An interesting view of the Jewish problem

John Gay writes from Canada:

With respect, it seems to me that both you and Melanie Phillips are missing the point in your aborted exchange about the Jews.

You ask, “Is cosmic Judeo-centrism good for the Jews?” Many Jews certainly don’t like being the focus of the inordinate historical attention focused on their small nation, and many have been murdered for it. But this is the fate of being a Jew, a carrier, or sign, of a revelation of great historical significance. A “Jew” is not simply whatever he is, as an actual person in daily life. And if one day the enemies of the Jews succeed in killing off all the Jews, they will still have a need for “Jews” and they will find them under one name or another, within one resentful conspiracy theory or another, because their identities depend, at their very core, on having “Jews” to resent.

In other words, what Melanie P. is talking about, it seems to me, is the anthropological and historical significance of anti-Semitism, something that transcends the actual lives of Jews, their DNA, and mundane or selfish interests. The “cosmic” significance of the Jew is the anthropological revelation that a loving God who wishes to allow humanity to discover the creative, nation-defining, “republican,” self-ruling possibilities of covenant must offer the choice first to one particular nation, and not to all humanity at once. Someone has to go first; a universal truth can only be revealed from a particular historical vantage point. But it is just this reality that the anti-Semite resents—that he is second, or third, to “discover” some profound existential truth, such as that one and all are in relationship with the one God of monotheism. The anti-Semite resents the creativity, the “firstness,” on which all productive nation building depends (which is not to say that such creativity is necessarily closed to him, but his resentment will often become trapped in a desire for conformity to some already-established relationship to what we signify as sacred or divine, such as the supposedly eternal, and uncreated, cosmically original, Koran).

So, leaving aside the personal animus, I read Melanie’s response to you thus:

“The war against the Jews is the single biggest and defining issue of our time because (a) it stands at the fulcrum of the West’s repudiation of its own culture.”

- Yes, even if all Jews are killed, the war may continue as long as some Western nation takes up the mantle of “Israel.” But when no one plays “Israel,” the war is truly lost. Again, the war against the Jews is not so much against actual persons, though it certainly threatens first and foremost actual Jews, who are the most obvious “Jews,” as it is against what Israel represents in the Western tradition as the first and exemplary nation.

“(b) the animus against the Jews lies at the core of the Islamic threat against the West “

-yes, what Islam hates is the West’s leadership in the global economy, its “Jewish” firstness to which those left behind have to respond; Islam hates the West’s historical and cultural centrality, which is why it hates Israel and America above all others; Israel is the founding sign of Western nationhood; America is now its pre-eminent incarnation, economically and culturally.

“(c) if Israel goes down, the West goes down.”

-can the West survive without Christianity and can Christians maintain faith in their Bible and national covenants if they see Israel’s destroyed? Or, to put it in more secular terms, if we give up on all that Israel represents as a small, creative, productive nation and acknowledge a great victory for totalitarian forces (Western and Islamic) at war with the innovation and creativity our tradition makes possible, then surely the West goes down, for a long time if not forever. And if it is reborn, it will only be because some group or another takes it upon itself to be the new Israel, as indeed every Western nation has conceived itself at some point in the process of its own creation. (The New Testament, remember, does not provide a model of a specifically-Christian national covenant.)

In short, I don’t think Jews who are “obsessed” with Jews and Israel are simply being selfish; they are showing awareness of the importance to all nations, and potential nations, of the first and still historically-significant model nation. American paleocon anti-Semites, however, see this in bad faith; they are just as Judeo-centric as those they decry but they don’t grapple honestly with the inevitable centrality, in the Western tradition, of what the “Jew” represents, and which anyone can freely re-present. One can’t be neutral about Jews, in the way one can be neutral about, say, Aleutians. You have to choose whether you embrace and (re)model their revelation into monotheism and nationalism, or not. We are all Judeo-centric, for better and worse.

John Gay,
Vancouver BC

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 19, 2010 08:25 AM | Send

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