« La violence barbare du Hamas est sans excuse mais elle n’est pas sans cause. »
“The barbaric violence of Hamas is without excuse but it is not without cause.”
Quoted by Nicolas Baverez, « Notre diplomatie en état de mort cérébrale » [Our brain-dead diplomacy] Le Figaro, October 30, 2023, p. 23
This is the statement of an editorialist in France’s classic conservative newspaper, Le Figaro. Everything has a cause; Auschwitz and Treblinka and spilling your coffee. Yet the Nazis never needed alibis. For in their arrogance they claimed to stand beyond everyday human considerations in eliminating the subhuman Jews. Hamas, on the other hand, makes no such claims, but simply acts, and by pridefully trumpeting its barbarities to the world, it lets others find “causes” for its “inexcusable” actions. We are horrified, but at the same time…
How have we reached this point within a lifetime of the Holocaust? To answer this question is to pose that of antisemitism, or more simply, Jew-hatred in its latest, I would not dare to say “final,” phase.
The ultimate irony of Israel’s being cast as the exemplary “white” colonial power whose eradication would stand as the sign of the final triumph of the colonized South and its Eastern allies over the West is a development that only a Nostradamus could have predicted. The Jews had been Western civilization’s archetypal scapegoats, victims of its “oldest hatred.” Cast as bankers, secret masters of the world of money and exchange, pulling the strings of diplomacy and intrigue—not until the birth of Zionism had they ever been seen as colonizers.
The promotion of the Zionists to the role of the quintessential colonial power, a notion intuited already by Mufti al-Husseini during the Holocaust, however absurd from a strictly historical perspective, must be understood not merely as a political tactic, but as embodying a profound intuition about the role of the Jews in Western culture, an intuition that, as the worldwide reaction to October 7 has brutally revealed, is today enjoying a vast popularity.
And what this popularity reveals is the fundamental stumbling-block posed by Jewish firstness in the West and the persistence of the curse attached to it. Should we then see this revelation as consubstantial with the “decline of the West”—or as a sign of the final lifting of the curse and the inauguration of a truly global civilization?
Clearly in objective terms, the “colonial” role of the Zionists is both (a) extremely minor on a historical scale, even if we accept the Palestinian nakba account, and (b) a survival occurring at the very end of the colonial era. In the matter of peoples deprived of their own lands, the Tibetans and the Uighurs, or the Armenians—whose sorrowful parallel with the Jews is worthy of its own analysis—would deserve far more attention than the “Palestinian” Arabs, whose national identity was discovered only mimetically through their resistance to Zionist settlement. And the simple fact that Israel’s “colonization” of the Palestinians continues to be the object of thousands of times more censorious attention than all the world’s similar situations together is seen as a matter of course, tells us far more about the Jews than about the Palestinians.
What indeed is the Muslim Umma doing to help the Uighurs? What organizations have appealed to the UN against the Chinese domination of Tibet? That we take such things for granted provides the key to our understanding. For it is the fact that the “Holy Land” is the geographical/spiritual heart of Western Civilization that suffices to explain why the Jews, the originary source of this land’s significance and sacrality, are the unique object of a millennial and all but world-wide hatred. We hardly have to point out that the fact that Muslims experience the mere presence of a Jew’s “filthy feet” on the Temple Mount as a profanation demonstrates not the truth of their denial of the Jews’ prior presence in Palestine but the contrary. Alas, such ironies, whose analysis could fill volumes of literary journals, are less amusing in real life. As Parmenides knew, the philosopher follows the Way of Truth, but in the everyday world, even in our modern era, the Way of Opinion has little use for it.
Along this line, let us observe that Hamas’ recent massacre was given the title of the Al Aqsa Flood, a “reaction” to the pretended profanation of the Jerusalem mosque located on the Temple Mount, which the victorious general in the 1967 Six-Day War, the strictly secular Moshe Dayan, unwisely left under the control of the Muslim Waqf, indifferent to the fact that the Hebrews’ two Temples had been built there centuries before any mosque. Can we imagine such a gesture of courtesy to a war’s losers taking place in Mecca?
But such is the paradox of Jewish firstness in the Western world: even when the Jews have every power to assert their prior right, they are loath to exercise it in the face of the Muslims’ blind, ahistorical insistence that their mosque is the Mount’s sole rightful place of worship. The Hagia Sofia in Constantinople could be converted to a mosque, but imagine converting a mosque to a synagogue! Or even allowing Jews to stand or walk (without praying) in its neighborhood.
Yet under such circumstances, how can Israel pretend to declare, “Never again!”
History both clarifies and confuses. On the one hand, the current return of Jew-hatred can be seen as a coincidental overlapping two currents of the epistemology of resentment, the fusion of (1) the West’s desire to purge itself of the civilizational firstness originally embodied in the Jews, which now appears to the West itself as a source of infinite vulnerability to the remainder of the world (the “South”) that seeks to liberate itself from Western domination, with (2) the 20th century renewal of the Islamist drive to world conquest, beginning with the Muslim Brotherhood’s recall of the Koran’s promise of world domination under the sign of jihad. And this drive, as the Koran makes clear, dates from the very origin of Islam in the Arabs’ resentment of Jewish tribes as more civilized rivals, whose “firstness” would have to be, not transcended as by the Christians in their “New Israel,” but defeated and its bearers annihilated.
Yet, on the other hand, must we see these movements as really separate? To view world history to date through the eyes of Hegel, Marx, Kojève, or Fukuyama as dominated by the West, the creator of modernity, is to understand, for example, the unprecedented Jew-hatred manifested in the recent demonstrations on American university campuses as the ultimate stage of the West’s attempt at sacrificial self-immolation through an ethnic-religious father-murder on the model of Freud’s Totem and Taboo. For if the Jews are indeed the Christians’ “elder brothers,” predecessors within the same family, for Muslims, the Jews, “children of apes and pigs,” belong to a not-quite-human evolutionary stage whose scribblings were but a preliminary draft of the immortal Koran.
In this context, the Hamas pogrom inaugurates the follow-up to the end of Western history by prefiguring the final liberation of its “Southern” victims from their millennial oppression, announcing world history’s final stage in which Islam will realize its divine election by establishing a universal reign.
But as we know, the course of history is not set in advance, and Israel’s pari or bet is that the terrible defensive lapse that made possible Hamas’ massacre can just as well be seen as a felix culpa which, through its very incitation in the West of street violence and threats, revealed, far more importantly than the savagery of Hamas, that of the Woke Western youth who answered its call, composed largely not of foreign-born Muslims but of Americans without faith, and including even a good number of “progressive” Jews under the patronage of such as the sinister Mr. Soros. These young people and the faculty and DEI administrators who support them may currently reign over the universities, but although the general public pays small attention to the unprecedented decrepitude of today’s campus intellectual life outside the sciences, it cannot well ignore the spectacle of mobs calling for a new Holocaust, taking as their example the horrifying spectacle of the sound and video recordings made by the Hamas operatives themselves, in one of which, for example, we hear the joy of a young man calling his parents on one of his victims’ cell phone to boast of having killed TEN JEWS!!
I doubt if such things took place even under Hitler. This casual expression of visceral blood-lust reminiscent of a soldier of Genghis Khan has not been a feature of the modern West even in its most evil moments.
And as a result of this revelation, the extreme left’s dominance of the Democratic Party, the universities, and the media has been placed in doubt. However little the general public is sensitive to Obama’s subversive role in favoring Iran and its terror network over Saudi Arabia (and Israel), such spectacles place all of Wokism under a cloud. The very principle of victimary morality becomes impossible to maintain when the “victims” boastfully display themselves performing acts too egregious for even our Woke media to explain away. Or for our politicians, whose political future is suddenly put in doubt. Who can forget the image of tearful Rashida Tlaib lamenting Israel’s supposed cruel devastation of the Gaza hospital, leaving 500 dead! Even a phony New York Times front page couldn’t quite sell us that one.
These are not the demonstrations of 2020. We can all regret the unfortunate death of poor George Floyd, but ordinary Americans not obnubilated by fanatical Wokism cannot revel in the joy of disemboweling and decapitating and roasting human beings, even Jews.
And thus I return to the effort at optimism begun in Chronicle 784. The West, the United States in particular, has let things slide to an outrageous extent, among the symptoms of which admitting “people with penises” to ladies’ toilets and dressing rooms is but symptomatic comic relief. But as Adam Smith put it long ago, “there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” Antisemitic mobs marching through campuses or drawing yellow stars and swastikas on Jewish residences is not something that resonates with the typical American or even the typical Democratic voter.
And although it is reassuring to hear President Biden condemn Hamas’ actions in no uncertain terms, the pogrom’s decisive demonstration, after the abandonment of Afghanistan and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, of this administration’s growing inability to deter the agents of chaos provides a clear opportunity for the 2024 Republican presidential candidate, be it Haley or DeSantis or Trump, to make the case for acting once more as responsible adults who have learned to put away childish things.