Wednesday, December 10, 2008


A YNet article provides a good example for explaining Richard Silverstein's dilemma, in which he finds himself challenged by the task of recognizing antisemites, even when they murder Jews.
Mashaei, currently in Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage, met with Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir and told him, "The corrupt and criminal Zionist regime is harming not only the Arab and Islamic world, but humanity in its entirety."

He added that "in order to save humanity from its different crises, there is no other way other than the limiting of Zionist influence on human society, because the root and origin of most of the world's current crises are related to Zionism."

Mashaei, currently cultural heritage and tourism organization chief of Iran, caused a commotion recently when he said during a tourism convention that "no nation in the world is our enemy. Iran is currently a friend of the people of the US and Israel."
Some people, including Rahim Mashaei, I'm sure, will read a passage like this and argue that there's no antisemitism. A friend even of the people of Israel! But anyone who says any such thing is ignorant of the tropes and history of antisemitism. This year-old article by Jeffrey Goldberg (via; though I have to say I'm perplexed that the current bug up his ass is protecting Christians from the War Against Christmas) addresses the same sort of ignorance from Mearsheimer and Walt:
A Judeocentric view of history is one that regards the Jews as the center of the story, and therefore the key to it. Judeocentrism is a singlecause theory of history, and as such it is, almost by definition, a conspiracy theory. Moreover, Judeocentrism comes in positive forms and negative forms. The positive form of Judeocentrism is philo-Semitism, the negative form is antiSemitism. (There are philo-Semites who regard the Jews as the inventors of modernity, and there are anti-Semites who do the same; but the idea that Spinoza, Freud, and Einstein are responsible for us is as foolish as the idea that their ideas are judische Wissenschaft.) In both its positive and negative forms, Judeocentrism is always a mistake. Human events are not so neatly explained.

In the inflamed universe of negative Judeocentrism, there is a sliding scale of obsession. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, seems at times to view the world entirely through the prism of a Jewish conspiracy, and he regularly breaks new ground in the field of state-supported Holocaust denial. In Cairo, the activities of Jews, Israeli and otherwise, are a continual source of worry. Many of the monarchs in the Gulf countries, by contrast, will sometimes exploit anti-Jewish feeling for political reasons, but they do not seem to be personally obsessed by Jews. They are too worldly for that. In Europe, too, one finds great variations in the expression of Judeocentrism. There are still traces of Holocaust-induced philo-Semitism in places like Germany; but there are also figures such as Clare Short, the former British cabinet minister, who recently blamed Israel for global warming.
Yes, if you blame Israel or Zionism for global warming, that's definitely antisemitism! Regardless of subtle distinctions or carefully chosen terms (I'm reminded of why Chris Rock stopped doing that bit when he heard white people citing it) this is exactly a judeocentric explanation. Understanding this, we can see quite clearly that Mashaei holds precisely to an absolutely typical antisemitic world-view, despite his imagining that he can distinguish between Jews and Zionists. Such a distinction is no better than Wilhelm Marr's imagining that he could distinguish between Jews and 'Semites,' when he proudly declared himself one of the very first antisemites. For anyone not familiar with the history that preceded the Holocaust, Judenhass (German for "Jew-hatred") was widely discredited, but a superficial choice of words rehabilitated it.

But the biggest problem with Silverstein isn't that he's wrong. It's that he imagines his role here to be explaining antisemitism to Jews - as if we haven't the ability to understand it.

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