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This morning in the first hour of the program we'll be talking about anti-semitism something that seems always to be with us even though periodically we act as if we have rediscovered it as if somehow it is new and that is a little bit in the nature I guess in the way that we think about it talk about it experience it at all. It's also the fact that if you look closely at. The kinds of ideas and and beliefs and things that people say you discover that in fact some of these ideas are very very old they go back a long way. So this morning in this first part of the show we'll try to talk a little bit about why it is that anti-Semitism stays with us perhaps a little bit of where it comes from. And I guest for the program is David Berger he is one of the world's leading medieval and Jewish historians. He's professor of history and director of Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He's an expert on the social and cultural relations between Christians Muslims
and Jews in Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean and has written a book dealing with some of his ideas. It's titled communities of violence persecution of minorities in the Middle Ages was published by the Princeton University Press back in 1996. He's here visiting the campus. His visit here sponsored by both the people in medieval studies and Jewish Studies at University of Illinois and was good enough to come and spend some time with us he gave a talk yesterday he's going to be speaking at a seminar this afternoon and we're pleased that he could be here of course. It is always the case. Questions comments are welcome. The number here in Champaign Urbana 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. We also have a toll free line. That's good. Anywhere that you can hear us and that is eight hundred to 2 2 9 4 5 5 3 3 3 W I L L and toll free 800 1:58 w. Well thanks very much for being here. Thank you it's a real pleasure. It seems that it's not difficult to find anti-Semitic sentiment
expressed publicly and openly and radically when one gets those examples and in fact I was just thinking about tears someone someone yesterday knowing that you were going to be on the show and I haven't seen it handed me a copy of a clipping from the New York Times this is from Tom Friedman's column yesterday. Which way doesn't it directly can confront us. But it His point seems to be that he's he's saying is that Muslims and Jews. It would be in their interest to work together to sort of solve some of the issues in the Middle East. But what's very striking about it is the way he begins the piece where he writes reading the latest poll from the European Union which indicates that 59 percent of EU citizens now consider Israel the greatest threat to world peace. And then he goes on to say reading reports that make his third Iraq as the composer of Zorba the Greek has opined that Jews are the root of evil and observing the latest bombing in Saudi Arabia by Islamist fanatics. The following heretical thought comes to mind he says. The keepers of the Muslim holy places and the keepers of the
Jewish holy places really need each other today. OK then and now that gets us into a whole nother issue. The thing that I'm struck by is the quotes that he begins with his idea that 59 percent of citizens of the European Union who would think that Israel was the greatest threat to world peace. That kind of stuff and all comments along those lines. By the composer. But other people leaders of various countries around the world. It's a fairly regular feature these things crop up again and again. Yeah absolutely and what's amazing is that they crop up we you call those feelings anti-Semitic but I think most of the people who hold those feelings don't think of them as anti-Semitic. They think of them as rational explanations for the way the world is working. I'll give you an example it is a personal example and I'm sure many people have had such personal examples. I was flying to Chicago last year and I was sitting next to a couple who was alternating between Spanish and English and Spanish is my native language and I often often
alternate between Spanish and English so I turn to them and said How do you decide when when you to speak Spanish and when you know speak English and we struck up a long conversation. Most of the conversation was dedicated to their explaining to me or trying to convince me that Mossad the Israeli secret intelligence agency was behind the bombing of the World Trade Center that they had actually organized it in order to show the U.S. what it's like to live under terrorist attack. And. You know their argument they didn't consider this argument at all anti-Semitic they considered it to be irrational. We would I would call it a conspiracy theory but they certainly didn't think so now. What was really most striking about all of this is who they were. The man was the head of academic affairs for the Washington D.C. Public School District and his wife was the head of Multicultural Affairs for the Washington D.C. Public School District. So we're talking about highly educated people in positions of responsibility in positions to educate you know our nation who really believe this kind of logic is a good
way of describing the problems the political problems that we face in the world today. So the 59 percent of the European Union believe it is actually only surprising in that it's not higher. And a poll of the U.S. might show I think similar numbers maybe not 51 percent but a significant minority. And what's really striking about that to me of course is just how old these ideas are. Yes. Yesterday's lecture I started my talk about how old this idea that the chief enemies of mankind are the Jews with ancient Egyptians who were the people who first articulated this idea and around 400 BCE. So it's really an idea with legs and of course it works very differently in different periods. I don't think the ancient Egyptians were using the Jews to understand why they were being attacked by. Arabs that wasn't their issue. They were using the Jews to understand why they were being attacked by Persians or by Greeks or by Romans. But the kind of
work that Judaism does for us and helping us explain why bad things happen to us. That really hasn't changed and I guess that's what gives anti-Semitism its power. You know I think that it is striking. It certainly seems to me that while racism you can see that just about everywhere. And that's not new and certainly there have been instances of genocide throughout history that that there's something about the nature of anti-Semitism it's a little bit different in this way is that I can't think of too many other examples where where one group of people would say that the world would be a better place. We would be happier. We get bad things would stop happening. If only we got rid of these other people now. I know that someone can very well tell me that I'm wrong and cite other examples but there seems something something about that when it comes to any Semitism that is a little bit different from other varieties of races or perhaps other instances were
we've seen genocide. Yeah I think that's true I think what you just pointed to is what I sometimes call this fantasy of the perfectibility of the world the world could be made perfect if only we would get rid of the Jews. And I say this is a fantasy but it's it's often said by many politicians today I'm thinking for example of Saddam Hussein who told who told the US right after the September 11th bombing that that's the America's security could be obtained and world peace could be obtained if only we would break our nefarious alliance with Zionism and this every day some newspaper or other articulates the claim that if we sent and I'm quoting a North African newspaper now if we sent the Jews to the moon and gave their property to the Muslims world peace would be achieved. So that's true that fantasy of perfectibility and the other thing that's really different about anti-Semitism from I think other forms of racism. Is that. Anti-Semitism is much bigger than the Jews. You don't find say with black white racism you don't often find people calling non blacks black.
It does happen it is sometimes part of a strategy in which people insult each other a lot of American presidents were called black by politicians in the South who thought that they were harming the Southern way of life. But it's not a very powerful way of explaining the world where as you very very often find non-Jews being called Jews or Zionists or Jew Day eyes or ears by by people and the best example is America. America is considered by much of the world to be a Jewish nation a Zionist nation. The great designers Satan is America and we're not of course. Jews are 5 percent or less of the population of the United States. So how does a nation of three hundred eighty million people become Jewish. That kind of logic is unique to anti-Semitism it doesn't happen with with other kinds of racism. Well that's obviously the question is why. What is this all about. And you make this argument I think it's very interesting that. Maybe one can see it in terms of the tendency that
people have to divide the world into us and them good and evil. And the idea that means that there are if there is a group of people that is us you know whoever the US is that are spiritually pure so. And there are people who are not us. Obviously they're not. So they stand for whoever the other people are they end up standing for everything that we were against. That could be a lack of spiritual or moral value. It could be enthusiasm for materialism you know whatever it is the opposite of us. And that in this particular case that that seems to be what this is about. It's a way of defining that the spiritually pure and upright from the people who are not. Right I think that's that's very true that well what you're saying is that societies need enemies in order to identify themselves and that's an old truth of
sociology in politics. Many politicians and this hasn't gone away many politicians know that the best way to create social cohesion in their own society is to point to an enemy either within their society or outside it for people to coalesce against. And in in a real sense you could say that the Jews have served that purpose for for many societies. What's curious though is that you know there are lots of enemies in the world and people have chosen to have as enemies many different groups and different points in time. None of them have what I see none of them have this kind of legs none of them have endured for 2500 years as the enemy. And there you have to really start to think well what is the particular kind of shape this enmity takes that makes the Jews so useful so that even when you don't have any Jews here in Illinois for example you have a member of his department who wrote a book on anti-Semitism in Japan which is a very important book a very important form of anti-Semitism that's fueled a lot of the millennial movements in Japan like this group that poisoned in the subway.
But Japan has no Jews and it never has had Jews. How does that become an enemy that's meaningful to Japan. And there I really think you need to look at the particulars of what. The work Jews do Jews and Judaism do in the minds of anti-Semites and I think materialism is a good example. The divide between the world worldly things money the desire to acquire things like that and things of the Spirit higher higher truths and higher is often expressed in terms of Jew and non-Jew with the world being mapped on to the Jew. So for example American capitalism long before there were Jews in the US in the 1900 already when there were very few Jews in the US. American capitalism was being portrayed as Jewish because it was more it was thought to be more materialistic than European societies were. And that kind of work a means that you can use anti-Semitism to attack all kinds of practices in the world right you can say Well American policy is Jewish because America is only
interested in money. And that's regardless of whether there are any Jews in the US or regardless of. Its policy towards Israel and the same was true for other empires in the past the Roman Empire was accused of being Jewish by the Egyptians because of its tax policy the Roman Emperor Trajan was called a Jew lover the Roman Emperor Claudius was called the son of a castoff a Jewish whore. So these count by the Egyptians So this is a very old kind of anti-imperial anti power language and I think what we need to understand in order to understand why we are seen the way we are in the world and why we're Judea is the way we are in the world is the shape of this language we can't just say oh it has to do with our policy in Israel. Oh it has to do with what we're doing in Afghanistan. It actually has to do with the ways of thought available to us the ways of thought we've been taught to use in making sense of power and America is the great power. And it's one of the reasons why it's now the most Judeo society. Our guest in this part of focus 580 David Nurnberg He's professor of history and director of Jewish
Studies at Johns Hopkins University is one of the world's leading medieval and Jewish historians he's here visiting the campus to talk about some of these ideas and questions comments are welcome 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 toll free 800 to 2 2 9 4 5. I guess it's still is it still doesn't quite the question that continues today guess why Jews. Once you sort of understand the function of the sort of the symbolic function the the idea that again it sort of allows you to define yourself by saying that you're not this this other you know we understand about the idea of the other but the other could be could be any other thing. Could you know you can you can fill in the blank imagine something make something up pick pick something some other group of individuals could you know. Why choose. You know that's a very important question because for example the French famously
treat the Belgians as other and are constantly telling Belgian jokes but they would never fantasise that the world is run by the Belgians or that the Belgians are about to take over France. So the question of why the Jews is a very important one here. I hate to. To talk about such a controversial and difficult subject in in the kind of soundbite fashion but I think the responsibility really lies with the historical period of early Christianity. That is to say that the way in which early Christianity defined itself and represented itself against the Jews is what created a powerful language for anti Judaism and particularly the way in which early Christianity defined the Jews as hypocritical materialist enemies of the godly spiritual Christian community. It's that it's that definition of the Jews not only as enemies not only as materialist and blind but also as hypocritical that is appearing to be holy but actually being evil that made them so useful for explaining just about anything
anything that looks holy but can actually be made to look. Took materialist and hypocritical. So I became a very powerful language which was very important for the Christianity in differentiating itself from Judaism and in and in explaining to itself why its Messiah had been killed and why the majority of Israel to whom this Messiah had come had not recognized him as the true God. So that logic at the foundations of Christianity spread through the Mediterranean world and Europe through in the form of Christianity and it became a very powerful way in which Christianity often criticized itself. Christians would look at other Christians who were be believing or behaving in a way they didn't think was appropriate and they'd say that's Jewish for example if a Christian was too interested in money they'd say well he's a materialist he's Jewish or if a Christian want to read the Bible in a certain way say more literally than another Christian that say that Christian is Jewish. That's why for example Martin Luther was accused by the Catholic Church of being Jewish. And
that's why Martin Luther accused the Catholic Church of being materialist and having big institutions and lots of laws and being Jewish. So it became a language which with which Christianity could criticize and make sense of all of the world and especially of its own self its Christian world and project onto any flaws or faults in that world could project them onto the Jews. So if a Christian is acting materialistically it's not a Christian problem it's because he's being Jewish. And I think that's the that's the the logic that made it so powerful and then spread throughout the world. I think we could talk about how it's spread through Islam and how it's now part of a kind of transnational vocabulary. Well I think it's important to maybe or it helps us understand to to think about what was going on at the time that of the early Christian church that it was it was a small group trying to establish itself trying to define itself and say this is who we are as opposed to who other people are. It was
certainly early on there were people who thought that the Second Coming was going to happen in their lifetime. So to them virtually nothing else would have mattered. You know it would be the old way of doing things the old laws worrying about the future. The idea of making money all of that kind of stuff they would have said well this you know Jesus is coming back and it could be tomorrow. So this other stuff this really doesn't matter and anybody who was. It was sort of going going about their daily life on a day to day basis was not with the program. And I could have particularly you know understand how they would be hostile to Jews other people living there because they saw themselves as being all of the same group in the same tradition and that they were you know they were supposed to because their skin they were supposed to be along with the program. And so there you can see that again is this is this way of defining the world into the into the
spiritually pure. The people that are ready preparing theirself themselves for this. This thing could happen any time. And the people who are not. Absolutely that's the crucial thing is to remember that each of these early Christian positions took was evolved in a very specific context. And it wasn't just an early Christian strategy. You know all these Jewish groups like the scenes even the Farriss saw themselves as holier and having the right way of reading as opposed to the other groups that didn't. And they as seems often talked about other Jewish sect says as not Jewish. And so in that sense I think the early Christian groups were were trying to differentiate themselves trying to explain why they had the right understanding of Jewish scripture and the other Jewish groups didn't. Course that evolves over time. In Paul you can really see how Paul is trying to explain how his way of reading makes better sense of the Jewish Scriptures than other ways of reading. By the time you get to the Gospels which scholars believe were written in different periods between 70 and 110 A.D. roughly you start to see a kind of a different needed no need
to demonize the Jews more partly because the Romans have conquered Jerusalem and it's not necessarily helpful to be seen as Jewish also because there's a deeper split between the Jewish community in the Christian community so anti anti Judaism in the Gospels place a slightly different role. So you're absolutely right we have to really understand in its own historical context the development of each of these attitudes. What I think is most problematic though is how after that say the third fourth fifth century when Christianity becomes the official religion of the Roman Empire and most of Europe how these ideas start to evolve free of any real competition with Jews now they are a way of thinking about the world not a way of thinking about our own particular struggle as a small Christian community with a dominant Jewish one. Why do you. Well again I guess her coming back to the big question is why it is that that that that way of thinking about Jews in the Symbolics is new significances your why is it that just dissed didn't fade out at some point. Why is it that it continued and it ended
still with us. I think that in a way the values that in code anti Judaism all the values we hold most dear. Christianity and also Judaism taught us to imagine that the spiritual is higher than the carnal and that our ideal should be expressed in spiritual ways this isn't just Christianity or Judaism either pagan Platonism philosophy has taught us the same things. So those values are our dearest values we don't want a world which is just about matter and just about the world we want a world that has higher values. But Christianity also taught us that we should think about that world in terms of the love o the carnal being Jewish the high the pure the ideal being spiritual and Christian. And so in a way this logic which carried forward past Christianity into modern philosophy I don't want to bore you with hey go and people like that but very much into our own modern philosophy is still still our ideals. What we don't realize is the extent to which our ideals about making the world a better place
are actually often easily displaced into anti Judaism precisely because they were born from this Christian logic. And that's that's what I think most tragic about this whole thing all all of us who often think about making the world better and what about what really matters in the world are thinking in terms which can easily deflect in 22 days and that's why so many Jews today on the left that is Jews who who share a certain progressive social vision and who are leftists and who have been very actively occupied and globalization anti capitalism movement etc. find themselves abandoned by the left and themselves unable to participate because that left is becoming increasingly anti Semitic and anti Zionist and in a way I think that's that's that's the best example of what I mean when I say that even our most modern ideals are most modern desire to prevent income inequalities and to prevent say the vast Sperry's of wealthy from the Third World in the first easily get
translated into these terms of the Jew is self-interest materialism etc.. And and we have to be anti Jewish anti-Zionists in order to be idealist and either idealists of the left or idealists of the right. We have a couple of callers we have someone who was on a cell phone so I would get that person first. That will be line number two. Hello. Yes and no yes. Do you hear me. Yes. Thank you so much for taking my call. I fortunately I didn't get the name of you or the camera so I apologize if I cannot address him by his name. But in any event I had his comment. Anti-Semitism takes it's probably the foundation time. That is not right now. Maybe at some point in time it could have been true but it is not now. If you go back to doing ancient time that depends again and gave did it to Jews
that kind of refutes that argument. Even at the time. How about let's go back to come back to the 20th and 21st century anti-Semitism. First of all it is very very important that we distinguish between good people of Israel and good government armies right. Government run up is right is nothing by the scientists regime which is very much like South Africa apartheid and they do pursue their genocide to see every day every year. Yes after years of you know killing you know a massacre in goodness citing all the people of Palestine and you know how they kill babies children ages 9 years old because they are trying the stones in a day tanks and when it cools and the brutalities of the Israeli agents even in Aden that they do they do not want to
pursue genocide they are prosecuted and persecuted they are in jail. Israelis cheat because they cannot go ahead and kill it is innocent Palestinian and I would destroy the whole mind you unbeliever. And unfortunately it won't give war has been silence about these crimes. Look what is going on. OK so that is wanting its cool back and to stop talking about these ancient you know what is going on at that time and that still reason and all that look back who can foresee what kind of a policy what kind of a crime is right a government is precious and innocent people go right and go back to see the government on this your own share on right before he became elected. Well I wanted it was recognized as a well pretty normal in Europe. Then he became a prime minister and then you know the whole thing has been stopped. He has
us in mind. Kelly died so many so many wars so many killing so many of innocent people and their history is there people can go and look at it. So the issue of anti-Semites and all that then people should just go back and repeat the crimes of these right the government good that they put as anti-Semite stoppie theses you know off their work needs to come to peace to a peaceful situation and what is going go on why the American government policy you know has been labeled as you know as a partner in crime. It is right because the person being there or this abuse right the government you know did lobbies in Washington. He's a very well let's get. I appreciate the comments of the caller and I'm not let's get so much response here from the guest and talk about sorting out dis entangling what one might feel about the government the government of
Israel the current government of Israel and its policies. How does that how do we not that from anti-Semitism. Well I in fact am I think the caller is very hopeful because she's actually I think performing for us. The problem the problem of how we disentangle the effects ideologies have on how we perceive the world and how the world actually is. For example you know today my own. Cards on the table and by the way my name is David. I I I agree with the caller that the Sharon government is or is not pursuing constructive policies and I would prefer very different policies and I think many people would. The question then is why do we see. Why do we describe these policies in the terms we do and why do we give them the importance in the world that we do. For example the caller frequently used the word genocide. Now last I checked
and I'm not a modernist I don't keep up on the statistics every day but last I checked the death toll among Palestinians is about 3000 a little higher than 3000 so far in the second intifada and among Israelis about 900. So let's call that a ratio of four to one. That's the ratio that you can see in a war but not in a genocide. I don't understand why we would call these kinds of conflicts genocidal. The caller's comment for example of that jail percentage is that a large percentage of the Palestinian community are jailed by their radius and I leaving aside my own feelings about how Israel is pursuing its own security. And I think it saying many things that I would not favor. It's jail percentages are the jail the percentage of Palestinians in jail don't seem to me appreciably different from the percentage of black Americans in jail in Baltimore the town I live in. In fact they're lower So why are we not sitting here talking about the genocidal policies of the United States. Or why are we not talking about the genocidal policies of the Russians in Chechnya where many more than
3000 Muslims have been killed by occupation forces. When we heard about Sharon as a war criminal many world leaders are indicted as were criminals on. That's a political grounds Bush is often referred to in Europe as a war criminal and we in America tend to recognize the political nature of the accusation that Bush is a war criminal. But we don't tend to recognize the political nature of the accusation that Sharon is a war criminal. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that the reason we call Is that what Israel is doing genocide and the reason we attribute to it the world importance that we do is because ideologies predisposes to attribute this kind of importance to actions by a Jewish state that we would not see in actions by other states or. Or even our own IT HAS they might think the collar is a great example of how ideological. Preconditioning of how we think about what the promise of the world are in terms of Judaism makes us find in the world the problems we want to find focus on
them and project on to them all the problems of the world. Well that I don't I don't mean to be in any way to put words into your mouth but I could imagine some people hearing you as as marvelously articulate as you were in responding to the caller and and hear you saying that. Buried in imbedded in. The criticism that many people will make of the government of Israel and its policy in regard to the Palestinian that that anti-Semitism is is in there. And then I. I see the problem. Absolutely. I see what you're saying. I think we need to maintain a constant and relentless criticism of any polity that we think is in the wrong. Beginning with the most powerful polity in the world which is our own I think it's our democratic duty to be relentlessly critical of the way we act in the world. And I actually think that the way in which the US acts in the world not specifically because of Israel but saviors of the oil economies etc. has a lot more to do with the power
of the new anti-Semitism than almost anything else. But I think it's our duty to be done with the critical of all parties and including the Israeli. But I think we also have to be very very aware of what we're fixing when we haven't missed the critical of those policies. When we were that message critical of Israel we are trying to make Israel a better place better for Palestinians better for Jews. We're not going to if we think we're making the world as a whole. Better place then we're thinking disproportionately about the importance of Israel. It's the disproportionate ness that is fueled by anti-semitism not the criticism. So I would say what we have to remember when we criticize Israel is that we're criticizing a nation of 5 million people of actually very small importance even in the Middle East. And that we don't fix Saudi Arabia by criticizing Israel. We don't fix the world economy by criticizing Israel. We don't solve the world problem of racism at the do it ban conference that it was doing by criticizing Israel. We have to realize we have to be honest about what we saw when we when we criticize Israel. We are only trying to
help Israel be a better polity or if we're honest and we feel differently we're trying to end Israel as a polity. But we're not going to solve the problems the broader problems of the world by doing so. That's what I think we have to keep in mind. And when we get confused about that that's when we become anti-Semite. We have about 15 minutes left in this part of focus 580 and I should introduce Again our guest because maybe people have been listening for a while and we're talking with David Nye Ramberg. He is professor of history and director of Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He's one of the world's leading medieval and Jewish historians and he's here visiting the campus and questions or comments are certainly welcome as we continue to talk. 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 toll free 800 to 2 2 9 4 5. Next caller up is in Champaign County on line 1. Hello. Hi. I find your presentation a good example of something you know. You say Sharon's policies are not constructive and you
criticize her for calling them genocidal I think most people would agree that they're somewhere in between. So I just you know I I think I think you should you might be able to be precise persuadable on that point that calling it non constructive is is not right what you just said about Israel criticizing Israel is just trying to help Israel Israel when you're criticizing Israel really you're criticizing U.S. policy because our allies. Israelis even and I've talked to don't like being a military outpost for an American empire and that's what a lot of people I think need to get to to criticize. And I think that's why we're entitled to criticize Israeli policy not just a prima fascia for its own on on its own sake. So there's a lot more at stake. You said you you you weren't implying that anti-Semitism was a was at the root of criticism of Israel but you didn't introduce the
whole result from Europe implying that it was you know evidence of that you know and I think that of course there's probably a fraction of that of the respondents in that poll that reflects the you know anti-Semitic you know rigid residual anti-Semitic fanatics and Nazis and. In Europe but I think most of them are not motivated by Amut anti-Semitism they're just astonished by the kind of impunity that Israel has in in in the world and particularly in the West Bank. And that's that's that's not to be dismissed. At all I was actually motivated to call about more economic issues and not going into the religious parts but the old quote that anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools is I think an important thing to come back to at some point. And though by ethnicity ethnic group Jews Jewish people and
that's hard to define since there's so much intermarriage etc. and so many different fractions but Jewish people are a bi ethnic group. The. The richest in this country and it may be true of the world too but that doesn't mean that they are the ruling class. They mean that and they're probably you know a slightly higher fraction of the elite in this country than then than they are of this country. 5 or 6 percent. But so I was really motivated to call about the economics thing and you're talking about your liberal policy on you know I'm feeling uncomfortable and working inside of anti-globalization movement etc.. I think you should. You need to get over it. Basically I'm I don't want to dismiss you the same way you dismiss the woman that just called prior but I. Well again I mean quite true. Let's let's get let's get a response.
Well I didn't think I was dismissing the previous caller. On the contrary I thought that I was trying to separate both What's very helpful about her point and what is hyperbolic about her point and I think that's always a problem with discussions of Israel and I guess I'd try approach. You're you're very again very helpful intervention the same way. You say criticism of Israel is criticism of the U.S. And I say that to the extent that that's true. We should be criticizing the US. I think we need to criticize Israel for it. The fact of its policies and there are a fact in in as you say the West Bank in the occupied territories. Which are after all the only part of the world that has ever experienced what you could legitimately call Jewish tyranny. But I don't think we can criticize the US as a vehicle for criticize criticize Israel as a vehicle for criticizing the US I think for that we need to criticize the much vaster much more powerful policies of the US. And you know I'll give you an example of that
slippage in your own question you said. People feel this 59 percent feel the way they do because of the impunity of Israel in the world. And then you corrected that and said in the West Bank you know I would adding it more specifically Israel has been helpmate to U.S. policy in Argentina and Central America Guatemala Israeli agents you know with appropriate cutouts were used to supply Gallio rifles to Rios Montt and. I say I'm employed Zionist percentage wise I'm more anti Christian Scientists there's a higher percentage of Christians in this country who I'm anti than I am anti jewish zionist right. Well I think the real issue is the slippage precisely between Israel and the West Bank and Israel in the world I think to the extent that you want to focus on allies and proxies of the US. There are many allies and proxies of the US. I know many people supplying rifles to many different civil wars in many different parties and many different US proxies. The Israel is only
one of them and the interesting in fact is a relatively minor one in most of the world except in the West Bank and the occupied territories point. And then finally I'd say there your point about anti says it Semitism is the socialism of fools I guess but I'd say it's also the anti-Americanism of fools or the anti-colonialism of fools. And there are more intelligent ways to be anti-American and anti-colonial more direct ways and I think probably more effective ways because one of the things that I think we will find is that we can actually affect change in how the US treat Israel we should fight to affect that change if we believe that that's for the good. And clearly you do. But I think what we'll find is that it won't affect American policies elsewhere that is to say to the extent that you think America is fostering a globalism globalization or a colonialism or a neo colonialism it's dangerous. Affecting its relationship with Israel is not going to change those broader policies which have much more impact in the world and Israel's policies. So I guess I'm just calling for a sense of proportion. You know what
our pressures and our indignation about Israel can achieve and I think I'm also calling for us to address those of us who feel or those of you who feel a certain way about the evils of the world to look more realistically at where those problems come from and more direct ways to address them I have to I hope the caller forgive me I just have to jump in because we just as I say Now we're less than 10 minutes we have some other callers I want to try to give them a chance to get into the conversation will go next to Belgium by Danville why number four. Well you know I've been. Many times co-own anti-Semitic because I point out that a great deal of the problem in the West Bank is that they're American Jews who tried to immigrate to Israel and take up these positions right smack in the middle of trouble and I say this is our problem. A procedure in place because you don't want these people back home. No I'm not I'm just pointing out the exact problem and it's
so sad that these. There are these names many of us are not trying to do that we're just trying to point out the problems and I don't know if this ties in exactly with the first gentleman or the first lady to talk but I don't see why I should be pointed out as being somebody who's really disfigured with this name of anti-Semitic when all I'm saying is the problem is the policies of Israel and a lot of those policies that Israel probably practices a previous courses to the United States and that these people go right in the middle of a problem and aspirated we're going to go on with that. Certainly yeah. No I think first I don't think you should be called I guess have been trying to make this clear to you at every call I don't think that you should be called anti-Semitic for criticizing what's going on in Israel and in the occupied territories. By no means. And I think that there are many many Jews in Israel and non-Jews in Israel and many Jews outside of Israel who would agree with you that the settlements
are a great provocation and a barrier to peace. I think where people would perhaps feel more uncomfortable would be in the unilateral assignment of causality or blame as they say when you say it's the settlers who are the cause of the entire problem in the Middle East. Then you're probably that's the oversimplifying the problem. And when you say and when you oversimplify the problem in that way then the question becomes well why do we tend to see problems in certain simplified ways and not others. So I guess what I'm trying to say is there is nothing anti-semitic about criticizing Israel. There's nothing anti-semitic about criticizing the PLO and there are many people who many Palestinians who feel that the PLO has not been the most constructive in pursuing their interests or negotiating peace either. There's nothing anti-semitic in either those positions. But where the anti-Semitism comes in is when we tend when we unknowingly tend to project our sense of responsibility and blame in only
one place we do so because of our ideological structures preconditioning our preconceptions. But we're not aware of those preconceptions and how they structure our thought and that's the danger. And that's why I would disagree with the first caller. Above all in this history does matter. That is to say understanding how a long history of thinking and talking about the world and making sense of the world shapes the tools available to us with which to understand that world will help us understand why we see the world today the way we do and will help us to see where some of those perceptions are not necessarily helpful and where we might adjust them so that we can effect better change in the world. We have other callers again to try to get at least one more of this next person is in champagne. You know one in three. Hello. With all due respect I agree with some of these car cars it's a state that you're in. Yes speaking condescendingly towards a decision like they're taking and specifically you so much in the left instead of the left was
anti-Semitic anti-Zionist anti-Semitic you made that sort of a blur and I think the left can better characterize at least part of it. It's objectively seen United States policy is being disrespected Israel being out of whack and that we're supporting the current policies of Israel towards Palestinians there. And it also that if you analyze the general situation our support for it Israelis on the West Bank or what's happening in the West Bank is using our planes are like I just you know I talk plain and in the Middle East. It's a major factor in our going to settle things in Iraq and live with the Islamic people. And I think any other arguments that are developed I understand is of projection going on all anti-Semitism does exist. But would you agree perhaps that you can take a position that is the anti-Zionists you saw signs of the extreme
tactics employed by the Israelis upon occasion. Do you agree that you can be objective and. I'm not whining that you think that because being on a board. Well no no not at all. First it is you raise a lot of interesting points as have all the previous callers. And I'm not trying to be kind of sending I'm trying to engage them on the on the level of depth and complexity they deserve. And one of the one of the points you raise is this question is a left anti-Semitic and I certainly don't mean to imply that the left is anti-semitic the left is many things there is no left it is no monolithic after many many left with many different interests. But what I was trying to suggest and I think you can see this in many of the slogans and anti-globalization rallies and many of the websites today is that the left has started to adopt explicitly anti-Semitic symbols like the Star of David deforming into a swastika or the like Chance Yankees Nazis and Zionists no more chosen Peeples or not. Sorry Nazi Yankees and Jews no more chosen peoples that are. They do draw on what we call
popular anti-Semitism. So but those are just small strands I'm not suggesting to the lefties as a whole anti-Semitic and absolutely I agree with you that one can say that for example one can be anti Zionist in the sense of saying I believe that certain hard nationalism methods present itself in the settlements is a is dangerous and has profound repercussions for the world and not be anti-Semitic. Absolutely I agree with you so. So in that sense I'm not trying to suggest in any way that criticism of the conditions of the world but particular conditions in Israel and the occupied territories is anti-Semitic necessarily And second or third. Your point about the consequences in Iraq and Afghanistan and I do agree there too that our policies in Israel do have consequences to our policies in the rest of the world. But I also want to be a little. Clear about the limitations I see to that and that is that I think we can address many
many of these issues in Israel. We can bring and we ought to bring pressure to bear on the Israeli state especially given the amount of aid we give them. But I don't think we should fantasize that that will miraculously fix our relationship to the Islamic world because the differences that exacerbate the tensions between us and the Islamic world are much deeper than that and they have to do with profound structural inequalities with oil economies with the kinds of regimes we support throughout the Arab world regimes which after all stay in place largely by projecting hatred against them toward Israel. So I would say that we should again and I'm I guess I'm repeating something I've already said. We do need to be critical of a certain Zionism that we think is dangerous if we think it is those of us and I'm not giving up on the left those of us who have certain attitudes and certain beliefs should continue to fight for them. But we should not fantasize that they are going to achieve more than they actually can. And when we start to fantasize that that's when we
Anti-semitism from Ancient Egypt to the Present
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With David Nirenberg (Professor of Humanities, The Johns Hopkins University)
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Talk Show
Race/Ethnicity; Religion; race-ethnicity
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Guest: Nirenberg, David
Host: Inge, David
Producer: Brighton, Jack
Producer: Travis,
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Duration: 48:25
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Chicago: “Focus; Anti-semitism from Ancient Egypt to the Present,” 2003-11-14, WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 9, 2022,
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