Friday, May 06, 2016

Historically, Europe saw Jews as 'people of colour'

A scandal, resulting in the suspension of the ex-mayor of  London, Ken Livingstone,  has been rocking the British Labour Party, as more and more of its members are accused of harbouring antisemitic views. One theory is that they incapable of seeing Jews as 'people of colour'. Here our regular commenter Eliyahu explains why the issue of colour is a red herring : 


Ken Livingstone: suspended from the British Labour party

Historically, the Arabs and Jews considered themselves white compared to the Black Africans, called Ethiopians [Kushites --כושים-- in Hebrew] in the Bible, as in the first lines of the Book of Amos.

The skin color issue in Arab-Jewish and Israeli-Arab relations is a red herring. There is a range of skin colors among both Jews and Arabs, including Ashkenazim. If you go back in English literature, you see that before WW One, Jews generally were considered Oriental, including Ashkenazim. And in the late 19th century and up to WW 1, Jews were often seen as not quite white. Consider the character Svengali in the very popular English novel, Trilby. He is described as "sallow" in skin color. He is also a Polish Jew. There are plenty of Europeans of old stock in the more Mediterranean countries, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal who are sallow or swarthy in skin color. And nobody or almost nobody says that they are not Europeans. Rather, the traditional European prejudice against Jews [including or especially those in Europe, no matter how acculturated to European high culture] is that Jews are alien, alien wherever they are.

So Kant and Hegel 200 years ago saw Jews as alien to Germany. Kant called the German Jews: "the Palestinians who live among us." Hegel and Kant both saw Jews as Orientals or Asiatics, as did Voltaire and Baron d'Holbach. And the actual skin color of Jews doesn't matter. So, whereas Jews up to WW 1 or even up to WW2 were seen as Orientals [Victor Gollancz says this of himself, as I recall] and swarthy-skinned [which many Jews were, including Ashkenazim], the haters of Jews after the independence of Israel tended more and more to see Jews as quintessentially "white," as alien colonialists, whatever the real, empirical skin color of Jews or any particular Jewish individual.

People like Jeremy Corbyn, leader  of the British Labour Party and Ken Livingstone, fomer Labour MP and ex-mayor of London, see the Jews as inherently alien wherever they are and as inherently evil.

That many Jews in Israel are darker than many of the Arabs does not vitiate the Jews' alien nature. Arabs are "non-white" colonial victims of Jews whatever their skin color and whatever the Jews' skin color. We are not dealing with reasonable people when we deal with Corbyn, Livingstone, and so on. These people do not care about empirical facts or scientific conclusions about Jewish DNA for instance.

We know that most of the DNA of the Ashkenazim too is Middle Eastern, although no large population in the 21st century is a pure race of course. Tel Aviv university lecturer Shlomo Sand insinuated in his most popular book, popular in Europe at any rate, that the DNA/genetic researchers were all Jews who were agents of the Israeli government. As a matter of fact some of the genetic researchers were neither Israelis nor even Jews. But came to more or less the same conclusions as Jewish researchers. So if someone is a hate-ridden anti-Zionist and Judeophobe [Sand grew up in a Communist family], he will deny the science. Sand, as you may know, claimed that Ashkenazim were descendants of the Khazars and the North African Jews were descended from Berbers. Since the genetic researchers vitiated his theory, they had to be wrong and their science that found that all the geographically dispersed Jewish groups who had the Talmud were genetically related, also had to be wrong.

But anti-Zionism derives from an old European tradition that sees Jews as alien and evil. If Kant and Hegel 200 years ago saw the Jews as Oriental in Europe, and Corbyn et al. and Sand see Jews today as quintessential Europeans [who assume all the guilt for the Europeans' crimes as colonialists and imperialists], it is all one continuous tradition, albeit the locus of where the Jews are alien has shifted from Europe to the Middle East. Corbyn and Livingstone are not reasonable or rational persons.




1 comment:

Dan Isenstein said...

well written and informative. thank you