The Enduring Stupidity of Antisemitism

Robert J. Hutchinson
5 min readOct 12, 2021

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Growing up in America’s Pacific Northwest, the only Jewish person I knew was my father’s legal secretary, Monya.

There just weren’t that many Jewish kids at St. Patrick Catholic School.

In my neighborhood, as the old joke has it, there were only two religions: Catholic… and Public.

When I went away to study at a nearby Jesuit university, I met a few more Jews, including the rabbi who taught us about the Talmud, but not that many.

Of course, I knew antisemitism existed.

My college English courses often seemed exclusively dedicated to Holocaust literature by postwar writers such as Günther Grass, Elie Wiesel, Tadeusz Borowski, Prima Levi and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

And during a year-abroad trip to Europe that included a stop at Dachau, I read Lucy S. Dawidowicz’s classic account, The War Against the Jews.

Yet antisemitism, to me, seemed to belong to another era, another place.

After college, I moved to Israel to study Hebrew and, for the first time in my life, almost everyone I knew was Jewish.

Israel seemed a lot like America in that it was a very cosmopolitan place full of new immigrants, speaking dozens of languages.

I was on an ulpan, an intensive Hebrew language course for olim, or new Israeli immigrants, and so the people I knew came from all over the world — Russia, South Africa, Germany, Latin America — and they had all sorts of opinions and views. Some were left-wing. Some were right-wing. Some were religious, some were not religious.

Living in Israel blew my mind and introduced me to a very different culture, Jewish culture, about which I knew very little. And of course, I saw very little antisemitism in Israel.

Yet all that changed when I got back to America. It was in America that I encountered anti-Jewish hatred in person.

One afternoon I was sitting on a deck overlooking the icy waters of Puget Sound, chatting with a beautiful young woman who was renting the condo below mine. We were drinking wine, getting on well, and I was telling her about my recent two-year stay in Israel and how different it was from everything I had experienced before in my life.

The woman blinked her eyes, and leaned closer.

“I just have one question,” she said in a hushed voice, smiling and sipping her wine. “How could you stand being around all those Jews?”

I think my jaw literally dropped open. I just stared at her, not really understanding what she was saying.

And then it finally dawned on me: This is what antisemitism is! I had never heard anything like it before.

I can honestly say that was the first anti-Jewish remark I had ever heard outside of a Woody Allen movie. Ever.

In the decades since, I have heard a lot more — and now I appreciate a bit more the enduring reality that is antisemitism.

Because I sometimes write about politics, I have encountered anti-Jewish prejudice probably more than the average American — on both the political Left and the Right.

And strangely, much of it revolves around Israel, although for different reasons.

The political Left — people like Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — hate Jews because they hate Israel.

Because the political Left does not believe in borders or in nations, they view Israel as an island of European colonialism and American militarism created in the Middle East.

The political Right — especially members of the so-called dissident or paleo-conservative Right — also expresses hostility toward Jews but for different reasons.

For some conservatives, American Jews are hypocrites for supporting mass immigration and open borders for the U.S. and European countries but not for Israel.

Recently, the head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Jonathan Greenblatt, called for Fox News’s Tucker Carlson to be fired for talking about demographic change in Europe and the U.S. — about the empirically verifiable reality that at least 60 million legal and illegal immigrants have entered America since 1965, mostly from Latin America, and that this has changed the demographic and political makeup of the country.

It enrages some people on the political right when Jews like Greenblatt say it is “racist” to talk about demographic change and, at the same time, insist that Israel can and must tightly control its own immigration policies so it remains a culturally homogenous “Jewish state.”

“Look,” I always tell my fellow conservatives, “if most of your family was wiped out because your grandparents couldn’t get visas to America to flee Hitler, you’d be in favor of liberal immigration policies, too.”

Jews were often a stateless people up until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, persecuted in many countries, and so have a built-in cultural bias in favor of immigration. Avadim hayinu, Jews sing every year at Passover, as they recall the great migration from Egypt to the Promised Land. “We were slaves” once in Egypt. Yet despite this, Jewish support of mass immigration is by no means universal.

I always point out that polls show Israelis are far more nationalistic than their left-leaning American cousins, and that even in America there is a huge diversity of opinion among Jews over immigration.

Nearly a third of all Jews and the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Jews, 83 percent, supported Donald Trump in 2020.

Trump’s former immigration “czar,” Stephen Miller, is Jewish. So are conservative influencers opposed to illegal immigration such as Dennis Prager, Michael Savage, Pamela Geller, Mark Levin, David Horowitz, Joel Pollak, Caroline Glick and Ben Shapiro.

So that is where the antisemitism of the Right lies: in the mistaken belief that Jews are somehow united in supporting mass immigration into western countries.

In fact, this mass immigration is the result of many factors, including the influence of international organizations such as the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund, transnational corporations like Google and Facebook that favor cheap foreign labor over the welfare of their own citizens, the 1965 Hart-Celler Act (promoted by the Catholic senator Edward Kennedy), and so on.

Blaming Jews as a group for mass immigration is like blaming people with brown hair: there are huge numbers of brunettes who believe the U.S. should have open borders and let in anyone who wants to come… but that doesn’t mean brunettes are responsible for mass immigration.

In other words, antisemitism is stupid whether it’s found on the political Left or the Right.

Yes, some Jews are far-left lunatics but so are a lot of Catholics.

There are Catholics who favor state control of virtually our entire lives, including the current president of the United States.

But that doesn’t mean, as some on the Right say, that socialism is a Vatican plot.

Antisemitism, like most forms of ethnic prejudice, is a mental virus that has proven strangely resistant to treatment over the decades.

As the political alignment of the post-war years breaks down and people realize that governments no longer have the interests of their own citizens at heart, there is a tendency to look for scapegoats to blame — and, as usual, Jews stand out as a convenient target for both the far left and the dissident right.

Robert J. Hutchinson writes about the intersection of ideas and politics. He is the author, most recently, of What Really Happened: The Death of Hitler. To get these columns via email, click here.

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