Sobran speaking at the September 2003
You wonder how such an intelligent people acquired such a bad habit of migrating to anti-Semitic lands.
Washington DC, October 7, 2003
Partners in Paranoia
By Joe Sobran
Photos: Emmanuelle LeBoutillier of Paris, France: Hot dog vendors at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC in August 2001. The Holocaust Industry has developed profitable sidelines.
IF YOU want to understand some of America's foreign policy problems, you could do worse than to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It's a gruelingly didactic experience, but the message it labors to impart isn't necessarily the one you should draw.
The carefully structured tour includes a film strip on the history of anti-Semitism which, you are encouraged to believe, culminated in the Nazi murder of six million Jews (and unspecified 'millions' of 'others,' who don't seem to matter as much). It's heavily implied that Christianity is the source of anti-Semitism and all the sufferings of the Jews over the last two millennia. An earlier film strip, withdrawn after Christian protests, was even more explicit, blaming anti-Semitism on the four Gospels' accounts of Christ's death.
Unlike other peoples, you gather, the Jews never brought any of their troubles on themselves. They were always the innocent victims of vicious Christians. Many Christian countries are named -- England, Spain, France, Poland, Germany, Russia, et cetera -- until you wonder how such an intelligent people acquired such a bad habit of migrating to anti-Semitic lands. You'd think that after a while they'd learn to take the precaution of sending a scout ahead to any prospective new home, who might return with the warning, 'We'd better not move to Poland. The Poles hate us even worse than the Spanish do!'
Perish the thought that Jewish behavior was ever a factor in provoking the hostility that, according to the Jews' own account, has so consistently greeted them in one country after another. But if Christian teaching is the root cause of anti-Semitism, why did anti-Semitism peak when Christianity was losing its influence? Why did it reach its crescendo under an apostate Christian, Adolf Hitler, rather than a devout believer? And why are Jews today far more unpopular in the Muslim world than in the West?
Such a one-sided -- even paranoid -- polemical history invites skepticism. We are now hearing equally lopsided explanations of the unpopularity of the Jewish state of Israel. There again, we are told, Jews are always the faultless victims, and all frictions are the fault of the gentiles, in this case Arabs and Muslims.
But Israel has had the good fortune to enjoy the patronage of a powerful country with a similar paranoid streak, the United States of America. Americans have been significantly described, by Abraham Lincoln, as 'an almost chosen people.' And many Americans still resist the idea that their country can ever be in the wrong about anything.
When highly civilized, though perhaps unchosen, people like the French, the Germans, and the Belgians recently found American conduct in the Middle East arrogant and reckless, the welkin rang with American voices crying 'anti-Americanism!' In fact our chauvinists use this charge in exactly the way Jewish chauvinists use the charge of anti-Semitism.
NO wonder so many people all over the world think America and Israel deserve each other. President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon both represent their countries' most belligerently self-righteous tendencies, and they are thick as thieves. Both men have apologists who defend their most extreme measures, equate violence with defense, and regard criticism of the two countries as enmity or treason.
Of course every country has its chauvinists, and sometimes they prevail for a while. France and Germany have certainly had their moments, but reality has had a chastening effect. Losing a war can bring a country back to its senses when it has gone mad. For a time it appeared that the Vietnam debacle had taught the United States the limits of its power, and that the 1982 invasion of Lebanon had done the same for Israel. But both countries soon forgot anything they had learned from these bitter experiences.
It's no justification of terrorism to say that the 9/11 attacks on the United States and the suicide bombings in Israel should have given both countries second thoughts about their policies. Unfortunately, these horrors have had the opposite effect: they've confirmed the chauvinist attitude that the United States and Israel are hated for their virtues, like a pair of beleaguered Othellos in a world of spiteful Iagos.
Self-criticism can coexist with self-respect. Both countries can afford to admit their faults and mistakes. In the long run, it may be disastrous not to do so.
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Joseph Sobran is a nationally-syndicated columnist, lecturer, and author. For 21 years he wrote for National Review magazine, including 18 years as a senior editor. He is now editor of the monthly newsletter Sobran's (P.O. Box 1383, Vienna, VA 22183).