Why Anti-Semitism Endures

Question: Why is anti-Semitism such a virulent form of \r\nbigotry?

Abraham Foxman:
About 100 years ago Mark Twain went on a trip \r\nthrough Europe.  He had a debt to pay off and so he went on lecture \r\ntour, and wherever he went he found anti-Semitism.  The result was he \r\nwrote an essay when he came back in 1896 called "Concerning \r\nAnti-Semitism"—actually "Concerning The Jews."  And in a way he asked \r\nyour question, you know, why is it so persistent?  What is it that makes\r\n it... everywhere?  Because he found that he would come to some people \r\nand they would be anti-Semitic because of religion.  All right. Then \r\nhe’d come to some place and he found someone who’s an atheist who’s an \r\nanti-Semite.  Then he finds someone who's ignorant, okay so ignorance \r\nbreeds that.  And then he’d find somebody... like Voltaire was an \r\nanti-Semite.  So, and then he’d find somebody who was rich and they \r\nwould say, well you know the Jews are trying to be rich.  Then he’d find\r\n somebody poor... we found that communists call Jews capitalists, \r\ncapitalist call Jews communist. Whether it was communism, or it was \r\nfascism, or Nazism, used the Jew as a scapegoat. 

And Mark Twain\r\n came to a conclusion.  I’m not sure it’s the proper conclusion, but I \r\nhaven’t found a better one, and he says basically that anti-Semitism is a\r\n result of jealousy; that there’s a jealousy of Jewish success.  I \r\nremember about 20 years ago the Anti-Defamation League held a \r\nconference.  We brought together sociologists, educators, and public \r\npeople to discuss why—because there was a... 20 years ago there was an \r\nupswing.  And I remember somebody around the table saying, well you know\r\n what it’s because Jews excel.  So, I’ll never forget there was a man \r\nthere that said, "You know what Audrey I’ll make a deal with you:  I’ll \r\ngo home and tell my kids to be number two and number three, if you’ll \r\ntell me that you’ll take care of the anti-Semitism."  A year later or so\r\n I told the story to a gentlemen that owned some banks in Brazil \r\ncalled... his name was Safra, Edmund Safra, and he said well to me it’s \r\nnot a story.  He said, Abe, when we opened Banco Safra in Brazil we were\r\n very successful, and I called in my managers and I said "You want to be\r\n successful?  Make sure you’re number two and number three and not \r\nnumber one."  In the last... I went to Russia right after Glasnost and \r\nPerestroika, and was invited to address the city council of Moscow on \r\nanti-Semitism.  So I gave my presentation, and at the end a gentleman \r\ngot up and said, "Well Mr. Foxman, you haven’t really told us why \r\nthere’s anti-Semitism."  I said "Well, anti-Semitism is a disease really\r\n of the Christian world.  Why don’t you tell me?"  He said "I’ll tell \r\nyou," and then he got up and said well when I was a kid in my small \r\ntown, the best students were Jews.  And then I became a member of the \r\ncommunist youth party, the Komsomol, the best Komsomoliks were Jews.  \r\nAnd then in University the best students were Jews, and then the \r\ncommunist party the best communists were Jews.  So he says, but you know\r\n why there’s anti-Semitism?  Because they only excel for themselves; \r\nthey’re only best for themselves.

What are the five most common bigoted misperceptions of \r\nJews?

Abraham Foxman:  Well, I guess the first probably in \r\nWestern society is that Jews are responsible for killing Christ, and \r\nthat’s the mother of all.  And then I think the greed issue continues.  \r\nThen you follow control; Jews want to control the world for their \r\ninterests, it could be money or whatever.  That’s the conspiratorial.  \r\nJews are on the top of the hit parade of conspiracy, so for example \r\nwe’re in an economic crisis.  In Europe, over 30 percent believe that \r\nJews are responsible.  In the United States, one out of five Americans \r\nbelieve that Jews are responsible for the economic crisis because they \r\nsee Jews in Wall Street, they see Jews everywhere.  Then you have \r\ndifferent issues of control of Hollywood is big, and I guess it’s the \r\nwhole conspiracy that... you’ll find conspiracies anywhere.  So if you \r\ndon’t like something that’s happening, maybe you screwed up, you did \r\nsomething wrong, it’s because the Jews are behind it.  There are a lot \r\nof people who think that the Secretary of Treasury is Jewish; he’s not, \r\nthat Volcker is Jewish, he’s not, but it doesn’t matter.  It’s the Jews \r\nwho are controlling finances; it’s Jews who are controlling foreign \r\npolicy.  There’s also a canard that’s out there, very big, about \r\nloyalty.  The Jews are not loyal.  Not loyal to their community, but not\r\n loyal to their country.  Thirty percent of the American people to this \r\nday believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than the United States.  \r\nIn Europe, it’s 60, 70 percent.  In Poland 60 percent believe there’s \r\nwhat, 10,000 Jews that are not loyal to Poland.  In Norway, there are \r\n5,000 and it’s 70 percent.  So that’s a canard which goes to the essence\r\n that you can’t trust Jews, you can’t rely on them.  With all the \r\neducation, with all the exposure, and then you come down to some of my \r\nbest friends are Jewish.  The guys that I know, they’re fine, but over \r\nthere, out there; that’s another canard.

Recorded on June 11, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman

Anti-Semitism can be based on everything from religion to ignorance to wealth to capitalism.

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