The Mainstreaming of Hatred

9 Jun

Isaac Azerad

We, the Jews of my generation, aspire to philosophical honesty and emotional introspection. As such, when we react viscerally to displays of directed hatred, we tend to analyze our reaction and even question our own lack of intellectual flexibility. Are we over reacting to anti-Semitism in all its forms?
The answer, in my opinion, is a categorical no. The difference between gratuitous hatred and Anti-Semitism, read Anti-Jews, lies in subtle distinctions. Hatred is a tool of offense and prejudice often lacking precise direction or political motive and often emanating from ignorance and unfamiliarity with the recipients of such hatred. The manifestation of Anti-Semitism in all its forms is nothing vague. In its precise targeting, it does not allow for any nuanced interpretation. Often, it is the political motive that drives the hatred.

Having witnessed the country of my birth, Egypt, emptying itself of 80,000 Jews within a span of two decades; only to experience the emergence of a culminating crisis of anti-Semitic rebirth in France and other parts of Europe; I ask to be forgiven, if my sensitivity to anti-semitism, is non-nuanced. Forgive me if allusions to extinction and existential threats leave me with an uncompromising spirit. That my demise as a Jew should be negotiable on our college campuses and genteel society is simply not acceptable. That this fundamental right is put to question simply baffles me. That Zionism as a manifestation of the aspiration of the Jewish people for their one and only homeland, in this world, should be displeasing or questionable to a group or a society is threatening, saddening and disheartening. Anti-Semitism is a societal pathology that decays the heart of human discourse. Its consequences, often miscalculated, have resulted in historical catastrophes. In a zero sum game mentality, there are no winners.

The following is part of an analysis that appeared in Tablet Magazine, on February 25, 2015 as a first in of a five-part series, A Polite Hatred.
Howard Jacobson the literary voice of British Jewry, in his two most recent books, The Finkler Question and J, has captured the fear and self-loathing that now surrounds the issues of Israel and anti-semitism in Britain: “Israel has become the pretext (for anti-Semitism] not because I choose it to be, but because they have,” “All the unsayable things, all the things they know they can’t say about Jews in a post-Holocaust liberal society, they can say again now. Israel has desacralized the subject. It’s a space in which everything is allowed again.”
The difficulty all British Jews face with growing anti-Zionism is how to interpret it. What is legitimate criticism and what is something else? Sometimes it is clear when the line has been crossed, such as when swastikas and the Magen David start appearing on placards together. But other times it is far less clear, woven into a complex mix of genuine and excessive outrage. Jacobson’s strength on this issue is his ability to sort the anti-Semitic wheat from the anti-Israel chaff. (1)
As Americans we cherish our freedom of speech and we treasure the opportunity to elevate debate to a lofty level. We have seen, with great distaste, the deterioration of many societies falling into the trap of hatred and intimidation as we are urged, at times, to silently gloss over an uncomfortable subject. We owe it to ourselves to entertain thought provoking dialogues.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks commenting on the sometimes tense dialogue between differing opinions among Jews said:
“You don’t have to agree with me. But as a fellow Jew, you have to love me.”

1. The Jewish Jane Austen, or England’s Jeremiah? In the first of a five-part series on growing anti-Semitism in the U.K., Howard Jacobson, the literary voice of British Jewry, By Ben Judah and Josh Glancy, February 25, 2015.

Isaac Azerad is the Communications Director for the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee.


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