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Reviews |  What an anti-Semite’s fantasy says about Jewish reality

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Reviews | What an anti-Semite’s fantasy says about Jewish reality

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The common denominator in each of these mutations is an idea, based on fantasy and conspiracy, about the Jewish community. Powerful. The old-fashioned religious anti-Semite believed that the Jews had the power to kill Christ. Nineteenth-century anti-Semites, forerunners of the Nazis, believed that Jews had the power to start wars, manipulate kings, and defraud natives of their heritage.

Today’s anti-Zionists attribute vast powers to Israel and its supporters in the United States that they do not possess, such as the power to drag America into war. On the far right, anti-Semites believe Jews are engaged in a massive plan to replace white, working-class America with immigrant labor. Tucker Carlson and others have incorporated this conspiracy theory much to the delight of neo-Nazis like David Duke, though they are careful to leave out the part about the Jews.

The man who attacked the synagogue harbored the same type of fantasy. Just as Willie Sutton was supposed to rob banks because “that’s where the money is,” this assailant took Jews hostage because that’s where the power was (or so he thought). ). The moral idiocy of the FBI – there are no other words – for denying the specifically anti-Semitic nature of the attack lies in the idea that it could have imagined itself choosing just about any means to achieve his ends, such as taking hostages at the nearest church or grocery store. Likewise, the focus on his sanity begs the central fact that, mad or not, his evilness was not random. He pointed his gun at the Jews.

The fantasy about Jewish power may seem far-fetched, but it’s far more widespread than many realize — which goes so far as people participate in anti-Semitism even when they don’t knowingly commit it.

Who, for example, is most responsible for designing the war in Iraq? If your first answer is “Wolfowitz, Feith, Abrams, and Perle,” you might wonder why you appoint second- and third-level Bush administration officials, all of them Jewish, when all of the top decision-makers – Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld , Rice — are Christians. (If your answer to this is that Wolfowitz et al. were the ones pulling the strings, then you’re an anti-Semite.)

Or take another example: if you think the reason Israel receives so much support in Congress is the money and influence of the pro-Israel lobby, you might be surprised to learn that this lobby ranks 20th. on the most recent list of congressional donors, that’s a far cry from a paltry $4.5 million compared to the $95 million that retiree interest groups have donated. “All about the Benjamins” is not the case, no matter what Rep. Ilhan Omar says.

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But there is a larger context here, which has to do with prevailing assumptions about power itself.

Reviews | What an anti-Semite’s fantasy says about Jewish reality

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