What is ‘critical Jewish studies’?
This is a phrase I came up with myself. I have not seen it anywhere else. What it means to convey is a more objective and impartial approach to the subject of Jews and Judaism, along similar lines to the leftist academic tendency to critique so-called whiteness and white privileges, but with greater impartiality.
Why should non-Jews study Jews and Judaism?
Why should non-Jews take an interest in an alien culture such as the Jewish people?
Jews warrant study and critical analysis (and sometimes criticism) because they are:
- different to white Europeans (and therefore interesting); and,
- an influential and successful minority group in Western societies.
I do not myself hate Jews and this is not an obsession, it is just an interest. I do not believe that organised Jewish groups control all key institutions in society, nor do I blame Jews for problems in Western societies. The problems of the West are caused by white Europeans.
‘Criminal’ anti-Semitism: does all criticism of Jews amount to hatred of Jews qua Jews?
I am conscious that we now live in quite a censorious society and we no longer have free speech. When I was growing up, it was common to hear ordinary people say: “This is a free country, I will say what I like”. What was once a commonplace and thoughtless maxim no longer applies, to the same extent, or at all. There are now legal risks in discussing certain subjects. Notwithstanding that, this section of the website will be written fearlessly but in a spirit of fairness. I am a critic of Jews, but not a hater.
The problem we have is that some Jews now think that even criticism of their community should be classed as ‘criminal’ anti-Semitism.
Structural (political-economic) anti-Semitism versus visceral (racial) anti-Semitism
Is anti-Semitism morally wrong? I don’t believe so. Lots of Scottish, Welsh and Irish people are anti-English in the sense that they criticise what they see as English power and influence, but when asked, most of them would probably claim that they do not hate the English in any visceral ethnic sense. I consider myself anti-American for various reasons, mostly to do with culture and politics. Though I will admit this extends to disliking a lot of the habits and mannerisms that are, as I see it, archetypal of Americans in general, I do not really hate or dislike Americans individually.
I am also of the view that mass Irish migration into Britain during the Industrial Revolution, and since, has had a greatly detrimental effect on Britain and I think that many of today's white underclass are likely to be descendants of those migrants. In my view, it would have been better, both for Britain and Ireland, if that migration had not happened. However just because I make that observation, it doesn't follow that I 'hate' Irish people. It is an observation of cause-and-effect and the likely long-term ramifications of allowing an alien ethnic group into a society.
I think similar distinctions can be made in justifying a study of Jews. In so far as I might be critical of the Jewish community, my perspective is based on the structural influence of Jews in society (such as it is) and the extent and use of Jewish power, not on any deeper hatred or strong dislike of Jews themselves.
The folly of banning political speech
In any event, even if I am an ‘anti-Semite’, that is a view which I am at liberty to hold. Even if my views can be shown to be ill-informed or stupid, I am at liberty to be ill-informed and stupid. It is not for the state to intervene or ‘correct’ me. This is a free society (or is supposed to be).
Jews, and others, who want to ban anti-Semitism have got some explaining to do. They can start with the Bible: the New Testament is the most anti-Semitic tract ever written, especially the Gospel of John.
The central figure of Christianity, Jesus of Nazareth, was a stern and consistent critic of Jews. His entire moral philosophy was a counterpoint to the values of the Pharisees.
Then we have the founder of Christianity, St Paul, a Jewish anti-Semite, who sought to turn the Nazarene Church from a small group of rebellious Jews into a Gentile Church.
Karl Marx was another anti-Semitic Jew and also a racialist (something today’s neo-Marxists tend to be unaware of).
Major English writers, including Shakespeare, Dickens, Hardy and Elliot, were all anti-Semitic or critical of Jews.
Those are just a few of the examples that come to mind. I’ve hardly touched the full roll-call of eminent anti-Semites throughout Western history, which includes some of the greatest scholars, writers, artists, musicians and scientists – a few of them Jewish themselves. Of course, much of what is written in the past is open to interpretation and has to be considered in the context of the times in which the authors lived. In the case of the Bible, we also have the matter of who would have been considered a ‘Jew’ in those times and whether such peoples have any link to the ‘Jews’ of today. Nevertheless the case is made: if we are to ban anti-Semitism, we are going to need to do some serious book-burning.