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Jews can’t afford the Jewish lobby
But none of us can afford feral, catastrophising activism.
After the Hamazis loosed their Islamic Einsatzgruppen-with-dash-cams on Israeli civilians — killing women, children, raping women, taking and parading hostages, the worst crime against Jews since the Holocaust — many people in the West were further horrified by the mass demonstrations by Muslims, and allies, in Western cities in support of Hamas as well as statements coming out of universities — from academics and student bodies — in support of Hamas. There has also been specific targeting of Jews, regardless of whether they were Israeli or not.
There was much chanting of the slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” which, in the context of support for Hamas, and attacks on Israeli “settler-colonialism”, is a call for a Judenfrei Israel-Palestine. This all made very clear — even to the most unobservant or head-in-sand-inclined — that not only were there deep problems with multiculturalism and the academy, but that so much of the ostentatious concern about opposing “fascism” and “Nazis” was utterly performative.
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Death squads deliberately killing Jews — men, women, children — were sent by an armed authority. One that seeks a Judenfrei Israel-Palestine1 and is happy to engage in mass murder to achieve it. Yet it was being openly supported by folk who make such a performance about their anti-fascism and anti-Nazism. Except, apparently, when utterly Nazi horrors — done with a open gleefulness that the Nazis eschewed — are perpetrated by the right sort of sacred victims.
There were two, interlocking, ideas motivating this feral activism arising out of the academy. One is de-colonisation. Helen Dale provides a pertinent discussion thereof. It is noteworthy that the 2017 Hamas Charter directly plays into Western academic postcolonial rhetoric, unlike its original 1988 Charter. This particular set of toxic nonsense I will not be dealing with here.
Though, to be clear, the problem with decolonisation isn’t only that it is now giving cover to anti-Semitism. As I will discuss in a later post, the problem with post-colonialism as a framing, and a basis for decolonisation arguments, is that they are not true in the same way that phlogiston or geocentrism aren’t true, and so shouldn’t be taught at university — any university.
The other motivating idea is the notion of the sacred victim, of the moral purity of the oppressed. That Israelis are oppressors and Palestinians are the oppressed and the oppressed are entitled to do whatever in their struggle against their oppressors. Who is the oppressed, and who are the oppressors, is all that one needs to know, that is the only morally salient fact.
This is the concept of the entitled victim at its most feral. It has become clear that to many people, including many academics, there is literally nothing Hamas can do to de-legitimise its cause.
Here’s the thing, however. Who did the most to promote the notion of the entitled victim? Who pioneered the notion of the entitled victim as the basis for driving people out of public life, out of their livelihoods? Who? The Jewish lobby; that is, Jewish activists.
This post is not about the Israel-Palestine contentions: that I have discussed here, here and here. My concern here is with the dynamics of debate and activism within Western societies. I will touch on aspects of the arguments for Israel that exemplify problems with arguments mounted by Jewish activists within Western countries.
Nor is this a post about Jews: it is about Jewish activists and their activism. It is about the dynamics of discourse and activism. In particular, the pioneering role — and huge unintended consequences — of the feral catastrophising that has been a feature of the Jewish activism for decades. A catastrophising that, as is so common in activism, feeds the flow of donations.
When we examine the evolution of those patterns of debate and activism, we can see that Jews in the West — as we watch the horrid dynamics of the entitled victim turn Jews into objects of hatred and abuse — are suffering the unintended consequences of the entitled-victims arguments mounted by the Jewish lobby and its catastrophising feral activism.
To criticise the Jewish lobby, and its activism, is most definitely not “blaming the victim”. The activists are not the group. One of the problems with activism is precisely the conflation of the activists with the group they claim to be speaking for.
Jewish activists need Jews in general to be as fearful as possible, to keep the donations flowing. They are, in effect, paid to generate as much paranoia as possible.
Feral catastrophising is a status, social-leverage and income play that Jewish activists may have pioneered, but has since become much more widespread. For instance, Michael Shellenberger does an excellent job of demolishing feral climate-change catastrophism.
As an aside, past Christian shaming and shunning of gays and lesbians is a limited analogy for entitled victim catastrophising, as such targeting of gays and lesbians did not rest on Christians claiming entitlement on the basis of victimhood.2
Pioneering illiberal advocacy
Many of the patterns now being wielded against support for Israel and against Jews were pioneered by Jewish activists.
When the central claim of Zionism — that Jews were not safe in Europe — was proved to be catastrophically true, there was a huge surge in support for the Zionist cause. Both in motivating Jews to move to Israel and in garnering Western sympathy.
Unfortunately, two very bad arguments for Zionism gained more salience. One was that Jews were entitled to land occupied by their forebears up to two millennia earlier. This was a nonsense argument that is not accepted for any other group anywhere. A famous animation of this land is my land expresses the folly of this argument.
The other bad argument is that the horror of the Holocaust was such that Jews were entitled victims. That the horror of what was done to Jews entitled surviving Jews, and future generations of Jews, to trumping moral claims. This argument of multi-generational entitled victimhood — applied to a new set of victims — is now being used to excuse or pass over horrors perpetrated against Jews.
The kidnapping and trial of Adolf Eichmann trial — which Hannah Arendt famously characterised as a show trial — was the peak of legitimating Israel on the basis of harm done to Jews. Given that the Holocaust happened on a different continent — as Arab, Palestinian and Muslim commentators have bitterly observed — Israeli PM Ben-Gurion went so far as to claim the trial was about anti-Semitism everywhere. As Arendt observed, the Nuremberg Trial defendants were indicted for crimes against humanity, not some specific subset of Nazi victims.
Victims may be entitled to restitution for harms done to them.3 They may be appropriate objects of sympathy and help. But they do not thereby have claims against people who have done them no harm.4 Not even against people who may share some category with those that did them harm but who themselves did not participate in the harm, nor choose to benefit from it. (To be human is to have benefited from harm done to others: we are all the descendant of groups that wiped out, or otherwise displaced, other groups.)
Ruminating about trauma is generally not psychologically healthy and is far from an automatic response to trauma. As a paper on the subject (pdf) notes:
many Jewish-Israelis report that they are preoccupied with the Holocaust and fear that it will happen again, though most of them were not direct victims. However, this was not always the case, since in the early years after the Holocaust, although the survivors were suffering from severe post-trauma, the Holocaust was not prominent in Israeli discourse and was even considered, to some extent, contradictory to the Israeli identity. Israeli society only adopted a victimhood identity in the 1960s and 1970s, and the Holocaust became prominent in the Israeli narrative … partially as a result of the Eichmann trial, where victims spoke out during the televised proceedings.
Jewish activism simultaneously maintains two contradictory, and false, claims about the Holocaust:
The Holocaust was absolutely unique horror (it wasn’t).
It could happen anywhere (it couldn’t).
The Holocaust was much photographed, filmed, and documented. It took place in the heart of Europe and used industrialised methods, so invoking the dark side of industrialisation and all the fears of technology run amok. Several of its camps were found and liberated by the armies of liberal democracies. Survivors spread across the world.
All this makes the Holocaust the most visible, systematic mass murder in history. It is neither the largest mass murder in history, nor were Jews the only victims of the Nazi structure of extermination, nor is it the only C20th ethno-religious genocide — the late Ottoman Empire saw a series of them.
Hitler’s alleged rhetorical question who remembers the Armenians?
Wer redet heute noch von der Vernichtung der Armenier?
Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?
has layers of horror to it.5
Though now in something of a decline, there was a surge in what became known as Holocaust and Genocide studies in academe. Even the title of the magazine, centres and degrees suggested a singular importance to the Holocaust. The use of genocide rather than the more encompassing term democide also made it easier to be selective about which mass killings were examined.6
The definition used in the 1948 Genocide Convention represented Soviet lobbying, as they did not want events such as the Holodomor included.7 This subsequently licensed academics to exclude Marxist mass murders, though, more recently, the Holodomor and Cambodia have become more acceptable as included atrocities, an incorporation that is far from universal.
The Holocaust was not, alas, a great singular crime8 and the attempt to build it up as such in activist discourse is a series of bullshit claims designed to prop up the notion of Jews as uniquely entitled victims, even if they were not born when the Holocaust occurred and/or lived on a different continent.
The most shameful manifestation of this bullshitting to protect Holocaust victimhood are Jewish and Israeli attempts to block or downplay the significance of the Holodomor, refusing to call it genocide. This has been a long-running issue in Israel-Ukraine relations.
The Holodomor is a double attack on the entitled-victim Holocaust narrative. It occurred in the preceding decade within territory that would overlap with that of the Holocaust and included prominent Jewish perpetrators.
This downplaying of, and denial about, the Holodomor played out in Australia with the fuss over the prize-winning novel The Hand That Signed The Paper. Author Helen Dale’s on-air response to commentator Gerard Henderson:
This is not a book about Jews. It's a book about Ukrainians. Get over yourself.
Is a good summary of the double whammy: Jews were not the only victims of mass, vile, horrors even just in C20th Europe and Jews could also be perpetrators of such.
The public freak-out over the book was part of a systematic attempt to control how the Holocaust was viewed and how folk spoke of it, and of Jews. “Thou shalt not compare” became an operative dictum of this effort to control discourse. While the scholarly debates have tended to be somewhat orthogonal to activist and political use of the Holocaust, the uniqueness of the Holocaust was strongly supported by some prominent scholars in the field.9
In the world of activism, non-Jews were not supposed to write about the Holocaust, except in approved ways. The lived experiences of Jews were given special authority, a push epitomised by the 1985 documentary Shoah.
Jewish activists were a major push behind the Soviet concept of hate speech being introduced into Western law. As was intended in its original coining, the concept has corroded the culture of free speech. The delegitimisation of people’s emotions has been used to strip them of the authority to speak. A delegitimisation that has become extended, via “that is offensive to …”, to possible emotional responses being grounds to strip people of the authority to speak.
Indeed, with these demands to block “hate speech” and censoriousness, it is hard to find a single element in the play book of Post-Enlightenment Progressives (“the woke”) to control public discourse, and to punish dissent and dissenters, that was not pioneered by Jewish activists.
Up to and including attempts to destroy people’s careers and livelihoods. The Hand That Signed The Paper was published in 1994, in Australia. In 2012, there was a concerted campaign by Jewish activists to block its author, Helen Dale, from being admitted as a solicitor in Scotland, despite this being two decades later, in another country, on the other side of the planet.
Something that Jewish activism also generates is an aura of Jewish ingratitude. The Holocaust was brought to an end by Allied armies.
In the case of the Anglosphere, there has not been an anti-Jewish pogrom since the reign of Edward I and his expulsion of Jews from England in 1290. Yet, there was this psychopathic activism desperately attempting to control public discourse about Jews.
Just to indicate how pathological such paranoia was in Australia, the first Australian-born Governor-General was Sir Isaac Isaacs, the sixth was Sir Zelman Cowen and the great Australian military hero is Sir John Monash: all Jews.
Part of the push for multiculturalism in Australia was from Jewish intellectuals who, operating on “the Holocaust could happen anywhere” paranoia, wanted there to be other minorities in Australia. This “worked” so well, by mass importing of people of countries with much, much more recent histories of anti-Jewish pogroms, that Australian synagogues and Jewish schools have since felt it necessary to have security guards.
Liberal Jews made a religion out of fighting imaginary Nazis while ignoring the people who said openly that they hate Jews, and hate white people in general. (Some arrogant Jews thought they could choose not to be white when it was convenient.) Now 51% of 18-24-year-old Americans say it's fine to massacre Jews as long as it's for a good cause like decolonization. Half the world is threatening to gang up on 7 million Jews in Israel, and the pro-Jewish Western countries are demographically destined to go anti-Semitic.
What are the impressions about Jews does the psychopathic paranoia of Jewish activists — as the most publicly salient manifestations of the Jewish community — generate? That Jews sneak, that they mob, that they don’t have your back.
The psychopathic paranoia of Jewish activists is massively counter-productive in another sense. People who run afoul of it often become much more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. A cause for which Jewish activists have proved to be highly effective recruiters of sympathisers and supporters.
Perhaps the most arrogant stupidity in all this feral activism was the notion that Jews could play the entitled victim card and no one would be able to take it from them, that no-one would be able to trump them with the same game. As we can now observe, this is patently not true and was never going to be true.
Journalist Bari Weiss has managed to exemplify both sides of this destructive arrogance. The young Bari was active in accusing various Arab and Palestinian academics of anti-Semitism and racism: in effect, trying to get academics sacked (i.e., cancelled), displaying the unforgiving and intolerant censoriousness of Jewish activism.
The older Bari Weiss herself became a victim, when at The New York Times, of the same censoriousness directed at her, motivated by the elevation of a new set of entitled victims. Her resignation letter detailed experiences that the targets of Jewish activism could well resonate with:
My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m “writing about the Jews again.” Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly “inclusive” one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are.
She has since very much landed on her feet, with her very successful online publication The Free Press. Nevertheless, younger Bari fed the beast that drove older Bari out of mainstream media. The notion of the entitled victim is now being wielded against Jews as Jews, as supporters of “settler colonialism”, including in Western workplaces.
Die ich rief, die Geister, / Werd' ich nun nicht los.
(The spirits that I summoned, / I now cannot rid myself of again.)
Will the Jewish activists look in the mirror and realise what they have done? What they have let loose? Of course not, they are activists. Their incomes and/or identity rests on feral catastrophism, and they will double down on it. As we can see, for instance, in the campaign against this thoroughly reasonable piece on Israel-Palestine which has been subject to, among other things, “snitch-tagging” on Twitter/X, where folk abuse it and tag ADL and other Jewish activist organisations.
This doubling down will not be good for Jews, for Israel, or Western liberal democracy.
Donald Bloxham, ‘Holocaust Studies and Genocide Studies: Past, present and future,’ in Joyce Apsel, Ernesto Verdeja (eds.), Genocide Matters: Ongoing Issues and Emerging Perspectives, Routledge, (2013), 59-82.
Harry Frankfurt, ‘On Bullshit,’ Raritan Quarterly Review, Fall 1986, Vol.6, No.2.
Rahav Gabay, Boaz Hameiri, Tammy Rubel-Lifschitz, Arie Nadler, ‘The tendency for interpersonal victimhood: The personality construct and its consequences,’ Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 165, 2020, 110134.
Mark Lopez, The Origins of Multiculturalism in Australian Politics 1945-1975, Melbourne University Press, 2013.
Jacob Mchangama, ‘The Sordid Origin of Hate-Speech Laws: A tenacious Soviet legacy,’ Hoover Institute, Policy Review, December 2011.
Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, ‘The Politics of Uniqueness: Reflections on the Recent Polemical Turn in Holocaust and Genocide Scholarship,’ Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Volume 13, Issue 1, Spring 1999, 28-61.
Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, The Bodley Head, 2010.
Some Hamas writings say that Jews and Christians can stay if they accept dhimmi (subordinate) status. The revealed preference of their actions, and the “need” to entrench Muslim dominance, suggests, at the very least, substantial expulsion of Jews.
Post-Enlightenment Progressivism (“wokery) is a Christian heresy, one based on the elevation of sacred victims, that allocates original sin by category and lacks redemption or forgiveness.
This is not an argument for reparations, which have a very bad history. Including the German reparations to Israel, which got mired in corruption.
Not outside tax-funded arrangements.
Especially as Israel has not formally recognised the Armenian genocide, though a Committee of the Knesset has recommended that it do so.
Sadly, the concept of genocide, and the Genocide Convention, has generated very unseemly debate about which mass murders count or not.
Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer who coined the term genocide, had no doubt that the Holodomor was a genocide, placing it in the context of the policy of Sovietisation, see (pdf). As he wrote: This is not simply a case of mass murder. It is a case of genocide, of destruction, not of individuals only, but of a culture and a nation.
Both because the Nazi extermination machine had other victims and because elimination of “parasitical” human “dross” was also a feature of various Marxist regimes. The systematic, obsessive targeting of Jews was striking, as was the use of industrial methods, but the monomania of the killers does not put their victims into some special category.