A few days ago, Rabbi Arthur Schneier -the Vienna-born Holocaust survivor, who has been leaving and operating for many years in New York -gave the keynote address to the Austrian Parliament on the 80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht, the terrible “Night of Broken Glass” when the shards of broken glass littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues were smashed.
It is also referred to as Reichs pogrom and November pogrome, two terms that always use the word “pogrom” (meaning “devastation” or “riot” in Russian) to indicate the attack of small well-manipulated groups against Jews and their property.
Many pogroms were carried out in Russia, a country of ancient and profound anti-Semitism.
What are its roots? The traditional anti-Semitism of the Orthodox Church, as well as the easy manipulation of the apparata, and the obsession with identity, spurred on by the Tsarist regime.
The Nazis, in particular, imitated this terrible political practice, as early as the Kristallnacht of November 1938, to actually start the Jews’ physical elimination until the “Final Solution”, which began in 1940-1941.
During that night over 1,400 synagogues were destroyed and 1,500 people were killed in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia.
At that time, as many as 30,000 Jews were deported to the concentration camps of Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen.
Before the Kristallnacht, in 1933 there had been a call – or, indeed, an obligation -for a boycott of Jewish shops, businesses and professionals and later, in 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were promulgated.
Rabbi Schneier thought that, after the Holocaust, there would be no resurgence of anti-Semitism – a virus that has characterized modern history from late antiquity until today.
As a Kantian rationalist, Rabbi Schneier thought that – after the evidence of facts – there would be no persecution against Jews in the bright enlightened future of the twentieth century.
Instead monsters remain alive, after visible history putting them temporarily to rest.
But, as Rabbi Schneier said, now – in 2018 – the cancer of anti-Semitism is back and has metastasized in Europe and in the United States.
Ii should be recalled that anti-Semitism has always been present in North America.
Suffice it to recall Leo Frank’s affair of 1915. That American Jewish citizen was at first sentenced to death, but later his sentence was commuted from capital punishment to life imprisonment. Two years later, in response to the commutation of his sentence, he was taken from prison by a band of vigilantes, lynched by an angry mob and hanged from a tree. Today the consensus of researchers on the subject holds that Frank was wrongly convicted.
In 1958, even after the Shoah and the Nazi atrocities against the Jews becoming publicly known, the oldest synagogue in Atlanta was blown up and damaged extensively by a dynamite-fuelled explosion.
Myths and preconceived ideas, especially those based on hatred, do not need confirmation or denial. They exist and that is just the way it is.
Two years later, there was also the shooting attack by a “white supremacist” against a synagogue in St. Louis, with the killing of some Jews leaving that place of worship.
Alan Berg, an anti-racist intellectual, was killed in 1984, because in some of his radio talk shows he had defended black people and Jews.
There is no rational argument that can defeat anti-Semitism, racism, ethnic or even personal hatred.
Over seven major cases of violent anti-Semitism were reported in in the USA between 1990 and 2010, but there were countless actions on a smaller scale.
Anti-Semitism is still alive and is even increasing in terms of quantity and virulence. Just think of the attack against the Pittsburgh synagogue last October.
As Rabbi Schneier maintains, certainly the periods of social, cultural and economic turbulence are always fatal for the Jews – as the whole Western history demonstrates. Hence, unfortunately, with the crisis of Europe and the different, but concurrent crisis of the USA, the increase in anti-Semitism is predictable.
Shortly after the end of the Holocaust, Hanna Arendt rejected the theory of anti-Semitism as the development of the Jewish “scapegoat” theory and she often elaborated on the Rathenau case. Rathenau was the great Jewish industrialist and diplomat, who was Foreign Minister in Germany’s Weimar Republic and was murdered by right-wing extremists.
Elias Canetti reminded us that the idea for his extraordinary “Crowds and Power” sprang to his mind while seeing the many Social-Democratic workers following Rathenau’s coffin during the mourning service.
What is the essence of Arendt’s thesis on the Foreign Minister of Germany’s Weimar Republic?
The essence is that – by traditional position and role – the Jews were the “avant-garde of modernity” – hence all those who hate the values of Modernity are, ipso facto, anti-Semitic.
It is partly true, but Arendt forgets to say that anti-Semitism is widespread even in ancient societies (or in archaic societies, such as the Tsarist Russia of pogroms) and that many critics of the eighteenth-century revolutions are far from being anti-Semitic.
As noted by both Leo Strauss and the Marxist philosopher Lukacs, the modern world is also the symbolic and social organization that has been most opposed during its development, which has probably not ended yet.
The West of technology and of the calculating mind is not yet over, but its death depends on its excess of current and probably future anti-Semitism, which is incredible after the Shoah.
That is an excess of memory of its archaic and anti-modern past, even though modernity itself was somehow anti-Semitic.
Here Rabbi Schneieris very clear: the future of Europe is directly linked to the end of anti-Semitism and of today’s particular hatred against the Jews, i.e. that of anti-Zionism.
The future of Europe, but not only of the European Jews or of the complex world of North American Judaism.
We can certainly criticize Israel and its government – as we can disagree with the government of Turkey or Finland – but it is certainly nothing new that the polemic against the Jewish State is linked more to the adjective “Jewish” than to the noun “State”.
In the crowds’ minds, the history of Israel is now linked to the assumption – completely ungrounded – that it took away from the Palestinians the lands that originally belonged to them.
Zionism was linked – quite rationally – to the reaction of the French people to the Dreyfus trial that divided French society between those who supported Dreyfus, the so-called “Dreyfusards”, and those who condemned him, namely the “anti-Dreyfusards”. That year also marked the beginning of the unfortunate caste of intellectuals, that is fortunately irrelevant today.
In Theodor Herzl’s mind, the end of the rational and civil relationship between Europe and the Jewish world was evident.
Everything could collapse in an instant for European Judaism. The combined forces of the reaction to 1789 and of the worst 1789 had come together.
Living without history and in the here and now – like the animals described by Nietzsche in his second essay of the Untimely Meditations- is currently the form and the way in which the West thinks of itself. The history of our civilization seems to have finished and, hence, it is no longer necessary to know history, which is the basis of endless manipulations that today still float in the crowds’ minds. This is the worst forgetfulness and neglect of ourselves.
Furthermore, Rabbi Schneier focuses his attention on a fact that few people – who are not tunnel-visioned and narrow-minded as a result of apolitically correct approach or mere interest in the number of votes gained in elections – currently consider: immigration, especially from the Middle East or Africa, where there is a strong presence of Islam, will certainly increase the insecurity of European Jews and, in many respects, of all EU citizens.
In the European and American liberal culture, integration implies acceptance of the other and the kind request that the other adapts to our laws, regulations, customs, habits and practices.
However, there are not only explicit and written rules, at least for us who are the heirs of Roman law.
Hence the other needs to accept the substratum of our civilization, which is not only the trite, idle, frivolous and enlightened “tolerance” – the mechanism in which, as Adorno and Horkheimer maintained, everything is false.
Something more profound is here needed, which can never be written and regulated.
Politics is a metaphysics where the unspeakable is what matters and shapes all the rest.
Obviously this also applies to the citizens of the host countries, who must understand the alterity of the other, in the profound meaning of this concept, and hence respect him / her in his / her becoming other – just to use philosophical jargon.
Hence, although a share of immigrants is – to some extents – inevitable and, however, this has already materialized, we should recall that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are not the enemies of Jews alone, but of our civilization as a whole.
This held true also for Nazism: it was in fact a political theory – but we should rather say a mere practice – linked to caste ideas typical of Asia where, indeed, the Third Reich also found military, economic and ideological support.
From Tibet to Indian Hinduism, from the Islamic sects of Central Asia to the peripheral Russian cultures of anti-Semitism, such as the Cossacks, while developing the aforementioned myths, Nazism aimed at the annihilation of Europe and hence at its “Asianization”.
Hence Nazi anti-Semitism as a struggle against Europe and its millennia-old civilizations, not less ancient than Asia’s.
Also the economy should be considered: as demonstrated by the most recent historians studying the Third Reich, the Nazi leaders thought to solve their economic and financial crisis with the “Jewish gold”.
Still today, whoever fights against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is like one of the 300 Spartans holding the line in Thermopylae, who rescued the unique Greek knowledge and wisdom from a great Asian Empire that would have equated the maritime civilization of the Mediterranean to the steppes of the Persian Empire, without any culture other than the exaltation of the God-Emperor – or the sad repetition of the “ancients”.
An imperial wisdom that was also typical of the Roman Empire, but with the plurality of gods that already foreshadowed the Weberian “polytheism of values”.
Certainly, as Rabbi Schneier maintained, European leaders are very careful about the resurgence of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, but the issue does not lie in leaders, but rather in crowds, who seem to be ever more seduced by hatred, which is more complex than love but – like the devil -is a very powerful seducer.
But what is really anti-Semitism today?
A mass phenomenon, of course. And this is worrying because preconceived ideas are harder to eradicate than rational beliefs.
In the United States currently the Jews account for 5.5%.
Needless to say, it is not a race, but a set of different ethnic groups, united by the same creed.
Furthermore, between 11% and 20% of North American Jews are “coloured people” – hence not only blacks.
The Jews, however, live in 70% of current nations, ranging from the Jewish communities of Kaifeng in China to the Indian Jews of various Middle East origins, up to the Jewish majority areas in various parts of Latin America.
Nor should we accept the anti-Semitic myth whereby Jews are the “rich” who dominate the world.
According to the most reliable statistics, currently over 50% of the richest people in the world are of Christian faith, while there is a higher number of rich Hindus and Muslims than Jews.
The 2015 data shows that out of the 13.1 million people defined as “rich” globally, 56.2% are Christians, 6.5% Muslims, 3.9% Hindus and 1.7% Jews.
Certainly pathological thinking – a real mental illness, which currently defines anti-Semitism as a “conspiracy theory” – could maintain that this data is “rigged”.
This is not true. Indeed, it is real data taken from the tax returns of the countries recording significant GDP rates in the world.
In the United States, however, Jews are the ethnic-religious group that earns higher wages than any other similar group.
And there are still many poor people – poor like the Jews who arrived in New York two or three generations ago.
Currently 45% of New York’s Jewish children live just below the poverty line, while in the United States the poor Jews account for 26.4% as against an absolute average of 30.8%.
Between 1991 and 2011 the number of poor Jews in the United States increased by 22%.
Hence, as we already knew, the myth of the rich Jews who secretly organize economic crises or the spoliation and dispossession of the goyim peoples is completely unfounded.
But where did anti-Semitism historically originate? Probably in Europe and, above all, in the area of popular Christianity.
There is no difference here between Protestant and Catholic anti-Jewish hatred.
In his treatise On the Jews and Their Lies Luther used terminology and arguments that seemed to be copied from one of Goebbels’ leaflets.
Probably everything began formally with the Spanish laws on limpieza de sangre(blood purity) in the seventieth century and beyond, also after the great pogrom of the Reconquista, which occurred at the same time as the discovery of America.
At that time the Jews escaped – along with the Muslims – from the “purified” Spain of Isabella of Castile heading to the East, especially to the Ottoman Empire.
The sultan of the time wrote an ironic letter to the Spanish Catholic Kings: “I thank you for bringing me here all these doctors, merchants, scholars and mathematicians, whom I needed”.
Furthermore, in addition to the specific Catholic anti-Semitism – from which the Pope, St. Paul VI, but above all another Pope, St. John Paul II, definitively freed us – there was a secularist anti-Semitism linked to the scientist, positivist and rationalist ideologies developed as from the French Revolution of 1789.
A revolution which soon led to a resurgence of irrationalist and antiscientific attitudes: just think of Gracchus Babeuf’s Arcadian refusal of technology and factory work and his “Conspiracy of the Equals” or o fRobespierrism, when Lavoisier, the founder of modern chemistry, was guillotined by the revolutionaries under the slogan: “The Republic has no need of scientists or chemists; the course of justice cannot be delayed!”
Here other myths – apparently more “rational” – are already at work.
Darwinian racism, eugenics, the American anti-Communism – where Communism is basically the practice of fraternal help – as well as phrenology or physical anthropology.
This was the “scientific” basis of Hitler’s anti-Semitism and, from the beginning, the “Führer” was a loyal subscriber to the publications of New York’s “Observatory on Race and Eugenics”, which also set the yearly quotas of immigrants accepted by the US government.
Certainly confining the Jews to ghettos is also an excellent practice to eliminate dangerous competitors in trade, business or professions.
This is just what happened in Italy after the racial laws of 1938.
When the West thrived, Jews’ freedom was revived. Just think of the Florentine Republic of the Medici, as well as the Renaissance, the Italian Risorgimento, in which many Jews participated, and finally the German unification.
It should also be noted that, before the Western colonization, the Jews of the Middle East lived without particular restrictions or threats.
However, the number of the sporadic anti-Jewish actions were more or less the same as in Europe.
It is therefore appropriate to say that it was precisely the European anti-Semitism, imported into the French or British colonies, to stimulate the latent and silent anti-Semitism of the local population.
Currently, throughout the Middle East, the avowed anti-Semitism account for 98% on average.
A major cultural and political problem.
In fact, if a powerful Islamic militant group like Hamas, that is currently considered “terrorist” by both the EU and the USA – a group which is also an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood -states in its founding Charter it believes in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, this means that there is a problem of communication between the worst Europe and the most fanatical Middle East, which concerns both us and the Islamists of the Gaza Strip.
The “Protocols” are, in fact, a key example of the new and old anti-Semitism.
From 1880 to 1921, the anti-Semitic pressure in Russia was one of the major mechanisms that favoured the Jewish migration to the United States.
Moreover, the early twentieth century was a phase of extreme weakness for the Russian tsarist system, that the anti-Semitic myth greatly contributed to blocking and stabilizing, until the German operation that favoured the peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk and hence Germany’s initial support for Bolshevik Russia.
On the one hand, the tsarist regime accused the Jews of plotting against the Russian Empire, on the other, the Jews were accused not only of the severe economic crisis, but also of the anti-tsarist propaganda, both the revolutionary and the bourgeois and pro-Western one.
Hence the anti-Semitic and the anti-Zionist propaganda are closely interwoven. They develop the same traditional style features and turn them into new slogans. They create the same mechanism of fallacious identity inside and of exclusion outside for Jews and Zionists, but today they are targeted above all against the policies of the State of Israel that we must defend.