On Jewish racism

By Miriam Shaviv
July 29, 2010

A reader emails me, regarding Christina Patterson's piece:

 I agree about the jump from bad driving etc to Muslim circumcision... but isn't there something in that article for Stamford Hill to reflect on??????

Well, now that 24 hours have passed and we have all calmed down (?), let's consider that question.

As I wrote in my blog post yesterday, there is no question that many of the things Ms Patterson complained about concerning the rude behaviour of the Charedim in SH towards her probably did happen, or could have happened. The truth is that she would not be the first to complain about bad driving and parking, terseness in shops etc. Unfortunately, the conclusions she drew from these incidents were so wild and her general tone so hateful and, frankly, hysterical, that it made it impossible, for me anyway, to actually address this one valid point. So much of what she said seemed to reflect on her rather than on the people she was writing about.

But now, Damian Thompson, editor of the Telegraph blogs, who has many times written in support of Israel and Jewish issues, has picked up on this, and written a post about Jewish attitudes to Christians. While his point is surely equally provocative, his tone is entirely different.

Please read the whole thing, but here is the crux:

Stephen Pollard, the brilliant editor of the Jewish Chronicle, described [Patterson's piece] as “pure, unrelenting unadulterated anti-Jewish bigotry,” on the part of Ms Patterson and indeed some of its undertones are disturbing. But monosyllabic terseness towards goyim? I’ve experienced it, and it’s maddening. Let me recommend a gripping book called Postville by the secular Jewish journalist Stephen Bloom, who records the extreme bad manners of Lubavitch Jews who moved en masse to a town in rural Iowa to run a huge kosher butchery. In the end, angry Christian townspeople, who had initially been welcoming, voted to annexe the land on which the factory was built, so they could tax and regulate it. Bloom, who felt the Lubavitchers had displayed “despicable” attitudes verging on racism, supported the move.

Jewish hostility towards Christians isn’t confined to the ultra-Orthodox. A woman friend of mine tutored the daughter of a Jewish couple in north London. When she said she wanted to take a break for Christmas, the wife went bananas. “We do not allow that word to be spoken in this house,” she said. An unrepresentative incident, no doubt; but my friend’s attitude towards Judaism changed after it took place. And I could tell other stories, of unbelievable haughtiness by the leaders of Anglo-Jewry, which would have led to diplomatic incidents if the Christians involved weren’t afraid of being accused of anti-Semitism.

Mr Thompson, you are welcome to email me privately....

I suppose I’m afraid of that, too, which is why I’m going to point out the following. This blog has often highlighted the alarming growth of Islamic anti-Jewish rhetoric, much of it flavoured by the propaganda of the Third Reich. I’ve drawn attention to the case of Baroness Tonge, the appalling Lib Dem peer who has called for an inquiry into allegations of Jewish organ-harvesting (and who still takes the party whip). I warned in advance that the Vatican was doing a stupid thing by lifting the excommunication of the Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson of the SSPX.

But until now I’ve never written a word about Jewish prejudice against Christians, even though I’ve seen it at close hand, at a series of Jewish-run conferences I attended in America in the 1990s at which evangelical Christian believers were stereotyped as fanatics who needed only the right demagogue to turn them into murderous anti-Semites. If the conferences were being held now, I suspect most of the flak would be taken by Catholics.

Let's not beat around the bush here. Painful as it is to admit, there is some truth to what Mr Thompson says. There are some Jews, and some parts of the community, which do look down on "the goyim", and express this in words and sometimes in action. There are elements in this community (and I'm not singling out any one in particular - as Mr Thompson says, this is not restricted to strictly Orthodox Jews) who do have a "non-Jewish problem" and see themselves as somehow superior.  I'm not only talking about Christians. Anti-Muslim racism is even more rife.

Most of this is historical. For most of the last 2,000 years, Jews were victims of discrimination, explusions and pogroms, and had good reason to fear and despise the Christians amongst whom they lived. It takes a lot to erase two millenia of antagonism. When it comes to Muslims, there is nowhere near the historical enmity, but Muslim attitudes to the state of Israel, and modern Muslim antisemitism, have scared Jews.

There are also theological factors - as well as the idea of "chosenness" (which too many Jews, in common with so many antisemites, misunderstand as meaning superior, while it really only means chosen to spread monotheism) - and, as my colleague Simon Rocker points out, an ongoing fear of Christian missionaries. Some of the prejudice also arises through a lack of familiarity. If you don't know or work with non-Jews, it is easier to regard them as 'different'.

In Israel, where most Jews have never come across a Christian; where the country is engaged in a battle for survival with its Muslim neighbours; and where Jews are actually a majority and have power, many of these problems are magnified.

I think it is important to point out that while the other forms of prejudice Mr Thompson points to (Christian anti-Semitism, Muslim anti-Semitism, Christian Islamophobia, Muslim persecution of Christians) have, historically, routinely resulted in terrible violence, Jewish anti-Christian prejudice rarely has. Perhaps this is because the Jews have, until Israel, not been in positions of power, but nevertheless, people being rude in shops is hardly on par with burning down mosques, shuls and churches, crusades, physical antisemitic assaults etc.

Still, there is today no excuse for Jews holding racist attitudes. We spend a lot of time complaining about antisemitism and it is only fair that we make sure we are free of racism as well. We need to make sure we all understand that the odd comment about "the goyim" is not just a joke; that there are consequences to treating non-Jews as if they are inferior; and show no tolerance of these things when the emanate from our own community. Not only are these attitudes inherently wrong, they are a massive chillul hashem and result in long-term damage to our relations with our neighbours. Mr Thompson's blog (and, I'm afraid, Ms Patterson's piece too) should be a sobering wake-up call as to how we are, too often, perceived, including by our friends.



Thu, 07/29/2010 - 18:40

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Excellent piece Miriam, with an excellent conclusion.

Far better thought through than pretty much all of the responses I have seen to this incident.


Thu, 07/29/2010 - 20:25

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"The Jews are a nervous people. Nineteen centuries of Christian love have taken a toll." Benjamin Disraeli


Thu, 07/29/2010 - 20:43

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"Not only are these attitudes inherently wrong, they are a massive chillul hashem and result in long-term damage to our relations with our neighbours."

This is utter rubbish. It doesn't matter how Jews behave anti-Semitism will still flourish. Even if we had been the nicest people on earth that would not have prevented the vast majority of Roman Catholics in Europe from collaborating with the Nazis in the Holocaust. The fact that according to Mr. Thompson it takes just one negative incident to make an anti-Semite out of someone proves my point perfectly:

"An unrepresentative incident, no doubt; but my friend’s attitude towards Judaism changed after it took place."

However much they pretend to be our friends, the anti-Semitism is in fact lurking just beneath the surface ready to pop out at the first opportunity.


Fri, 07/30/2010 - 15:17

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Yeah, well, some Jews behave badly. Most don't. Lots of people behave badly without anybody remarking upon it as being representative. What, Jews should be the only grouping in which every single person is a paragon of virtue? How superior can you get?


Tue, 08/03/2010 - 21:12

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Having read your piece yesterday and the one today, I do not understand why you are so keen to blindly defend Charedi Jews.

Many non-Charedi Jews, like yourself, falsely assume that Charedim choose to live that way of life and deserve respect and admiration for sticking to their tradition.

However, the truth is that the Charedi system does survive because of the courages desire by its members to lead that way of life, but by the virtual imprisonment of members and the Stalinist approach it takes to any voices of descent. The prohibition of secular education should be regarded as a violation of a child's basic human rights.

The constant propaganda by Rabbis and Community leaders of the evils of anyone who is not Charedi is premised on lies and the banning literature of the outside (non Charedi) world.

Of course it has to be set in the context to history, but the reason why bigotry and racism is so engrained in the Charedi society is precisely because of the reasons I mentioned above.


Tue, 08/03/2010 - 21:54

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I think it's a measure of how emboldened antisemites have become in the last few years that even ostensible friends like Thompson can now take a cue from people like Patterson and have a kick at Jews in print.

Ben Abuyah

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 23:29

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Maskil - some aspects of your description of the charedi world could be equally applied to the world inhabited by some of the ultra-Zionists on here, such as Joshua18, Yvetta, Jon_i_Cohen and Jonathan Hoffman (I know the latter two haven't yet contributed to this thread).

For example, "the Stalinist approach it takes to any voices of descent" (I assume you meant "dissent"), and "[t]he constant propaganda by [Rabbis and] Community leaders of the evils of anyone who is not [Charedi]".

The enthusiasm for sending as many children as possible to Jewish schools is I think also part of this - preventing kids from mixing with the wider community makes it far easier to indoctrinate them with Zionist propaganda, and to instil them with a paranoia about the antisemitism which is apparently all-pervasive.


Mon, 08/09/2010 - 21:23

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As I had no idea what the word 'goyim' meant, the original article by Christina Patterson passed over me almost completely. Since I listened to Bible stories at my mothers knee I have known that I was a Gentile and therefore a second class citizen in Jewish eyes. Now it appears that I'm goyim as well. My ignorance has demonstrated that maybe I'm not such a good multicultural atheist after all.
At least this explosion of comment has brought me to the Jewish Chronicle, a publication I have not read before.


Mon, 08/09/2010 - 22:17

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fdp100, welcome to the blogs

no need to worry about being "goyim" … it's just the hebrew for "gentiles" (or rather, "gentiles" is the english for "goyim")

"goy" means "nation", so "goyim" (the plural) means "nations", so when the bible was translated into latin, they used "gens", the latin for "nation", but for some reason converted it into the adjectival plural form "gentiles", which then came into english with the same spelling

(the underlying idea was that the israelites were a people, belonging to god, unlike everyone else, who were in a nation, belonging to a particular king or country … hence the israelites weren't a nation, but everyone else was, so everyone else were "the nations", or "goyim")

and no need to worry about "goyim" being second-class … judaism regards '"the righteous among the nations" (i assume that includes you ) as having "a place in heaven", and without having to obey any awkward rules such as not eating pork!


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