How We Lived on It (42) – Anti-Semitism, the Ur-Hatred

by A. Jay Adler on October 1, 2011
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I’ve been thinking since I wrote “The Uncanny John Mearsheimer,” in which I by the way proposed Jewish anti-Semitism and black-for-white passing as Ur forms of the uncanny, that anti-Semitism is one of the Ur forms of hatred – the group form. Hatred of the other, expressed as demonization, is a primal emotion. In the individual or group manifestation, a process of alienation takes place, the demonized other made malevolent beyond the pale: outsider, foreigner, witch, blasphemer, even literally an alien – somehow dehumanized. While there may have been abiding group hatreds earlier in history than that of Jews, none was sustained in history as anti-Semitism has been. Of course, there is nothing intrinsic in Jewishness that causes this hatred – that would be, after all, the anti-Semite’s belief.

Rather than intrinsic, the circumstantial role of Jews in this Ur-hatred isn’t that surprising when one considers. We have a group of people who make their lasting mark momentously in the history of civilization by originating monotheism, and the foundational religious text of all subsequent Western religions, and who think themselves at the time, and so record it, rather remarkable (chosen) for the achievement. And then their monumentality in the founding of even those subsequent religions – and being assigned, too, by those successors, a quite controversial role in a succeeding group’s own founding narrative. Followed by a long history of stubbornly resisting – as small a contingent as they became – complete conversion, assimilation, and even eradication. Human beings, it is historically apparent, need other human beings to fear and despise – even, just like notions of an anthropomorphic God and devil were needed, a founding and essential human source of social ills, the scapegoat, was needed – and Jews momentously and circumstantially came to answer that need.

What I was suggesting in “The Uncanny John Mearsheimer” is that the emergence of that Ur-hatred in an individual, group, or society is a manifestation of the uncanny, and that like any repressed psychic element rising to the surface, there will be a contest of compulsion and suppression. One will deny, yet one will make assertions belying the denial, followed by more denial. One will make charges in conveniently reconfigured terms – Israel, not Jew; (public) lobby, not secret organization – one will engender thereby suspicious accusations, one will deny them with outrage, and then one will begin to speak of good Jews and bad Jews, and then write book blurbs for a Holocaust denier, Hitler apologist and outright Jew hater. Then one will claim that the denier, apologist, and hater is not those things, and cry “Who me, how dare you.” BDS supporters and incorporators of Israel’s founding into the post-Columbian colonial narrative stink of this psychic turmoil. A monster is struggling to the surface, acidly searing the thin skin of civility, and the vapor is noxious.

I post, then, “The Uncanny John Mearsheimer,” and I receive from the gaseous reaches this email.

They can’t help themselves, you see. This pretends, too, to be supportive of the Israel-Lobby author, even as it contradictorily jettisons that author’s own phony defense of separating Jews from Israel. (There are good and bad, after all.)  There is more to be observed about this communication, though.

First, most apparently, in “bilious, anti-American, neurotic Jew hacks like you” there is a string of adjectives. All but one – Jew – are by definition pejorative. What, then, are we to make of the “Jew” in the midst of them? Did the author momentarily relent in his despite, recall some early longing for objective accounting? No – the “Jew” is pejorative, too.

I well recall – he recalled it for me as he re-envisioned it so vividly – my father’s account for me of an occasion in Poland when he was just a boy, around 1922 or so: a military officer standing on the steps of a public building struck my father in the face with his gloves and spit the word “Jew” at him. No actual term of insult was necessary. For the Jew hater, the word Jew itself is the insult.

So in defense of the man still running from the monster he created, we get the Doctor Frankenstein who dances with his around around a fire. He speaks of “an idea whose time has come.” But since he makes no pretense of Zionists or lobbyists, and talks directly and so clearly of Jews, we know what kind of idea he has in mind.

Finally, and most importantly, of the entity who writes under the name of Ross Vachon, and who has written in like manner for Israel Shamir and Counterpunch, too, we should consider that he might have left his comment here on the blog. Someone like Jeffrey Goldberg, who does not accept comments on his blog – and we can well imagine why he doesn’t – leaves a correspondent no choice but to write him directly. Vachon chose to write me directly even though he didn’t have to. Even if he believed that I would delete the comment, still what mattered to him was not that he publicly express his bigoted contempt, but that I receive it. Like someone who whispers the insult into your ear rather than pronounce it boldly, it is not for shame before the public that he does it – he has no shame – but because he imagines the whispered remark the more deeply wounding insult, like a blade inserted at close quarters.

So the anti-Semite imagines.

I imagine him now a specimen pinned to a spreading board.

AJA

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