The Respectable Anti-Semitism
“The respectable anti-Semitism” (“Der ehrbahre Antisemitismus”) is an essay by Jean Améry, a resistance fighter, Auschwitz survivor and Austrian essayist, who is mostly known for his philosophical reflections on his own torture by the Gestapo, his time of imprisonment in several concentration camps, the process of aging and the act of suicide (he committed suicide himself in 1978). This essay has been originally been published in the German weekly Die Zeit in 1969, two years after the Six-Day War. Although he associated himself with the radical Left, he was highly critical of the anti-Semitic tendencies of the German Left and he was one of the very first among progressive intellectuals, who have addressed left-wing anti-Semitism. Despite the fact that “The respectable anti-Semitism” has been written more than 40 years ago, it is still highly topical and accurate. This essay was one of the major influences during the time when I’ve critically reflected and reconsidered my prejudiced and dogmatist views on Israel and the Middle East conflict and it has played a prominent role in my political maturing process during high school. It was quite hard to find a decent translation, which doesn’t deform Améry’s writing style (as a translation attempt of my own would have certainly done), but I’ve finally found one here.
De Gaulle fell. Some felt bleak like a Heinian grenadier: so did I, so did I. But unfortunately, that in New York to the French UNO – delegate Armand Bérard occurred nothing better than exclaiming desperately (according to the „Nouvel Observateur“from the 5th of May): „C’est l’or juif!“. And no dementi. Right hand, left hand, everything mixed up. The anti-Semitism accomplishes it and, to speak with Stefan George „… er reisst in den Ring.“ The classic phenomenon of anti-Semitism takes an actual shape. The old one keeps existing, that’s what I call co-existence. What was, stays and will stay. The slouchnosed, slouchleged Jew, that from something –what do I say?- from everything runs away. Like this he is to be seen on the Affichen and the pamphlets of the Arab propaganda, in which so said brown gentlemen with German native tongue, well concealed with Arab names, shall as well profit. But the new ideas that stepped onto the stage right after the 6-days-war and prevailed slowly: The Israeli oppressor, who with the brazenly forward stepping of the oppressing legionnaire tramples down peaceful Palestinian land. Anti-Israelism, anti-Zionism in the purest mutual consent with the anti-Semitism from the old days. The brazenly forward stepping oppressor-legionnaire and the slouchleged runaway don’t molest each other. How finally the pictures are similar to each other!
But new is, indeed, the establishing of the as anti-Israelism feigning Anti-Semitism on the Left. Once this was the socialism of the stupid guys. Today it is about to become an integrating ingredient of socialism as such, and thereby every socialist makes himself by his free will a stupid guy. The process can profitably be read in the already more than a year ago in France by Pauvert published book: „La Gauche contre Israel“ of Givet. But it is sufficient to discern certain road marks, for example to read one by the magazine “Konkret” published reportage: “Die dritte Front” (The third front). “Ist Israel ein Polizeistaat?” (Is Israel a police state?) is written in the title link. The question is just a rhetorical one. Of course Israel is such. And Napalm and blown houses of peaceful Arab farmers and Arab-pogroms in the streets of Jerusalem. One is being well versed. It is like in Vietnam or like it once was in Algeria. The slouchleged runaway turns naturally out as the terror spreading goliath.
It is being spoken of the Left, and by no way only of the still more or less orthodox communist parties of the west or even of the politics of the states of the socialist bloc. For these the anti-Israelism, plugged onto the traditional anti-Semitism of the Slavic peoples, belongs very simply to the strategy and tactics of a so or so given political constellation. The stars don’t lie, the Gomulkas know, what they can bank upon. C’est de bonne guerre! About this no word is to be lost!
Worse is, that the intellectual Left, that knows itself free from every party-attachment, adopts this picture. Many years one has – to talk about Germany – celebrated the Israeli armed farmers and the snazzy girls in uniforms. In bad currency some feelings of guilt got ablated. That had to become boring. Luckily, that the Jew for one time was not burned, but stood as the imperious victor, as occupier. Napalm and so on. A taking breath went through the country. Everyone could speak like the “Deutsche National- und Soldatenzeitung” (German National and Soldiers Newspaper). Who stood left, was empowered even to execute the jargon of engagement routinely. Being definite is: The anti-Semitism, contained in the anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism like the thunder in the cloud, is once more honourable. It can speak vulgar, then it is called “Criminal state of Israel”. It can do it in the mannerly way and speak of the “bridgehead of Imperialism”, and on that occasion incidentally allude on the misunderstood solidarity, that binds almost all Jews, not considering some laudable exceptions, to the dwarf-state, and one can find it outrageous, that the Parisian Baron Rothschild demands the Israel-donations of the French population as taxes. Easy on the anti-Semitism it is in any case. The emotional infrastructure exists and in no way only on Poland or Hungary. The anti-Semite “demystifies” the pioneer-state with complacency. It comes to his mind that behind this state-creation at any time stood capitalism in form of the Jewish plutocracy: He does not get closer on this last-mentioned, that would be an ideological lapsus linguae, but still – c’est l’or juif! – nobody can be deceived about the real constitution of a country, that was born out of a bad idea, constructed in a bad place, fought one or more bad wars and won. Misunderstandings are to be excluded by any means. I know as good as anyone and everyone, that Israel objectively has got the joyless role as an occupying power. To justify everything, that the diverse governments of Israel undertake, doesn’t come to my mind. My personal relations to this country about which Thomas Mann said in the Josef-Tetralogy, that it was a „Mittelmeer-Land, nicht gerade heimatlich, etwas staubig und steinig (a Mediterranean country, not really homey, a bit dusty and stony), are quasi zero: Never have I visited it, I don’t speak it’s language, it’s culture is alien to me in an embarrassing way, it’s religion is not mine. Nevertheless is the existing of its statehood more important to me than of any other.
And hereby we get to the point, where it has an end of every narrative or analyzing objectivity and where engagement is no longer a freely chosen commitment, but a cause of existence, the word understood in several meanings. About Israel, the fashionable anti-Israelism, the old-fashioned, but still into every fashion sneaking anti-Semitism speaks existentially subjectively, who by any means “belongs to it”
(„Juden, Personen, die im Sinne des Reichsbürgergesetzes vom 15. September 1935 als Juden gelten“) (“Jews, persons, who are considered such in the sense of the Reichs Citizen law of the 15th of September 1935”) – and finally reaches, perhaps just because of this, an objectivity of almost natural law character. Hence in the end the most thinking history (Geistesgeschichte) disembogues – just as the most thorough and the most clever consideration into the cognition, that this pioneer-country, and may it be a hundred times, following a perverted pseudo-Marxist theory, in the state of sin of technological high development, is among all states of this geopolitical area the most endangered. Victory, Victory and once more Victory: A catastrophe is threatening, and you cannot even avoid it, if you run straight into it and make Israel a part of a Palestinian federation.
The Arab states, whom I wish luck and peace, will catch up with the Israeli technological edge, one day. Their demographic pressure will do the rest. By any means it is about obtaining the state of Israel as long, until peace, economic and technological prerequisites have placed the Arabs into a general state of mind, that allows them the recognition of Israel within secure borders.
It is about that. To whom? The subjective constitution, which wants to be historical objectivity, has got her interference here. The existence of Israel is essential for all Jews (“Jews, persons, in the sense…” and so on), wherever they may live. „Wird man mich zwingen, Johnson hochleben zu lassen? Ich bin bereit dazu“ (Will you make me cheer Johnson? I am ready for that!) shouted on the evening before the six-days-war the leftwing radical French publicist and Sartre-student Claude Lanzmann. He knew, what he meant and wanted. Hence every Jew is a “catastrophe-Jew”, being on the mercy of a catastrophic fait, if he realizes it or not. “Run, pale Jew!” the Black-Panther men write on the shops and houses of Jewish mongers in Harlem and forget with an easy heart the old alliance, that in the USA chains the Jew to the Negro, and which even the most grungy bourgeois-Jewish trader did not betray. Who guarantees, that not once a government of the United States feeds the Jews to the Negroes in a great feast of conciliation? What vouches for the influential and partly rich Jews of France, that not one day the heirs of Drumont, Maurras, Xavier Vallat reach new virulence? Who advocates, that not to Mr. Strauss’s head, once being in power, comes something, after what a certain newspaper-tycoon will reconsider giving further easy donations to an easily ready to the reception Israeli government? Nobody guarantees nothing. This is no paranoid fantasy and is more than the general human sense of danger. The past, the youngest, burns.
And now every friend of the Left will tell me, I as well would join the great army of those, who with six million (or five or four if you want) murdered push opinion blackmailing. That risk is to be taken: It is smaller than the other, that friends propose to me, when they plead for the self-surrender of the “Zionist” Israel.
The demand of practical-political reason goes towards the solidarity of a Left, that does not want to abandon itself (without having to ignore the terrible fait of the Arab refugees), to extend on Israel, yes, to concentrate around Israel. The commandment has got for the non-Jewish man of the Left not the same commitment like for Jews, either him standing left, middle, right or nowhere. From the Left you can retreat; From the so-being as Jew nobody dismisses you, that was already known to the early anti-Semite Lanz-Liebenfels. Of course the left has got its own unwritten moral laws, which it must not bend. “Where there is a stronger, always on the side of the weaker”, what a unavoidably true triviality! And stronger – who dares counter-response? – that are the Arabs; stronger in number, stronger in oil, stronger in Dollars, one should ask at Aramco and in Kuwait, stronger, in any case, with future potential.
The Left however looks obviously spellbound onto the brave Palestinian partisans, that of course are poorer than the men of Moshe Dayan. It does not see, that despite Rothschild and a prosperous American-Jewish middle-class the Jew is still in a worse situation than Franz Fanon’s colonized, sees this as little as the phenomenon of the anti-Imperialist Jewish freedom fight, that has been fought against England. In the end Israel as well is not to be blamed, when the Soviet Union forgot, what in 1948 Gromky presented with a beautiful Vibrato before the UNO: “What concerns the Jewish state, so its existence is already a fact, may it please or not (…) The delegation of the USSR can not abstain from expressing their astonishment about the views of the Arab states in the Palestinian question. Especially we are surprised to see, that these states or at least some of them have decided, to take military measures with the target, to destroy the national liberation movement of the Jews. We cannot identify the vital interests of the peoples of the middle-east with the statements of certain Arab politicians and Arab governments, that we witness now.”
This way spoke, like mentioned, the Soviet Union, a great power which drives great power politics and which supposedly a la longue can not disregard from the open fact, that there are more Arabs than Jews, there is more Arab oil than Jewish, that military thresholds in the Arab states have a higher strategic value than ones in Israel. The Left in a broad and in the broadest sense however, and particularly the protesting most extreme Left, that I know myself attached to in long ways, does not have this great power excuse. It is, with the rule, with which it started off, obliged to the reason; to the reason of the tragic weakness of the Jewish state and every single Jew in the Diaspora, to the insight into that, what is being hidden behind the scenery of a Jewish-bourgeois middle-class, behind the myth of the money and gold-Jew (starting with Jud Süss up to the contemporary Rothschild and some few Jewish Hollywood magnitudes). The Jews manipulate sometimes capitals; they never dominate them. They have today in the Wall Street as little to say as once in the wilhelminian Germany in the Heavy Industry.
The state Israel today is as little a bulwark of capitalism, as it was, when the first pioneers dug up the soil, as little as the Arab states can be reasonably considered as progressive. The Left closes, that is the misery, the eyes. Chance plays in this very moment a text of Hans Blüher into my hands: ”Eine wirkliche Geschichte Europas dürfte nicht so geschrieben werden, wie das bisher geschah, dass nämlich ein Jude einmal hie und da anekdotenhaft vorkommt …, vielmehr müsste die Darstellung so sein, dass dauernd die geschichtliche Macht des Judentums als eines latenten und ständig mitspielenden Reiches sichtbar wird.” (A real history of Europe must not be written, like it happened until now, namely that a Jew here and there is to be found like an anecdote…, instead the presentation should be like this, that all the time the historical power of Jewishhood as a latent and all the time part taking empire becomes visible). This text could stand word by word in one of the numerous pseudo-intellectual Arab publications, with which the press is being flooded. And to von Blüher – but von Streicher as well, because in any place the anti-Semitism levels the intellectual differences in height – could go back, what the secretary of education of the progressive state of Syria wrote to the General Director of UNESCO: “The hatred, that we stick to our children’s minds, is a holy hatred.” It would all hardly be worth the note, and the foolish Blueher could sleep in the peace of oblivion, if the western-European intellectual left (including some by self-hatred mutilated Jews like Maxim Rodinson) had not seized this vocabulary and adopted the by the vocabulary imparted system of norms.
If out of the historical catastrophe of the Jewish respectively anti-Semite question, to which may as well belong the foundation of the existing state of Israel, again the idea of a Jewish guilt is being constructed, then the responsibility for this bears the Left, that forgets itself. “The anti-Zionism is a from the start reactionary phenomenon, that is being disguised by the revolutionary, progressive, anti-colonial phrases about Israel”, stated recently Robert Misrahi, a french philosopher, who, like the earlier mentioned Claude Lanzmann, belongs to the wider Sartre-family.
The moment of a revision and new intellectual self-discussion of the Left has come; because it is it that gives back a unhonorable dialectic respectability to anti-Semitism. The alliance of the anti-Semitic petty bourgeois Stammtisch and the barricades is against the nature, sin against the intellect, to remain in the by the topic compelled terminology. People like the polish general Moczar can permit themselves the forgery of the crude anti-Semitism to the actual anti-Israelism: The Left has to be more honest. There is no respectable anti-Semitism. Like Sartre said year and day ago in his “Considerations towards the Jewish question”: “What the anti-Semite wishes and prepares, is the death of the Jew.”