Risking criticism, I return to Whoopi Goldberg and “The View.” I did not simply forgive or dismiss her comment about the Holocaust. If you remember, she said that the Holocaust was “not about race but man’s inhumanity to man.” She did apologize, though does she realize what she said, other than she caused people to be angry? Her statement exemplifies the typical and subtle dismissal of Jews as a minority and victims of racism.
The Jewish population of Jerusalem was exiled to Babylonia around 600 B.C.E. In 70 B.C.E., the Romans destroyed the second temple. The remaining Jews were forced to scatter; thus began the Diaspora, the dispersion of the Jewish folk among peoples of other cultures, ethnicities, and religions. Hatred and discrimination of Jews led to their expulsion. And the rest is history….
Due to their belief in one God, the Jews clashed with the Greeks. After the death of Jesus Christ, a rivalry developed with the early Christians. Early followers of Christ immediately blamed the Jews for his death. (The Romans killed Jesus.) The first accusations of a “Blood Libel” appeared around 1290. Jews were accused of killing babies and drinking their blood (and murdering Christ). Anti-semitism in the Middle Ages culminated with the Inquisition in the 1490’s. Jews were expelled from England, France, Hungary, German states, Austria, Lithuania, Spain, and Portugal. Often Jewish people were asked to return to countries, for example Germany, when economic conditions deteriorated.
Over the centuries, Jews have been venerated for their business acumen and scholarly pursuits but then shunned out of fear of Jews “taking over.” Jews have been valued for their intelligence but envied, forced into ghettos, and denied basic rights.
The dynamic continues to this day. David Baddiel, in Jews Don’t Count, calls this “high and low.” We see this identical ambivalence or love/hate relationship today. It is commonplace to view Jewish people as smart and shrewd in business and leap to accusing Jews of controlling people in high places and vast amounts of money. The shooter in the Dallas area synagogue convinced himself that a well-regarded rabbi in New York could convince the government to release a prisoner in federal custody. Deluded–yes but not so uncommon. During the 2017 Charlottesburg march and riot, the white supremacists chanted, “The Jews Will Not Replace Us.” Ignorant sentiment but dangerous in that it ties in neatly with other conspiracy theories. If any group over time has been accused of working behind the scenes, it is the Jewish people.
Ms. Goldberg emphatically stated that Jews are not a race. Her comment goes straight to the heart of the problem. If Jews do so well, how can they be subject to racism? History has shown that being a religion, a race, a people or an ethnic group does not matter. Jews are targeted nonetheless.
The Holocaust serves as a warning. The ultimate irony of Ms. Goldberg’s statement is that Hitler tried to prove Jews were an inferior race ad nauseum. The hideous concepts he borrowed from various sources were heinous as history proved, ridiculous given many “Aryans” had been Jewish at some point. This occurred in 15th century Spain as well–a large number of Catholics were conversos–Jews who had converted to escape the horrors of the Inquisition. All over the world, people discover Jewish blood runs in their veins.
A hierarchy of prejudice permeates our western culture and global viewpoint. People clash over who suffers/ed more. Jews usually are at the bottom. We are white, rich, and smart. We can pass. All of these arguments are fallacious. Jews come in varied shades of white, tan, brown, and black. We are not the richest group in the United States or the world. The Jewish religion and culture has stressed pedagogy over the centuries. Jews were forced into certain acceptable occupations, most notably dealing with money. Christians considered handling money a dirty deed. Smart? Jews suffer from learning disabilities, genetic syndromes, and cognitive disabilities. I am not aware of any studies that show disabilities favor one group over another. We have no monopoly on erudition, besides there are various intelligences not limited to academic achievement. Rationality has no place in racism.
Jews do not need to worry about hatred until they do. Ergo, the Holocaust occurred because the very smart, affluent, white Jews of Europe deluded themselves. Then it was too late. This recent history hovers above the heads of Jews in the form of an unconscious fear which rears its ugly head when there is an incident. Recent examples are the shootings at synagogues in Pittsburgh, California, and Texas. Now, off duty police guard events at synagogues. Jewish schools appear as fortresses.
I do not want to overstate my points for fear of being labeled racist and alarmist. Therein lies my point. As I express my viewpoint, I worry if I have ticked the boxes to qualify as a liberal, J Street member, and Democrat anti-racist. I am no more innocent than the next person. I catch myself utilizing stereotypes in various ways. Every last human on the earth should be working everyday to be compassionate.
My mother survived World War II in Shanghai, China, as a stateless refugee. Her family escaped Germany in 1939. As I told my mother, when she became agitated at the label “Holocaust Survivor,” we are not in a competition. During World War II, millions endured hardships beyond comprehension. Violent conflicts continue unabated. Post traumatic stress disorder permeates families all over the world. So why do we continue prioritizing racial and ethnic groups in terms of applying the racism label? Racism is racism is racism.
Slavery stains American history, an indelible mark on our story. Though our nation has made progress towards decreasing institutional racism, we have miles to go. Recent backlash in our country, for example limiting voting rights, reminds us that significant work must be accomplished. States should seriously consider reparations for lost opportunities and property for African Americans. The same should be applied to Native Americans. Germany began reparation payments for Holocaust survivors approximately twenty years after the atrocities. Slavery was abolished in 1865?
Progressives apply double standards to Israel’s behavior. Their blind devotion to the oppressed leads them to label Israel as Imperialist and the present occupation as apartheid. How did that happen? Very little consideration is given to the plight of Jews during World War II. Jewish progressives disdain Israel in the form of tropes, demonstrations, and boycotts which reek of anti-semitism. Zionism is pitted against being Jewish. Can one be a Zionist, love Israel, but hate the government’s policies towards Palestinians? Can one be anti-Zionist and still a Jew. What about religious Jews? Are they all pro-Zionist? No. Reform Jews can be pro-Zionist, pro-IDF, and be in favor of the present government and military in Israel.
Granted–Israel has committed violent, inhumane acts against the Palestinians. However, the reverse is true. What about other countries that perpetrate genocide? Israel is not the single evildoer in the world.
In conclusion, I hope that Whoopi Goldberg engages in reading excellent works on the discrimination and genocide of different groups over the last centuries. Perhaps, as a result, she will gain a broader view of racism. I know I could recommend great books.