Mel Gib­son’s out­burst is small pota­toes

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Suzanne Fields

In the larger scheme of things, Mel Gib­son’s drunken out­burst against the Jews is very small pota­toes. But it un­der­lines an im­por­tant el­e­ment of anti-Semitism of­ten over­looked. Con­tempt for the Jews is nearly al­ways self-de­struc­tive, not nec­es­sar­ily in the short run but over time, not sim­ply per­son-to-per­son, but for na­tions, too. Anti-Semitism is for dum­mies.

Paul John­son, the Bri­tish his­to­rian, doc­u­ments how this works: Anti-Semitism clouds a per­son’s judg­ment, forc­ing him to look for val­i­da­tion of his ha­tred and this in­evitably nar­rows his abil­ity to rea­son. He’s like the Marx­ist ever in search of “ev­i­dence” to con­firm his eco­nomic the­ory, and voila, it’s there. The anti-Semite can’t ac­cept what doesn’t fit into his nar­row world­view and his ha­tred pre­vents him from en­joy­ing the cre­ativ­ity of Jews, no mat­ter that this cre­ativ­ity would pay him great div­i­dends.

Anti-Semitism di­lutes the re­wards of Jewish fi­nan­cial, sci­en­tific, artis­tic and in­tel­lec­tual strengths. When Spain ex­pelled the Jews (along with the Moors) at the end of the 15th cen­tury, for ex­am­ple, Spain lost the in­tel­lec­tual gifts it needed as the New World flow­ered with un­prece­dented op­por­tu­ni­ties for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. “The ef­fect of of­fi­cial anti-

Semitism was to

de­prive Spain

(and its colonies)

of a class al­ready

no­table for the

as­tute han­dling

of fi­nance,” Paul

John­son writes

in Com­men­tary

mag­a­zine. “As a

con­se­quence, the

project of en­larg­ing the new

World’s sil­ver

mines and

[bring­ing] huge amounts of sil­ver into Spain, far from lead­ing to ra­tio­nal in­vest­ment in a proto-in­dus­trial revo­lu­tion or to the cre­ation of mod­ern fi­nan­cial ser­vices, had a pro­foundly dele­te­ri­ous im­pact, plung­ing the hith­erto vig­or­ous Span­ish econ­omy into in­fla­tion and longterm de­cline, and the gov­ern­ment into re­peated bank­ruptcy.”

It’s ironic that when Jews be­come fi­nanciers, they are of­ten loathed for their abil­i­ties to man­age money and those in author­ity do not draw on their gifts. Spain never re­cov­ered from send­ing Jews into ex­ile, and the Nether­lands in­her­ited good for­tune when the Jewish refugees set­tled and con­trib­uted to the even­tual mer­can­tile and fi­nan­cial supremacy of that time. Am­s­ter­dam and Rot­ter­dam be­came cities that en­dure as great trade cen­ters to this day.

Eng­land ex­pelled the Jews in the 13th cen­tury, but in­vited them back 300 years later, us­ing money from the Roth­schild’s in­ter­na­tional bank­ing es­tab­lish­ment to de­feat Napoleon. Jews have flour­ished in Eng­land with­out re­li­gious re­stric­tions, though Shake­speare tapped into the residue of of­fi­cial anti-Semitism in his por­trait of Shy­lock in “The Mer­chant of Venice.” (It’s an­other irony that he prob­a­bly never met a Jew.)

Laws that con­trol and re­strict Jews be­come mod­els for con­trol and re­stric­tions of other re­li­gious and eth­nic groups. Catherine the Great lim­ited where Jews could live. Prej­u­dice ex­panded to of­fi­cially sanc­tioned pogroms that sent many Jews em­i­grat­ing to the West. The Soviet Union en­forced bru­tal le­gal re­stric­tions on Jews and ruth­lessly ex­panded them to other mi­nori­ties. The Drey­fus case in France at the end of the 19th cen­tury pro­voked in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion and se­verely weak­ened the French mil­i­tary; its ef­fects are felt to­day. Ger­many has yet to re­cover the tal­ents of the Jews it killed or ex­pelled un­der The Third Re­ich, in­clud­ing 20 No­bel Prize sci­en­tists.

The im­pact of anti-Semitism on the Arabs in the Mid­dle East is only now get­ting the at­ten­tion it de­serves. Jews un­der the Ot­toman Turks in the 15th and 16th cen­tury were wel­comed for their ad­vanced knowl­edge of spin­ning, weav­ing and dy­ing of tex­tiles. Their knowl­edge of Euro­pean lan­guages en­abled Mus­lims to em­ploy them as diplo­mats. Mod­ern Is­lam merely blames them for ev­ery­thing they imag­ine go­ing wrong.

Paul John­son notes that Arabs have not only wasted tril­lions of dol­lars of oil rev­enues, blow­ing much of the money on ar­ma­ments, but they have nei­ther con­sol­i­dated nor mod­ern­ized their law nor copied any of the tech­niques of land man­age­ment the Jews have used to make the desert bloom. Play­ing the vic­tim and blam­ing the Jews for ev­ery­thing that goes wrong gal­va­nizes ha­tred, but it doesn’t do any­thing to make Arab life liv­able.

“The Pro­to­cols of the Learned El­ders of Zion,” the crude Czarist forgery that blames Jewish con­spir­a­cies for ev­ery­thing bad, is a peren­nial best seller in the Arab world and is taught as fact in the schools. The book, laughed at in the West, be­came a Cairo television se­ries widely pop­u­lar in the Is­lamic world.

Imag­ine how dif­fer­ent things could have been if the Arabs had co­op­er­ated with Jews early in the 20th cen­tury. Imag­ine a JewishArab col­lab­o­ra­tion to build real schools, teach­ing hos­pi­tals and great univer­si­ties. Imag­ine what might have been if they had worked the land to­gether, ex­chang­ing tech­niques of cul­ti­va­tion. Imag­ine what might have been if they had co­op­er­ated to de­velop joint so­cial ser­vices for the needy of both peo­ples. Imag­ine.

Suzanne Fields, a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times, is na­tion­ally syn­di­cated.

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