This Chronicle is dedicated to those who lost their lives to the unspeakable violence of the Hamas terrorists beginning on October 7, 2023. These acts can serve the cause of humanity only in making us aware of the depth of evil of which the human soul is capable.
As I am far from the first to point out, the “zi” in “Nazi” is short for sozialist in the official name of Hitler’s party as the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. Every once in a while someone points this out to Leftists who see themselves as the antithesis to the Nazis, ignoring the Hitler-Stalin pact as a mere misunderstanding. The “ultra-right” are conveniently viewed as the opposites of the extreme leftists, although their politics are mirror-images of each other. What differentiates the two are two different ways of conceiving one’s resentment.
The Left’s resentment is, or at least claims to be, a reaction to the violation of the fundamental principle of human morality, traceable to the originary event: the moral equivalence of all members of the human community. The epistemology of resentment is my term for the historical emergence at the time of the French Revolution of the conviction that this sense of offense is an unimpeachable source of moral truth. For the first time in modern history, the sans-culottes’ sense of injustice at the Third Estate’s unequal status with the privileged castes was recognized as a criterion of morality on a national and international scale.
As the reaction to an offense to morality per se, the Left’s resentment is originary, and thus “natural.” This explains the public tolerance for the monstrous figures who have dominated Communist regimes. Fidel Castro’s face still graces the facades of a couple of condos in Santa Monica; no one would think to post an image of Hitler. Mao and even Stalin do not arouse the same sense of horror as der Führer.
In contrast, the resentment of the Right claims to be offended not by the violation of this basic moral law, but by a failure to respect one’s status in a social caste system: I resent not being accorded the honors I am due. This was how the term was used in the pre-modern era, when the term ressentiment had acquired none of the “underground” connotations given it by Nietzsche.
For example, in the famous line from Corneille’s Horace: Rome, l’unique objet de mon ressentiment, spoken by Camille, the cause of whose “resentment” is the death of her beloved Curiace at the hand of her brother. Camille is not asking simply to be treated like everyone else; she is resenting the death of her beloved in equal combat not as a misfortune but as an injustice. This kind of resentment begins with, “How dare you!”
It is only after the post-Revolutionary rejection of caste society had fully taken effect that modern Right-wing resentment took on its particularly sinister quality. The moral basis of the action of the Bolsheviks and other Left-wing revolutionaries was still the sans-culotte sense of having being denied what the Declaration of Independence calls their “unalienable rights.” This denial provides in the minds of many a partial excuse for the worst mass murders in history: at least they were on the side of the common people… Whereas for the Nazis, socialists or not, non-Aryans had no “unalienable rights,” and Jews no rights of any kind. Today in the victimary era, the politics of the Right in resisting the “social-justice” transformations demanded by the Left are polemically assimilated to Nazism as effectively defending “systemic racism,” merely disguised by such subterfuges as “objective” examinations and non-discrimination clauses. (Readers should consult their local DEI office for details.)
At first glance, it can hardly be maintained that the Nazis’ attitude toward the Jews was one of resentment: the Jews were defined as subhuman, deserving of extermination like rats and cockroaches. But it is not hard to see that such demeaning expressions “protest too much” to demonstrate a real sense of superiority. On the contrary, no one waxes indignant about cockroaches. Antisemitism is an indignant reaction to the excess of power supposedly possessed by the wealthy and conspiratorial Jews, rendered all the more illegitimate by their racial inferiority.
This attitude gained adherents with the growth of the bourgeois economy throughout the 19th century. Marx claimed that the Jews’ object of worship is der Schacher, usually translated as “huckstering,” although haggling would be more correct; in other words, trying to make an extra buck. This is still everyday antisemitism; Marx could never have dreamed of what was in store for the Jews in 1941-45. The firstness of the Jews, although ever implicit in the conspiratorial fantasies that surrounded them, had no place in Marx’s world. In his class system, the Jews were petty hagglers or perhaps even wealthy bankers, but nothing in Marx suggests contact with the antisemitic fantasy-world of the Protocols.
Yet this fantasy-world, a latter-day avatar of Jewish chosenness, has always been at the root of antisemitism—which is to say, Jew-hatred, since the term anti-semitism, which dates only from 1879, was based on a vague notion of race theory. Wilhelm Marr, the first popularizer if not inventor of the term, had a strange love-hate relationship with the Jews that is of no interest here save to point out that the racialist aspect of anti-semitism was of no particular concern to him. (Indeed, Marr is said to have renounced antisemitism altogether in his final years.)
Racialism allowed its partisans to undermine Jewish firstness, rooted in the Judeo-Christian religious world, by situating the Jews as Semites at the low end of the scale of racial excellence. Their history in Europe in general and Germany in particular could then be described in terms of corruption of the “higher” races of which the Aryans were at the pinnacle. The Aryan’s indignation at what he saw as the domination of the “Semite” can be taken as the model of “extreme-right” resentment, one that retains its force today among fringe neo-Nazi groups. But the real center of gravity of contemporary antisemitism is elsewhere.
It is characteristic of Islamist culture that, untouched by the Enlightenment, it has no compunctions in rejecting historically established facts. Denying or minimizing the Holocaust is mere icing on the cake. And this allows Islamists to make a seamless connection between the Jewish usurpers in the Holy Land and the European colonists in North Africa and the Middle East. After all, the Jews received their guarantee of a homeland from the Balfour Declaration as a colonial land-transfer.
One no longer hears the lame pleasantry that expressed incredulity at the existence of Muslim antisemitism, given that the Muslim Arabs too are Semites—or aren’t they? For, ironically enough, in contemporary Islamist antisemitism, the Jews are denied their status as Semites with their roots in the Middle East. In contrast with the traditional Islamic sense of superiority to the Jews, which classified them along with Christians as “people of the book,” inferior to Muslims but permitted to live among them as dhimmis on payment of a tax or jizya, modern Islamic antisemitism views the Israelis as usurpers, “colonizers” from Europe of Slavic origin (“Khazars”). Thus from the beginning, Jewish settlements in Palestine were assimilated to Western colonies illegitimately implanted in the midst of Muslim land, a Waqf or unalienable trust that, once occupied by Islam, belongs to it in perpetuity and can never be relinquished.
Muslims view the Bible of the other Abrahamic religions as originally revealed by God, but marred by inaccuracies in copying over the centuries, whence the revelation of the Koran as Allah’s final word. Thus for Islam, although much of the Koran derives from Hebrew sources, the sense of Jewish originarity or firstness that remains at the foundation of Christianity is altogether absent. And more generally, Islam as a religion of conquest of the lands of the ancient civilizations by the peoples of the periphery has none of the paradoxical “lateness” that informs Christianity’s relationship with Judaism as its “elder brother.” Jews and Christians may be people of the book, but Allah is “greater” (akbar), his book is the ultimate truth, and he has promised his faithful that his kingdom will eventually include the entire world.
In the Islamic vision of history, the establishment of the state of Israel is scandalous and must be undone. Islam’s resentment of the Jews, in other words, is of the Right variety, a reaction to an injustice experienced not as a denial of equal rights but of Allah-given privilege—whence the demonstrated impossibility for Israel to satisfy Palestinian demands short of abandoning the entire land “from the river to the sea.”
In the Western political framework, this assurance of divine election has obvious parallels to the Nazi vision of the “master race,” whence the Nazi sympathies of Haj Amin al-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem, who made broadcasts in Arabic during WWII from Berlin, where he lived throughout the war with honors comparable to those due a head of state—although Hitler would not honor his request to distract himself from the conduct of the war in order to chase the Jews from Palestine. Husseini’s influence is still visible today, for example in the language of the Palestinian resistance when it insists on the supposed danger that the Jewish presence in Jerusalem poses to the Al-Aqsa mosque—whence the name of Hamas’ October 7 invasion, Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.
Understanding Husseini’s role is helpful in explaining what might seem anomalous in the seamless alliance formed between Muslim and Leftist anti-Zionists on university campuses and with such movements as BLM. Islamic radicalism has adopted to the Western mind-set by presenting not Islam itself but the Palestinians as victims of the Jews; this was already the case with Husseini’s reaction to the early Zionist settlements in what is now Israel. In this manner, the sacred firstness affirmed as a principle that makes any land occupied by Islam its permanent possession is assimilated to the critique of Western colonialism articulated by such as Frantz Fanon. Needless to say, that all the lands of Islam were themselves originally won by conquest has nothing in common with Western colonialism; it was the will of Allah. And this goes all the more for the Holy Land occupied by “European” Jews denied any ancestral connection to the Hebrews of the past.
In this manner, Islam can ally itself with the “intersectional” victim classes of the West and their sufferings at the hands of white (straight, etc.) Europeans—what the French call Islamogauchisme. The Hamas terrorists sadistically murdering and torturing Israelis are cheered on by the extreme Left, both in France, where, unlike even the Communists, Mélenchon’s LFI (La France Insoumise: France Untamed) refuses to condemn them, and on many American university campuses, where the pro-Palestinian students not merely excuse but extol the Hamas’ most barbaric acts as justified reactions to apartheid Israel’s oppression.
One need not believe in supernatural forces to view the Jews in Western society as a uniquely marked people, simultaneously sacred and cursed. Indeed, the spontaneous expressions in the West of public sympathy for Hamas’ attack, far greater and more openly enthusiastic than those for 9/11 or Islamist incursions on French soil, are revelatory of the latent profundity of antisemitism in Western society, which the post-Holocaust era had overlain since WWII only to allow its reemergence in a newly assertive mode. Palestine’s suffering is taken as manifest proof of Jewish malevolence, and the acts of its defenders against Israel are hopefully viewed as the opening chapters in the demise of American, and Western, world dominance.
This “anticolonial” Muslim version of antisemitism has many advantages over the old racial version (which it does not for all that contradict). Islam gives antisemitism a force that it never had in the West, unmarred by the Nazis’ heavy-handed obsessiveness. For Islam shares none of the apologetic traits of the Christian world; it does not emphasize humanity’s original sinfulness, merely the necessity of its submission. And to submit means to accept as true when necessary the most outrageous lies—or rather to affirm them as true, since the idea of submission excludes that of acceptance. MEMRI (https://www.memri.org/) has recorded innumerable examples of this.
In short, the radical Islam we call Islamism is respected by the Western Left for its own form of firstness: its refusal to recognize the Jews’ spiritual or physical anteriority, and equally significantly, the willingness of its believers to sacrifice their lives when necessary for their beliefs, however rationally absurd. No doubt soldiers have always been called upon to make the supreme sacrifice, but the proportion of Muslims who have engaged in suicidal violence is surely far greater than in any other major religion. Whence the concomitant readiness of these warriors to engage in the kind of inhuman massacre of which Hamas just provided a sample. Before the Holocaust, we should remember that the first modern genocide was carried out by the Muslim Turks against the Armenians and other Eastern Christians during and after WWI—another crime against humanity that seems today to be on the point of renewing itself.
Islam played in relation to Christianity throughout the Middle Ages the role of a symmetrical enemy, seeking to conquer the nations of Europe and being gradually driven out as the West’s more dynamic civilization moved into the early modern era. The victorious Christians treated the Jews as lowly relatives of the Muslims, as we see in the expulsion of both from Spain in 1492.
But with the beginnings of Zionism in the modern era, the Muslim move toward modernization has been increasingly replaced by a new fundamentalism whose power derives from its rekindling of the resentment that led to Islam’s founding in the first place: the desert Arabs’ sense of exclusion from what were then the most advanced civilizations. Whereas medieval Islam had been looked upon in the West with an ambivalent admiration, the 20th century theoreticians of radical Islam from Sayyid Qutb to Edward Said saw Western “Orientalism” as a humiliating exoticism. This in turn spawned an “Islamist” fundamentalism that only grew with the successes of Israel, and whose psychological effect we saw illustrated in the recent massacres. The deep roots of resentment in Islam have spawned a world-wide Islamist movement. If today its power center is in Shiite Iran, it easily enough spills over into the Sunni world, where Hamas is supported on an equal basis with Shiite Hezbollah.
In this way, contemporary modernity has since the end of WWII ironically renewed Islam’s strength as an anti-civilization, with Israel resuming the role of the Jewish tribes first conquered by Muhammad. Where the Nazis had so to speak to “decivilize” themselves in their treatment of the Jews, for Muslims this state was so to speak their historical root, their point of departure.
Yet that this atavistic trend, driven by hostility to Western modernity and above all to the Zionist “usurpation” of Islamic territory, is by no means unanimous among Muslims in general has been made clear by the “Abraham Accords” recently brought forth as an example for Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Islamic world. This opening, delayed but not abandoned, only augments the fanaticism of the jihadists, whence the Simchat Torah pogrom, carried out with the support of Iran, that singles out Israel, the homeland of Jewish, and Western, firstness, as the scapegoat for Western colonialism.
In today’s historical context, this pogrom has the potential of being a true watershed event. Its horrors, far from being disguised or denied, have been proudly spread all over the Internet. Although the number of Westerners capable of publicly applauding these acts is appalling, it is still far from a majority; Biden’s own personal expression of horror, shared by nearly all public officials in either party, showed that even the considerable influence of the Woke left on the Democrats does not go that deep.
Thus, at least for the moment, the influence of Obama’s “postcolonialist” attraction to Iran, the sponsor of most of the world’s jihadist terrorism, has reached its limit. No responsible politician can afford to defend or even excuse such acts, and the number of exceptions is thankfully limited. And the fact that the Woke throughout the West, not those in corporate offices but on college campuses and in city streets, have shown themselves shamelessly vocal in their support of Hamas’ actions provides an excellent point at which a red line can be drawn; as I think they will soon become aware.
Let us hope that Israel will follow through on its promises to rid Gaza of Hamas; that the US-Israel-Saudi connection will be reinforced; and that the US will finally turn away from its coddling of Iran’s tyranny to take the side of the majority of the Iranian population and help restore to them a modern democratic government. Iran-sponsored Islamism, like Isis before it, has crossed a bridge too far.