The one thing I’ve never agreed with Rabbi Kahane about is the danger of anti-Semitism in America. But as I grow older and still more pessimistic, I move closer to his view.
The only factor that precludes the possibility of major pogroms in America is the lack of any history of institutional anti-Semitism. That is a serious and valid reason, but there are arguments to the contrary.
In many countries where pogroms took place, the existence of institutional anti-Semitism is questionable. In Poland, for example, Jews lived in ghettos as they did everywhere in Christendom, but was it oppression? More likely than not, Jews opted to live in ghettos to preserve the Jewish way of life; Jews shielded themselves from Gentiles, not the other way around. Just before the major wave of pogroms shook seventeenth-century Poland, Jews enjoyed many privileges and held lucrative administrative and commercial positions.
I don’t believe in exceptions. Every Christian country besides America and Canada persecuted and exterminated its Jews. The story of Jewish salvation in the Netherlands during the Holocaust is a fiction; three quarters of Jews perished there. The Christians who settled North America did not come from the Moon, but from anti-Semitic Europe. It would be unrealistic to expect them to shake off their anti-Semitism at the American border.
The support for Israel from some Christian fundamentalist groups also fuels the anti-Semitic sentiment of the rest. True, there were no major outbreaks of anti-Semitic violence even during the Great Depression, mainly because pogrom mobs need a feeling of invincibility, and they need tacit approval from the government. Though the US Administration is unlikely to incite against Jews, it does incite against Israel—which to the mob is the Jews. The government’s push for the peace process and the media’s out-of-context depiction of Palestinian hardships invariably set a significant part of theAmerican population against Jews.
Anti-Semitism was open and strong in America before the ex-Jews took leading positions in the victorious liberal movement in the 1970s. To express anti-Semitism now is almost perceived as dangerous, especially in the business sphere, where Jews are numerous and influential.
Counter-intuitively, Jews who isolate themselves cause much less anti-Semitism than Jews who wholeheartedly embrace the surrounding society; Jews believe they are assimilated, but the Gentiles around recognize them for what they are—Jews, and bad ones.People who abandoned their own roots, who hate their own heritage, who abandon the idea for which generations of their relatives ascended the Christian stakes and gallows—they cannot be good. Jews, however assimilated, can never integrate into Gentile societies: they know those societies to be repressive, they fear Gentiles, and they work, consciously or otherwise, to subvert the existing societies. Thus the abundance of Jewish liberals who attack the traditional morals of every society.
The extermination of Jews in the twentieth century followed their emancipation. In Ukraine, Jews broke out of the quarantine zones allocated to them by the tsarist government, and just two years later 200,000 of them lay horribly murdered. In Germany, Reform Judaism and communism trumpeted the assimilation of Jews into German society; a decade after the Weimar Republic, Jews were on the road to annihilation. Stalin was preparing to exterminate Soviet Jewry in 1953 in response to Jewish influence in Soviet society.
There seems to be a correlation between Jewish assimilation and pogroms. Gentiles tolerate the Jews who stick to their ghettos, but lash out against the Jews who inundate their Christian societies. Jews were exiled from Spain largely in response to the exploding influence of the Marranos, the converted Jews. As Christian converts, they encountered no restrictions and almost took over Spanish society.
Jews became assimilated in America to a previously unseen degree. At the same time, the obnoxious Jewish influence is rampant: Jews and people of Jewish background are disproportionally represented among the American rich, and more importantly, among the detested liberals.
Xenophobia is a natural, positive attitude as people resist encroachment by aliens; societies strive to preserve their values against the onslaught of outsiders. Germans of the pre-Nazi era feared Jews as communists bent on destroying their society; liberal Jews in America serve the very same role. American Jewish liberals were at the forefront of racial equality, affirmative action, gay rights, homosexual marriage, and many other developments which common Americans of the “moral majority” perceive as questionable.
Anti-Semitism has not vanished from the world. Polls show anti-Semitism in Europe, including Germany, steady at 25–35 percent. ADL polls show slightly lower figures in America generally, but about that high among blacks and Mexicans, who are the most violent groups. The police remained uninvolved during the wave of anti-Semitic attacks by blacks on Jewish neighborhoods in the 1960s; now the police would be still more hesitant to round up the blacks. White anti-Semitic groups are widespread, numerous, vocal, and armed. Probably in no country was anti-Semitism ever universal. A quarter of the population can do away with the Jews with the silent consent or natural indifference of the majority.