Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

Frenemies

An anthology on the concept of philo-Semitism shows that ‘Jew lovers’ have often been just a shade better than anti-Semites—and sometimes no better at all

Print Email
(Original photo Peter Asquith/Flickr)

Books about anti-Semitism are depressingly numerous. New studies of the subject appear in a constant stream, focusing on anti-Semitism in this or that country, in literature or politics, in the past, the present, or the future. In 2010 alone, readers were presented with Robert Wistrich’s A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism From Antiquity to the Global Jihad and Anthony Julius’ Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England, which between them offer 2,100 pages of evidence of how much people used to and still do hate Jews.

If only as a change of pace, then, a book called Philosemitism in History (Cambridge University Press) should be cause for celebration. Never mind that it is a mere 350 pages, and not a continuous history but a collection of academic papers on fairly narrow subjects, from the Christian Hebraists of the 17th century to documentaries on West German TV. At least it promises a chance to hear about Gentiles who admired and praised Jews, instead of hating and killing them. There must have been some, right?

Well, yes and no. As every contributor to Philosemitism in History acknowledges, Jews have never been entirely happy about the idea of philo-Semitism. The volume’s introduction, by editors Adam Sutcliffe and Jonathan Karp, begins with a Jewish joke: “Q: Which is preferable—the antisemite or the philosemite? A: The antisemite—at least he isn’t lying.” This may be too cynical; closer to the bone is the saying that “a philo-Semite is an anti-Semite who loves Jews.” That formulation helps to capture the sense that philo- and anti- share an unhealthy interest in Jews and an unreal notion of who and what Jews are. Both deal not with Jewishness but with “Semitism,” as if being a Jew were the same as embracing a political ideology such as communism or conservatism—rather than what it really is, a religious and historical identity that cuts across political and economic lines.

This Jewish mistrust of philo-Semitism finds ample support in the history of the word offered by Lars Fischer in his contribution to the book. Fischer’s essay focuses rather narrowly on debates within the socialist movement in Germany in the late 19th century. But since this was exactly the time and place that the words “anti-Semitism” and “philo-Semitism” were coined, Fischer’s discussion of the political valences of the terms is highly revealing. From the beginning, when the word was coined by Wilhelm Marr in 1879, “anti-Semitic” was a label proudly claimed by enemies of the Jews. In Austria and Germany, there were political parties, trade unions, and newspapers that called themselves “anti-Semitic,” even when their political programs went beyond hostility to Jews.

Philo-Semitism sounds like it would have been the rallying-cry of the opponents of anti-Semitism, a movement with its own political program. But Fischer explains that this was not the case. In fact, “philo-Semitism” was invented as a term of abuse, applied by anti-Semites to those who opposed them. Though Fischer does not draw the parallel, he makes clear that “philo-Semite” was the equivalent of a word like “nigger-lover” in the United States, meant to suggest that anyone who took the part of a despised minority was odious and perverse. “Its obvious implication was that anybody who could be bothered to oppose anti-Semitism actively must be in cahoots with ‘the Jews,’ ” in thrall to the very Jewish money and power that anti-Semitism attacked.

What this meant was that, in Wilhelmine Germany, those who fought anti-Semitism—above all, Germany’s Social Democratic Party, whose leadership included many Jews—had to be careful to deny that they were philo-Semites. In 1891, for instance, the New York Jewish socialist Abraham Cahan, later to be famous as a novelist and the editor of the Forward, attended the International Socialist Congress at Brussels, in order to propose a motion condemning anti-Semitism. Victor Adler and Paul Singer, the leaders of Socialist parties in Germany and Austria—and both Jews—fought against Cahan’s motion, afraid that condemning anti-Semitism would only heighten the public perception of socialism as a Jewish movement. Finally, the motion passed, after it was amended to attack anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism in equal measure.

No one, it seems, wanted to be a philo-Semite; and for a long time, on the evidence of Philosemitism in History, almost no one was. Certainly, it takes pathetically little good will toward Jews to qualify for a place in the book. Robert Chazan, looking for “Philosemitic Tendencies in Western Christendom,” finds one in Saint Bernard’s warning to the Second Crusade not to repeat the anti-Jewish violence of the First. “The Jews are for us the living words of Scripture, for they remind us always of what our Lord suffered. They are dispersed all over the world, so that by expiating their crime they may be everywhere the living witnesses of our redemption.”

In this context, philo-Semitism means persecuting Jews to the brink of killing them, but no further. (Paula Frederiksen wrestled with this ambiguous Christian legacy in her excellent book Augustine and the Jews.) Likewise, Chazan shows, the medieval princes who invited Jews to settle in their lands did so not out of any love for Jewish people, but in order to create a taxable commercial class—and they often ended up killing the goose that laid so many golden eggs.

As early as the 11th century, then, we can see the ambivalence that continues to mark Christian philo-Semitism down to the present. Jews are valued, but only as long as they play the role assigned them in a Christian project or worldview. If Jews step out of that role, they are bitterly criticized. During the Renaissance, for example, a desire to read the Bible in its original language drove many leading humanists to study Hebrew. These Christian Hebraists engaged with Jewish traditions more deeply than any Gentiles had done before, even studying the Mishnah and Gemara for clues about historic Jewish practices. As Eric Nelson showed in his recent book The Hebrew Republic, the Israelite commonwealth became a major inspiration to English political theorists in the 17th century.

Three essays in Philosemitism in History focus on the Christian Hebraist movement. Yet as Abraham Melamed writes in “The Revival of Christian Hebraism,” “the big question … is whether the emergence and influence of Christian Hebraism in early modern Europe led to a more tolerant attitude toward the Jews, and additionally to any kind of philosemitism.” Reading Hebrew and admiring the Israelites were all well and good, but did they lead scholars like Johann Reuchlin and William Whiston to have any sympathy with the actual, living Jews of their time? “This is not necessarily the case,” Melamed answers. The English scholar John Selden was referred to, jokingly, as England’s “Chief Rabbi,” for his mastery of Jewish texts, but he seems not to have known any Jews, and he publicly endorsed the blood libel, citing Jews’ “devilish malice to Christ and Christians.”

A more complicated case of Christian philo-Semitism is the subject of Yaakov Ariel’s essay “It’s All in the Bible,” which explores the strong support of Israel by contemporary American Evangelicals. For centuries, but especially after 1967, evangelical Christians have been staunch Zionists, and their friendship has been welcomed by the Israeli government. Yet the premise of that friendship is a millenarian theology, based on a reading of the Book of Revelation, which holds that the establishment of a Jewish state in the Holy Land is a precondition to the Second Coming of Christ. On the road to the redemption, Christian Zionists believe, the majority of Jews will be wiped out in apocalyptic wars, and the remainder will convert to Christianity.

This philo-Semitism is, at its heart, deeply anti-Jewish, and the attempts of Israeli politicians to court evangelical support have been awkward, to say the least. In 1996, during Benjamin Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister, he supported a bill, urged by Orthodox members of the Knesset, to ban Christian missionary activity in Israel. When he realized that this would profoundly offend the American Christian Right, Netanyahu changed his mind and thwarted the bill. Here we have the Jewish leader of a Jewish state permitting Christians to try to convert Jews, as the price for Christian political support.

Does this count as “philo-Semitism”? And what about the painfully earnest documentaries aired on West German TV in the 1970s, discussed by Wulf Kansteiner, in which “self-pity and appropriation of Jewish culture went hand in hand with awkward silences”? Or the Jewish kitsch on sale in many Eastern European cities, which Ruth Ellen Gruber writes about? Lodz, in Poland, was once a great Jewish metropolis, and then one of the most lethal Nazi ghettoes. Today it is home to a restaurant called Anatevka, after the shtetl in Fiddler on the Roof, where you can be served matzoh by a “waiter dressed up in Hasidic costume, including a black hat and ritual fringes.” Gruber is rather indulgent toward this kind of thing, seeing it as a byproduct or precursor of a genuine rebirth of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. Seen in a colder light, this Jewish kitsch, like many of the phenomena on display in Philosemitism in History, might seem to call for a paraphrase of Oscar Wilde: Not “each man kills the thing he loves,” but each man loves the thing he killed.

But this is too bitter. There may be little to love about philo-Semitism, and little to be grateful for in its history; but that is because genuine esteem between Christians and Jews, like real affection of all kinds, cannot be grasped as an “-ism.” Ideologies deal in abstractions, and to turn a group of people into an abstraction, even a “positive” one, is already to do violence to them. That kind of violence is what historians tend to record, but most of the time, it is not the way real people think and live.

For instance, one of the most heartening stories in Philosemitism in History comes from 14th-century Marseilles, where a Jewish moneylender named Bondavid was tried for fraud. The trial record still exists, Chazan writes, and it shows that Bondavid called a number of Christians as character witnesses. A priest, Guillelmus Gasqueti, testified that “actually [Bondavid is] more righteous than anybody he ever met in his life. … For, if one may say so, he never met or saw a Christian more righteous than he.” This kind of genuine, personal esteem between Christians and Jews was “unusual,” Chazan writes, “but surely not unique.” And it is the proliferation of such face-to-face friendships in modern America that has made this country, not the most “philo-Semitic” in history, but the one where individual Jews and Christians have actually liked each other most.

Print Email
Dan says:

Philosemitism is a form of bigotry, just like antisemitism, even though it involves being biased towards a group rather than against it. Both involve ‘special treatment’, which no reasonable person, Jewish or not, wants to have to give, or to receive.

Quinqy says:

To be philosemitic doesn’t entail that one is “biased” towards the Jewish people; Bias means an unjustified viewpoint. Philosemites like and admire Jews for a variety of reasons, and some of them may be indeed be biased. But philosemitism qua philosemitism doesn’t necessarily implicate bias. Many non-Jews have examined Jewish civilization and its achievements and have concluded that it is worthy of approbation, which is hardly “bias.” The Jews have contributed vastly to human civilization out of all proportion to their numbers. Please don’t conflate coming to a justified conclusion after examining evidence with “bias.”

Ben says:

This false dichotomy between anti-and philosemites seems to be played out exclusively in the minds of jews, not gentiles, and it is the projection of their twin pathologies: megalomania and persecution complex.

Jon Ihle says:

Interesting. The original valence of the terms anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism maps readily onto the contemporary relationship between the terms anti-Semitism and Zionism/neo-conservatism. Contemporary Jew haters – who express themselves nowadays mostly through anti-Israel activism – are quick to accuse those who object to their rhetoric and actions of being Zionists or neocons (i.e. in thrall to Jewish money and/or power). Those who oppose anti-Semitism – but who may or may not support Israel per se – must prophylactically disclaim Zionism or any affiliation with neo-conservative positions in order to be regarded as legitimate contributors to any discussion about Israel (and, by extension, the future of the Jewish people).

PSR says:

Even though I am not (at least I think so, I have a few good Jewish friends) antisemite) I must say Jews make it difficult for others to accept them by identifying themselves as the “Chosen People” and making exclusive claim to a certain piece of land. It seems that the high achievers among Jews are not particularly “Observant Jews.”
Also, I wonder why most of the Jewish people (it is fair to say that most Hindus would too, if possible) left India for Israel even though there is no evidence of mistreatment as elsewhere. The possible and reasonable answer of “in search of better opportunies” does not seem to explain completely. It is fair to say that the Jews and also Parsis have been treated very well in India.

nanda says:

do blacks worry is someone is really into african american or african culture and thinks very highly of it? this article reflects the self hatred of the white/jewish liberal who disdains those who don’t disdain him or his culture or heritage. only the Jew is worried that someone likes him too much.

Ezra says:

@nanda, blacks DO worry about exactly that! Blacks hate the white boys into hip hop. Many blacks won’t go to particular hip-hop shows when they know it will be full of white people who in a sense are consuming their culture and appropriating their identity.

Jew, like blacks, don’t feel comfortable when others like them too much because often that love turns into cultural appropriation.

Zaotar says:

An incoherent article. The author takes offense to “philo-Semitism” based on the violence it allegedly does to Judaism, via treating it as an abstraction designed to further non-Jewish ambitions. But the author himself simultaneously treats Judaism as an abstraction in precisely the same manner, when he discusses the ‘violence’ that is allegedly done unto it. The argument is incoherent; the Jew is permitted to interact with “Judaism” (such as by lamenting the effects of Jewish Kitsch upon it) but the Gentile is evidently not allowed similar leeway when praising Judaism.

“Ideologies deal in abstractions, and to turn a group of people into an abstraction, even a “positive” one, is already to do violence to them.”

Hypocritical, self-contradictory, and pure rubbish.

Actually, the country as a whole has been quite “philo-Semitic” right from the beginning. Anti-semitism has been a minor fringe phenomenon with the partial exception of the New England, Ango-Saxon elite in the late 19th and early 20th century — and there are still faint traces of it. Ashkenazi Americans aren’t free of anti-gentile prejudice either, by the way, even where it seems least warranted, i.e., against the Scots-Irish and poor whites of the South and Mid-West. Quoting New Testament theology wholly misses the reality. (I’ve encountered this kind of fear and prejudice myself occasionally.) This widespread prejudice against — or better, alientation from — working-class whites (and blacks too, let’s be honest) has played a role in elite policy shaping of our immigration and trade policies over the last generation. This is a class without any friends at the present — no one looks out for them now — so hopefully these attitudes will change — before they do lead to serious anti-Semitism, which is not beyong the pale of possibility (as every Jew must know in his bones). It’s a fair deal: American Jews support American working-class people and American working-class people support American Jews and (continue) to support the state of Israel. I consider myself a philo-Semite myself incidentally — in fact I converted a number of years ago — though there are some particular Jews I dislike intensely: Alan Derschowitz for example, and Paul Samuelson, for some of the things they have done. So while none of my best friends are Jewish (at present) I do tend to like Jews in general. :)

Excuse the typos. I’m an old man.

schlimmerkerl says:

@ ezra
Interesting. I like and play Irish traditional music. Yet the Irish (particularly in Ireland) have always been very welcoming and enthusiastic without any fear that i was “appropriating” their culture/identity. I guess there’s a “downtrodden tipping point” where a culture will feel threatened if outsiders get “too interested” in their… stuff.

Authentic says:

Jewish people cannot have it both ways.

David says:

Does their obnoxious ethnocentrism have nothing to do it?

JoeYnot says:

Terrific. Jews are the most hated ethnicity/religion/people whatever in history, we’re coming off of the 6 million dead in the Holocaust, the near-destruction of Soviet Jewry, the ethnic cleansing of middle-eastern Jewry, with half the remaining population of Jews are holed up in a tiny land surrounded by several hundred million enemies, who in turn are supported by the vast majority of the world’s nations, and this cat Kirsch has decided that our few remaining allies aren’t good enough for him.

Jews have certain cards that they are likely to play when speaking of others’ love or disdain for the Jewish culture, religion and state. The first card is “No one can possibly understand us, because of the Holocaust and constant oppression we have had to endure.” This card is most often played by those younger Jews born after 1945 who are in the top economic and educational brackets of their age group here in the USA and elsewhere. They have known nothing but comfort, privilege and the good life. I notice that most older Jews who actually fought side-by-side with the Goyem and lived through the holocaust or knew others who did first hand do not use this as a “lever” to seek to polarize Jew from non-Jew. The second card is similar: “As a Jew, I am indeed special and different.” There are a legion of websites and articles that seek to analyze the Jew and his or her place in the world vis-a-vis the ROW. To wit, there is rather amusing website that rates just how Jewish a person is or is not…what other race or culture would seek to promote how “pure” a person is or is not? This endeavor is sort of like, dare I say, a cultural racism (that has usually been the hallmark of those seeking to destroy Jewry,) whereby Jews want to keep non-Jews from in any way appropriating Jewish culture, territory or religion. It’s all very strange to me and that’s part of both the charm and frustration of the Jews with their clear matron-borne psychological self-identity problems, but I will leave you with one remark. The European Jew brought us the deli: pickles, matzo soup, corned beef, bagels and cream cheese, and for this, I am truly grateful!

Harry Eagar says:

PSR sez: ‘exclusive claim to a certain piece of land’

Really? There’s nobody but Jews in Israel? Like there’s nobody but Arabs in Gaza?

moomoo says:

Ken is right on the money. It’s shameful to use the Holocaust politically, and it’s always the young ones who don’t have any idea what they’re talking about. And the more a group seeks to establish their “special and different”ness, the more hollow it seems to ring…

rphil says:

I’ve read the comment about evangelicals supporting Israel because of scripture and the requirements for the second coming.

It’s always accompanied by a version of the following: “On the road to the redemption, Christian Zionists believe, the majority of Jews will be wiped out in apocalyptic wars, and the remainder will convert to Christianity.”

For my own understanding – does the scripture single out Jews in this way – a majority being wiped out in apocalyptic wars – or is it that the majority of everyone on earth will be wiped out in apocalyptic wars? Just trying to understand the intellectual coherence of the evangelical position – is it really ‘we’ll support you now so you can play your proper role and especially can be wiped out in the second coming’??

ChrisPer says:

No of course the evangelicals are not supporting Jews so they can be wiped out in the second coming. Typical blood libel ;-).

Funnily enough, the Christian Bible includes certain passages referring to Jews. You may be surprised that these include several that do not call for extermination, and that we have this funny idea that God approved of the Jewish people. Call it crazy, but we think the same God loved them as loved us.

nanda says:

christians identify ourselves as judeo christians. It is a religious and cultural identity. The Jews are the judeo part. This thinking has alot to do with the disappearnce of anti semitism in christians. Anti semitism now is mainly found in the non western and leftwing part of the western population.

A muslim in Pakistan who never saw a Jew or a Palestinian knows which one he loves and which one he hates. In group loyalty is an essential part of survival. This is why I know that in five hundred years there will be Muslims. There may not be Christians or Jews or anything western.The modern day western liberal disdains his own survival or at least acts as if he does.

Jews that are serious about not being liked only need to continue with the relentless anti Israeli anti semitic propaganda that liberals put out. They will probably get their wish. In addition, when the US becomes a third world nation (and there seems no way to avoid that) the entire nation will be anti Israel and probably also anti semitic. But why should any human being want to be in such a position.

Jews may be annoyed that Israel cannot exist without the US. Sorry, that is just a fact of life. We don’t mind supporting Israel. We regard it as a sacred duty. And when “we” are gone, people like this author will have what we wants.

nanda says:

Ezra
when I hear about blacks getting polio vaccinations, I don’t get angry because a white Jew discovered it and blacks are “appropriating and consuming” something that is not theirs. When a black rapper uses technology invented by whites or invented by someone else but based on scientific techniques invented by whites, to spread his music, I don’t feel robbed.

jebron says:

Heinrich Heine said it best: “First you cripple us, then you curse us for being lame!” If you want to eliminate Jews as an identifiable and irritating group in Western society, leave us alone for another two generations and watch what happens. You get the [inbred] DNA and we get peace at last.

Andy says:

I used to know an Irish guy who gravitated towards an odd concoction of political positions- pro-IRA, anti-Kurdish, pro-Tibetan, anti-Palestinian and massively pro-Israel, most of which convictions were held with radical fervour (It’s not what you believe, but how you believe it- walter benjamin). Of the lot, his philo-semitism seemed by far to be an existential need for him. He married an Argentinan Jew, as far as I could see, out of this existential political need more than love. I found the whole thing bizarre- like someone drifting off into a cult. He now writes a self-serving blog and seems to have delved deeper into a strident zionism. I fancy that blogging is the perfect outlet for frustrated, slightly paranoid ideologists of his nature, with, yes, a form of persecution complex- (nobody understands me- I’m special!) Psychologically it seemed to me a case of ‘over-identification need’ or some such diagnosis, i.e. as a pathology. I imagine he will drift further into more and more reactionary positions as he gets older. One theory I entertained is that his seeming wish to be jewish/Israeli himself (he was atheist I’m sure) had a sexual origin- having bedded Jewish women in his youth while travelling in Israel. Go figure….

usman says:

Nanda, stick to India — leave Pakistan out of your great propaganda. This was a gem: “Christians identify ourselves as Judeo-Christians” What does that mean?

Goldstein's party says:

“On the road to the redemption, Christian Zionists believe, the majority of Jews will be wiped out in apocalyptic wars, and the remainder will convert to Christianity.”

This statement has been repeated often enough in regards to western evangelical eschatology, and while partially accurate, it is slightly out of context and misrepresents their beliefs.

Western evangelicals by and large believe a time will come when Gentile peoples worldwide fall into apostasy, at the same time Jews in Israel start converting en masse to Christianity. The apostate gentiles are the persecutors of the now Christian Jews and they are the ones who initiate the wars and pogroms in which “the majority of Jews will be wiped out”.

Western evangelicals generally believe that Israeli Jews are their sole spiritual heirs, whether they wish to be or not, and that the “Time of the Gentiles” is ending soon. Hence, Christian Zionism.

A more accurate statement would be: “On the road to the redemption, Christian Zionists believe, the Israeli Jews will convert to Christianity, a majority of those will be wiped out in apocalyptic wars and pogroms”.

Ali says:

Is it not possible to be anti-Zionist yet regard Jews as people like one regards any other individuals – with love or hate and with the whole gamut of emotions in between? As a reasonably educated and cultured human ,I abhor denigrating anyone just because of a group they belong. However, as the same human being, I have the right to speak out against social justice. Justice is the bedrock of civilisation and until it does not prevail, we are lesser as humans.

Unfortunately, Zionism, by its very definition and the implementation of its ideology, has become a symbol of Israeli exceptionalism. A Zionist conflates religion with an ideology and a criticism of the ideology is perceived as an attack on the religion. The problem in the Middle-East is NOT Jews versus Palestinians, it is Zionists. Unfortunately, Zionists have been too successful in confusing the issue, which is why lazy thinkers, when they speak of Israel (pro- or anti-), speak of Jews rather than of Zionists.

Ali says:

Change ‘until’ to ‘if’.

David says:

Usman…
“Christians identify ourselves as Judeo-Christians” What does that mean?’

Judeo- the Law and the Prophets.

Christian- The Grace of God that covers us, as promised in the Law and the Prophets.

David

David says:

Perhaps a perusal of Romans 11 will help to understand the true nature of the relationship of the Christian and Jew.

David

Andrei says:

I’m a Gentile raised in Russia by a Russian mother and a Jew, whom I’ve been calling ‘dad’ all my life. Many of my parents’ friends were Jews, and so are some of my best friends. I know: the Jews are no more than humans like others, and people of every ethnicity tend to think about their tribe as special. The Jews are no exception. However, one thing is special about the Jews: their belief that the fact the Bible had been written down in Hebrew made them God’s chosen people. (I’m sure that any “[anti-]Jew complex” real or imaginary — as megalomania — can be traced to this perception and reaction of Gentiles to it.) Some of them are so proud that any literate person can name a few world-renowned Jews. Say, a Jewish friend of mine (an engineer) once mentioned Einstein and other geniuses. I asked him then if he could recall an inventor of Jewish descent whose impact on the world was comparable to Rudolf Diesel’s or Mikhail Kalashnikov’s. He paused, scratched his head, and just smiled that nice Jewish smile. (To me, the average black compared to the average white is a genius when it comes to the “sense of rhythm.” So what?) But look at Wikipedia’s list of Russian inventors, and you’ll see quite a few great ones, not counting those whose names only sound non-Jewish. All of them have been successful while living in the USSR. Yes, you get me right: the most anti-Semitic anti-Semite on this page is the guy who wrote about “near-destruction of Soviet Jewry.” But the greatest of all time when it comes to the Jews are the Coen brothers. One reason: in ‘A Serious Man,’ they reached the apex of Jewish self-irony about how their kinfolks tend to fixate on suffering, no matter petty or not (it’s subjective anyway). They hyperbolized the obsession ad absurdum. The movie simply closed the “Jewish question” forever in the most elegant Jewish manner, the way it should have been done. One is only left to wonder if they meant just that.

This was a very interesting post and the comments, aka, the after-article, were also tres interesting, pro and con. One note: the reason this piece got so many comments from around the world is that BROWSER website, which collects 5 good magazine pieces daily from around the world, highlighted this peice, so many readers came here via the Browser site run by blokes in the UK, who just last month committed a serious antisemitic faux pas by referring to lending agencies in inner cities as “shylocks”. when i brought this old antisemitic slur to their attention, they immediately apologuized and said sorry they had no idea the word was wrong, and they immiedately chagned the subhead to better phrasing. Good people, good website, but many Brits are antisemitic without knowing it as the shylock slur in print shows. but they did take it down and say sorry. so good. Here is Browser head for this story above:

Frenemies
Adam Kirsch | Tablet | 31 May 2011
Philo-semitism and anti-semitism sound like opposites, but they’re really cousins. Both derive from “an unhealthy interest in Jews and an unreal notion of who and what Jews are. Both deal not with Jewishness but with ‘Semitism'” [Comments]

And I think that is why many non-Jews came to this article and left their comments here too, some of them a bit on the antisem side too, sigh.

One note about Sarah Palin the philosemite and next president of the USA:

Let me tell you about Sarah Palin. She loves the Jews. But she loves the Jews because she wants them eventually dead. Dead, or converted.

As a Christian Zionist, Palin sees the Jews as ushering in the Second Lynching, er, Coming of Christ, HER supernatural Savior. And as part of this second lynching, er, coming of Joshua Ben Joseph means that the majority of Jews will be wiped out in Biblically-prophecized apocalyptic wars, with the remaining Jews converted to Jesushood.

Really. This is her worldview. Her religion. And get ready, because God has ordained that she is going to be the next President of the USA in 2012.

So yes, Sarah Palin loves the Jews. She wants them dead, converted, though. Later. Not yet, not now. But that’s not LOVE, though. That’s New Testament antisemitism in the most ugly form.

Sarah Palin grew up in Alaska. Ask her, someone, if she ever heard her Wasilla neighbors talk about “jewing someone down” at a weekend yard sale there. Ask her. Anderscn Cooper, ask her. Wolf Blitzer, ask her. It’s a common Alaskan idiom. I know. I lived in Alaska for ten years in the 1980s. Heard this idion slur all the time. In Juneau, too. I even had a boss at local Juneau newspaper where i was the editor use the idiom in front of me while talking about an upcoming yardsale she was hoping to go to and ”jew down” the prices there.

So ask Sarah Palin if in her life in Alaska she ever used that phrase, or if her parents did or if Todd did, and if she ever spoke up and told her neighbors or Todd or her father that it was wrong to use such an expression in this day and age.

Ask her.

She might have a good story to tell….

Thanks for this interesting article – and it’s equally as interesting to read the comments. Sorry for skimming, but it seems like Andrei got most closely to the crux of the matter when he said to him, Jews are just humans. THANK YOU. That’s the whole point right there. The foundation of anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism is identical: The Jew as “other”. Obviously, I’d rather sit next to an philo-Semite than an anti-Semite – and I’ve had plenty of experience with both – but for being less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the world’s population, we certainly do arouse emotions in others. I have legitimate concerns about Israel and think the Middle East is fair game… but when I’m in conversation with someone who has never criticized a government except for Israel, there is something going on there (particularly if they’re LGBT and anti-Israel, the only country in the M.E. where they’d be safe)and it’s not just that we give money to Israel – we give money to a lot of places. Just the other week I was speaking to a German woman now living in the U.S. (and I’d just returned from a successful 10-day klezmer tour in Germany!) and she said, “I told my stepson to find a Jewish girlfriend, because they’re smart and their parents have money.” It’s all offensive and it’s all bone-chilling.

Mark S. Devenow says:

Adam Kirsch’s claim that modern Christian evangelical support for the State of Israel comprises ” (a) philo-Semitism (which) is, at its heart, deeply anti-Jewish…” is,in equal measure, offensive and inaccurate.Thus, Kirsch, having anointed himself the moral arbiter as to the genuineness of Christians who love Israel and the Jews and the diviner of (all) illicit motivation in connection therewith, goes on with his self-arrogation trip by declaiming (from on moral high) that “the attempts of Israeli politicians to court evangelical support have been awkward, to say the least.”

Well, the question which arises naturally in relation to this latter epiphany is: Awkward to whom? And that inescapable question perforce suggests that whilst such ‘awkwardness’ is a projection experienced by liberal Jews like Kirsch (and, in that narrow sense at least, real), the truth lies much closer to the fact that modern Christian supporters of Israel and most Jewish Zionists BOTH, for reasons rooted in recognition of the threat Islam poses to modern civilization and what concepts of individual liberty go with it, are more in tune with what history may be said to teach than Kirsch and his ilk will ever (or can ever) be.

Ernest Smith says:

re Andrei’s comment, it might have been more correct if he had expressed himself thus:
“I’m a Gentile raised in Russia by a Gentile mother and a Jewish stepfather………” Surely his
stepfather was Russian, too.

Blair says:

I would like to see everyone come to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. I’m not sure why any Jew in the 21st Century would see this as a threat. If you don’t think Yshua was the Messiah, there are no Christians planning to restart the Inquisition to make you. If you know what you believe, you should not be offended if someone thinks you should believe something else. The world is full of people who think I should follow their leader and worship their God, and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

Christian beliefs about the end times apply to everyone! A lot of people will die – Jew and Gentile. A lot of people will come to faith – Jew and Gentile. Christians don’t WANT anybody dead – it’s just a prophecy. Jeremiah didn’t want his prophecies to come true either (and of course he was confronted and persecuted by Jews who thought he did – nothing changes eh Danny Bloom?)

Evangelical Christians like Jews and Israel simply because that is how we show obedience to God, because we believe Jews are God’s chosen people, and that our salvation is “of the Jews”. It really isn’t any more complicated than that.

Snortwood says:

> re Andrei’s comment, it might have been more correct if he had expressed himself thus:
“I’m a Gentile raised in Russia by a Gentile mother and a Jewish stepfather………” Surely his stepfather was Russian, too.

Except, then, you wouldn’t know for sure that Andrei was a Russian. That’s how Russians break it down. “My father is Greek and my mother is a Jew.” Stuff like that is Russian. “More correct” is your read. But it wouldn’t be correct from the Russian viewpoint.

bathsheba222 says:

Having been a part of Jewish and Christian culture, I dont understand why Jews are worried about Christians beliefs. Christians are friends and allies of the Jews and in many cases have fought and died for them. The Us military rescued many Jewish people during WW2, and continue to show their alliance for Israel. We continue to give Israel aid and help in many ways. Christians respect and care about the Jewish people, yes our beliefs are different but maybe our purposes are different also. “To every thing there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven” (ecclesiastes) We are all children of God, we must overlook our differences and work together to make the world a better place.

Morton Kurzweil says:

I could never understand why anti-Semitism referred to Jews and not to the vast majority of Semite peoples.
It was never a social issue. It was always a religious issue. If Jews believed that there is One God, my God and your God,there was always someone who would claim That “My way is the right way” or “My prophet is better that your prophet”.
Xenophobia is fear of the unknown. Most of us need reassurance that rites and ritual will overcome a fear of death even without assurance that organized belief can influence the course of Nature. The sure signs of any belief behavior include paranoia, the feelings of personal attack by any idea that questions the dogma needed to believe. The violent personal attacks in defense of such beliefs betray the frailty of the need for certainty. Certainty requires the suspension of reason and the acquisition of a group mindset to substitute for independent ideas. The choice of Church is necessary as a corporate entity which can survive beyond the lifetime of its members, giving its bureaucracy an eternal identity, inviting this authority to promote any afterlife it desires while working to promote its own growth.
Homophilia is a term relating to the welfare of gay men and lesbians. There is no acceptable word for love of Mankind. It is Group-think that substitutes for reason and separates Man into cultures, nations, tribes and religions.
Deservedly so.

Jason Poling says:

Only about 10% of evangelicals believe in the kind of end-times scenario taught in dispensational premillennialism (and attributed here, as too many other places, too all evangelicals). The robust support of evangelicals for Israel, and evangelical philosemitism more broadly, spring from sources other than apocalyptic escatologies. Steve Spector’s book Evangelicals and Israel is a good beginning resource for those, like this author, unfamiliar with contemporary evangelicalism as it really is.

David Gontar says:

Well, let me give my two cents. I often wonder about ethnicity and its claims over us. Sartre showed in his searching analysis that just to be conscious of ethnic identity is already to be beyond it, and that to stubbornly seek complete absorption therein is a kind of bad faith. Perhaps it would be helpful if Jews and other cultural groups were a bit less strident in their affiliational enthusiasms. In fact, these days just being quiet is an important virtue. You know, if you think you’re smarter and better than other folks, that fact will sooner or later make itself known and felt. What kind of reaction can you expect? And if you want to take credit for your virtues but blame your faults and failings on society, what do you prove in the end but your lack of that very perspicacity of which you boast? Do we hear of hate campaigns against Quakers and Amish? Do Buddhists need PR institutions to work day and night against anti-Buddhist prejudice? You may not be able to put your identity wholly to one side, but promoting it on every street corner may be a tad counterproductive. Shhhhhh.

DavidQ says:

Years ago, a Hungarian (Jewish) mother living in Dublin, Ireland took offence when, listening to her young son playing the violin with great skill, I muttered something about “Jewish talent”. Her parents had been in Belsen (and survived); perhaps what I saw at the time as a justifiable compliment was seen by her as a “making special” of Jews that she associated with the kind of selection of them that has so often led to their oppression and death. If so, then philo-semitism is the positive side of “making special” of which anti-semitism is the negative.

That is not to say that there is not an unhealthy kind of philo-semitism that is excessive or sentimental, and thus presumably betrays an unconscious hostility or even hatred.

Andrew D. says:

While we interrogate Christian Zionist Sarah Palin whether she is familiar with the anti-Semitic term to “jew someone down,” maybe we should also ask Barack Obama if he heard people using it during his days as a community organizer back in da ‘hood in Chicago – or if he ever heard his esteemed spiritual leader, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, use it during his sometimes anti-Semitic sermons from the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ there in Chi-Town. (Oh, wait. My bad. Obama never heard any of the sermons in his roughly 20 years as a member, if we are to believe the excuse the president offered as to why he never objected before his presidential run to racist, anti-white and anti-American statements by the pastor – .e.g., ” No, no, no, not God Bless America. God damn America!”)

Given that the Jews of Israel (a country of 6 or 7 million people the size of New Jersey) are under threat of extermination by the Arab world (22 nations about twice the size of the U.S., with several hundred million people and enough oil money to buy any weapons they want), and have been under that threat every day since May 14, 1948, as a Jew, I’d sooner take my chances having the support of the Christian Zionists like Gov. Palin, whatever their End-Of-Days theology may be – since we know they will get precious little help from the “mainline” Protestant groups such as those affiliated with the the National Council of Churches, which in a 2005 statement offered platitudes of friendship for Israel but which sternly declared (in opposing the security wall Israel put up, thus cutting by over 90% the number of deaths from Palestinian suicide bombers) that “it is clear the overriding problem is Israel’s continuing occupation of Palestinian territory” – NOT its crazed neighbors’ absolute refusal to accept a sovereign Jewish presence ANYWHERE in the Holy Land (not just the West Bank, Jerusalem and Golan). And they will get NO support at all from “liberation theology” churches like Rev. Wright’s.

Will have to start again, as I blew my original by stopping to get a correct spelling on a source. But I thought,Andrew D. says:
Jun 9, 2011 at 8:27 PM, was the usual anti-Obama stuff that I heard,from posters elsewhere who did not know that Rev.Jerry Wright’s sermon was based on the material of the U.S. Ambassador to North Africa,Edward Peck. Spinners were sent anti-Obama material from purloined tapes quoting the “Chickens coming home to roost” remarks of Ambassador Peck. I am not going to leave this page and lose again but will place a source, for Peck, in a follow up. Anyway, that is how most people met Jerry Wright, I met him on line at Black Voices, on a server that seems to be connected with Arianna Huffington nowadays but I haven’t completely got the straight of that. He kindly told me that there is a Trinity United Church of Christ out here in the Mid-Atlantic region as well as in the suburbs north of Chicago.

Wright’s perspective for his sermons was an Afrocentric educational program for the Sunday school as well as for adults, and very similar as far as I can tell to the work of Henry Louis Gates,jr. who founded the Dept. of African and African American Studies at Harvard. Gates, of course, gets to Africa, to further the work of his department. More on that area before I finish.

The British press on-line during the Obama campaign exaggerated considerably, I read Wright’s program described as Black Nationalist and wrote to the columnist at The Guardian to post a correction. He did not. Another columnist passing herself off as writing for The Guardian,wrote directly to Israel to mislead people reading and posting at a site there. She likewise did not respond to my communication. Another fellow living in an apartment with a dog and his son(possibly grown-up)overlooking the East River in Manhattan managed to make a career jump to a daily on-line from the UK where a rather large …

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/pagels.h

Andrew D. says:

One can quibble over what someone wrote in The Guardian – hardly a beacon of impartial journalism – or whether Wright sees himself as a “Black Nationalist.” Fact remains that he let his church bulletin become a propaganda conduit for Hamas, honored Farrakahn with an award and traveled with him to Libya, where they were warmly received by Khadaffi. He may have been quoting Peck about the chickens coming home to roost – but he also did, clearly, reject the idea of beliving in “God Bless America”, in favor of “God damn America!” If Wright’s rhetoric was not hateful and out of the mainstream, then why did Obama make a show of repudiating it? If it was in fact hateful, why did Obama wait so long to do so, until it became controversial? If, as Wright claims, “them Jews” around Obama forced him to toss his old friend under the bus for political reasons, what does that say about Obama’s integrity, or lack thereof?

Getting back to whether Christian Zionists really envision all the Jews dead or converted in some apocalyptic scenario when Jesus returns, I would say that from this Jew’s standpoint, anyway, it’s all irrelevant. We don’t believe in the New Testement precisely because we are Jews and not Christians (a core Jewish belief, says Maimonides, is that God has already revealed the Torah and will NOT replace it with a new Torah, i.e., a “New Testament.”) Therefore we do not believe Jesus is either God, the Son of God or the Messiah, and therefore, reject any and all “prophecies” about his supposed “Second Coming”. We believe that God will send the Messiah – who is NOT Jesus – at a time and in a manner of His choosing. The Messiah will establish the Kingdom of God upon earth and believers in flawed belief systems will then know God. As He pledged, He will then “bless those that bless thee [the Jewish nation] and curse those that curse thee.” Whatever their flawed motives, He will reward the C-Zs – and punish those Christians who sided with the enemies of the Jews.

Please can we show some basic knowledge. The term “antisemitism” is not spelt “Anti-Semitism”. There is no hyphen; there never has been. It does not refer to other speakers of Semitic languages and not all Jews speak a Semitic language. It exclusively refers to prejudice against Jews.

Cannot even the author get this basic spelling correct?

When visiting blogs, i always look for a very nice content like yours ,

Would you be excited about exchanging links? Replica Lovis vuitton

I fully support ones own points for view with the article. I’m for sure your excellent writing style could make your article very popular. At final, more and much more people will to be replaced by your document.

It’s the best time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to be happyI have read this post and if I could I wish to suggest you some interesting things or adviceMaybe you can write next articles referring to this articleI want to read even more things about it!

Pretty great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing in your feed and I hope you write once more very soon!

victor says:

It is irrational of Jews to live in non-Jewish lands. The past shows it. It is irrational for US Jews not to leave the US for Israel. 2.5 million Jews living amongst 45 million hard core antisemites, acording to the JDL. Who knows how many more million soft core antisemites. Plus the so called “friends” who for the most part will look the other way when the going gets tough.

Jews should forget about being the “light of nations” and stop giving those nations the opportunity to turn Jews into torchlightghts.

Better set up a nation, Israel that would be a light for all nations because of its education, democracy, civility, low crime rate, feeling of community, etc.

Otherwise the Jewish wandering would have beeb for nothg until the end of the World.

What good has done to the Europeans to have Jews amongst them for centuries? Have not the most vicious massacres of Jews and non-Jews taken place in European soil, from the Urals to the straight of Gibraltar.

Come on Jews, wate up. Use your intelligence to live safely not to live always looking over yur shoulders!

Shalom

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Frenemies

An anthology on the concept of philo-Semitism shows that ‘Jew lovers’ have often been just a shade better than anti-Semites—and sometimes no better at all

More on Tablet:

What’s in a Building’s Name?

By Sara Ivry — Looking to Maimonides for guidelines on philanthropic giving