Monday, April 20, 2015

Christianity: A Necessary and Sufficient Cause of Antisemitism?

Arch of Titus, record of Pagan Roman genocide of Jews

On April 9 I gave a talk about Polish-Jewish relations on a university campus. My goal was to offer a quick overview for members of the general public who have no knowledge of Polish-Jewish relations. It was a one-time only talk, not meant to be representational of the alpha and omega of my work or anybody's work on Polish-Jewish relations. You can hear the talk in the youtube video linked below.

After the talk was over, attendee Neil J Kressel, author of "Sons of Apes and Pigs," protested that I did not mention Catholicism in general and saints and popes in particular as causing trouble between Christians and Jews.

I responded to Neil in the note, below. Again, what you find, below, are my thoughts on this matter at this time; I'm not offering the definitive truth here. I am not capable of doing so, because I have not written an exhaustive history of antisemitism.

I remember Neil as saying that I should have spoken about the role of the Catholic Church in fomenting discord between Christians and Jews.

Rather than focusing on the Catholic Church, I focused on what Edna Bonacich called the middleman minority theory, and what Amy Chua called market dominant minorities. These two scholars, independently of each other, describe very similar paradigms.

My goal in the talk was to provide an introduction to the general public who knows nothing about Polish-Jewish relations why Poles and Jews don't get along today. Poles and Jews, for the most part, no longer live in the same country. There are few economic barriers to amity. There are some restitution claims, but those are not looming barriers to relationships between Poles and Jews in the US. And yet Poles and Jews still fight. I was trying to describe why Poles and Jews fight today.

Neil suggested that the cause of the problem is the Catholic Church.

If I ever were again to do this kind of quick, introductory, explanation for why Poles and Jews today still fight, I would add a slide or two addressing Neil's point. I would say the following.

Some scholars do cite the Catholic Church as the most important source of animosity between Poles and Jews. Some cite the Catholic Church in particular and Christianity in general as the source of all anti-Semitism. Such scholars include James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair and John Cornwell, Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII.

I would also mention that one can find well-respected works that make similar sweeping claims about Judaism. Regina Schwartz's The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism blames the Old Testament for war (See Peter Berkowitz's review from the New Republic). Riane Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade and other New Age "goddess" books implicate Judaism in replacing allegedly woman-celebrating Goddess religions with misogyny. Carl Bernstein is said to have blamed Jews for the Iraq War and Matt Taibbi is said to have blamed Jews for the 2008 financial crisis. These examples show why we must be careful when even well-respected authors pin a specific crime on a specific religion.

We find, though, that attempted genocides of Jews pre-date Christianity's spread, and antisemitism can be found today without reference to Christianity. The Roman Empire attempted to wipe out all Jews and Judaism and to exile Jews forever from Israel. The Romans were Pagans. The Egyptian Merneptah Stele of 1205 BC is said to be the first extra-Biblical mention of Israel. It reads, "Israel is laid waste and his seed is not." These Jew-killing Egyptians were not Christian. Modern-day anti-Semitism often occurs in the Muslim world.

The worst expression of antisemitism, Nazism, was specifically anti-Christian. It described itself as overturning Christianity and returning to Pagan roots, while also looking forward to a brave, new scientific future.

If there were no Christians and no Christianity, there would still be anti-Semitism. The Romans would have committed their genocide in the Jewish-Roman wars – Christianity exercised no influence there. Jews would have still undergone their reform that made them literate and numerate while in exile – Christianity exercised no influence there. And the middleman minority pattern would have played out, as it does among populations that are neither Jewish nor Christian.

Middleman minority tensions exist between groups that are neither Jewish nor Christian. For example, between Chinese and Malay in Malaysia. Anti-Chinese pogroms and atrocities take place.  

Neil pointed out that popes, saints, and Christians in general have said ugly things about Jews. Ugly statements alone, though, don't necessitate violent conflict. All identity groups say ugly things about whomever is the closest neighbor. For example, Jews did once regularly pray for the destruction of the Christians and Christianity (the Birkat haMinim). Talmudic statements about Jesus are very unattractive. Polish-Jewish authors, including Isaac Bashevis Singer, Eva Hoffman, David Roskies, and Leon Wells, have been very frank about the contempt that many Jews felt for non-Jewish Poles. Various quotes from these authors convey the following: Polish Jews could and did regard Jesus as an idol, Poles as stupid and unclean, and Poland as a foreign land, even though Jews lived there.

One can't make the point that Jews said these things because they were oppressed by Christians, thus, Christians are always the source of the problem. The early Jewish curses on Christianity were spoken when Christians were themselves a persecuted minority in the Roman Empire. Jews arrived in Poland with systems already in place to differentiate between Jews and non-Jews in ways that made intimate contact difficult – for example, taboos about intermarriage and sharing food and wine. Jews did not arrive as the oppressed minority in Poland. Again, the first Jews in Poland were slave traders dealing in Polish slaves.

So. Popes and saints said ugly things about Jews. Popes and saints roundly condemned prostitution, gambling, and gluttony, and yet a lot of prostitutes, gambling dens, and pizza parlors are doing very good business. Ugly statements from popes and saints can't be the necessary and sufficient cause of antisemitism. Something else must be going on to have prompted spontaneous, violent outbursts by average people who otherwise were not engaging in mob violence. The middleman minority theory provides us with some of that answer.

Popes, saints, and Christians said good things about Jews. Popes and other Christians repeatedly attempted to stop violence against Jews. These Christians did these things because hatred of Jews is contradictory to Christian scripture.

Jesus said, "Love one another as I have loved you." When asked who his followers should love, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. The message is that Christians are to love everyone, whether that person is a member of the in-group or not. Jesus and his early followers were mostly Jewish. Pope Pius XI said, "We are all Semites."

There are no scriptural verses ordering Christians to convert others by force. Jesus advised us to preach. If people didn't listen to us, we were to "shake the dust off our sandals" and move on. There are no scriptural verses ordering Christians to kill those who aren't Christian. Just as God allows tares to grow with wheat, we are to allow non-Christians to live among us.

Popes repeated these messages in papal bulls. An example is Sicut Judaeis from 1120 which forbade Christians from harming Jews.

Yes there are harsh verses in the New Testament about Jews, but they were written by Jews following the Jewish tradition established in the Old Testament, which contains many more harsh statements about Jews written by Jews.

If you are going to read the authors listed above who cite Catholicism as the source of antisemitism, in all intellectual honesty you have to also read the authors who have responded to them, including Ronald J Rychlak's Hitler, the War and the Pope and Rabbi David Dalin The Myth of Hitler's Pope.

About Constantine's Sword, an important book among those books that cite Catholicism as the course of antisemitism. James Carroll falsifies Polish and Holocaust history in a big way in that book. I talk about Carroll's misrepresentation of history in Bieganski. That he could be so false on something so important says nothing good about the overall worth of his work.

One reviewer of Constantine's Sword wrote the following, "As a professional historian, I can say that this book is not a book of history, as it claims to be. The author has not used primary sources to construct his case on the Catholic Church's attitude toward the Jews. Many of the secondary sources he uses (such as John Cornwell's discredited book) are not considered serious by professional historians. On the rare occasion when the author does use primary sources, he clearly distorts the source. I've noted at least ten Church documents where the author draws out several phrases that appear to be anti-Semitic, but where he ignores passages (in the same document) which explicitly condemn violence against Jews. Rarely have I read a book that so ruthlessly cuts the evidence to suit the author's personal biases."

It's undeniable that Catholics and other Christians have done horrible things to Jews and that they did so believing that they were acting in the name of God. When one looks at their own self-announced motives for attacking Jews, though, those motives often spring from the middleman minority stereotype, rather than from theology. Radio Maryja is Catholic radio station. It is a modern-day purveyor of antisemitism in Poland. Here is one quote, Poles are "being out-maneuvered by Judeans who are trying to force our government to pay extortion money disguised as compensation." This Radio Maryja spokesperson is complaining about Jews being smarter, craftier, and getting money thereby. This is a middleman minority concept, not a theological one. And Radio Maryja has been repeatedly criticized by the Vatican and by Polish cardinals.

The most influential philo-Semite in Polish history and culture is John Paul II, a Catholic and a pope, who grew up among Jews and who had a good Jewish childhood friend, Jerzy Kluger. Probably the most influential antisemite in Polish history and culture is Roman Dmowski, a biologist influenced by Scientific Racism, an application of Darwinian concepts of struggle to human beings. Dmowski was a critic of Catholicism, but made a tactical decision to adopt a public pose as a Catholic, because he saw the Catholic Church as an important feature in Polish nationalism.

So, yes, if I ever were to give this talk again, I would mention Catholicism, but I wouldn't say that Catholicism was the necessary and sufficient cause of bad relations between Christians and Jews. I would acknowledge that Catholics often said horrible things about Jews, did terrible harm to Jews in the name of their faith, and Catholics often disseminated destructive anti-Semitic cultural products. 

One example of that is the mural in Sandomierz cathedral mural that depicts blood libel. I would also mention that popes repeatedly condemned blood libel. Something, then, prompted Catholics to embrace blood libel in spite of papal condemnation. I believe that that something is the middleman minority social structure that Catholics interpreted as leaving them subject to exploitation. That they felt that way is not right or just or attractive, but it is a universal feature of body exploitation folklore. 

This folklore exists today. A Japanese tourist and bus driver were stoned to death in Guatemala in 2000 because the villagers believe themselves to be victims of body exploitation schemes by tourists. The villagers' belief is false and the murder is hideous, but it can be understood through the lens of body-exploitation folklore. 

I think that the middleman minority pattern, emphasizing, as it does, economic castes, offers greater explanatory power for something like the Kielce Pogrom and the Sandomierz cathedral mural than does any ugly statements by popes, though, yes, those statements should be mentioned.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bieganski Lives: Polonians Send Many Outraged Emails

Polonians are again in a tizzy. They are again realizing that Bieganski lives. They are again sending many outraged emails. 

Tizzies are not what Polonia needs. Polonia needs leadership, organization, and vision. See here.

The current Bieganski crisis is like the last Bieganski crisis and like the next Bieganski crisis. Someone in power -- this time it was James Comey, US FBI director -- said publicly that Poles are more or less the same as Nazis and Polonians are in a tizzy. You can read more here.

Here is a comment from Yahoo coverage of the story:

"Poland has been the most anti-Semitic country, after Germany and Hungary. Poles are Catholics. The Catholic Church helped Hitler murder Jews, Gypsies, gays, Jehovah's Witnesses, the disabled, the homeless and "subversives." "

Here is another comment from Yahoo:

"While it is true that there were righteous Poles who aided Jews and fought the #$%$; they were a tiny minority. Even in the resistance, Jews were not accepted or sheltered (there were Jewish resistance groups, however, they operated independently and had to fight both the germans, poles, Slovaks, etc on both sides). Some Soviet units accepted Jewish individuals with necessary skills, but they didn't assist Jews running from death. And when you look at what happened AFTER Germany was defeated, you see the hate of Jews, who were killed on returning home. Poles let the Jewish communities in their midst be taken out to the killing fields, took over their property, and killed any Jews coming back who might have asked them to give them their homes and possessions the Poles stole after the communities were murdered. The Poles still have a problem with giving back Torah scrolls (right now there are 35 scrolls that need to be returned and the gov't is fighting it). They have never faced the fact that the majority of Poles did nothing and even helped the murders or benefitted from the murders."

You can read comments like this here.

Want to change this, Polonia? 

Stop getting yourself into empty tizzies. Start organizing. Read this.

Friday, March 27, 2015

"Bieganski" in Poland in Polish. New Date.

Back in November, 2014 I mentioned that Jacek Tokarski of Wydawnictwo Wysoki Zamek planned to publish "Bieganski" in Poland in Polish in March of 2015. You can read that post here.

Mr. Tokarski has written to inform me that he will not make that date, but that he hopes that "Bieganski" will be published in Poland in Polish later this year. 

Lena Dunham Compares Her Jewish Boyfriend to Her Dog: Anti-Semitic? Funny?

Before you complain,
please realize that this is a relatively discrete photo,
compared to what else is out there. 
In the March 30, 2015 issue of The New Yorker, actress and writer Lena Dunham compares her Jewish boyfriend to a dog in a meant-to-be humorous quiz.

Lena Dunham is famous for appearing naked on TV, and for doing so in spite of weighing more than most TV stars do.

Her New Yorker quiz is a list of 35 items. Each item is meant to be funny because it could be about a dog or a Jew. Samples:

"He comes from a culture in which mothers focus every ounce of their attention on their offspring and don't acknowledge their own need for independence as women. They are sucked dry by their children, who ultimately leave them as soon as they find suitable mates.

He expects to be waited on hand and foot by the women in his life, and anything less than that makes him whiny and distant.

He doesn't tip.

He's really more of an ass man.

He has a sensitive stomach and has to take two Dramamine before entering any moving vehicle.

Every week it's some new health issue: urine crystals, sprained foot, beef allergy.

He has hair all over his body, like most males who share his background.

He once vomited on his seatmate in United business class, then ran up and down the aisle in a panic."

What is immediately apparent is that the whole thing, like Lena Dunham herself, is embarrassingly, painfully, weird, narcissistic, and unfunny. You keep waiting for it to be over but keep reading out of perverse fascination.

But is it anti-Semitic?

I'm not sure. Our culture gives people the right to mock and stereotype their own. Chris Rock on African Americans, Joan Rivers on women, David Chase on Italians.

Various blogs say yes it is anti-Semitic, including Kveller linked here.


Read Lena Dunham compare her Jewish boyfriend to a dog in The New Yorker here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A controversial matter

An email correspondent has sent in a couple of potentially controversial observations. I don't know if he wants to be named so I won't name him, but if he wants to name himself in the comments section that's fine with me. 

He says that he has found a couple of references to Jewish Poles welcoming invading German Nazis during WW II, or at least not appearing to be as aware as they should have been of how thoroughly and irredeemably evil the Nazis were. 

One such reference is here.

Another is here.

Of course many people thought that a civilized people like the Germans could never commit any crime so horrible as genocide, but It seems to me that by the time the Nazis invaded Poland their anti-Semitism was abundantly clear. 

Of course there would have been isolated individuals who were naive or otherwise unwise when it came to assessing the Nazi threat. 

I'm not sure of any larger meaning to these anecdotes. 


Thank You for Bieganski's New Cover

"Bieganski" has a new cover. 

Thank  you again to James Conroyd Martin, author of "Push Not the River," Karen Wyle, author of "Twin Bred," Pani F, who chooses to remain anonymous, and Eugene Sokolowski. Your donations made the new cover possible. 

Thank you! 


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Yes, In the Age of Hamas & Charlie Hebdo, Poland Remains the Gold Standard in Anti-Semitism. Please Read "Bieganski." Educate Yourself. And Resist.

The Atlantic chose to illustrate its article about genocidal hatred of Jews among Muslims with an image of anti-Semitic graffiti in Poland. Of course. Their caption: "Workers wash anti-Semitic graffiti from the Holocaust memorial at the former Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp in Poland, March 13, 2010. (Associated Press)"

People who haven't got a clue, often quite well meaning, insist to me that my work on the Brute Polak stereotype is unnecessary. With time, as humanity evolves, as Poles become more modern and adopt white-collar employment, they insist, the brute Polak stereotype will disappear. No one will ever again associate anti-Semitic brutes with Poles. 

These folks, as well meaning as they are, have no idea what they are talking about. 

Bieganski, the brute, anti-Semitic Polak, is here to stay. 

The solution is for Poles to educate themselves, and to resist the stereotype. A good first step is buying and reading the book, here.

A good second step is to contemplate the current sorry state of Polonian organizing, as described here

I'm posting all this right now because I just stumbled across yet another iteration of Bieganski, this time in The Atlantic, an influential and respected publication. 

A little over a hundred years ago, The Atlantic published respected and influential articles that depicted Poles as near animals who should not be allowed as immigrants in the United States. You can read about a couple of those articles in "Bieganski." 

In its April, 2015 issue, The Atlantic covers genocidal Muslim hatred of Jews in Europe, hatred so fierce The Atlantic asks, "Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?"

Poland is mentioned twice. 

First mention:

"When the survivors of the Shoah emerged from the camps, and from hiding places in cities and forests across Europe, they were met on occasion by pogroms. (In Poland, for instance, some Christians were unhappy to see their former Jewish neighbors return home, and so arranged their deaths.)"

Second mention:

"Workers wash anti-Semitic graffiti from the Holocaust memorial at the former Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp in Poland, March 13, 2010. (Associated Press)"

Because of course an article about genocidal Muslim hatred of Jews is illustrated with an image of anti-Semitic graffiti on a Holocaust memorial in Poland. 

Get used to it, Polonia. You are the gold standard in anti-Semitism, and indeed in all hate. 

Read "Bieganski." Organize. Resist. 

The Atlantic article is here