The "Fourth Mutation of Anti-Semitism"

Question: Why are we in the "fourth mutation" of \r\nanti-Semitism?

\r\nLord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: Anti-Semitism is a virus that \r\nmutates.  I begin, you know, with the Hellenistic Age where a lot of \r\npeople think anti-Semitism began.  Actually I say although the Greeks \r\nand Romans didn’t all like the Jews, there was nothing personal.  It’s \r\nexactly like the mafia say when they’re about to shoot you, nothing \r\npersonal, strictly business.
\r\nSo anti-Semitism stage one, really got personal with the birth of \r\nChristianity and the disappointment of Christians that Jews did not \r\naccept one of their own as the messiah.  And that really was personal \r\nbecause that was a hatred of Jews not of people in general. 
\r\nThe next mutation took place around 1096 with the massacre of Jewish \r\ncommunities in northern Europe during the First Crusade.  And that’s \r\nwhen Jews became not just the people who rejected Christianity but a \r\ndemonic force.  They became the infidel, the anti-Christ, the children \r\nof Satan who poisoned wells, desecrated the host and killed Christian \r\nchildren to use their blood to make matzo, the blood libel, that was \r\ndemonic antic-Judaism. 
\r\nMutation three, we can date to 1879 with the birth of this new word, \r\nanti-Semitism.  And that was not religious hostility to Judaism but \r\nracial hostility to Jews and that was serious, because in the end \r\nChristians could work for the conversion of Jews.  You can change your \r\nreligion but you can’t change your race.  And therefore all you could \r\ndo, was, to, God forbid, work for the extermination of the Jews so I’m \r\nafraid the Holocaust was already implicit in that word itself.
\r\nThe fourth mutation that we’re living through now is demonic \r\nanti-Zionism.  It’s focused not on Jews as individuals but Jews as a \r\nnation in their own sovereign state and it accuses Israel of essentially\r\n all the ills that medieval Christians… you know, we don’t poison wells \r\nbut we do poison the world peace.  We we’re responsible for every kind \r\nof distress in the universe.  Seventy percent of Pakistan in the days \r\nfollowing 9/11 thought that it had been done by the Israelis.  The \r\nIsraelis were blamed for the tsunami at the end of 2004.  They’ve been \r\nblamed for more or less everything and since ipso facto, every Jew is a \r\nZionist, then every Jew is a legitimate cause for attack.  And that is \r\nthe new anti-Semitism that’s been born in our time.
\r\nIt’s every bit as dangerous as the others but my argument is that Jews \r\nmust never fight anti-Semitism alone.  The victim cannot cure the \r\ncrime.  The hated cannot cure the hate.  And so I’m glad to say Britain \r\nhas become the first country and surely won’t be the last, where the \r\nfight against anti-Semitism is led by non-Jews.
Who is leading the fight in Britain against anti-Semitism?

\r\nLord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:  Well, it’s led by a parliamentary \r\ncommittee on anti-Semitism.  People of all parties who monitor on a \r\nregular basis, all forms of anti-Semitism, that report is fed back into \r\ngovernment which assembles an inter-departmental committee, all the \r\ndepartments of government that have any bearing on it, education, \r\nhealth, home office and all that stuff, and all of those committees come\r\n together and interface with the Jewish organizations that deal with the\r\n symptoms of anti-Semitism.  So it is basically a government led \r\nactivity.  And in 2009, the British home office and foreign office \r\nconvened for the first time, an international conference of \r\nparliamentarians to fight against anti-Semitism.  Almost all the \r\nparticipants were not Jewish.  And this conference was held and hosted \r\nby the British government.  The next government to do so has been the \r\nCanadian government which will be doing so this year.  And so we’ve \r\ntaken this and refused to live by this maxim that we are the people who \r\ndwell alone.  It is true that we have enemies but it is also true that \r\nwe have many very good friends.

Recorded on May 24, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman

The modern incarnation of anti-Jewish sentiment is "demonic anti-Zionism," which is focused on Israel, rather than on Jews as individuals.

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Yale scientists restore brain function to 32 clinically dead pigs

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.

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