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The Devil That Never Dies
The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism
By Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
Little, Brown and Company Copyright © 2013 Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
All rights reserved.
Antisemitic expression has exploded in volume and intensity in the last two decades, particularly in the last ten years. The upsurge has been so meteoric and the canards advanced so prejudicial that if anyone in 1990 or even 1995 had predicted the current state of affairs, he would have been seen as a fanciful doomsayer. This resurgence of antisemitism and its expression has taken place not merely in select countries but around the world, and especially unexpectedly in Western countries. It has taken place in the halls of parliament and in the streets. Among elites and common people. In public media, places of worship, and in the privacy of homes. Where Jews live and where they do not. It has done so with classical tropes and with new ones, in long familiar forums and in recently invented ones.
Antisemitism has moved people, societies, indeed civilizations for two thousand years, and has done so despite the otherwise vast changes in the world and in these civilizations and societies—economic, scientific, technological, political, social, and cultural. It has been a powerful force, an animating idea, the glue of many societies and cultures for much longer than practically any major belief system or ideology or political form, or many of our major cultural forms. It long predates and, until very recently historically, has been more widespread than genuine democracy as an animating ideology and political system. It long predates the Western idea of liberty becoming widespread, which was not until the modern period. Among intergroup prejudices, antisemitism's longevity is unparalleled. Even the anti-black racism of the West has not existed as long, coming into being in something resembling its classic form much later, when imperial Europeans started to explore and carve up the rest of the world in the fifteenth century. If we consider matters aside from prejudice, antisemitism's singular nature and peculiar power comes into still sharper relief. It long predates the advent of capitalism, and the technological and industrial revolutions that created the foundation for modern economies and prosperity, which have thoroughly altered the world directly and indirectly in every respect. Yet regarding Jews, these changes led not to a diminution of antisemitism but were often used only to deepen and intensify it. Antisemitism long predates the world-altering changes in conceptions of the world that included and were brought about by the Copernican revolution in the earth's and therefore human beings' places in the universe, by the revolution in understanding the early modern period that the very contours of the world were round, and by Europeans' "discovery" of other continents and their conquest of and incorporation of the rest of the world into a world system with its diversity of peoples and cultures. Antisemitism long predates an acceptance of the general equality of human beings, and the moral standing and capacity of women as social, cultural, economic, and political facts. It long predates the current conception of childhood as a time when human beings ought to have their human capacities cultivated and their moral autonomy and rights respected. Antisemitism long predates the emergence of science, a set of rigorous practices to develop objective and correct bodies of knowledge that permeate education, thinking, social relations, and social practices—which, significantly, has barely affected the hold of the nonsense that composes and that flows from antisemitic thinking. Indeed, science has often been perverted to justify such thinking and practice. This includes the foundational revolution in the conception of human beings owing to Darwin, which was used only to intensify antisemitism by merging it with a new body of derivative social Darwinian thought that rendered Jews a biologically based race of evildoers. Antisemitism long predates entire disciplines of thought, including political science, sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, and cognitive neuroscience, yet despite the emergence of these sober ways of studying the individual and social world, they have made little dent in antisemitism's spread and power. And it long predates many cultural and art forms, from classical music to the novel to film, each of which—as akin to older art forms, such as drama, philosophy, and history—has been the vehicle for antisemitic expression, often by some of the most distinguished practitioners of each: William Shakespeare, Johann Sebastian Bach, Charles Dickens, Richard Wagner, T. S. Eliot, and on and on. Antisemitism long predates, has been more widespread and more powerful until recent times, and in many instances continues to be more powerful, than many of the defining and most essential features of our world today.
The calumnies against Jews have been the most damaging kind. Jews have killed God's son. All Jews, and their descendants for all time (in other words, all Jews forever) are guilty. They are the enemies of God. Jews are in league with the devil. Jews desecrate God's body, the host. Jews parented the Antichrist. Jews seek to destroy his Church. Jews themselves are demons or devils. Jews sought to slay God's prophet Muhammad. Jews are the enemies of Allah. Jews kill Christian children and use their blood for their rituals. Jews kill Muslim children. Jews wreak financial havoc in the countries in which they live. Jews have started all wars. Jews corrupt the moral fabric of societies and lead non- Jews astray in every conceivable way. Jews poison wells. Jews seduce and defile non-Jewish women. Jews are sexually licentious. Jews are behind prostitution. Jews are all criminals. Jews are fundamentally dishonest. Jews form an insidious international conspiracy. Jews are fifth columnists, betraying their homelands during times of war and peace. Jews control the media. Jews corrupt art and culture. Jews are like vermin, rats, strangling octopi, pests of all kinds. Everything Jews say is a lie. Jews seek to dominate nations. Jews seek to destroy nations. Jews seek to enslave humanity. Jews are behind the predations of capitalism. Jews are behind communism. Jews run the Soviet Union. Jews do not contribute anything positive to society. Jews do not do productive or honest labor. Jews are a race apart. Jews are genetically programmed to be malevolent. Jews are highly intelligent and cunning, making them a very dangerous enemy. Jews invented AIDS. Jews are responsible for 9/11. Jews control the United States. Jews caused the Iraq War. Jews are responsible for the financial meltdown of 2008. Jews are a vanguard of the West to enslave Muslims and destroy Islam.
Over the course of antisemitism's mind-boggling time span—while conceptions of the world, and humanity in its many aspects, and political, social, economic, and cultural practices and disciplines have come and gone and, when existing, have undergone such fundamental internal changes as to become unrecognizably new—antisemitism has maintained its core demonology, at least in several of its powerful strains. Christians since the dawn of Christianity have deemed Jews, for example, to be Christ-killers. This has also been the official and widely taught view of the Christian churches, including the once hegemonic Catholic Church, until very recently historically. (Today, many but hardly all Christians not only don't harbor this view, but forcefully reject it.) Even when there were world historical conflicts among different branches of Christianity, the nature of the Jews and their putative evil was one tenet that they shared, and that united them. In the Arab and Islamic world, where antisemitism, here a stepchild of Christianity, came into existence with the establishment of Islam in the seventh century, the central anti-Jewish charges and construction of Jews have also remained constant. The Arab and Islamic antisemitic discourse has at its core the notion that Jews are the prophet Muhammad's enemies and impediments to Islam's triumph, and, having allegedly raised their hands in violence against the prophet and his emissaries, that they need to be conquered with the sword, and once so, at best be tolerated in a diminished state, until they one way or another—Muslims have often emphasized the sword as the appropriate means—are eliminated. It is not surprising that this antisemitic discourse has, whatever its variations and at times softening, retained this stable and core conception of Jews because it is grounded in the Qur'an and the Hadith, neither of which have, akin to Christianity and the Christian bible, undergone a widespread, fundamental reformation or modernization in understanding or in the practice they inform, and therefore receive a less literal reading and orientation toward the world.
Antisemitism has been highly elaborated and widely encoded in texts—more than any other ethnic prejudice by far. It has not been a mere reflex of prejudice of we don't like them, or they are bad or threatening or inferior for this or that reason, which ultimately is what most prejudices are. Vast antisemitic literatures exist in many languages, on every continent, and in different civilization traditions. They run the gamut from the most rudimentary rabble-rousing to the most seemingly learned and sophisticated treatises and tomes. The degree to which antisemitism has been spread, adumbrated, specified, elaborated, turned into slogans, been the bases for seemingly learned disquisitions, served as the pseudo-foundation for science and for the arts, been the basis of social and cultural forms and political movements is breathtaking. The antisemitic litany has existed and been elaborated in virtually all forms of information: written, oral, symbolic, imagistic; in all information vehicles: newspapers, pamphlets, magazines, graffiti, jokes, posters, books, the Internet; and in all art and cultural forms: poetry, novels, plays, operas, liturgical music, painting, film, television series. Tens of thousands of antisemitic books have been published, many of which have been huge bestsellers in countries around the world. Now, with the Internet, the proliferation of antisemitic writing, posting, chatting, social networking, tweeting is effectively boundless, and the ready access people around the world have to it is near instantaneous.
Antisemitism's reach is unparalleled, both historically and today. Hundreds of millions of people have, in the past and today, subscribed to the foundational antisemitic paradigm—which, as we shall see, holds Jews to be in their essence different from non-Jews and noxious—taken part in or imbibed the elements and elaborations of various antisemitic discourses, and believed antisemitism's calumnies. Antisemitism is practically an article of faith, in the literal and figurative sense of the term, in much of the Arab and Islamic worlds, as it still is, if in subdued form among many Christians, among whom it was for centuries a central article and formal doctrine of faith, taught and believed-in hand-in-glove with the notion of Jesus' divinity. As we will see from the survey data, hundreds of millions have been and are moved by antisemitism's associated passions, including hatred. And hundreds of millions have been and are willing to support anti-Jewish programs, including violence, including—indisputably in the past and all but indisputably today—large-scale lethal violence. The range of people believing in and fomenting antisemitism is also unusually broad. From the uneducated peasant and day laborer to university professors and leaders of countries, from people on the political left to those on the political right, from the secular to devout believers in God, from people organized behind antisemitic programs to those having only imbibed available social and cultural notions, from the poor to the wealthy—all these factors, which usually greatly and differentially influence people's prejudices and other belief systems, have had little influence on antisemitism's general spread and power. The people who are in general the least prejudiced, the educated and the elites, have often been at least as prejudiced as the so-called common man and woman of their societies.
The norms against antisemitic expression in public, which were in place in the Western world for roughly half a century after the Holocaust, have been largely breached, in many places overturned, and in many others inverted so that in ever more places and contexts affirming one's prejudices and hatreds of Jews is now a norm. The post-Holocaust inhibitions against antisemitism's public expression are unlikely to be restored anytime soon. The enormous increase in antisemitism and in its expression in the public sphere is accelerating. And publicly and widely expressed antisemitism, and its validation by elites and opinion leaders, has a self-reinforcing dynamic, of persuading more and more people of antisemitism's truths, who then further contribute to its expression or to the demand for its expression.
For all its longevity and permutations, antisemitism is nonetheless straightforward and simple to comprehend. Antisemitism is prejudice against or hatred of Jews. It is easy to recognize and understand when reading classic antisemitic literature, seeing cartoons about the vile qualities and deeds that political Islamists attribute to Jews, hearing insults likening Jews to pigs and dogs, encountering charges that they are responsible for all wars or for AIDS, or that they want to destroy humanity, a particular religion, or goodness. Yet antisemitism is also complex. It has many features that are not so readily grasped. And people disagree over whether some features are antisemitic and their bearers antisemites. Is it antisemitism (and is the person who employs it an antisemite) to use classical antisemitic tropes, such as Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own countries, or Jews have too much power over a country's economy, even if the person does not openly express "hatred" of Jews? Is it antisemitic to be anti-Israel, to focus on Israel's real and alleged shortcomings and transgressions, while ignoring, even apologizing for or covering up, much worse transgressions by nearby states?
That these and antisemitism's many other aspects are not obvious indicates how deeply misunderstood antisemitism is, and how necessary it is for us to explore what constitutes (1) antisemitism, (2) antisemitism's historical and recent development, (3) its general character today, (4) its various dimensions, and (5) its current multiple forms.
Doing so reveals alarming truths:
Antisemitism is back, but not simply in its old form, more precisely put, not simply in any of its old forms, whether age-old Christian, Islamic, or Nazi. It has a changed content and character, rendering it continuous with past forms of antisemitism and substantially new, making it immensely more dangerous than at any time since the Nazi period, and likely laying its own new foundation for a continuing and ever-evolving future. In great measure, its character is eliminationist. Its different dimensions produce a variety of antisemitisms. It is worldwide and dangerous, threatening politically and physically Jewish communities around the globe, including Israel's very existence, and intellectually and morally the corruption of the minds of non-Jews. I dubbed this era several years ago "globalized antisemitism," or, more in keeping with the already changing times, "global antisemitism," a name that aptly characterizes antisemitism's current character: we live in a globalized or global world and, like so many other things, antisemitism has been globalized. Antisemitism is global geographically and, produced in regions, places, and nodes around the world, available for people who want (and often do not want) to hear, see, or read it. It is not two dimensional, static, staying in whatever form it currently takes, in one place or region, but is three dimensional with constant movement and exchanges around the globe. Its content is influenced profoundly by, and indeed influences in return, the global order.
Excerpted from The Devil That Never Dies by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. Copyright © 2013 Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown and Company.
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