The Israeli ambassador to Sweden was interviewed this week on a radio station in Stockholm. He was being interviewed in connection with the recent killing of a Jewish security guard outside of the synagogue in Copenhagen. The charming woman interviewer, after the ambassador expressed is horror and disgust over the matter, asked him: “Don’t you think that the Jews also have to shoulder some of the blame for these anti-Semitic attacks?”
The ambassador said that he resented the question and that classic anti-Semitism always places the blame for its existence on Jewish faults and sins without stopping to be introspective about its own destructive and pernicious beliefs and behavior.
I have thought about the question that that Swedish woman asked the ambassador. There have been numerous proposals and plans advanced over the many centuries of Jewish existence to attempt to explain the phenomenon of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is irrational, based on false premises and conspiracy theories and in many cases a truly psychological and pathological disease that infects individuals and nations.
It is almost natural, in the absence of any logical or rational explanation for this never-ending destructive attitude and behavior, to turn one's gaze away from the perpetrators and fix it instead upon the victims. Franklin Roosevelt once said that Hitler had a point when he publicly complained that there were too many Jewish doctors in Germany. The inability to call a spade a spade, to face up to the reality of evil ideological violence and the moral and social failings of the dominant societies always forces a search for the causes of anti-Semitism to focus upon the Jews who are its victims rather than upon those who perpetrate and perpetuate it.
Of course, all of us know that Jews are not perfect people and that Jewish society has often times been sinful. Even the public practice of its faith in that society is lacking in perfect morality and absolute justice. Perfect morality and absolute justice are goals of Judaism and Jewish life but they are not always the reality. Given that, there always have been great and righteous people in the Jewish world that have attained lofty levels of morality and spirituality.
There is a drive within Jews to demand perfection from themselves, from their leaders and from their general community and society. This drive, admirable as it is, causes the Jewish world to engage in constant introspection, self-criticism and even eventual alienation from the beliefs and practices of Jewish life. Jews who are openly and bitterly dissatisfied with the Jewish people, the Jewish state and the shortcomings of the practice of the Jewish religion communicate this, whether consciously or otherwise, to the general world.
Since Jews obviously demand perfection from their society it is not untoward for the general non-Jewish society to also somehow raise the bar as far as the Jewish society is concerned and to expect perfection from it. It has ironically been said that the Jews are the only ones in the Western world who attempt to be good Christians. Since, invariably, Jews, Jewish practice and Jewish society will be found falling short of perfection, there is always fertile ground for the seeds of anti-Semitism to be planted and to flourish.
Anti-Semitism is not our fault. On the relative scale of human behavior over the past many millennia, the record of the Jewish people is an exemplary one. While we should always attempt to improve our standards and behavior of social justice and morality, we should never allow ourselves to believe that anti-Semitism is our fault.
Even asking that question to the Israeli ambassador to Sweden was itself an expression of the innate anti-Semitism that exists within the Scandinavian countries and in fact throughout Europe. It would be the height of racism to advance the theory that blacks are discriminated against in the United States because of the faults of individual blacks or even black society as a whole. Yet when it comes to Jews, people are willing to use such logic and ask such questions.
And it is always painful and ironic that many times it is Jews themselves that are the questioners and the perpetrators of anti-Semitic attitudes and even behavior. It is to be noted that the United States, the United Nations and many other countries worldwide always find Jews to carry out their anti-Israel and anti-Jewish policies. The choice of these Jews provides the fig leaf that protects them from charges of blatant anti-Semitism. I advance no solutions that will lead to the eradication of anti-Semitism. But I can categorically state that this is not our fault nor is it justified by the behavior and state of Jewish society the world over.