Looking for Hate in all the Wrong Places

By Aaron Zelman, Executive Director
Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.



Have you experienced anti-Semitism at the hands of government? Click here.

Each year, the Stephen Roth Institute at Tel Aviv University issues a comprehensive report, "Antisemitism Worldwide." This is the definitive account of anti-Semitic attitudes, groups, and leaders around the globe.

Perusing the chapters on the United States, I was struck by a troubling thought: These "experts" are looking for Jew hatred in all the wrong places.

The most recent report (2003-4) looks at the activities of genuine racists like David Duke, Richard Butler (who died in 2004) and Louis Farrakhan. It details which neo-Nazi groups are rising in influence and which are falling. (Nearly all have been falling, thanks to the death or imprisonment of leaders and the perpetual disarray of would-be leaders, who tend to hate each other as much as they hate Jews.)

The report also chooses some odd targets. It mentions the militia movement, for instance, even though it acknowledges that most of the now failed and faded militia groups weren’t anti-Semitic. And it considers the entire "tax protest" movement to be anti-Semitic, which simply runs counter to all available evidence. The tax protest movement has no inherent racial or religious bias.

Including non-bigots in a report on bigotry, however, is the least of the problems. Far worse: the "experts" are failing to include the one institution that is, historically, the greatest danger to the Jews: government.

While focusing on the gnat of tiny, marginal racist groups and innocent non-racists, the scholars in Tel Aviv are entirely missing the velociraptor of the state.

Fatal shortsightedness

A quote that appears in both the 2001-2 and 2002-3 reports makes it clear just how very blind and biased the hate-hunters are: "Militia groups in the United States have decreased in number in the past few years, but still pose a criminal threat, as they encourage turning anti-government sentiment into action."

The italics are ours. This statement, in the context of a report on anti-Semitism, makes it clear that the writers consider any action that opposes government to be a threat against Jews. (This is also the likely reason the report includes anti-taxers to be threatening; refusal to pay taxes is an extremely direct and fundamental anti-government action.)

In modern America, under both Democrat and Republican administrations, most Jews have embraced the power of government. In alliance with Democrats, Jews have lobbied for, and risen to political power within, the welfare state. In alliance with Republicans, masses of Jews have continued to urge the growth of the welfare state while a handful of Jews have been among the most prominent architects of the neoconservative warfare state, along with WASPs like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Adopting government as a protector and partner is a mistake Jews have made before. As we shall see shortly, it’s a strategy that has backfired on us throughout history.

Jews are often friends of government. But in the long run, governments are never friends to the Jews.

Before we examine the history, though, let’s look at a few of the contemporary American actions that haven’t been included in the annual reports from the Stephen Roth Institute.

In November 2002, Jewish Defense League leader Irv Rubin died violently while in federal custody. His death was immediately dismissed as a suicide. But since his throat was slit just before he plunged off a balcony onto his head, many people doubt the official verdict. The U.S. chapter of "Antisemitism Worldwide" for 2002 never mentions this. It never mentions that the U.S. government was responsible for Rubin’s welfare, or that the government failed to thoroughly investigate the violent death of a prominent and controversial Jewish man in its custody.

I hope the 2004-5 "Antisemitism Worldwide" report will mention the equally chilling fate of JDL coordinator Earl Krugel. Almost three years to the day after Rubin’s death, Rubin’s colleague and alleged co-conspirator Krugel was slammed over the head with a concrete block while in the exercise yard of a federal prison and died. Krugel was just three days into a 20-year sentence for conspiring with Rubin to blow up congressman’s office and a mosque full of worshippers.

(I have no sympathy for Rubin or Krugel’s terrorism plans and am glad such plans were never carried out. But anyone who cares about justice ought to ask why prison officials left a concrete block in a prison exercise yard. And why the government leaves controversial Jewish prisoners to the mercy of white supremacist and black Muslim inmates. And why mainstream Jewish groups are so consistently silent about or contemptful of any Jews, like those in the JDL, who believe in armed self-defense.)

The report from Tel Aviv also doesn’t mention the scandal that erupted at the United States Air Force Academy in 2003, when high-level officers and administrators created a climate in which Jewish cadets were called "filthy Jews" and informed that the Holocaust was payback for "killing Christ." The report made no protest when Christian cadets at the Academy were allowed time off to attend religious activities while Jewish students were forbidden similar observances.

Nor do the reports mention Alan Cotton, a Jewish prisoner who had to fight three years of legal battles with Florida government officials before being allowed Kosher food.

All across the country, prison officials have similarly attempted to deny many other Jews Kosher meals or basic religious practices. Although the prisoners often prevail in court, the government officials holding them show no basic respect for their rights or their religion.

But the "experts" on anti-Semitism are silent on these examples of Jew-hatred or contempt for Judaism.

And what of Jonathan Pollard, the U.S. Naval Intelligence officer sentenced to life in prison in 1987 (with a recommendation for no parole)? The charge against this young Jewish man involved passing "non-injurious classified information to an ally" -- Israel. Pollard claims only to have passed information vital to Israel’s security -- information that the U.S. was supposed to share with Israel under 1983 security memorandum and was illegally withholding.

The median sentence for such a crime is two to four years. No other person has ever received a life sentence for spying for an ally in peacetime. But then-Defense secretary Caspar Weinberger presented secret evidence to the court that none of Pollard’s subsequent attorneys have even been allowed to look at. And Pollard, who had been promised a light sentence in return for his guilty plea, still rots in jail nearly 20 years later.

The "experts" don’t list the continuing punishment of Pollard as an act of Jew-hatred. Yet it’s far harsher than than the insults, sleaze-literature, and vandalism produced by most so-called "hate groups."

Why the blind spot? Why do scholars and experts whose job is to monitor Jew-hatred so blatantly fail to spot it when it’s sponsored or tolerated by government? Why are these experts so doggedly concerned with a few lunatic losers in the neo-Nazi movement and so unconcerned about Jew-hatred or abuse of Jews within the most powerful institution in the entire world – the U.S. government?

Only they can know for certain – if they think about their shortsightedness at all. But I believe the answer lies in something I noted above: Most contemporary Jews in the developed world see government as ally, protector, and useful tool. Therefore in their minds governments – at least democratic western governments – can’t be anti-Semitic, even when the evidence says otherwise.

A journey back in time

Any Jew who considers the government to be a benevolent force should read a book called The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State by Benjamin Ginsberg (University of Chicago Press, 1993). The title explains Ginsberg’s thesis: Jews who ally with government set themselves up for betrayal and destruction.

Through the 2,000 years of the diaspora, Jews have sought places of welcome and peace. Many countries have rejected us outright or grudgingly accepted, but ghettoized, marginalized, and persecuted us. In a few cases, however, countries have opened their arms wide to Jews. Repeatedly, in places like these, Jews have prospered – momentarily. As Ginsberg puts it, "Jews have achieved enormous status, wealth, and power only to be cast down, driven out – or worse."

Even more ominously, once a country turns on its Jewish population, the persecution of Jews actually becomes a means of achieving political power. Persecution becomes not only acceptable, but useful.

Toleration – which we value so highly today – turns out to be ephemeral. When a government needs the abilities of Jews, it accepts (and sometimes even especially favors) us. But once a regime becomes corrupt and unpopular, reformers turn angrily upon it. Often, instead of blaming the government itself for its misdeeds, opponents blame Jews for influencing government. They turn on us savagely. And in turn, so do the former "friends" of Jews. Instead of standing by us, they rush to disassociate themselves with our alleged corruption.

It happened in Spain during the Middle Ages. That country welcomed Jews when few others would. For hundreds of years, Spain and Spanish Jews benefited each other. Then in 1369 (as Ginsberg recounts), Henry II of Trastamara overthrew his half-brother Pedro I, who had been closely identified with Jews.

For the next 100+ years, Spanish Jews were victims of forced conversions, pogroms, and the notorious Spanish Inquisition. Finally, in 1492, they were expelled altogether. Between the conversions and the expulsion, ironically, some now-nominally Christian Jews became even more closely allied with the Castilian state. But this in turn created even more Jew-hatred.

(Interestingly, in light of the modern anti-Semitism "experts" who consider tax protest to be a form of Jew-hatred, part of the popular resistance to powerful Spanish Jews grew from the fact that they were perceived as being responsible for punitively high taxes imposed on the lower classes.)

Hatred of Jews was a direct cause of the Spanish Inquisition. And although the Inquisition had nominally religious roots, the Spanish monarchy used it as a savage tool of state control for the next 200 years – a convenient means to destroy not only Jews but any political enemies or any troublesome individuals whose confiscated wealth could enrich the coffers of church and state.

Ginsberg notes that what happened in Spain helps us understand what happened hundreds of years later in Nazi Germany. The Nazis rose to power in response to the corrupt, ineffective, liberal (and as many German’s perceived it, Jew-dominated) Weimar Republic. But the Nazis didn’t merely hate and eventually exterminate Jews. They made Jew-hatred a state-building exercise – constructing entire bureaucracies to deal with the Jews and vastly expanding the power of government in the name of ridding Germany of "the Jewish menace."

Individual racial hatred may be a terrible thing. But it pales in comparison to institutional hatred. And America is not immune. We should never believe otherwise, no matter how comfortable and prosperous we get.

Only a minority of Ginsberg’s book is dedicated to history. Most of it deals with twentieth-century, post-WWII America and how Jews have gained – and could lose – power within the embrace of the state. Even though the book ends more than a decade ago – long before "neoconservative" became a common code-word for "Jew" among sleazier political commentators – Ginsberg shows that the dangers and divisions are already present within the American political structure.

For instance, he shows how Jews aligned themselves with blacks in the Democrat party, perceiving that both groups had a common interest in civil liberties. But that alliance and its tax-and-spend goals drove southern and rural whites (a traditional Democrat constituency) out of the party. Then, as blacks became more powerful, they began to turn on their Jewish allies. Today, blacks are the only cultural group in American among whom blatant anti-Semitism is socially acceptable.

Although the scholars of "Antisemitism Worldwide" point only to men like Farrakhan or Malik Zulu Shabazz of the New Black Panther party (who are definitely virulent Jew-haters), Ginsberg notes that the most harsh anti-Semitism in the black population may actually be among the black professional and academic classes, whose members regard Jews as competitors for their piece of the American pie, and who often side with Palestinians and other Arabs. Their anti-Semitism might be more polite, less loudly spoken – and ultimately more harmful than that of the hate groups.

The American left, once the philosophical home of Jews, is now in a long, slow process of turning away from Jews, Judiasm, and the nation of Israel. On college campuses around the country, the fashion is to be pro-Palestine and to consider Israeli Jews (and by extension, Jews in general) to be oppressors – even to be "Nazis." This process, too, echoes the shifts of history. Jews remain in favor only as long as the powers that be have use for us. Once the facade of toleration cracks, Jews remain "the outsider," "the other," and the target of easy blame for anything that goes wrong with society. Friends of Jews quickly rush to become former friends.

America is obviously not yet at, or even near, the point Spain or Germany reached. But the message of history is clear. Jews who make alliances with the state do so at their own peril. Tolerance is fragile and lasts only as long as it is fashionable among the controlling classes or useful to the governing classes.

America has the world’s largest concentration of Jews. Yet we are still only about 2.2 percent of the total U.S. population – a minority among minorities, and vulnerable to every outrage minorities can suffer. We are also a minority widely disliked – both by neo-Nazi lunatics and by many of our former friends in the American political and academic establishments.

Remember the lesson of history. The moment toleration becomes a liability to the ruling class, we Jews become a liability to the state – and the state becomes a deadly liability to us.

The "experts" on anti-Semitism should open their eyes and acknowledge this most dangerous historic fact.



1. 2003-2004 "Antisemitism Worldwide" chapter on the United States: http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/asw2003-4/usa.htm
2. 2001-2002 "Antisemitism Worldwide chapter on the United States: http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/asw2001-2/usa.htm - and 2002-2003 report: http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/asw2002-3/usa.htm
3. Alan Cotton’s fight to be allowed Kosher food: (sorry - original link has expired)
4. Other court cases involving rights of Jewish prisoners: http://www.jlaw.com/Summary/kashrut-prisons.html
5. The Jonathan Pollard case: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Pollard


Have you experienced anti-Semitism at the hands of government?

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