Since I have my best thoughts (?) in the shower

Per this discussion.

Denying the presence of anti-Semitism in Ukraine is, in my opinion, naive (I’ve walked past graffiti drawings of stars of David on the gallows – just as I have walkled past graffiti drawings of swastikas on the gallows; people in Ukraine are, as ever, struggling for a national and cultural identity, and anti-Semitism continues to be an issue – I HATE it when people start acting as though it doesn’t exist). Saying that Ukraine is some sort of cesspool of ferocious and, for that matter, natural anti-Semitism is also misguided. Katya, in commenting on this blog, mentioned that she has been told that Slavs are “genetically” anti-Semitic. I’ve never had a person go that far with me, but it’s possible. Incidentally, I once sat next to a guy at the beginning of a new semester, and after we made our introductions and chatted (loudly) about where we’re from, he suddenly asked me, with a perfectly straight face: “So are you and your people still into killing my people?”

I doubt that anyone would say anything similar to a German today, particularly if it were done in public. No? Am I wrong? Should we be asking each other these questions nowadays, just so we don’t fall into the trap of, oh I don’t know, repeating the mistakes of the past? But then again, if we ask these questions selectively – how far along have we come?

I have to say – after the Fall (of the Soviet Union), it still seems to be easy to “Otherize” the former USSR.

6 thoughts on “Since I have my best thoughts (?) in the shower

  1. Since in the above post dated September 30, you referenced your post dated September 4 titled “My Special Evening” and Katya’s comments on that post starting on September 27, I have a question about your final comment dated October 1 on your “Special Evening” post, in which comment you state, “European anti-Semitism … is basically a LOCAL staple, in a way. And it’s been true for me WHEREVER I went in Europe” (capitalization added).

    I’m confused by your use of “local” and “wherever.” Unless, when you write “local,” you mean that anti-Semitism is “local” to all of Europe as a whole (Europe as a single locality), it sounds as though you mean that the anti-Semitism you encounter in Europe is the result of local provincialism and isolation rather than part of any European country’s Catholic or Orthodox heritage.

    But if you do mean that anti-Semitism is “local” to Europe as a whole, do you mean that you encountered anti-Semitism even in nominally Protestant areas like Scandinavia and Britain and in western Europe where Catholicism has mostly faded from national identity? Western Europe (meaning the original NATO members) has mostly lost its Christian identity, so in western Europe there shouldn’t be any sectarian motives for hating Jews. Are you saying that you actually encountered anti-Semitism in Britain and western Europe as well? I’m asking this because in Europe, anti-Semitism used to be strongest in Catholic and Orthodox countries that had been engaged in prolonged military conflict with Islamic states; besides Russia and Ukraine, Poland, Austria, and Spain are examples of Christian countries where Jews were viewed as a sort of fifth column that might not be completely reliable in the Christian struggle against Islam as that struggle was perceived probably up to the mid-19th century, at least in eastern Europe. Protestant areas, like Scandinavia, Britain, and the German Protestant states, never had to defend their borders against Muslim invaders, and there were fewer Jews living in Protestant areas to begin with, so anti-Semitism never became part of the Protestant identity (even though Martin Luther was a noted anti-Semite). Are you suggesting, in your comment dated October 1, that anti-Semitism is universal in Europe regardless of sectarian history (Catholic/Orthodox vs. Protestant)?

    Also, in response to your observation in the same October 1st comment about anti-Semitism in the U.S.: Before 1945-1946, which is when American gentiles outside government began to read reports about the Holocaust, varying degrees of anti-Semitism used to be regarded as completely normal in the U.S., and not merely by doctrinaire Catholics and Evangelicals. One of my late relatives who grew up in Appalachia in the 1920s and 1930s was a persistent anti-Semite throughout his life, even though, as a military judge in the American Occupation government in Germany in 1945-1946, he had attended a number of sessions of the Nuremberg trials. He never wished that Jews, in America or anywhere else, be harmed, declassed, or excluded in any way; he didn’t believe in quotas or segregation or anything of the sort. But he must have felt that Jews, by their persistent refusal to convert to Christianity, somehow threatened his own self-identification as a Christian, which was an important part of his Appalachian upbringing in the 1920s and 1930s. That might have been the motive for a certain level of American Protestant anti-Semitism from the mid-19th century onward, as American Protestantism became more of a cultural badge than a set of deeply-believed religious convictions. At least in the Midwest and northern Appalachia, as educated Protestants became less certain even of their cultural identity as Christians, the presence of clearly successful Jews, who didn’t even pretend to be Christians, must have made successful Protestants even more anxious about their own “Christian” cultural identity — hence the quotas at certain Ivy League schools and I think certain professional colleges as well. And of course, among American Catholics in the 1930s, there was Father Coughlin in Detroit, who evolved into a very vocal anti-Semite who allegedly (I think) inspired neighborhood gangs in major cities to torch synagogues. American anti-Semitism might also have been influenced by the perception in America and in Britain (in the British Foreign Office) immediately after World War I that Bolshevism, Zionism, and the world financial markets (which were believed to be controlled by Jews) were actually part of a deliberate Jewish conspiracy to control the world. This is mentioned in the book “A Peace to End All Peace” by an author whose last name is Piper (I think — I can’t find the book right now). At any rate, since 1945-1946, anti-Semitism in the U.S. has simply become muted since the discovery of the Holocaust. Before 1945, anti-Semitism of varying intensity used to be a “normal” part of American gentile culture, and it’s presumably still there now.

    Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to question your observations in your comment dated October 1 to your “Special Evening” post.

  2. That’s quite the thesis. I was referring to overall historical patterns of anti-Semitism. Going back as far as blaming the Jews for the Black Death, etc.

    Also, you seem to be suggesting that there are different degrees of anti-Semitism – such as the difference between wanting to kill Jews and having quotas at Ivy League schools (am I reading you right?). Obviously, the latter is way less horrific than the other. Both, however, are still forms of anti-Semitism.

    …that Bolshevism, Zionism, and the world financial markets (which were believed to be controlled by Jews) were actually part of a deliberate Jewish conspiracy to control the world.

    Millions of people believe something similar today.

  3. I don’t believe Russian anti Semitism had nothing to do with Islam. The Pale of Settlement, for example, was created to protect Russian (and Russified Europeans – remember, there were Germans, French, Scots, Irish, etc. who moved to/fled to the Russian Empire) merchants. In fact, Catherine II, who in some respects was fairly “liberal”, did not really support this law, though it was enacted during her reign.

    I would also quibble with the Black Death as an example of anti-Semitism. Jews, Muslims, pilgrims, lepers, and anyone with skin conditions were all blamed at some point. Why were Jews blamed? It had nothing to do with their religion, per se. Jews generally lived apart from other villagers, they did not drink from the same wells, and they had strict dietary and cleanliness laws. Christian Europeans did not. It was the fact that Jews weren’t getting sick en masse which caused them to be targets.

    Natalia, I don’t have a link to Morley Safer’s piece – it may be on the CBS website, though I doubt it, as it is over 10 years old.

    I also think you are correct the statements made to you would not have been made to a German.

    As for the “otherness” since the collapse of the USSR – Europe had to deal with nationalism in the fall out of WWI and WWII. It suppression by communists meant it would be resurgent after the collapse of communist governments.

  4. Katya said: “I don’t believe Russian anti Semitism had NOTHING to do with Islam.” (capitalization added).

    You mean that you don’t believe Russian anti-Semitism had ANYTHING to do with Islam — correct? I’m not trying to nitpick, but I want to make sure that I understand your sentence correctly. In other words, you don’t believe that Russian anti-Semitism is related to the Russian military conflicts with Islamic powers (I assume that’s what you mean).

    Katya also said: “The Pale of Settlement … was created to protect Russian … merchants.” Do you mean to protect Russian merchants from Jewish competition? Weren’t Jews in 18th-century Russia mostly agriculturalists? If you can expand on this point, it would be appreciated.

  5. Katya doesn’t have to expand on her point — I looked it up. Catherine the Great’s original ukase of 1791, which created the Pale of Settlement, was indeed nationalist and economic, although, apparently, Russian Jews could have escaped its restrictions if they converted to Russian Orthodoxy. From now on, before I comment on anti-Semitism, I will check my facts more carefully — although it is still true that the most intense and most persistent Christian anti-Semitism has existed in those Christian countries that were continually at war with Muslim powers. Slavic culture itself is not “genetically” or otherwise predisposed to anti-Semitism, anymore than French, Italian, Spanish, or Greek culture is genetically anti-Semitic. Christian anti-Semitism in Europe arises in large part from a kind of Christian identity that is molded in part by continual confrontation with a hostile power, whether that power be Muslim (in the Middle Ages) or, before the fourth century, imperial (pagan) Roman. Because that is off-topic for this forum, I won’t comment any further. But Christian anti-Semitism derives from the history of Christianity itself, not from other aspects of a national culture.

  6. But Christian anti-Semitism derives from the history of Christianity itself, not from other aspects of a national culture.

    But is it an either/or type of question? Christians, like everyone else, don’t live in a vacuum.

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