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Friday, May 03, 2024

Christian nationalists demanding the arrest of jews for antisemitism is peak 2020s

Christian nationalist politicians summoning university presidents to hearings in which they demand the arrest of Gen-Z Jewish protesters for antisemitism... soooooo 2024.

But also timeless.

And there's something very structurally specific about antisemitism which is related to why this works.

Recall, if you will, that antisemitism has a different inherent structural purpose than, say, racism. They have similarities, both are used to divide and conquer, and there's a Venn-diagram overlap in racial antisemitism. But fundamentally, racism's OG purpose is to produce (and justify the production of) large numbers of terrorized and subjugated masses whose labor can be exploited. While antisemitism's OG purpose is to produce a small, but highly visible, repeatedly traumatized, alternately demonized and lionized quasi-elites who can be scapegoated.

Scapegoating works differently than, say, the extraction of labor. Every oppression has a different structure, and there's no particular win for many forms of oppression in cyclically lionizing their targets. There's no reason for, say, homophobes to spend a lot of time idealizing, lionizing, and claiming to defend queers before attacking them. Homophobes can just attack queers 24/7 and homophobia continues to fulfill its structural purpose of terrifying people about defying gender norms or envisioning the body as a locus of freedom and pleasure.

But antisemitism is about scapegoating quasi-elites, to take the heat off the real elites. When the peasants riot they sate their hatred on the Jews instead of the nobles: that's the POINT of making the peasants hate the Jews. And how do you make the peasants hate the Jews?

Well, you obviously have to tell them the Jews killed Christ and eat babies. But you ALSO have to tell them that the Jews are the special chosen ones of God and that they are the King's own special subjects and that only they are allowed to lend money and that these particular ones are the very powerful viziers of the king and have his ear. Popes and Kings have to issue proclamations saying that anyone will be severely punished for avenging themselves against the Jews. That's PART of how you make Jews the safety valve.

Overreacting by severely "defending the Jews from the common people" is 100% core to the playbook of using antisemitism as a lightning rod to protect the actual rulers from uprisings.

Antisemitism doesn't WORK without that one-two punch. To go from medieval to modern times, antisemitism doesn't WORK without constantly going on about how many Jews are Nobel prize winners and what a miracle it was when Israel made the desert bloom and how Jews are the originators of all Western ethics etc., etc., or for the evangelical right, how the ingathering of the Jews brings about Rapture.

And part of the recipe is repeatedly traumatizing the Jews, so that we're primed to crave protection, so that an angry rally targeting anything any Jew did ever (including things Jews were set up to do, as part of the sucky bargain of being Christendom's tax collectors or the American Empire's satraps) looks like a pogrom in the making.

Which is how you get so many of us to cheer when people who basically hate us sic the cops on our own children.

And, of course, it often works. It's not that the protesters (especially the non-Jewish and non-Arab ones, i.e. the least informed ones) are totally free from antisemitism: far from it. But that's not the point. The point is they're SUPPOSED to show some antisemitism, so they can be crushed, so antisemitism can be stoked further, so that the whole machine WORKS.

The alternative would be for educational institutions to, y'know, educate.

Lord knows, if you actually sat down and talked to a broad range of actors, from centrist Zionists to moderate Palestinian Islamists, from socialists to centrists, basically 90% of American students, including Jewish and Arab Americans, not to mention a majority of Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land itself, you'd find an extremely broad consensus: that both Hamas and Netanyahu and the kahanist-fascists propping up his government are fucking creeps, that the children of Gaza need to be fed right fucking now, hostages freed, etc etc. People would differ about the ultimate disposition of the land between the river and the sea, sure, and mechanisms for getting there... and that could be a fascinating conversation about the role of nationalism and religion and history, about forms of governance and checks and balances and opportunities and risks, with a bunch of fruitful possibilities for how to work out the details. That sounds like, you know, what universities are for.

And that could absolutely begin with, and take place in the context of, loud and unruly protests. (I went to Brown University largely because of the New Curriculum, a brilliant progressive educational plan forged precisely by, and amid, loud and unruly protests.)

But that fruitful dialogue, of course, does not serve the interests of divide and conquer. Those interests are served by rage and fear. So that's what you're seeing on your TV screens.

Here's a little (a-)historical thought experiment to explain a little how, in the context of European (and, much later, world) history, the Jews in particular ended up getting saddled with this role.

In real history, the creation of this oppression, like all oppressions, was a messy series of accidents, desperate measures and countermeasures, and short-term ploys that turned out to have unexpected longer-term consequences, which was consistently, if opportunistically, taken advantage of by the powerful until it eventually coalesced.

But for the purposes of our thought experiment let's say you just show up in, say, 7th century Britain (chosen because I love Hild) with the conscious goal of creating a scapegoatable group of people you can bring in as a safety valve.

Your first thought, poking your finger down randomly at the Mediterranean, is... the Albanians. Why not? You figure all you need is some lies about them.

Let's see how well that works.

You: "you should hate the Albanians."

7th century Britons: "who the fuck are the Albanians."

You: "people who live very far from here and are very different from you and you'll probably never meet one, but hate them."

7th century Britons: "uh no."

You: "no they're bad. they're very bad. they cheat and steal. and, like, kill gods and eat babies."

7th century Britons: "well they sound kinda badass actually."

You go away to regroup. It's time for plan B.

You: "ok we have this book about how you can live forever if you cherish and follow it, and worship THE BEST GOD and if you do, we'll connect you to a massive trade network! and also, if not, we'll kill you."

7th century Britons: "uh ok. the best god?"

You: "yes. he made everything. he can beat up ALL the other gods. and he loves you! he totally loves you! if you obey his book."

7th century Britons: "Ok. that actually sounds pretty rad. God loves me? I can live forever? that sounds great. i'm in. what's in the book?"

You: "well the appendix is about how you can stan this one guy and live forever. but 80% of it is about this one group of people who god really, really, really loves. like waaaaay more than you."

7th century Britons: "...oh."

You: "yeah. way more."

7th century Britons: "uh huh. ok."

You: "they're really great. they're the best. the book is all about all the shit they did and all their songs about god and how god picked THEM in particular not you. how do you feel about them?"

7th century Britons: "um i guess ok? because God... likes them."

You: "cool cool. also they killed God and eat babies"

7th century Britons: "those fuckers"

(see how that works?)

[You can comment on the Facebook, Bluesky, Mastodon threads.]

Last edited by Benjamin Rosenbaum at Friday, May 03, 2024 at 15:38:04 | Up to blog
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