Hating Science; Hating The Jews: What’s Philosophically Interesting About Anti-Semitism – Samuel Fleischacker – Engage Journal Issue 1: January 2006

Samuel Fleischacker, Philosophy Department, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago

1. On March 18, 2005 NPR reported outrage in Iraq over a proposal by the new government to declare Saturday an official weekend day. It’s a Jewish plot, charged the Iraqi interviewed for the story: the Israelis, who hate Islam and are trying to destroy it, now want to impose the Jewish sabbath on Iraq. The interviewee added that there had been an earlier plot to make the Iraqi flag look like the Israeli one; “good people” had foiled that one, but the Jews had apparently succeeded in getting Iyad Allawi to carry out their new plan for the destruction of Islam(1).

It’s still a shock to hear this sort of madness alive and well 60 years after Hitler was defeated. But it is not unusual. Last December, when liberal clerics at Cairo’s Al Azhar seminary proposed a change to the curriculum, they were denounced as “Zionists” by their conservative opposition. The month before that, when the (non-Jewish, even anti-semitic) Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a religious Muslim, the note pinned to his body said that Holland was run by Jews and listed a series of supposed citations from the Talmud illustrating the evil of Jews. In 2003, the Malaysian prime minister, to great applause by leaders of 57 Muslim countries, including Hamid Karzai, said that Islam is locked in a worldwide battle with the Jews, who “invented and successfully promoted Socialism, Communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong,” and thereby “gained control of the most powerful countries” in the world. (In the 1990s, the same prime minister had blamed the Jews for a Malaysian currency crisis.) The Hamas movement, dignified by the appellation “philanthropic” even by the New York Times and widely acclaimed throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds, declares in its charter that Jews run the world through such organizations as the Rotary Club and the Freemasons, that they caused both world wars, and that their real plans are described in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion — the early twentieth century forgery purporting to record a Jewish conspiracy to achieve world domination. In 2002, state TV in Egypt ran a long serial based on the Protocols; in 2003, an exhibit of the holy scriptures of Islam, Christianity and Judaism in Alexandria, sponsored in part by UNESCO, displayed a copy of the Protocols next to the Torah because, so the director of the museum declared, the doctrine of the Protocols “has become one of the sacred [tenets] of the Jews.” The prime minister of Syria, famously, used a 2001 public appearance together with the Pope to say that the Jews “try to kill the principles of all religions with the same mentality in which they betrayed Jesus Christ and the same way they tried to betray and kill the Prophet Muhammad.” Mustafa Tlass, his defense minister, published The Matzah of Zion, a book recounting how Jews use Gentile blood to make matzah, in the early 1980s; it has been regularly re-issued ever since, most recently in 2002, and translated into English, Italian and French. An article in the official Egyptian press informed readers that “The Talmud, the second holiest book for the Jews, determines that the ‘matzahs’ of Atonement Day must be kneaded ‘with blood’ from a non-Jew. The preference is for the blood of youths after raping them.” In Saudi Arabia a dissenting voice was heard: the state-run press declared in 2002 that Christian and Muslim blood goes into Purim pastries, not matzah(2).

Open, Nazi-like anti-semitism — and open fondness and support for Nazism — is most common today in the Muslim world, but it was also just this year that 20 members of the Russian parliament submitted a letter calling for all Jewish organizations to be banned, and a petition supporting that ban, signed by 5000 leading figures including Boris Spassky, accused Jews of “inhumane” practices including ritual murder. Assaults on Jews and desecrations of Jewish buildings and cemeteries have gone up dramatically across the world. In France, attacks on synagogues and Jews are now so common that Orthodox rabbis have issued opinions saying that it is too dangerous to wear a yarmulke in the street. The intensity of the violence against Jews has gone up significantly in recent years, but there have been bombing of and shootings in synagogues, kosher restaurants, and other Jewish establishments in Europe since the 1970s. Similarly, in 1994 a Jewish communal organization was bombed in Argentina, killing at least 80 people. A poll taken in Italy in 1992 showed that 10% of the population thought all Jews should leave, about a third did not regard Jews as Italians (Jews have lived in Italy for 2000 years), and over half believed that Jews have a “special relationship with money.” In 2001, Robert Mugabe accused the Jews of trying to ruin the Zimbabwean economy. In 1988, a Chicago mayoral aide charged that Jewish doctors were deliberately spreading AIDS in the black community in America(3) — a sort of modern sequel to the medieval idea that the Jews, by poisoning the wells, spread the Black Plague. The notion that Jews run politics and the media and are largely responsible for racism in the United States has been suggested by several prominent black activists — even as the same idea of Jewish control over politics and the media, coupled with the claim that Jews are responsible, balefully, for the fight against racism, remains a common trope in the far-right white community. In America in 2001, even with the enormous increase in hate crimes against Muslims, the number of hate crimes against Jews was almost double the number of hate crimes against all other religious groups combined. Sixty years after the end of the Holocaust, anti-semitism remains alive and well, throughout the world(4).

2. The explanation I will offer for the persistence of anti-semitism has to do, in a nutshell, with the way Jews have come to be identified with the open, skeptical Enlightenment mode of seeking knowledge that adherents of traditional cultures and religions see as threatening the foundation of their way of living and thinking. I do not mean to say that Jews are rightly identified with the Enlightenment in this way — Jews did not lead the Enlightenment itself, and many traditional Jews have been as frightened of its implications as members of other traditions have been — just that the fact they are so identified explains the virulent hatred for them. (A certain well-entrenched myth is the primary reason for the identification, as we will see.) I also don’t mean to affirm all the dangers that adherents to more traditional ways of thinking see in the Enlightenment, although there is something to these fears.

I do mean to offer my account as an alternative to the usual explanation we hear for the persistence of anti-semitism. On this view, contemporary hatred of Jews is a by-product of anger at Israel. But this explanation does not so much as begin to account for why Jews should be accused, in Russia and Zimbabwe and Chicago, of ruining economies and spreading diseases, or why Italians might regard Jews as money-grubbing and not really their fellow citizens. Even the anti-semitism so widespread in Arab and Muslim countries is implausibly attributed to the struggle with Israel alone. Muslims are locked in extremely bloody conflicts with Christians in Chechnya and the Philippines, Hindus in India, and Buddhists in Thailand, but only Jews have the honor of being described as the enemy of Islam by Muslim leaders across the globe. Arabs have struggled with Kurds, Nubians, Berbers, and other groups within their borders, and with Iranians and Ethiopians across their borders, but again have come together in solidarity only against the Jewish enemy. Moreover, Arab and Muslim anti-semitism pre-dates the establishment of the state of Israel, as we shall see below, and is directed against Jews worldwide, not just Israeli Jews or the Zionist movement.

This last point gets clouded by those who identify anti-Zionism with anti-semitism, and I shall therefore on the whole avoid debates over whether anti-Zionism is intrinsically anti-semitic or not, or whether certain kinds of criticisms of Israel are anti-semitic. We can locate anti-semitism by focusing simply on attacks on Jews as Jews, of which there are plenty today. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that some attacks on Israel are surely manifestations of anti-semitism. There is nothing anti-Semitic about criticizing Israeli policy — I myself regard the settlement movement as colonialist, and as a great injustice — nor is there anything anti-semitic in the rejection of the idea of a Jewish state, by a Marxist or liberal cosmopolitan who opposes nationalism in general. It is difficult to find any explanation other than anti-semitism, however, for the views of a person who rejects Jewish nationalism but does not object to Arab, Slavic, or German nationalism, or who condemns Israel, where there is no official religion and state law is often more secular than that of the US, as a “theocracy”(5) while being unperturbed by the many states that explicitly promote Islam, Christianity, or Buddhism. And anti-semitism provides the best explanation of why people decry Israel for outlandish crimes far worse than anything it has actually done: of comparisons between it and Nazi Germany, or accusations that it foments violence against Muslims everywhere.

Moreover, the question of whether anti-Zionism is intrinsically anti-semitic or not is somewhat moot, since most groups that oppose the existence of Israel regularly engage in outright anti-semitism, whatever distinction they claim to draw between Jews and Zionists. Both the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf have long been bestsellers across the Arab and Muslim worlds. Claims that Jews kill non-Jewish children for ritual food and are the enemies of all religion are also very common in the state-run presses of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Hamas and Hezbollah have explicitly anti-semitic worldviews, drawing on the Protocols and the blood libel in their founding documents and official broadcasts. The very word “Zionism” for them seems to derive as much from the title of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as from anything ever said or done by the political movement to establish a Jewish homeland(6). Israel is for many anti-Zionists just the outpost of the Elders of Zion, the vanguard of the Jewish world conspiracy. Hatred of Jews has been an important factor in the opposition to Zionism, in the Palestinian and wider Arab world, from the very beginning. In 1913 a Palestinian poet declaimed against Arab lands falling into the hands of the “Jews, sons of clinking gold”; in 1920 demonstrations against Zionism included placards and chants declaring “Palestine is our land and the Jews are our dogs,” “Kill the Jews,” “We will drink the blood of the Jews,” and (among Christian Arabs) “Shall we give back the country to a people who crucified our Lord Jesus?”; and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem used the Protocols as “proof” that the Jews had incited the violence against themselves in testimony to a British investigation of the riots of 1929(7). The Mufti was the most important Palestinian leader before Yasser Arafat, and Mark Tessler, a left-leaning historian who evinces great sympathy for the Palestinian cause, describes him as “blurr[ing] the distinction between political opposition to Zionism and condemnations of Judaism and the Jewish people. Under [the Mufti’s] influence, … to be a Jew became an offense in and of itself”(8). Elsewhere in the Arab world hatred of Jews flourished before there was a Jewish state: in the 1930s and early 40s mobs led by Nazi sympathizers carried out mass murders of indigenous Jews in Yemen, Algeria, Iraq, Egypt and Libya(9).

So anti-semitism has had a strong life in Arab and Muslim countries, over the past century, independently of the creation of the state of Israel. I shall suggest here that it has its roots in the same fear of and resistance to Enlightenment science and liberalism that has given rise to most anti-semitism in Western countries over the past two centuries. Only the latter explanation accounts for why Hamas, or the Prime Minister of Malaysia, accuses Jews of having invented human rights doctrines, or why attempts to liberalize Al-Azhar would be portrayed as a Zionist plot.

3. I want to focus on four features of anti-semitism. The most striking of these is how crazy it is. The idea that Jews are running Iraq and the Al Azhar seminary might indeed be very funny — as some of the Nazi fantasies about Jewish power might have been (picture the Versailles conference at the end of WW I as literally a Jewish plot: all those aristocratic British and French leaders slipping out to the back room to grab a shtickl gefilte fish …) — were it not for the bloody consequences to which it leads. Jews are a tiny group, represented in the political establishments of very few countries, treated as second-class citizens in virtually all countries until at least the end of WW II, and now dominant only in a small, internationally shunned state. The notion that they nonetheless have run the world ever since the Enlightenment, inventing liberalism and the idea of rights, causing both world wars and manipulating the UN, is preposterous. Judaism is a religion that, unlike most forms of Christianity and Islam, validates paths to God outside of itself, views Islam in particular with respect, and has produced some of the most prominent exponents of cultural pluralism in the modern world (Franz Boas, Horace Kallen, Ernst Cassirer, Melville Herskovits); they would seem to be the last people to accuse of trying to destroy other faiths. And Jews are a people with a particularly extreme horror of eating even animal blood; even aside from the moral evil involved, the idea that human blood would figure in Jewish ritual foods is absurd. Nonetheless, the legend of the all-powerful Jew who eats non-Jews and tries to destroy non-Jewish faiths is a hardy one, resistant even today to the most obvious empirical reasons why it could not possibly be true. This resistance to fact is the main clue I will use to unravel what I think is the philosophically interesting core of anti-semitism, the reason it should not be dismissed, as it often is, as mere foolishness.

The second feature of anti-semitism that matters to my account is the fact that it tends to be widely excused or ignored; the third is that Jews themselves often participate in this excusing or ignoring; and the fourth is that conspiracy theories of all sorts, even where their main target has nothing to do with Jews, tend to be drawn to anti-semitism. To elaborate these a little:
Both today and in the past anti-semitism tends to be either excused, as warranted by Jewish wrongdoings, or brushed off as unworthy of attention, especially by well-educated, self-styled “Enlightened” people. The most common claim that gets made in excuse of anti-semitism today — that anti-semitism in the Muslim world is just an extension of anger against Israel — flies in the face of the relevant empirical facts. Muslims are engaged in struggles with non-Muslims in India, Chechnya, Thailand, and the Philippines, among other places. The 150,000 civilians that have been killed in Chechnya over the past 5 years, to say nothing of the several million that have died over the years in India, dwarf the total number of Palestinians, militant and civilian, killed since the inception of Zionism. And, unlike in Israel, where the struggle is between Jews and both Christian and Muslim Arabs and where no Israeli official has ever justified an action by condemning Islam, in India at least, as in Bosnia a decade ago, many of the people who fight Muslims explicitly see themselves as opposing Islam, and kill Muslims, when they do, as Muslims. Yet no Malaysian or Syrian or Saudi Arabian or Egyptian official, or even Muslim terror group, has taken Hindus across the world, or Russian Orthodox Christians, or Buddhists as their enemy. One can go safely to any Hindu temple or Russian Orthodox church in Europe or the Americas, while killings and bombings have struck synagogues across the world. Only the struggle with Israel translates into a war against Jews worldwide; only that struggle so much as grabs the attention of Muslim peoples, like those in Malaysia, far removed from the scene of the conflict. So the claim that Muslim anti-semitism is just a response to Israel will seem obvious only to those who find something obvious about demonizing Jews, but not about demonizing Hindus, Christians or Buddhists. Moreover, the claim misrepresents the nature of anti-semitism in the Muslim world. Anti-semitic Islamists often do not focus on Israel. Sayyid Qutb, the most important theorist of the Muslim Brotherhood, said in the 1960s that “most evil theories which try to destroy all values and all that is sacred to mankind are advocated by Jews” and Abd al-Halm Mahmoud, a former rector of Cairo’s Al-Azhar university, wrote in 1974 that “Satan’s … best friends in our age … are the Jews. They have laid down a plan for undermining humanity, religiously and ethically”(10). It is this view of Jews as the enemy of everything sacred, everything spiritual or worthwhile in human life, that people like Mahathir or Osama bin Laden, and organizations like the Brotherhood or Hamas, have been most concerned to promulgate.

The other common response to anti-semitism is to shrug it off as unimportant, and while that is somewhat understandable here in America, where Jews tend to be safe, fairly comfortable, and well represented in government, it is also rather odd as an intellectual matter, if one compares the role of anti-semitism in Western culture to other prejudices that get discussed a great deal. It’s a bit embarrassing to draw attention to anti-semitism in the academic world today, while racism, sexism, and heterosexism are much talked-about. There are classes and lectures on the Holocaust, of course, but that is safely isolable as the doings of those strange monsters, the Nazis, not something that might still pervade the consciousness of ordinary Americans and Europeans; the thought that Western culture as a whole might be deeply anti-semitic, and that that attitude might survive today, doesn’t get nearly the credibility that is given to analogous hypotheses about the importance of racism and sexism. Of course, one reason politically correct academics shy away from discussions of contemporary anti-semitism is that they suspect such discussions will be used to whitewash Israeli wrongdoings. This is itself a problematic thought, but in any case the aversion to talking about anti-semitism is not just a recent phenomenon. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Marx and his followers were already dismissing anti-semitism as but a symptom of deeper problems in capitalism, and Herzl’s worries about a mass murder of the Jews in Europe were laughed at as insane, by Jewish and non-Jewish intellectuals alike, right up until the time when that mass murder was actually carried out. No enlightened person could believe that modern, liberal nations would maintain the absurd old hatred of Jews(11).

This brings us to the fact that Jews themselves tend to be among those who either ignore or excuse anti-semitism. Some Jews have indeed been active promoters of anti-semitism. Past ages have witnessed such noxious spectacles as the former Jew Pablo Christiani in the 13th century, agitating for stricter restrictions on Jews and urging Pope Clement IV to condemn the Talmud, the former Jew Johann Pfefferkorn, in the 16th century, leading the attack on the non-Jewish scholar Reuchlin for studying Hebrew (he believed that Hebrew literature should be destroyed, as preparation for bringing all Jews into Christianity), or the Jewish homosexual Otto Weininger, at the turn of the 20th century, writing that all human weakness and vice are due to women, homosexuals and Jews and then killing himself. (Hitler considered Weininger the only honest Jew.) Today, there are websites on which once-Jewish Christians and Muslims denounce Judaism(12) and among the most outspoken anti-semites in the Western world is the Jewish chess player Bobby Fischer. To be sure, this sort of open performance of self-hatred is not common, but it is very common for Jews either to deny that anti-semitism exists or to blame it on Jewish malfeasance. It is unusual to find black people downplaying the importance of racism, or women decrying the fuss made about sexism, but Jews are often the first to say that anti-semitism is not a serious problem. (Other Jews, of course, are quick to see anti-semitism all over the place. Jews seem to divide into two groups: those who see anti-semitism everywhere and those who can’t see it anywhere). The Nation has now run two long articles by Jews dismissing the idea that contemporary Muslim anti-semitism is anything more than a bit of over-reaction to Israeli policies(13). The New York Times, owned and largely run by Jews, played down reports of the Holocaust as it was happening, and continues today to bury major incidents of anti-semitism deep in the paper(14). My Jewish colleagues are generally embarrassed to discuss anti-semitism, and quick to pooh-pooh its importance. Many of my black colleagues devote their work to the study of racism and maintain that it remains a far worse problem than most white people want to admit; many women in the academy are similarly focused on issues of sexism; and many gay and Asian professors commit their work to the study of anti-gay or anti-Asian prejudices. These commitments are, moreover, well-received by most of their white, male, heterosexual colleagues. By contrast, I have rarely met a Jew who works on contemporary anti-semitism, the Jews who work on medieval or early modern anti-semitism tend to present their work only within the hermetically sealed world of Jewish Studies, and most Jews in the broader academy are extremely squeamish about discussing the whole topic, regarding those who do as “whiners” and avoiding lectures on the subject.

Finally, it is characteristic of conspiracy theories across the political spectrum, in the modern world, to be anti-semitic. One finds some of the most virulent anti-semitism in America among Trotskyite socialists, followers of Lyndon LaRouche, and members of the Nation of Islam, as well as in the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi groups and small cultish churches. Many of these groups hate other people in addition to the Jews — the LaRouchies believe that the Queen of England runs a worldwide drug trade, the Nation of Islam that all whites are a force of evil, the Klansmen that blacks are a threat to white purity — but all of them nevertheless reserve a special place of hatred for the Jews. The Jews somehow work together with the Queen of England for the LaRouchies; they are the paradigm evil whites for the Nation of Islam and the instigators of corruption by blacks for the Klansmen. Internationally, Muslims who see the Western world as deliberately trying to destroy Islam, but also both reactionaries and Communists in Russia, and more generally both far left and far right student groups across Europe, tend to be anti-semitic. An old saying has it that “left and right join hands around the neck of a Jew.” I think there is a deep reason why conspiratorial fantasists of all sorts tend to be attracted to anti-semitism: anti-semitism not only thrives on conspiratorial fantasy but provides practically the paradigm of what such fantasy looks like. It is very difficult to convince any large, diverse group of people that the Irish, the Maori, or the Chinese are plotting to take over the entire world, or are currently manipulating it from behind the scenes. It is very easy to cast the Jews in that role. The role is ready-made for Jews; there is a deeply-entrenched cultural story, with Jews as the human representative of evil itself, into which political conspiracy stories can neatly fit. It is this story that makes the conjunction of conspiracy and anti-semitism no accident, and that, far more than anger at Israel, explains the continuing strength of anti-semitism in the modern day. After some methodological preliminaries, I retell this story.

4. Methodological preliminaries:
First, I will be presenting anti-semitism less as an explicit system of beliefs than as a certain kind of story, but I would make the general claim that stories are both an important way of passing down beliefs, especially when those beliefs do not survive argumentative scrutiny very well, and the way of passing down beliefs that is most characteristic of cultures (as opposed to philosophical schools, say, or political movements). The anthropologist Clifford Geertz, in a little book called Islam Observed, has shown beautifully how certain kinds of stories can shape a culture over centuries(15). Stories about the stern and daring marabout Lyusi have helped foster an ongoing admiration in Morocco for people who have the charismatic power known as “baraka”, while in Java stories about the meditative savant Kalidjaga have encouraged an entirely different orientation to the world, in which stoically maintaining one’s internal center is valued over everything. These differences in attitude, Geertz demonstrates, shape vastly different ways of structuring both political and religious practice. I want to suggest here that anti-semitism is rooted in a story with precisely this kind of ability to shape cultural attitudes. People do not generally grow up as conscious anti-semites, anymore than, in Morocco or Java, they grow up as conscious admirers of Lyusi or Kalidjaga. Rather, the contours of the anti-semitic story — of a story, roughly, in which Jews are the human embodiment of the ultimate materialistic force in the universe, a force that denies all spiritual value and spins a web of illusion to hide its nihilistic role from its victims — is so deeply embedded in so much Christian, and now Muslim, thought and practice, that whenever the story gets invoked, it feels familiar and right to most of its listeners. Just as a person raised in Java, even today, will tend to find Kalidjaga-like advice to maintain internal discipline in the face of adversity appealing, so a person raised on tales of Jews as embodying the evil lord of the temporal world will tend, whatever he or she consciously thinks, to find something plausible about an image of Jews as secretly running the world economy, or trying to undermine all religions. The story is a template into which the facts of many different situations can be fitted, and from which one can learn a type of response to take towards those situations.

Second, I do not mean to claim that my account of the nature and sources of anti-semitism is the only reasonable one — to deny, for instance, the validity of sociological accounts that stress the commercial role that Jews have played in many economies, a role that is equally resented when played by Chinese people in Indonesia or Parsis in Karachi — only to suggest that there are aspects of anti-semitism, including the four features I identified above, that my account handles better than its rivals. As with any complex social phenomenon, anti-semitism is over-determined, and therefore explicable in many different ways. Every such explanation helps bring out some aspects of the phenomenon while underplaying other aspects. The account I give here, for instance, stresses the identification of Jews with the science more than the politics of the Enlightenment; there are important ways in which the tendency to identify Jews with Enlightenment liberalism needs more attention than I give it. But emphasizing the epistemological component of anti-semitism has advantages for understanding the depth of the phenomenon, and its ability to cross cultural borders.

5. As a guide to the somewhat complicated hypothesis I will present in the rest of this piece, let me say that I believe all four of the odd features of anti-semitism I have noted can be explained by the fact that Jews figure as the symbol for materialism, in both the moral and the ontological sense of that term, in a grand Christian myth in which the forces of God struggle with great difficulty against a false and evil material world. Jews are the devil; they incarnate the forces against which Christ struggled; and they incarnate the devil in a particularly Manichean version of Christianity, in which God only barely achieves victory over an almost equally powerful anti-God, and God’s kingdom, of the spirit, triumphs in a world to come while the devil’s or the Jews’ kingdom, of matter, rules the world in which we live. Because the Jews in this myth are supposed to be both immensely powerful and unrelievedly evil, it provides grounds for attributing practically anything wrong with the world to them. Because they are supposed to be the source of all falsehood and illusion, the myth offers reasons for rejecting all empirical challenges to itself. Because the myth suggests that an evil power both rules the world and hides the fact of its rule from ordinary people, it is attractive to conspiracy theorists of all sorts. And because it is a myth, and a particularly bizarre one at that, children of the Enlightenment, whether Jewish or not, have trouble taking it seriously.

That said, let us work backwards in time from anti-semitism in the present day to its roots in early Christian thought(16). Begin with the outlandish quality of anti-semitism. Could the Jews really be responsible for currency crises in Malaysia, curricula in Muslim schools in Egypt, the decline of religion across the world, both world wars, and the rise of modern liberalism? How could they possibly be that powerful? And is it possible that Jews really eat children for ritual purposes? How could they possibly be that cruel?

Well, they could be both supernaturally powerful and supernaturally cruel if they are literally the incarnation of the Devil, and that is precisely how they have been identified, in much Christian thought, over the past two millennia. In a superb book entitled The Devil and the Jews, Joshua Trachtenberg traced this association over many centuries(17). Some elements of it are obvious. The devil and the Jews are both said in Christian myth to have horns and a tail. The devil is said to be very clever and very greedy; both qualities are also attributed to the Jews. The devil is said to be the power behind sorcery; the Jews are regarded as sorcerers. The devil is said to try to tempt people away from Christ by pandering to their material desires; the Jews are seen as materialist hucksters who try to draw others into their materialism. The devil is of course the enemy of Christ; the Jews killed Christ, according to the Gospels and mainstream Christian teaching until very recent times. In one passage in the Gospels, Jesus himself seems to identify the Jews with the devil:
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with truth, because there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).
A historical critic will point out that in context these words need only describe the particular Jews taunting Jesus at this moment in the Gospels, but it is easy to understand how later Christians, reading the passage for larger meanings as believers generally do with Scriptural passages, might understand it to characterize the nature of all Jews.

What is the devil, in traditional Christian thought? He is “the father of lies,” and the ruler of this world: he is able to offer Christ, in temptation, power over the entire material world. He is also supremely evil — not merely uninterested in goodness but opposed to all goodness, trying to destroy it. He will therefore try to undermine any sort of faith in goodness and perform the most horrifying, the most viscerally revolting acts — torturing or eating children, spreading terrible diseases — merely to express his evil, to show the power of evil over goodness. He performs evil gratuitously, almost disinterestedly. And while he is actually tremendously successful, able to carry out evildoings all over the world, he can hide himself by his equally great ability to lie, disguising what he is doing as good or blaming someone else for it.

Put this up against the Jews as the antisemite sees them. They eat children, poison wells, and spread AIDS and the Black Plague. They try to undermine all religious faith, and only pretend to have a faith of their own. In reality, they worship money — material things — and oppose everything spiritual. Their motivations need not be sane human ones, need not be like those even of ordinary bad human beings, because they are a power of pure, gratuitous evil(18). And they are, above all, children of “the father of lies,” capable of deceiving the whole world about the evil they do. No wonder it might seem that people other than the Jews caused the world wars, and AIDS, and all the contemporary troubles faced by Islam: lies spread by the Jews make it seem that way. The Jews control most sources of information (the “media”) and use them to spread lies that cover their tracks.

Of course, such a view cannot be empirically refuted: any empirical evidence that goes against it will itself be attributed to Jewish lies. It is this independence of empirical refutation that takes us to the philosophical core of anti-semitism, the part that makes it interesting. A founding moment of modern philosophy, after all, occurs when the hypothesis that a devil — an “evil deceiver” — may lurk behind the entire empirical world, a hypothesis that by its nature cannot be disconfirmed by empirical evidence, is refuted by a clever set of arguments apparently drawn from the nature of our thinking process alone. I will argue shortly that this Cartesian moment, which practically invents the Enlightenment, on the whole represents the slaying both of the notion of a devil and of grand conspiracy theories, like anti-semitism, to which demonic powers are so important. Modern anti-semitism then tends to be associated with people who for one reason or another hate the Enlightenment — romantic nostalgics who yearn for a warmer and more obviously purposive world, opponents of capitalism and its Enlightenment defenders, religious Christians and Muslims who fear the Enlightenment’s challenge to their beliefs. But things are not quite as simple as this, since the way Descartes presented his Enlightenment-grounding discovery played into an old story that anti-Enlightenment romantics, and anti-semites, find appealing. To that story we now turn.

6. Jesus’s life, as presented in the Gospels, can be seen as the irruption of the divine into a thoroughly evil world. The Jews among whom he lives are materialistic, hypocritical, and cruel; he alone, with a small band of followers, tries to spread light and truth, and he is constantly in danger of persecution for doing so. In the broader world beyond Judea, the Romans are pagan and uncomprehending. The devil, it seems, rules this whole realm, is the lord of the temporal world. Eventually, the evil powers seem to succeed, and Jesus is tortured and killed, but his innocent self-sacrifice allows God’s power to regain control over, and redeem, this evil world.

This is not the only way of telling the story, but it was an important one in the early years of Christianity. The idea that the history of the universe is driven by an ongoing battle between a good and an evil power was central to the Zoroastrian theology of the Roman Empire’s neighbor to the east, and its own Zoroastrian-influenced Mithraic cult, while the idea that a good god had to suffer and die at the hands of dark powers for the world to be redeemed could be found in the Egyptian Osiris myth and in some versions of the story of Dionysus. For philosophers, the image of a supremely good person being murdered by a bad society also had resonance from the biography of Socrates. It is in addition easy to read Plato as saying that matter is the source of all evil while goodness is to be found in non-material Forms whose existence can only be glimpsed by those willing to push through the illusions and temptations of matter.

In this context, it is unsurprising that the Gnostics and Marcionites, who were influenced by Zoroastrianism, wrote off the Hebrew Bible as the product of an evil power and saw Jesus as trying to redeem the world precisely from the power called “God” in the Hebrew Bible(19), nor that Romans drawn to more mainstream versions of Christianity read a philosophical dualism into it. Jews figure in these theological visions simply as the symbol of evil, not as people with a religion of their own. Certainly Christianity was not, on any of these interpretations of it, understood as an outgrowth of Jewish thought and practice. Christian teachings were put into a pagan context, not a Jewish one. The fact that Jewish worship had centered on animal sacrifice until 70 C.E., and that rabbinic writings paid close attention to the details of our bodily lives, were enough to confirm the identification of Jews with the material, dark power with which the spiritual light of Jesus had struggled. No deeper understanding of Judaism was necessary. Jews were simply a convenient way of symbolizing the forces of darkness; they gave the devil a local habitation and a name.

Eventually, explicitly dualistic versions of Christianity like those of the Gnostics and Marcionites were condemned by the Roman church. Part of that condemnation took the form of a declaration that the Hebrew Bible was a holy book, even if merely the “Old” Testament. Part of it took the form of the rejection of Manichaeism, a blend of Christianity with Mithraism to which St. Augustine adhered before deciding it was not true Christian teaching. Neither of these moves entirely worked, however. The Old Testament, with its emphasis on obeying law and repeated condemnations of worshipping any human being as God, sits uncomfortably next to a book that sees redemption in being free of law and is centered on precisely the claim that a particular human being was God. And the Gospels, especially the Gospel of John, do seem often to be about a struggle between spirit and matter, with the devil, as the supreme material being, ruling the material world. That story also goes well with the Platonic and neo-Platonic philosophies onto which Christianity grafted itself for many centuries. In any case, the prominence of the devil and the almost-divine powers attributed to him, in the writings of many Christian leaders and the teachings of many churches, suggests that some form of dualism has haunted Christianity throughout its history, however much the early church tried to rid itself of that doctrine(20).

And on Manichaean, and other dualistic, versions of Christianity, it is natural to cast Jews in the role of the dark power. The Jews play that role as much as anyone does in the Gospels, and it is no accident that the devil was identified with the Jews, or that figures like Luther, who were devil-obsessed, tended also to be virulent anti-semites.

7. Let’s now return to Descartes. What philosophers often fail to note, when they read this founding figure of their discipline, is that the evil deceiver who appears at the end of the First Meditation and beginning of the Second has an implicit real world counterpart: not the Jews this time, but the Catholic educational system in which Descartes had been raised. At the beginning of the first Meditation, Descartes remarks that he had learned a large number of falsehoods in his childhood, and that the project represented by this book was designed to show people how to see through such falsehoods. The remark seems a casual one, but we know from other writings that Descartes was very exercised about what he regarded as the Ptolemaic nonsense he had been taught in the schools he had attended. Moreover, the possibility that an entire educational system could be pervaded by erroneous beliefs raises an interesting philosophical problem: if the vast majority of our ordinary criteria for telling the difference between truth and falsehood depend upon what we learn from our childhood teachers, how could we ever determine that what they taught us was itself radically mistaken? At issue are not particular falsehoods but our very criteria for truth and falsehood, the very methods we use to tell whether something is true or false. Descartes proposes to find a criterion for truth and falsehood that we can rely upon even if everything we have been taught turns out to be unreliable, and in the course of seeking that criterion he hypothesizes a demon so dishonest and so powerful that it controls every bit of apparent information we receive, that it seems fully to deceive us. Even then, he says, we cannot be deceived about our own existence — we need to be there to be deceived. From that Archimedean point, the whole Cartesian system springs forth.

Some features of this story: First, Descartes, like Jesus, is a lone individual who has defied the falsehood pervading the world around him to pierce through to a light beyond that world (and light metaphors will enter as a characterization of truth in the third Meditation). Second, the demon serves in part as a metaphor for the entire societal structure that Descartes believes did (unwittingly) deceive him personally. But third, the demon is just a metaphor for that. By the beginning of Meditation II it already turns out that there could be no all-powerful demon — I cannot be fully deceived — and in the course of the rest of the Meditations we will learn both a) that there is no independent force of evil at all, that evil consists merely in the absence or limitation of the good and b) that I am not generally deceived by my senses, and that I can therefore avoid massive deception simply by withholding judgment from anything I am not taught by my senses and reason — including the dubious doctrines of my teachers. The devil, the evil deceiver, disappears: Descartes has shown us a way out of Manichaeism (Relatedly, for Descartes there is nothing evil about the material world. Descartes is a metaphysical dualist, but not a moral one.)

The last of these features of Cartesianism is the one that grounds the Enlightenment and provides for an elimination of bizarre conspiracy theories like anti-semitism. The first two are more problematic, and carry some of the premodern Christian world’s fondness for grand forces of darkness, and correlative proclivity for anti-semitism, over into the Enlightenment itself.

8. First, Descartes’s positive achievement: the elimination of the devil gets rid of a potentially deep threat to the ability of human reason to understand the world, and of course what Descartes is best known for is his vindication of modern science. Later thinkers were to abandon or modify his rationalism in favor of a method that put greater emphasis on observation (although his insistence on the need for mathematics to structure scientific theory survives to this day), but the idea that individuals can set aside revealed or other supposedly authoritative teachings and figure out what the world is like on the basis of reason and their own observations was here to stay. Among the most important features of this approach for our purposes are
a) its renunciation of any view of matter as intrinsically evil, and
b) its combination of fallibilism and particularism.

Instead of an ontology in which reason or spirit is good while matter is evil, matter is something neutral, as is the world it fills, and the study of material properties is a worthy one. And instead of a grand story about God and salvation, in which one is supposed to have faith, the truths at which one aims are particular claims about the motion of one material thing or another, or the causes of that motion, and one’s beliefs on these matters are held open to refutation by better evidence or a better physical theory (For Descartes, we can have certainty about general principles of physics but not about particular material things: knowing that one cannot achieve such certainty is the theme of Meditation IV and much of Meditation VI). The focus on the particular draws our cognitive energies away from the sort of all-embracing Manichaean myth so conducive to anti-semitism, and the fallibilism, and implication that individuals can and should correct their own and each other’s beliefs, runs counter to the way in which Manichaean myths hold themselves immune to refutation.

Another, simpler point to be made about the scientific method that Descartes vindicated is that it was one in which Jews could, and eventually enthusiastically did, participate. Free of pre-suppositions drawn from Christianity, this was a method open to non-Christians, and, beginning with Spinoza, Jews figured more and more in the science and philosophy of the Enlightenment. Jews similarly did well out of the politics of the Enlightenment, which viewed people for the purposes of citizenship in the same religiously and traditionally unencumbered way as did Enlightenment science. Hence the United States, the world’s first truly liberal state in this regard, granted Jews citizenship from its founding and adopted a Constitution that deliberately allowed for non-Christians to be part of its leadership. During its Revolution, France also granted citizenship to Jews, and eventually most of Western Europe followed suit.

It is therefore understandable that Jews have been identified with the Enlightenment, even if they did not lead it and even though some of those who did, like Voltaire, were anti-semitic. The non-Christian character of Enlightenment thought could have been of advantage to Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists as well, but the largest community of non-Christians in European countries was Jewish, and the change in their status between the seventeenth and the nineteenth centuries was remarkable. When one adds in the fact that the revaluation of matter, the focus on the particular, and to some extent the fallibilism of Enlightenment methodology are all congenial to the cast of mind encouraged by the Talmud, it is no wonder that Jews felt themselves at home in this new world, and eventually achieved intellectual prominence in it far out of proportion to their numbers. We should not exaggerate this feeling of comfort. Many Jews were horrified at the assimilation of their coreligionists to Christianity that came with the newly open Enlightenment world, and significant groups of Jews have rejected Enlightenment science, as threatening to their traditional beliefs, in the same way that traditionalists in other cultures have done. But on the whole the Enlightenment seemed good to the Jews, and they supported it against its traditionalist adversaries.

It is then no wonder, however, that people who hate the Enlightenment have also hated the Jews — from Hamann, at the end of the eighteenth century, through Fries, Drumont, Schönerer, Maurras and many other 19th century French and German nationalists, a variety of socialists and communists(21), and the Popes Pius IX and XII and other leaders of the 19th and early 20th century Catholic church, to the leaders of the jihads proclaimed against the West today. Hatred of the Enlightenment gravitates toward anti-semitism. This is not such a change from earlier anti-semitism: the Enlightenment is itself seen as a product of the devil, with its revaluation of matter — of the human body, consequently, and its various needs and desires — and the challenge its methodology poses to all supposedly infallible faiths. The Jews, once cast by Christians as the devil, can now play that role for believers in every tradition that the Enlightenment challenges. And the enthusiasm so many Jews have actually had for Enlightenment science and politics leads them to play the role with conviction.

9. Now to the more troubling aspects of Descartes, and the darker side of Enlightenment they foreshadow: first, the way in which Descartes’s story echoes the life of Jesus served as a dangerous model for how individuals leading various waves of Enlightenment saw themselves in relation to the society around them. The Enlightener is a savior of sorts, from the darkness of superstition and prejudice. Of course, the darkness of superstition and prejudice now includes a good deal of traditional Christianity, but one way to soften the blow of this charge, and at the same time to couch it in a way that traditional Christians will find appealing, is to accuse one’s surrounding society of really being “Jews” while setting oneself up as a representative of the “real” Christianity — indeed, perhaps, as Christ himself. Neither Descartes nor his immediate followers explicitly made either of these moves, but later Enlighteners did use such language. Karl Reinhold told Schiller that Kant would soon have the same reputation as Christ, and a contemporaneous Danish professor said that “Next to Christ, [Kant] interests me most of the living and the dead”; such comparisons were indeed common in certain Kantian circles(22). Kant himself presented his rational morality as the true core of Christ’s teachings in his Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, and implied that he himself was a sort of Christ figure, bringing an internal morality to an externally-focused society. Later, when Marx wrote that Jews represent the evils that run through the capitalist system and that the end of that system will bring “the emancipation of society from Judaism,” the implication for his own status, as prophet of this emancipating doctrine, was clear. And Nietzsche ended the part of his life in which he communicated with other people by calling himself “The Crucified”. The Enlightener as the lone wise and decent individual who sees through a narrow, dishonest society is a common trope, and one that readily allows for an identification with the hero of the Gospels.

But this identification brings the Enlightener back from piecemeal fallibilism to a story in which there is one truth that everyone ought to acknowledge and all else is darkness, in which there is a kingdom of light fighting to prevail over a world of evil and deception. And once we are back in that story, it is hard to resist casting the Jews, again, in the role of the evil liars being condemned. Kant explicitly associates the ritual religions he is attacking with what Christ condemned in Judaism; Marx equally explicitly identifies the evils of capitalism with Judaism(23). In general the idea of Enlightenment as unveiling deeper and deeper levels of entrenched societal prejudice, very important to this day to such movements as academic feminism and race theory, is made most persuasive when the underlying prejudices can be presented as the work of a selfish, inhumane, and manipulative sub-group within society, corrupting the general benevolence that, progressivists like to believe, characterizes fundamental human nature. But the easiest, most natural narrative in which to couch such a presentation, for anyone with a Christian background, is one in which a gentle Jesus-figure calls humanity back to itself from its corruption by selfish and inhumane Jews. Progressivist stories thus trade at least implicitly on a picture in which it is Jewish egoism that underlies the prejudice being unveiled and Jewish dishonesty that sustains it. And sometimes — not all that infrequently — this implicit story breaks loose: a person who seemed opposed to all prejudices suddenly spouts the vilest bits of ancient Jew-hatred, denying all the while that what he or she has to say really is anti-semitism. The anti-fascist composer and politician Mikis Theodorakis, for instance, recently insisted that he was not an anti-semite in an interview in which he also claimed that Jews control the banks, Wall Street, mass media, and the US government(24). Enlightenment progressivism, in its radical form, retains a shadow of Manichaeism. Herein a source of leftwing anti-semitism.

A source of rightwing anti-semitism can be found in another aspect of Descartes’s scenario. Consider what it means to set oneself up, as Descartes initially does, as possibly the only person in the universe. I am alone in the world, or alone except for a demon who is deceiving me. But why the demon? Why should I not simply be the only being at all in the universe, deceiving myself into thinking there is anything else out there? Or, if I am alone with one other being who is deceiving me, why should that being not be God, rather than the devil, doing me good by the deception? (It is too easy to respond to that last thought by saying that God couldn’t possibly deceive: at this stage in the Meditations, Descartes has no ground for saying that. When he does come up with such a ground, moreover, it isn’t fully persuasive: it still seems possible that God might deceive us for our own good).

Descartes himself, who considers all these possibilities, merely flirts with solipsism, as he flirts with the possibility of an all-powerful demon; he emphatically rejects both ideas by the end of his meditations. But later writers borrowed Descartes’s solipsistic scenario without necessarily accepting his way out of it. In The Vocation of Man, Fichte sets up his philosophy by way of a dialogue between a first-person narrator and a “Spirit” quite like Descartes’s evil demon, but then anchors reality in the self alone. Mark Twain ends his short story “The Mysterious Stranger” by having Satan tell the first-person narrator that the latter is alone in the universe, and having the narrator realize that that is true; Twain himself, it is said, believed something of the sort about himself. Dickens and Dostoevsky and Nietzsche write extremely solipsistic texts (Great Expectations, Notes from Underground, Thus Spake Zarathustra) focused obsessively on a single character, usually the first-person narrator, who is set over against a hostile world, sometimes — especially in Dickens — one largely controlled by a hidden, deceitful power.
But why, if one has solipsistic inclinations, should the power one is alone with be demonic rather than divine? The simplest answer to this, and the one that goes to the heart of the temptation both of solipsism and of demonization in the modern world, is that to someone who wants to see himself as all-powerful, as governing his own universe, any resistance to that control must appear as evil. If I am the source of my world, or the source of all meaning or significance in my world, then I determine what is good, and anything that defies or obstructs my ability to achieve my objectives is evil. So to the extent there is any world outside of me, to the extent that there even seems to be such a world, it must be a creation of the devil. I, on this picture, am God; everything else, if there is anything else, is the devil.
And what tempts people to such a crazy view is a feeling that the world outside oneself is cold, lifeless, devoid of value. Notoriously, the Enlightenment has brought us the “Entzauberung” of the world, the disappearance of the magical and mystical qualities that once warmed up our world, along with a sharp fact/value distinction according to which the entities that are really out there, that science can discover, are empty of value, and value is merely projected by us onto those cold, dry facts. But it is quite natural to reduce the “us” that does this projecting to “me,” especially if I am put off by the science, and correlative notion of reality, that the rest of the “us” seems to endorse. I know that I have feelings, of warmth and excitement, of joy and despair and anger and love, and that I project values out of those feelings. I’m not necessarily sure about the rest of you, especially when you resist my projections or endorse a science I dislike. The easiest way for me to re-gain reality for my values is to insist that my projections actually constitute the entire world — scientifically as well as morally — or at least that my projections, alone, constitute whatever value the world might possess. That is not to say that I will necessarily see my solipsism in exactly this light (it’s hard to analyze it and still find it plausible). If I am tempted to solipsism, I am likely to be so tempted simply out of a gut revulsion to or anger at the world as it is presented to me in the cold, materialist light of modern science and to retreat to a world within myself — a world of fantasy — in which I find all the significance, and warmth, that I have been told I will not find outside of me. And Dickens and Dostoevsky and Nietzsche were precisely people who hated modern science in this way, and withdrew in consequence to an inner, warm world where fantasy governed reality.

But now, given both the powerful Christian story in which Jews represent the devil and the delight with which so many Jews embraced the Enlightenment, there is an obvious explanation for why many people of this ilk were virulent anti-semites. Not all were: Twain was not, for instance. But there are deep affinities between the view of those who want to withdraw from a value-less material world into a spiritual realm of warmth and value, even if that world is now a projection of the self rather than the creation of a transcendent God, and the ancient Manichean story in which God struggles to redeem a material world run by the devil, who is incarnated in the Jews. Nor were those affinities lost on Fichte, who thought Jews should not be given German citizenship until they renounced every Jewish thought, or on Dickens or Dostoevsky. Nor, of course, were they lost on Richard Wagner, whose solipsism comes out in his obsession with creating every possible aspect of his musicdramas (even mandating how the audience was to behave), whose dislike of science and nostalgia for a pre-modern world runs through practically everything he wrote, and whose passionate anti-semitism gets expressed artistically, in the Ring and the Meistersinger and Parsifal, in the depiction of stunted, money-grubbing devil-like characters, incapable of true love or spiritual feeling, whose tremendous power over this world is the main obstacle to the hero’s success.

By the turn of the twentieth century, the word “anti-semitism” had been coined and the doctrine it named had become an established part of the political scene in many places, especially among people who disliked liberalism or modern science. And among the most fervent opponents of modernism and liberalism in all its forms was the Czar, whose police produced, at exactly this time, the most important anti-semitic fantasy of all time, a crystallization of the modern, secular version of the doctrine that Jews run the world for diabolic purposes: the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Hitler cited it often; Henry Ford circulated it in the United States in the 1920s; it made its way quickly to the Arab and Muslim worlds; and anti-semites all over the world continue to rely on it today. Since its first appearance, moreover, it has been used again and again to show not only the evil of the Jews but that everything that purports to deny Jewish evil is again just a product of Jewish lies. The Jew-hater can thus insulate his hatred against all refutation, all reasons or evidence against it. Only those who join the little party of solipsists (can there be such a thing?) arrayed against the diabolical public world can see the truth about the Jews; everyone else is either a dupe of the conspiracy or its agent. The hermetic, and comprehensive, quality of the delusion that Descartes hypothesized here characterizes a real political doctrine. And the believers neither seek nor are willing to accept a piecemeal, fallibilistic method of investigation that might puncture the delusion, much less a proof that the devil supposedly constructing such a global delusion could not possibly exist. The devil, on this view, most emphatically does exist. He is the Jew, and those who deny his existence, or try to bring evidence against it, or promote a method that might provide evidence against it, are either Jews in disguise or their agents. This time, Enlightenment is not welcomed as a way out of a diabolical illusion. It is regarded instead as the very expression of that illusion, the full expression of the dangers, to all faith and spiritual value, that Jewish power represents.

10. Anti-semitism migrated to the Arab and Muslim worlds in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, brought there mostly by Christians. There are criticisms of Jews in the Quran, traditions urging Muslims to kill Jews in the hadith, and anti-Jewish folk proverbs in Muslim countries(25), but on the whole Jews were not regarded as especially evil in pre-nineteenth century Islam. Beginning with an attack on Jews by Christian Greeks in Izmir and Salonica in 1774, however, a series of pogroms based on accusations of ritual murder spread through the Ottoman Empire. There were literally thousands of such attacks in the century before the outbreak of World War I, and while they were almost always led by Christians, the attackers often came to include Muslims as well(26). So the soil was prepared for a flowering of Jew-hatred in the Muslim world before Israel was a gleam in the eye of Zionism’s founders, and it is indeed likely that the diabolical picture of the Jew that led to these attacks played a role in inspiring the intense opposition to the idea of a Jewish state. Who, after all, would want a state of devils in their midst?

Moreover, the importation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was in use in Palestine by 1920 and Iraq by 1924(27), fed fears about Jews deeper and broader than anything provoked by the actual goings on in Palestine, and the alliance of Arab communities with the Axis powers in the 1930s and ‘40s helped solidify a notion of Arab and Muslim identity as intrinsically opposed to Jews. By this time, one major reason for that oppositional identity was Zionism, certainly, but it had other sources as well: an attraction to Nazi notions of racial purity(28), a dislike of the liberal politics that the Nazis, too, opposed, and of course a hatred of everything associated with the occupying imperial powers, Britain and France. But one important strand of the attraction to Nazism, and hatred of the Jews, was a fear of Western science, and the challenge it posed to traditional Islamic beliefs, a fear of the anti-traditional methodology characteristic of the Western Enlightenment(29). Nowhere is that clearer than in the thought of Sayyid Qutb, the leading intellectual of the Muslim Brotherhood and a major influence on Islamists today(30). Qutb was educated at an American university, and something of a socialist in his youth, but he later developed a critique of Enlightenment ideas, of projects that rely too much on human reason, along lines similar to those of the West’s own anti-rationalists, such as Nietzsche and Heidegger(31). And the primal source of the West’s rationalistic hubris, for Qutb, was the Jews. The Muslim world had “faced problems as a result of Jewish conspiracies ever since the early days of Islam,” he wrote, and the Jews continue to “nurs[e] their wicked grudges” and plot “treacherous schemes to undermine Islam” to the present day. One such scheme was of course Zionism; another was Communism, “the atheistic, materialistic doctrine” founded by the Jew Karl Marx, and which Qutb regarded as partly a product of Zionism (shades of the Protocols variety of “Zionism”); a third was “the sexual revolution,” advocated by the Jew Sigmund Freud. World Jewry plays a variety of “tricks” to advance its purpose of “eliminat[ing] all limitations, so that the Jews may penetrate into [the] body politic of the whole world and then may be free to perpetuate their evil designs. At the top of the list of these activities is usury, the aim of which is that all the wealth of mankind end up in the hands of Jewish financial institutions which run on ‘interest.’”

It is this doctrine that one sees today in official Arab media and on the Hamas website. And it is this doctrine, not a humanitarian campaign on behalf of Palestinians in refugee camps, that unites the leaders of Malaysia and Iran with Osama bin Laden and ordinary Moroccan laborers in France and the Netherlands, in their hatred of Jews worldwide.

10. Portrait of a contemporary anti-semite: he is rejected as a child by the boys he wants to play with (It is usually a he). He is laughed at for his physique or his strange affect. He withdraws angrily and enviously, persuading himself that the others he admired don’t see his true inner greatness. He is intelligent, and ingenious at coming up with explanations of how every gesture of coolness or contempt he experiences is actually motivated by fear of his inner power; he becomes tempted, perhaps, by the ridiculous thought Descartes rejected: the thought that everything outside of himself is an evil illusion. Alone in his bedroom, he enjoys reading about paranoiac loners like himself — Hitler, perhaps — or works by such loners — Nietzsche, perhaps — or letting himself be swept away by passionate music — Wagner’s, perhaps — depicting lonely heroes who struggle against a narrow-minded and corrupt world. When he reads about a sneering elite of Jews who take away all value from the world, and smother true greatness with a blanket of lies, the story resonates sharply with his own experiences of rejection. If violence appeals to him, he joins a conspiratorial hate group, usually one that includes Jews among the people it targets for death. Among the doctrines of the group, and among the central elements of his own belief system, is a rejection of liberalism in politics, and of science, of all types of scientific evidence, at least, that might refute the group’s doctrines. The solipsism of the paranoiac loner is now matched with a political and epistemological worldview.

This picture best fits an American neo-Nazi — a Matthew Hale or one of the Columbine killers — but with very few amendments it also fits an Osama bin Laden, a Mohammed Atta, or the killer of Theo van Gogh. The latter have all been described as introverted loners in their youths, who rejected the Western science and politics they learned at university. The only major difference in their cases is that large anti-Western and anti-semitic movements already existed in their cultures for them to join. They therefore did not need to be as crazy to find group expression for their views. A person in the Arab or Muslim worlds who views Western science and politics as the product of a Jewish conspiracy need not be a paranoiac loner. The Enlightenment has not yet won its struggle with tradition there, and in the context of that struggle, anti-semitism has the wide-spread attraction that it had in the nineteenth century for German and French nationalists, or for the Roman Catholic church. Nevertheless, many leaders of violent anti-Jewish groups in the contemporary Arab and Muslim world do fit the profile of a paranoiac loner, and it is in general striking how many prominent figures of paranoiac and megalomaniacal tendencies in the past century have been anti-semitic, across all cultures and political divides: in addition to bin Laden, and both Hitler and Stalin, think of Ezra Pound, Idi Amin, Muamar Qaddafi, Louis Farrakhan, Lyndon LaRouche, and Bobby Fischer. Anti-semitism is the conspiratorial fantasy of choice today, for those who see themselves as lone heroes struggling against a false and evil world.

11. To come back to the four features of anti-semitism with which I began:

a) The first and last of the features to which I pointed are now readily explicable. That anti-semitism is bizarre, even a type of insanity, should be perfectly understandable, as should be its attractiveness to those who hold conspiratorial views of any sort. If my account is correct, anti-semitism is by nature resolutely hostile to scientific reasoning — the paradigmatic modern way of determining truth — and it views such reasoning as a product of a vast Jewish conspiracy to delude the entire world. This both enables it to uphold wildly implausible claims, that would collapse if scientific evidence were allowed to challenge them, and to provide grounds for conspiracy theories of all sorts. And both the anti-evidentiary and the conspiratorial nature of anti-semitism makes it attractive to people in the grip of some form of psychotic delusion themselves, or who are frightened of scientific methods and would be relieved to find that they are a product of the devil.

b) The intrinsic craziness of anti-semitism provides a major reason why it is often ignored. Rational academics and political activists, especially of the liberal variety that dominates Western universities and governments, can’t take seriously a belief that is intrinsically anti-rational. They instead try to explain away the anti-semitism, or find grounds for it that make sense (Farrakhan doesn’t mean what he says; bin Laden and his followers are really upset about Israel, not about the Jewish assault on Islam they talk about so often).

But the other major reason anti-semitism is ignored or brushed off is that, despite its craziness, a veneer of its central beliefs resonates to some extent even with those same rational academics and activists who reject the beliefs as formal doctrines. Anyone who has been raised in a church where the Gospel of John is regularly read, or in a culture where “pharisaical” is a casual synonym for “hypocritical,” or on the enormous body of literature that casually include, as one of my own favorite childhood books does, characters like one “Bill Klein” who is described as “a stringy little boy with a big nose who liked selling things and always seemed to have plenty of money,”(32) to say nothing of Shylock and Fagin, can find it all too easy to believe that “there must be something” to the claim that Jews run big business or politics or the media, or that any state they run must be unspeakably cruel. The story in which Jews represent the enemy of all humanity is such a basic template of traditional Western thought that it is hard to shake off entirely, even for those who explicitly reject it, and the modern, anti-Enlightenment version of that story in which Jews represent the evils of capitalism and liberal individualism has made its way into the heart of the Western left as well as into Islamic anti-Enlightenment movements. Even people who regularly denounce racism, sexism, and group hatreds of all other kinds therefore find it a bit difficult to regard anti-semitism as quite as unjustified as these other prejudices. That Muslim nations and guerrilla groups might be fighting Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists as well as Jews but see only Jews as their real enemy makes sense, in the corridors of the Western academy and meeting halls of Western leftist movements, in a way that no other massive hatred does. Roald Dahl, whose fervent support for the Palestinian cause often crossed the line from anti-Zionism to anti-semitism, once said that “even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on [the Jews] for no reason,”(33) and that attitude, although rarely expressed, is I suspect very common.

c) Finally, the tendency of Jews themselves to excuse or even join in anti-semitism may also be rooted in the comprehensive nature of the anti-semitic attitude. As with all prejudices, the objects of anti-semitism can be affected by it themselves, can build its view of them into themselves. But in the case of anti-semitism, no partial renunciation of one’s Jewish identity will suffice to satisfy the anti-semite, including the anti-semite within oneself. If Jews are fully and irremediably evil, then renouncing this or that bad Jewish practice will not be enough to vindicate oneself, and if Jews are the source of all attempts to whitewash Jewish evil, then anyone who says, “Jews are wrong in this respect but not in that one” will still be accepting Jewish lies, will still be missing the main point, which is that no Jewish deed is acceptable or excusable except the renunciation of Judaism altogether. Hence it will never suffice to criticize Israeli policy but deny that the existence of Israel is a crime. Nor will it suffice to criticize some parts of the Talmud for xenophobia or regard some aspects of Jewish ritual as silly or outmoded. Rather, one must renounce the Talmud and Jewish practice altogether, as a chief source of evil in the world. Jews who hear a voice in their head equating Jewishness with everything that hurts or corrupts humanity are driven towards full-blown anti-semitism: there is no halfway measure that can quiet that voice. Hence the Christianis and Pfefferkorns and Weiningers and Bobby Fischers; hence also the Jewish academics and activists who stood in solidarity with the terror of the second intifada.

12. Some conclusions:

a) If my account is correct, then anti-semitism cannot really be refuted, only cured. A view that regards evidence and reasoning as themselves a product of the evil power it is trying to combat is not a view that can be refuted by evidence or reasoning. It is not even a coherent view: solipsism does not cohere easily with a view of the world as evil. A person committed to such a view needs first to come out of his or her self-centered, conspiratorial state of mind; only then can rational discussion begin. The view tends to be held in place by fears and yearnings, by an anger and self-pity that makes it hard for the believer even to hear any suggestion that he or she might be wrong. Those who hold it strongly may not quite be psychotic, but they are not rational either. And it is the influence of these true believers, where they are political or intellectual leaders, coupled with poor educational systems, that maintains anti-semitism as an accepted doctrine in certain societies.

But then Jews are mistaken to think that Holocaust-awareness programs, or broader exposure to or information about Jews, will do much to counter anti-semitism. On the contrary, the success of Jews in getting some state powers in Europe and the United States to promote such programs only re-inforces the picture of the all-powerful Jew, in the minds of those already disposed to anti-semitism, and helps them make their case for this picture to others. It may be better in many cases to treat anti-semitism as something unworthy of rational response, to suggest that rational discussion of, say, Israeli wrongdoings, can begin only after the anti-semitic images and assumptions that so often cloud this debate are recognized and expelled from it.

b) The long-term cure for anti-semitism is the acceptance of an epistemological method: the piecemeal fallibilism characteristic of Enlightenment science. Anti-semitism is a conspiratorial picture, possibly the primeval source of all conspiratorial pictures, and the cure for it is to come out from under any view that doggedly upholds one particular story about the world and treats all evidence against it as the product of evil forces. This includes, of course, the views of reactionary dogmatists in the Jewish community. Everyone, of every religious and ethical and political orientation, needs to develop the habit of seeking out and accepting local, empirical justifications at least of ordinary factual claims about the world; this aspect of Enlightenment thought is not only epistemologically but morally essential in the modern world. I say “in the modern world” because in premodern times, and those remaining contemporary communities that are insulated from modernity, there have often been worldviews with more or less decent moral implications that were neither justified nor open to refutation by empirical evidence. In medieval Europe, one could certainly remain sane, and be moderately decent in one’s behavior towards other people, if one took on faith the Ptolemaic picture of the universe and its associated Aristotelian science. One could be similarly sane and decent if one trusted in analogous Muslim doctrines as a Muslim in a Muslim country until the early 20th century. And one can be sane and decent even today if one trusts in beliefs like these as a member of a small, isolated Bornean or Amazonian or African tribe. But one cannot accept such beliefs while simultaneously living in the modern world and making use of modern technology. It makes no sense to reject modern science and still learn how to fly an airplane — even if only for the purpose of crashing it into a symbol of Enlightenment power — or to reject modern science and still try to participate in a modern economy or run a modern state. The cognitive dissonance involved in such projects requires one forcefully to silence the many voices, within and without oneself, that contradict one’s traditional beliefs, in a way that is incompatible with either sanity or decency. So the Enlightenment mode of thought is a moral requirement of everyone who wants to participate in the modern world. And among those who properly understand that mode of thought and embrace it, the main source of anti-semitism may dry up.

c) It is a mistake to see anti-semitism as deeply rooted in the Islamic tradition, but it is equally a mistake to see its contemporary manifestations as merely a product of anger at Israel. If the burning down of a mosque in Ayodhya, or the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Chechnya, does not provoke a worldwide Islamic opposition to all Hindus and Russian Orthodox Christians, it is hard to explain why Israel’s relatively milder struggle with Muslims in Palestine should provoke such an attitude towards all Jews. There are in any case historical reasons to trace Islamic opposition to Jews to a number of sources quite independent of the rise of Zionism. One of those sources, as we have seen, was hostility to the Enlightenment, which has become only more prominent as more and more Muslims enter Western universities, find their traditional beliefs severely challenged by the methods of the Enlightenment, and then, if they return to their home community, encounter the diabolical association, originally forged by the West’s own anti-rationalists, between the Enlightenment and the Jews. As long as this association, and this anger at the Enlightenment, remains, a resolution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, even one ending in a single binational state, would do little to overcome Muslim anti-semitism.

d) Christianity has a lot to answer for in the history of anti-semitism, and I do not think that clearing the Jews of the charge of killing Christ is an adequate discharge of that responsibility. Rather, it needs to tell a different overall story; the deep strand of Manicheanism that has haunted the church needs to be uncovered, confronted, and expurgated as much as possible. Christianity’s tendency to encourage anti-semitism, especially in modern times, has come less from any officially upheld doctrine about the Jews than from its presentation of the world as ruled by evil forces from which only its own teachings can save us. I don’t think Christian anti-semitism will fully end until the idea that salvation comes only in the Church is given up, by all leading Christian denominations. Why should Christians not instead believe — as some Enlightenment ministers taught, and some liberal denominations hold today — that Christ saves all human beings, whether they realize it or not? Anyone who accepted this teaching would presumably worship Christ in gratitude, but would not regard those who do not accept it as forsaken by God(34). It is bizarre, in any case, to imagine that a loving God would forgive all sins except the one of not accepting a certain doctrine about Himself. How can that be love? In any case, as long as this idea is a basic part of Christian teaching, it will lend cultural currency to all sorts of stories in which those who uphold one particular view are the “children of light” while everyone else lives in darkness. And all such stories tend to identify the Jews with the forces of darkness.

The way forward is to resist tales of kingdoms of light and darkness, to recognize that we all live in twilight, or perhaps the light of a partially cloudy day. The Enlightenment brought us that kind of light, and therein lies its greatness. To the extent that we can all be fallibilists, and look for truth in piecemeal ways rather than single, all-answering stories, to that extent can we resist the temptations and dangers of paranoid conspiracy theories. And to that extent, and that extent only, will we be able to resist anti-semitism.


(1) “Mulling Workdays, Weekends in Iraq,” Morning Edition, NPR, March 18, 2005

(2) The Al Azhar incident is described in Neil MacFarquhar, “Muslims Increasingly Debate Unholy War,” New York Times NYT December 10, 2004. On Theo van Gogh’s murder, seehttp://www.faithfreedom.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5270 and Ian Buruma, “Final Cut,” New Yorker Jan 3, 2005. On Mahathir, seehttp://frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=10460 , andhttp://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2003/10/16/92235.shtml. The Hamas charter can be found at[url=http://www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/documents/charter.http://www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/documents/charter.html%5B/url%5D (see Article 22, in particular). On the Protocols at the Alexandria library, seehttp://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP61903. The other incidents are discussed in Marvin Perry and Frederick Schweitzer, Antisemitism: Myth and Hate From Antiquity to the Present, (New York, 2002), pp. 69-70.

(3) Dirk Johnson, “Aide’s Comments on Whites Put Chicago Mayor in a Critical Spot,” NYT 05/07/88.

(4) Russia: Sophia Kishkovsky, “Russian Legislators Vote to Condemn Anti-Semitism,” NYT 02/02/05 and Bojan Pancevski, “Outrage in Russia as Spassky Puts Name to Rabidly Anti-Semitic Petition,” The Telegraph, 04/10/05. Other European countries: Letty Cottin Pogrebin, “In Defence of the Law of Return,” The Nation, Dec. 22, 2003. Yarmulkes in France:http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2004/1/9/33753.shtml. Italy: Alan Cowell, “Italy Poll Sees Rising Feeling Against Jews,” NYT 11/05/92. Mugabe: David Zaks, “Out of Africa,” Forward, 07/11/03. Chicago: Dirk Johnson, “Aide’s Comments on Whites Put Chicago Mayor in a Critical Spot,” NYT 05/07/88. Hate crimes in America: Jeffrey Zaslow, “War Revives a Jewish Dilemma: Are They Assimilated — or Kidding Themselves?,” Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2003.

(5) Michael Scheuer calls Israel a “theocracy-in-all-but-name” and implies that it lacks “religious toleration, separation of church and state, and freedom of speech” (Anonymous [Michael Scheuer], Imperial Hubris, [Washington DC, 2004], p.227).

(6) The Protocols appeared under the heading “History of Zionism” on the official website of the Palestinian Ministry of Information until as recently as May, 2005 (“Palestinians Remove Hate Text From Web Site,” nytimes.com, 05/19/05). Consider also Nasser’s comment on the Protocols: “It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that three hundred Zionists, each of whom knows all the others, govern the fate of the European continent.” – Quoted in Robert Wistrich, Anti-Semitism, (London: Thames Methuen, 1991), p.254.

(7) Benny Morris, Righteous Victims,(New York: Vintage, 2001), pp. 65, 95-5, 116

(8) Tessler, A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1994), p.253.

(9) Yemen in 1932, Algeria in 1934, Iraq in 1941, Egypt and Libya in 1945. See Norman Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1991), pp.99-100, 142-46.

(10) Qutb quoted in Paul Berman, Terror and Liberalism (New York: Norton, 2004), p. 86; Mahmoud quoted in Wistrich, Anti-Semitism, pp.228-9.

(11) Berman makes a similar point, about how liberals try to explain away the anti-semitic as well as the horrifically violent nature of modern totalitarian movements, in chapter VI of his excellent Terror and Liberalism. There is a general belief among children of the Enlightenment, he says, “that the world is, by and large, a rational place,” that “around the world, people are bound to behave in more or less reasonable ways in pursuit of normal and identifiable interests” (p.153). My analysis here resembles Berman’s in many ways, except that I do not see the conspiracy movements I shall be discussing as primarily having a cult of death for its own sake, and I suggest why their ideology necessarily takes an irrational, even insane, form.

(12) For a sampling, tryhttp://jews-for-allah.org/the-Jewish-Bible/talmud_on_jews.htm.

(13) Brian Klug, “The Myth of the New Anti-Semitism,” in the 02/02/04 issue and Tony Judt, “Good-bye to All That?,” in the 01/03/05 issue.

(14) The fact that the note pinned to the body of Theo van Gogh was an anti-Jewish screed, for instance, was mentioned only at the very end of an article, and then in passing, and the details of that note were never printed in the paper, although they had been published in newspapers across the Netherlands (see Craig Smith, “Dutch Charge 7 Muslim Men In Killing of a Critic of Islam,” NYT, 11/06/04). It’s hard to imagine a racist, sexist, or homophobic motivation for a savage crime being treated as similarly un-newsworthy.
On NYT and the Holocaust, see Laurel Leff, Buried by the Times: the Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper, (Cambridge, 2005).

(15) Clifford Geertz, Islam Observed, (Chicago, 1968)

(16) James Parkes’ monumental history of anti-semitism (The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue, [New York, 1979]) argues forcefully that it begins as a specifically Christian phenomenon. Wistrich (Anti-semitism, p.xviii and ch.1) qualifies this view, arguing that certain features of Jewish belief and society aroused animosity in the pagan world before Christianity arose.

(17) Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews, (New Haven: Yale, 1943)

(18) Compare Trachtenberg: “How was it that the psychology of the Jews [for medieval Christians] should be contrary to all human experience? The answer was that the Jew was not human — not in the sense that the Christian was. He was a creature of an altogether different nature, of whom normal human reactions could not be expected. … What then? He was the devil’s creature! Not a human being but a demonic, a diabolic beast fighting the forces of truth and salvation with Satan’s weapons, was the Jew as medieval Europe saw him.” (p.18)

(19) See Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, (New York: Random House, 1979), pp.28-31.

(20) One support for this suggestion may be found in the recurrence of dualistic heresies in Christendom over the centuries: the Cathars, the Waldensians, the Bogomils, etc. See Steven Runciman, The Medieval Manichee, (Cambridge, 1960). To Runciman’s list, I would add the English Diggers, for whom the fleshly power of “Esau” rules this world and is opposed to the spiritual power of “Jacob,” expressed most fully in Christ and his (few) true followers: see “The True Levellers’ Standard Advanced,” in A.S.P. Woodhouse (ed.), Puritanism and Liberty, (London: JM Dent & Sons, 1974), pp.379-85.
Runciman (p.85) notes the great hostility of the Bogomils to the Jewish Torah. I do not know whether any of the other heresies I mention here were particularly anti-semitic.

(21) “Before the mid-[eighteen-]eighties there was good deal of anti-Semitism in the European Socialist movement. In the first half of the nineteenth century Jews could be easily identified … , in their capacity as court bankers, as … pillars of the old, illiberal order. In addition, a great deal of Socialism was simply a revulsion from industrialism; in P[r]oudhon, Fourier, and above all the Bakunists we see a ‘primitive,’ ‘idyllic’ revulsion from sophisticated bourgeois society very similar to that of the extreme Right a generation or two later.” — PGJ Pulzer, The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria, (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1964), p.264.
The anti-semitism among many later communists, right down to the present-day hard left as represented at the Durban NGO debacle in 2001, or in such figures as George Galloway, is due in good part I suspect to the same hankering for an “idyllic” pre-commercial world, the world that supposedly existed before the Enlightenment.

(22) J.H.W. Stuckenberg, The Life of Immanuel Kant, (Lanham: University Press of America, 1986 [reprint of 1882 edition]), pp.374, 376

(23) It should be noted that Marx intended his essay “On the Jewish Question,” to be a defense of Jews against the aspersions of Bruno Bauer: his strategy is to show that all the bad qualities that anti-semites associate with Jews are actually characteristics of the capitalist world in general, to be found among Christians just as much as they are among Jews. So when he says that money “is the real god” of the Jews, that the Jewish religion displays “contempt for theory, for art, for history, and for man as an end in himself,” or that Jewish law is “without basis or reason,” he means all these epithets to carry over to the Christian world as well. The “emancipation of society from Judaism” is meant to be the emancipation of society from all religion, including Christianity — and, of course, from commerce, from a world in which money rules. So Marx himself, while he may have been something of an anti-semite personally, writes to take the sting out of anti-semitism in “On the Jewish Question.” Nevertheless, his argument takes for granted that the anti-semitic caricature of Jewish religion and culture is correct, and provides plenty of fodder to support that caricature. (All quotations from “On the Jewish Question,” in Robert C. Tucker (ed.), The Marx-Engels Reader, 2nd edition, (New York: WW Norton, 1978.)
I am indebted to David Hirsh for stressing to me the need to address this complexity in how we understand Marx. For Marx’s unpleasant personal attitude toward Jews, see Jack Jacobs, “Karl Marx,” in Richard Levy (ed.), Anti-semitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution,(Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 2005), and the references therein.

(24) “I was very much hurt by the Jewish reaction to what I said [that the Jews are ‘at the root of all evil’]. … I got hundreds and hundreds of poisonous e-mails from Jews all over the world. I couldn’t understand this hatred toward me. I fought against racism all my life. I was for Israel. I wrote Mauthausen. After all that, how could I become from one day to the next an anti-Semite?

… When the State of Israel was established, we were on the side of Israel. There was great sympathy toward Zionism because of what they suffered in the war. This is one side of the Jews. But the international Jewish community is also a negative phenomen[on]. The Jewish people now appear to control the big banks. And often the governments. So whatever bad or evil comes from the governments, it’s natural for ordinary people to associate that with the Jewish people.”

You yourself think that the Jews, the international Jewish community, have control of the banks, Wall Street, the mass media?


And you say that now, through its influence on Bush, it has control of world affairs?

“Yes.” […]

America, the great superpower, is actually controlled today by the Jews?


— Ha’aretz, interview with Ari Shavit, August 27, 2004.

(25) See, e.g. Sura 5: 64, 82 in the Quran, the famous hadith according to which one day the very rocks and trees will call out to Muslims to come and kill the Jews hiding behind them, or the Moroccan saying, “When a Jew cheats a Muslim, he is happy that day” (for this last, see Norman Stillman, “Antisemitism in the Arab world,” Antisemitism in the Contemporary World, ed. Michael Curtis, [boulder: Westview Press, 1986], p.73). There is even a tradition going back to the Quran (e.g., 5:13, 41) according to which the Jews have falsified their own Scriptures, which provides a natural source on which to graft the idea of Jews as monstrously deceptive. But Jews were not actually seen as children of “the father of lies” until Christians introduced that thought, quite recently, to the Arab and Muslim world.

(26) Stanford J. Shaw, The Jews of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic, (New York: Macmillan, 1991), pp.197-203.

(27) Stillman, Jews of Arab Lands, p.104

(28) “Sami al-Jundi, … a young Syrian nationalist in the 1930s and later a Ba’athist leader, observed in his memoirs: ‘We were racialists. We were fascinated by Nazism, reading its books and the sources of its thought, especially Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation, and H.S. Chamberlain’s Foundations of the Nineteenth Century.’” (Stillman, Jews of Arab Lands, pp.106-7).

(29) “Subconsciously for many Arabs, modern science’s ties to the West, to rationalism, and to natural materialism gave it the flavor of enmity.” Wasim Maziak, “Science in the Arab World: Vision of Glories Beyond,” Science, vol. 308, June 3, 2005, p.1418. Maziak also brings out the links between science and liberalism nicely.

(30) I am indebted in the rest of this paragraph to Berman’s thorough account of Qutb in Terror and Liberalism, chapters III and IV. (The passages quoted are on pp.85-6.)

(31) Compare Berman, p.71. See also Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi, Intellectual Origins of Islamic Resurgence in the Modern Arab World, (Albany: SUNY Press, 1996), who says that for Qutb Muslims “must view with suspicion the modern achievements of the Western mind,” and who brings out very well the similarities between Qutb and the critique of modernity to be found in many Western philosophers and theologians (pp. 148-9, and note 41 on p.305, especially). Qutb is a paradigm example of a reactionary: one who does not merely withdraw from, or refuse to become acquainted with, modern developments but who tries to use modernity to undermine modernity, to use modern thought as a way of returning us to a pre-modern condition.

(32) Prudence Andrews, Ginger Over the Wall, (Penguin, 1962), p.6

(33) Jeremy Treglown, Roald Dahl: A Biography, (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1994), pp.256-7.

(34) Versions of this sort of Christianity — more pluralist, even, than I have described and developed in part out of a rich awareness of the history I have discussed in this piece — can be found in Norman A. Beck, Mature Christianity, (Selingsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 1985) and in several of the contributions to Removing the Anti-Judaism from the New Testament, ed. HC Kee and I. Borowsky, (Philadelphia: American Interfaith Institute, 1998), especially the one by R. Kendall Soulen.

Site Meterhttp://mpp.vindicosuite.com/?y=3&t=h&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.engageonline.org.uk%2Fjournal%2Findex.php%3Fjournal_id%3D5%26article_id%3D18&r=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.engageonline.org.uk%2Fjournal%2Findex.php%3Fjournal_id%3D5

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s