September 5, 2004

"casual, breezy denial of Jewish humanity..."

Roger Simon recommended a post called My Road to Damascus, by Benjamin Kerstein. It's about growing up in a totally left-wing environment, and gradually beginning to question it, a emancipation started by encounters with a shocking level of anti-semitism. It's worth reading.

...This, I felt, was what had stung so bitterly in the eyes of my friends who had attended Nader's rally. The casual, breezy denial of Jewish humanity: Jews were being murdered, and for it Jews--the very dead themselves--were being blamed. We were, it seemed to me, being condemned for our own murder, and thus, by extension, being asked to consent to our own murder; and this, it seemed clear to me, was to declare that we were sub-human by condemning our failure to be super-human. It was, by any definition, an act of dehumanization, a dehumanization of us as Jews, and thus, by definition, anti-semitism.

Barely a few weeks after the Nader rally, these thoughts were crystallized by an argument I had with a black liberal minister at Boston University. In the course of his Sunday sermon, broadcast on the local NPR affiliate, he had notated a list of the world's evils: poverty, no health care, etc., in which he gave pride of place to Israel's targeted assassination policy, which, he informed me in stentorian tones, as if intoning divine truths, was "barbaric". Nowhere and at no point did he mention suicide bombings, or his opinion as to their barbarism. I must confess, the thing came to me with a shocking clarity, all the more so for its horrendous implications; here was this good liberal preacher, who no doubt considered himself congenitally immune to all the ills of the human soul he condemned in those he saw as his moral inferiors, and yet Jewish lives simply did not matter to him. Or, to put it even more precisely, the lives of other human beings did not matter to him, because they were Jews. I simply had no other name for such an attitude than anti-semitism...

Posted by John Weidner at September 5, 2004 8:12 PM
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