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Posts For: March 17, 2007

Churchill’s Ghost(writer), Part 2

Read my first post on this subject here.

It’s only in relatively recent times that any Jew would take umbrage at a remark, such as that made in a recently discovered, unpublished article from 1937 written by Adam Diston, a ghostwriter in the employ of Winston Churchill, that “Jewish separateness” is a cause of anti-Semitism. Even a hundred years ago—let alone before that—Jews would have been the first to agree with such a diagnosis. In fact, they would have been astonished to think that anyone might disagree.

For a traditionally religious Jew, it was obvious that Jews were envied and hated because they were a people chosen by God, Who required them to be different; to rebel against this was to rebel against God Himself. To anti-traditional Jews, who sought to put an end to anti-Semitism, it was equally obvious that this could be done only by ceasing to be different, whether via religious reform and modernization, by virtue of which Jews would become just like their Gentile neighbors in all but certain ritual details; total assimilation, in which even these minor distinctions would be cast off; or Zionism, which would make Jews just like others, but with a territory and language of their own.

Each of these alternative projects, whatever its other successes, has failed to eliminate anti-Semitism and may even have exacerbated it. And so, if Jews think they have ceased to be different, yet continue to be the targets of anti-Semitism, it must be anti-Semitic to think they are different. From now on, a remark like Diston’s begins to rankle.

For most Jews, the real problem with contemporary anti-Semitism is that they no longer understand what it is about. To regain this understanding is the most important task for Jewish intellectuals of our generation.

Read my first post on this subject here.

It’s only in relatively recent times that any Jew would take umbrage at a remark, such as that made in a recently discovered, unpublished article from 1937 written by Adam Diston, a ghostwriter in the employ of Winston Churchill, that “Jewish separateness” is a cause of anti-Semitism. Even a hundred years ago—let alone before that—Jews would have been the first to agree with such a diagnosis. In fact, they would have been astonished to think that anyone might disagree.

For a traditionally religious Jew, it was obvious that Jews were envied and hated because they were a people chosen by God, Who required them to be different; to rebel against this was to rebel against God Himself. To anti-traditional Jews, who sought to put an end to anti-Semitism, it was equally obvious that this could be done only by ceasing to be different, whether via religious reform and modernization, by virtue of which Jews would become just like their Gentile neighbors in all but certain ritual details; total assimilation, in which even these minor distinctions would be cast off; or Zionism, which would make Jews just like others, but with a territory and language of their own.

Each of these alternative projects, whatever its other successes, has failed to eliminate anti-Semitism and may even have exacerbated it. And so, if Jews think they have ceased to be different, yet continue to be the targets of anti-Semitism, it must be anti-Semitic to think they are different. From now on, a remark like Diston’s begins to rankle.

For most Jews, the real problem with contemporary anti-Semitism is that they no longer understand what it is about. To regain this understanding is the most important task for Jewish intellectuals of our generation.

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