What do antisemites and Jewish Progressives have in common? The internalization of a negative cultural meme. Cultural memes are units of information; cultural units of DNA, which give us an understanding of being human. Oxford University biologist Richard Dawkins describes two types of information that are intertwined and passed through the generations. There are the genes that pass on our DNA (blue eyes, brown hair, predisposition to health issues) and then there are memes, which he refers to as “units of deep cultural information.” A genetic memory of sorts. Where we inherit emotion or values from generation to generation without being conscious of learning that information.
I think of antisemitism as a cultural meme. Generation after generation of people have developed a hate for Jews that is often irrational; as many people who carry this hate have never met a Jew. This particular cultural meme began as an attack on the Jews for killing Christ. And over the millennia Jews were expelled, prosecuted, persecuted, pogrommed, and then the ultimate response to Jew hatred; the murder of 6 million people for the crime of being Jewish. And murdered in a way never before conceived. It was a military-industrial complex killing machine.
And then for the first time in two millennia Christians and Catholics sat back and acknowledged the consequence of their hatred. They saw what their hate had reaped. And there was repentance. And the Catholic Church called for an end to Jew hatred. And others gave their heartfelt apologia for their ignorantia affectata, their willful blindness. One would have thought that Jew hatred would wither after that. But no. Because it is embedded in the genes. And within 50 years of the most horrific state sanctioned murder of millions, antisemitism raised its ugly head again and was facilitated by the Jew-hatred from Muslims who spread the same hateful rhetoric as the Nazis.
Progressive Jews, too have a cultural meme. I call it the wandering Jew inferiority complex. Fear of being Jewish. For two millennia Jews have been on the move, and not by choice. After the fall of the Second Temple and the defeat of Bar Kochba in the third century CE the Jews flew to the four corners of the known world. And over time, as the known world opened, the Jews continued to flee. Jews wandered into Europe and Asia and over to the new world. Often carrying with them the fear of expulsion, for the Jews have been expelled from the finest countries for simply being Jewish. From Britain and Spain and Portugal and then countries in Europe; thank you Hitler. Yet everywhere the Jewish people went they carried with them the fear of Jew hatred; of those pogroms, persecutions and death by fire. Always a bag packed or at least the thought of packing one to run again. And whenever Jews stayed, there was a tacit understanding that we would be quiet, shhhh, don’t rock the boat, stay low and fit in. Assimilate, as the German Jews had done.
With the Enlightenment and the Emancipation of the Jews by Napoleon we thought we had made it. Out of the shtetl into the real world where we would be one and the same. There developed a belief that if we assimilated, blended in, tried to be like “Them” or at the very least stayed quiet, laid low, didn’t rock the boat, we would be fine.
So, today, we have this cultural meme of fitting in which requires a certain ignorantia affectata. I make a leap here, that the descendants of the Enlightenment and Emancipated Jews, the Liberals amongst us, are the first to desire to fit in with “them.” Accept their values and views. Then there are those fearful ones who descend from those who believed that in silence was safety.
How else do we explain Jews who attack the Jewish state? Who demean the Jewish people. They, too, suffer from willful blindness. Who follow Jew haters like Linda Sarsour who said one cannot be part of the feminist movement unless he or she is critical of Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank and who publicly supported a convicted Palestinian terrorist, Rasmea Odeh. Jews, who despite all evidence that the political party to which they are attached by what appears to be an umbilical cord, Progressive parties, refuse to break that cord? How do we explain Camp Solomon Schechter, a proud Jewish camp that teaches love of Judaism and Zionism raising a Palestinian flag “in friendship” with visiting Arab Christians and Muslims. How nice, how kind. But this was just after an Arab Muslim had butchered a Jewish family at the Shabbos table.
Would these same adults, these so-called, and often self-appointed Jewish leaders; people who are role models for our children, would they be as willing to put up the Swastika?
Then there is J Street, and Jewish Voice for Peace, who come to Israel to promote BDS. Promote the economic downfall of the only democracy and viable country in the Middle East. How do these people listen to the persistent calls for “death to the Jews” from these Arab Muslims in “Palestine” and still stand against the Jews in Israel?And B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories; Jews taking upon themselves the language of those who hate us. Like calling ourselves Kikes. Jews, including rabbis, waking up each day, telling themselves they are Mitzva Makers as they chip away at Israel and the Jews and the Nation, itself. Jews in America, who turn on Israel because they disagree with some of her policies.
Jews who believe that America will always welcome them. Would these same Jews, had they been alive 80 years ago, promoted the Nazis?
And then there are the Jews in the Middle. The ones who managed to shed the shtetl and the need to assimilate. They are the Jews who remember “all Jews are responsible for one another.”
Why were some Jews able to rid themselves of that shtetl/assimilate gene?
Why are there people no longer antisemitic?
Sadly, we must wait until that genetic link is unlocked.