The Right Coast
June 26, 2005
By Maimon Schwarzschild
Paul Johnson notes the link between anti-Americanism and anti-semitism -- in Europe, in the Middle East, and elsewhere:
[A]nti-Semitism and anti-Americanism have proceeded hand in hand in today’s Europe just as they once did in Hitler’s mind (as the unpublished second half of Mein Kampf decisively shows). Like hatred of Jews, hatred of Americans can similarly be described as a form of racism or xenophobia, especially in its more vulgar manifestations. But among academics and intellectuals, where it is increasingly prevalent, it has more of the hallmarks of a mental disease, becoming more virulent, widespread, and intractable ever since the United States began to shoulder the duties of the war against international terrorism.Read the whole thing.
What Johnson doesn't explain -- perhaps no one really can -- is why anti-semitism and anti-Americanism seem to be linked emotions for so many people. I think one element is that both Americans and Jews are seen as economically successful: and if you envy people's economic success, it is satisfying to look down on them, and to denounce them, as money-grubbing, materialistic, cunning, exploitative, and so on. Also, Jews and Americans may both be seen as people you can safely jeer at because they don't hit back: Jews, historically, because they couldn't; Americans, because they usually don't.
(Does any major country put up with as many insults, with as little angry come-back, as the United States? Years ago, the city of Calcutta renamed the street housing the US consulate "Ho Chi Minh Street". It was a calculated insult. Did the US break diplomatic relations with India? Did it close the consulate? Did it rename the street housing the Indian Embassy in Washington "General Dyer Terrace" or "Mohammad Ali Jinnah Gardens"? No to all the above. The US Consulate in Calcutta is still open for business on Ho Chi Minh Street...)
Yet, these "explanations" seem partial at best. No doubt Johnson is right that both "anti's" are pathologies. But it's worth thinking -- and worrying -- about why they seem to be merging into the same pathology, at least among many who are most acutely infected.