish friends and acquaintances; among them a charming couple in their early 30s – let’s call them Miriam and John.

My partner and I had just registered for ‘March of the Living’ – the annual gesture of Holocaust remembrance and defiance which consists of travelling to Poland to visit ghettos and concentration camps; and which culminates with a march from Auschwitz to Birkenau.  I guess both my partner and I were struggling in our hearts with a mixture of excitement and anxiety – and mentioned the trip in our dinner-table conversation.  “Oh, that is very interesting,” said Miriam.  And my partner went into sales mode: “Why don’t you come, too?” she asked.  But Miriam seemed to recoil a bit: “Oh, I don’t know… I’d like to do it at some point… but I don’t feel like doing it with a group of hundreds of other Jews”.  She must have seen the shock in my eyes, because she felt like explaining it: “No, seriously, I don’t like being in large groups of Jews… I think it brings the worst in us.”  Her husband agreed: “Yes, it would be good to visit those sites.  Maybe we will do it once on our own.  Certainly doing it with hundreds of other Jews would be a real nightmare…”.  “But we’re only saying this among ourselves, of course,” he added with a forced laugh.

Seldom in my life have I been so distraught.  Here’s a couple of ‘nice Jewish kids’ who… don’t like Jews.  At least, not Jews as a ‘large group’ – they obviously don’t mind breaking bread and chatting with certain individual Jews.

* * *

How did we get there?  It’s certainly not something they would have heard at home – they both grew up in warm Jewish families that treasured ‘Yiddishkeit’.  But then they went to study at British universities…

I once heard a talk given by a former Chair of UJS, the Union of Jewish Students.  Among other things, she told the audience:
“If you want to understand the political landscape anywhere on campus, imagine a world in which there are no Tories.  There are Anarchists, Marxists, Trotskyites…  The Labour Party Blairites are – like – the extreme-extreme right”.
My son – who also attended university in the UK – agrees, albeit with a proviso:
“There may have been some Tories – but they’d never dare admit it.  They’d be like… they’d be like hated and boycotted…”

* * *

And it’s not just universities, either.  It starts with schools in which teaching ‘British values’ (or indeed Jewish values) is frowned upon with distaste; in which extreme universalism is promoted as an article of faith – indeed as the only tolerated faith – and manifesting any trace of ‘particularist’ identity is discouraged as heresy.  And if you think that that’s not happening in Jewish schools – think again!  Increasingly, extreme universalism is taught there, too – even while security people stand guard outside, to prevent harm being visited upon a very particular group of children…

Some of you may be sending your children to Jewish youth movements and organisations –hoping they’d pick up a bit of Yiddishkeit.  But beware: some of those organisations have been infiltrated.  The ‘Yiddishkeit’ they teach is speckled with Jewish terms and concepts, yes – but those terms and concepts are robbed of their most important, overriding meaning: that of preserving the Jewish people as a particular, distinct ethnic, religious and cultural entity.  They’ll speak, for instance, about ‘Tikkun Olam’ – that beautiful aspiration of ‘repairing the world’.  But they’ll stand that concept on its head: rather than using it to cure the world of antisemitism, they’ll employ it to bash other Jews – for being too Jewish.

Even the position of rabbi has been corrupted: these days, the title may refer to far-left political activists endowed with a smattering of learning and a kwikfit diploma.  They have little interest in shepherding Jewish communities – unsurprisingly, since they don’t really like those communities.  But they love working with naïve youngsters and turning them into more far-left activists.  These ‘rabbis’ harbour an intolerance to Jewry – but they don’t mind specific, ‘liberal’ Jews.

* * *

Recently, the British Jewish community was shocked to discover that, in the midst of a tsunami of unfair, deceitful and discriminatory ‘criticism’ directed at the Jewish state, a group of Jewish youngsters assembled (or, rather, ‘were assembled’) in London’s Parliament Square to… recite Kaddish for Palestinian ‘protesters’ killed by Israel’s Defence Forces.

I know, I know: Kaddish is such an emotional prayer; it comes laden with the painful memory of dead relatives; of people we loved and lost.  And no, those Palestinian ‘protesters’ were neither dead relatives, not genuine protesters; in fact, as the ‘mourners’ knew very well, they were members of terrorist organisations that want to kill our relatives.

Jewish youngsters in London's Parliament Square, reciting the mourners' prayer
(Kaddish) for members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad
I know all that; I understand the shock.  But should we really be surprised?  Just look at who the leaders of that gathering were: a student ‘rabbi’ and a few activists with Jewish youth organisations (i.e., people to whom we entrust our children, our youngsters; who are supposed to ‘school’ them in what ‘being Jewish’ means; who guide them on birthright tours to Israel…)

* * *

Make no mistake: our children are under attack.  It’s an insidious assault – and just paying for school security won't help.  The aggressors don’t aim to injure tender bodies, but to mutilate raw, naïve souls.  If we allow this to continue, our children, our youngsters will not be Jews; but they also won’t be ‘just good people’, no.  Because the fanatics don’t just want to take away their Jewish identity and feeling; they want to replace it with a twisted, grotesque, revolting caricature of Jewishness.  Our kids are being brainwashed into political activists masquerading as Jews; into ‘Jews’ that don’t like Jews.


  1. Noru, you say that the far left (or extreme universalists) dislike Jews because of the latter's insistence on retaining their specific culture and character. But are Jews any more insistent on retaining their distinctive culture than are Muslims or Hindus? There's no reason (and certainly no evidence)to suggest they are. Thus, the question you have to answer is why the far Left is so much more hostile to Jews than to Muslims and Hindus.

    1. Thank you for continuing to challenge my thoughts, Geoff. I did not exactly say that "extreme universalists dislike Jews because of the latter's insistence on retaining their specific culture and character". What I actually said is that in the eyes of extreme universalists Jews are the very embodiment of particularism. That#s indeed because of their insistence to remain 'different', but it is more complicated than that. I feel that I touched on that in a previous article ( Jews are not like Muslims or Hindus because -- for Western extreme universalists -- they are 'white' and economically comfortable. Therefore on one hand they are 'one of us' (see for instance -- on the other hand they refuse to behave like a proper 'one of us'. Muslims and Hindus are not in the same category because they are 'brown', 'poor' and therefore 'oppressed'. Hence they are not seen as 'one of us' and paradoxically (but typically for extreme universalists) are not held to the same standards of behaviour. Note that I speak here of accepted perceptions in extreme universalist circles, NOT of reality. The reality is that there are white Muslims, rich Hindus and pauper Jews. But people are driven by perceptions, not by any 'objective reality' (whether the latter exists at all is a different discussion...) Western extreme universalists have had centuries to develop that perception of 'the Jew' as the quintessential 'Other by choice' -- somebody that CAN become 'one of us', but obstinately refuses to.

  2. In fact they not only are they more hostile to Jews than Muslims or Hindus, they aren’t hostile at all to the latter two groups, but rather embrace those in their entirety, particularly the Muslims. Indeed the very Jews who are the subject of this discussion too embrace these two ethnicities/religious groups more than they do their own particular group, not only indoctrinating the children against the Jewish collective, but encouraging the embracing of them proactively. Hence the Kaddish for dead Islamic terrorists who become no less than our own dead relatives the terrorists have killed. So what does the student Rabbi say about that other Jewish commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ when Jews are the victims? I don’t recall a collective Kaddish on Parliament Square for the Fogal babies or the stabbed Rabbis in Jerusalem, I could go on, but ...... #Speechless

    1. I totally agree. I tried to provide some philosophical explanation above, in response to Geoff Short's question. When it comes to extreme-universalist Jews, this is understandable -- in a scientific way, not as in 'justifiable' -- because rejection (and even hatred) of "one's own" is seen as part and parcel of universalism, i.e. it is the extreme rejection of particularism (see here a very perceptive article on this issue: As I argued in one of my articles (and in a Limmud presentation I gave last year) extreme universalism is just as bad as extreme particularism. The latter is racism or bigotry; the former is 'uniformism' -- the desire to force human beings into identical moulds. Both ideologies are dehumanising: racism attempts to deny what makes us all similar; uniformism attempts to negate what makes us all special. The outcome is the same: robbing of their humanity; of the very characteristics that make us human beings -- as opposed to just well-adapted animals.