Bari Weiss’s new book on anti-Semitism

If you look on Amazon, you’ll find that New York Times columnist Bari Weiss has a new book, How to Fight Anti-Semitismwhich will be out September 10 ($14.02 in hardback, $9.99 on Kindle). I haven’t seen it yet, but apparently Weiss feels that anti-Semitism in America is on the rise, at least judging by the Amazon summary below:

On October 27, 2018, eleven Jews were gunned down as they prayed at their synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was the deadliest attack on Jews in American history.

For most Americans, the massacre at Tree of Life, the synagogue where Bari Weiss became a bat mitzvah, came as a total shock. But anti-Semitism is the oldest hatred, commonplace across the Middle East and on the rise for years in Europe. So that terrible morning in Pittsburgh raised a question Americans can no longer avoid: Could it happen here?

This book is Weiss’s answer.

Like many, Weiss long believed this country could escape the rising tide of anti-Semitism. But now the luckiest Jews in history are beginning to face a three-headed dragon known all too well to Jews of other times and places: the physical fear of violent assault, the moral fear of ideological vilification, and the political fear of resurgent fascism and populism.

No longer the exclusive province of the far right, the far left, and assorted religious bigots, anti-Semitism now finds a home in identity politics and the reaction against identity politics, in the renewal of America First isolationism and the rise of one-world socialism, and in the spread of Islamist ideas into unlikely places. A hatred that was, until recently, reliably taboo, anti-Semitism is migrating toward the mainstream, amplified by social media and a culture of conspiracy that threatens us all.

Weiss’s cri de couer is an unnerving reminder that Jews must never lose their hard-won instinct for danger, and a powerful case for renewing Jewish and American values in uncertain times from one of our most provocative writers. Not just for the sake of America’s Jews, but for the sake of America.

I guess we don’t have much to say about this as I doubt that any of us have read it. I’ll get around to it, but I have a biography of Winston Churchill and Sean Carroll’s new “many worlds” book ahead of it.

h/t: Enrico

40 Comments

  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 24, 2019 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    In the land of guns everyone is afraid to a certain degree. Jews are at the top of the list now partly because of this idiot white nationalist occupying the white house. This country has a long way to go and is not going in the right direction. Ignorance rules.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 24, 2019 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

      Yep! In an age when we have more access to information than ever before, there still seem to be just as many ignorant people. I thought it was bad when Ronald Reagan was elected, but at least he actually had the experience of being a reasonably successful governor. Now there are millions who either cannot see through Trump’s lies, or are prepared to overlook them because they like the result of the policies he’s enacted.

      However, those policies are mostly destroying the country long-term. Racism (incl, anti-Semitism), bigotry, misogyny, the roll-back of policies to clean-up the environment (see the latest CNN doco on this), the reduction in life expectancy because of poor healthcare policies, and more.

      Even the abortion laws they think are going to stop abortions actually have the opposite effect in reality. Worldwide evidence shows that making abortions illegal or harder to obtain actually increases the number. That fact applies to the US as well as everywhere else. Abortion numbers have reduced since Roe v. Wade.

  2. David Harper
    Posted August 24, 2019 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    I hope that the Churchill biography is the recent one by Andrew Roberts, and not the execrable one by Boris Johnson that was so mercilessly and splendidly reviewed by the noted historian Richard Evans, who said that reading it was “like being cornered in the Drones Club and harangued for hours by Bertie Wooster”.

    Even Roberts’s biography got a critical review in the Guardia from David Olusoga, who felt that it glossed over Churchill’s less heroic views and exploits.

  3. DW
    Posted August 24, 2019 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Apparently, fighting anti-semitism involves lots of white dots. 🙂

  4. Carl
    Posted August 24, 2019 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I am not too worried at this point. The danger from antisemitism is just background noise in the totality of danger an American faces. And the totality of danger is low by any reasonable historic standard.

    The lessons of Pinker, Rosling, and others have not faded so quickly, and competing in the “Victim Olympics” is not a good look. Rational vigilance is my approach: Dispute lies and slanders and prepare for physical violence, unlikely as that may be.

  5. GBJames
    Posted August 24, 2019 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    sub

  6. rickflick
    Posted August 24, 2019 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    This is one more reason Trump’s term in office must end in 2020. Let’s hope it does. The next president will have a chance to quiet the hatred and return the nation to sanity.

    • Posted August 24, 2019 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      I just heard a financial analyst interviewed on KNX (CBS-affiliated) radio. He was asked about Trump’s tariffs and overall economic plan. His reply essentially said they were crazy and destructive. He added that tariffs were never a good idea. Then, as an aside, said that he liked Trump, voted for him in 2016 and planned to in 2020. “What the hell for?” My thinking when I hear such generic “like” for Trump that they must like his racism. Otherwise why wouldn’t they say what they liked about him?

      • Carl
        Posted August 24, 2019 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        National Review has a recent joint editorial plus a piece by Kevin D. Williamson on Trump’s tariff psychosis. Libertarian and conservative leaning economists have condemned tariffs since Adam Smith. Pro-tariff views are more at home in socialist circles, where government market interference is considered a societal good.

        It’s a mistake to attribute racism broadly to Trump supporters. There are many other reasons people like Trump. Imagine someone who disliked Hilary Clinton so much that he reluctantly voted for Trump – calling him a racist won’t help switch his vote next time.

        • GBJames
          Posted August 24, 2019 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

          Not calling a racist a racist doesn’t make him not one.

          At this point, it doesn’t matter what you say to a tRump supporter. Cultists are well beyond reasoned arguments.

          • Carl
            Posted August 24, 2019 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

            Cultists are well beyond reasoned arguments.

            Given the above, what do you think of my argument for not alienating voters who might help rid us of Trump?

            • Posted August 24, 2019 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

              Failing to call Trump for what he is doesn’t help us recruit anyone against him. The worst that we could do is normalize his behavior in order to “unite, not divide”. Sure, we all want to see the country come back together but not at the expense of certain principles. We don’t need a racist liar regardless of what team he plays on.

              I watch CNN quite often and they do try to have Trump supporters on fairly often. One of the tactics they use is to attempt to normalize him. If the host talks about one of Trump’s lies, they’ll bring up some Democrat’s lies. If Trump’s tariffs are called stupid, the Trump supporter will reel off a list of times in history when other Presidents have favored tariffs. If Trump supporters think normalization helps their guy, then I am against it. We can’t allow our resistance to be worn down.

              • rickflick
                Posted August 24, 2019 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

                His disapproval rating is now 54% (CNN poll). We still have a long way to go, but if anything like this number holds he’ll be out on his ass and the state prosecutors will be eying him like hungry raptors.

              • Posted August 24, 2019 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

                There are lots of measurements that say he’ll lose in 2020 but (a) there are 15 months before the election, (b) we don’t know who his opponent will be, (c) most polls in 2016 had him losing right up to election day, and (d) we’re talking about Trump, the most unpredictable politician we’ve ever seen. It is quite possible he will try to cheat. Given his position and makeup of the Senate and SCOTUS, who knows what might happen.

              • rickflick
                Posted August 24, 2019 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

                It is quite possible he will try to cheat.

                He already is cheating, by blocking legislation to defend against Russian interference and essentially giving his blessing to said interference. There isn’t much this guy won’t do to come out a winner.

            • Nicolaas Stempels
              Posted August 25, 2019 at 12:05 am | Permalink

              What is remarkable, nay stunning, is how stable Mr Trump’s approval and disapproval ratings are after his first two months, and even then: his highest combined approval rating, on January 25 2017, was 47.8%, his lowest disapproval rating, two days earlier, was 41,3%.
              After 2 months (March 20, 2017) his approval rating never went below 36.5% and never above 43.1%, a margin of only 6.6%! His disapproval ratings were equally stable, if not even more so: never over 57.4%, but never below 51.3%, a 6.1% margin!
              There is no president since WWII that comes even close to this remarkable stability.
              I’d say that this does not bode well for persuading the pro-Trump part of the population, whether actual cultists or Trump voters, to change their vote.
              The only hope for the Democrats to beat Mr Trump appears to get a massive voter turnout in the swing states (and, of course, to get a high voter turnout in states with senatorial races, to beat Trumpism).
              https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/?ex_cid=rrpromo

              • rickflick
                Posted August 25, 2019 at 8:44 am | Permalink

                Yes, Trump’s numbers are quite stable. I would never have guessed this in a million years. There is something unexplained (to me) about this bizarre phenomenon. I always thought, and I think the charts of other presidents shows, that people start out liking a president, but as he spends time pursuing his goals, the country becomes impatient or fatigued and slowly becomes less supportive. Not so Trump. Yet he’s clearly the worst president we’ve ever had! It says a lot about our fellow citizens I would never have expected. It challenges my faith (if I may use that term) in human nature.

          • GBJames
            Posted August 24, 2019 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

            I don’t think much of the argument, Carl. It presupposes two things I think are false. 1) Trump supporters can be swayed by anything, 2) that non-Trump supporters will vote against him only if you don’t point out the racism of his base. Both of these are false, IMO.

            • Carl
              Posted August 24, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

              GB, You claim say Trump supporters can’t be swayed. I disagree. I think some can and that could make the difference. Remember, there are many Obama voters who voted for Trump. Your statement 2) is as you say, clearly false, but supposing it has nothing to do with the argument I made.

              • GBJames
                Posted August 24, 2019 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

                I didn’t say “Trump voters”, I said “Trump supporters”. I think that the number of former Obama voters who are currently Trump supporters is likely to be astonishingly small. Those who still support Trump after the horror show of the last two years are not going to change their views because someone here ignores the racism that dominates the Republican base. Like I said before, these people are cultists. Cultists don’t remain in cults because the rest of us don’t refrain from using the word “cult”.

        • Posted August 24, 2019 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

          Yes, some of the Dem presidential candidates sound like they’re sort of ok with the tariffs. Their only complaint about Trump on China is that the US is going it alone instead of lining up allies. I am against tariffs of any kind. Lately I have been happy to hear several analysts mention that the TPP would have been a much better way to fight China on trade.

          You only mentioned one reason, other than racism, for liking Trump in 2016. Sure, I can imagine not liking Clinton. I didn’t like her much. But it was equally clear that Trump was, and continues to be, clueless and a constant liar. You won’t have Clinton in 2020. Of course, you might not like who runs against Trump this time around either. I must admit if it was Williamson vs Trump it might put give me pause but even then I wouldn’t vote for Trump. Even on the economy he has done nothing but run up the deficit. The best one can say about him on that score is that he hasn’t totally screwed up the good economy he inherited. I’m sure that’s just a matter of time until the tariffs really start to hurt.

          • Carl
            Posted August 24, 2019 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

            Paul, I’m with you on most of this. Abandoning the TPP was a colossal blunder – a united trade front with the other members would be vastly superior to tariffs.

            Yes Trump is dishonest, ignorant, and not particularly bright, but the Democrat field spouts policy ideas I find hideous. Fortunately, there are pleasant things outside of politics to occupy the mind.

          • BJ
            Posted August 24, 2019 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

            Tariffs on China are one thing the Trump administration has done that I support. Anyone who makes a blanket declaration that tariffs are always a bad idea doesn’t understand context, which is particularly important when it comes to something as complex as global economics and trade.

            • Posted August 24, 2019 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

              Ok, let’s imagine that tariffs are sometimes good. Anyone can probably invent a context in which they make sense so that’s a dead end. A more important question is whether Trump’s China tariffs will achieve their goals or anything positive for the US at all. I doubt it.

              First, Trump’s understanding of trade is so simplistic that he judges the US position solely by our trade deficit with various countries.

              Second, trade’s goal is a win-win situation. It is famously not a zero-sum game. But Trump only considers backing down of his opponent as a win. Sure, he may have advisers who are more sophisticated but he’s calling the shots.

              Third, China can persist much longer than the US can. Our elections have famously been linked to how well the economy is doing. If the economy is booming, the incumbent does well. Otherwise not. China merely has to wait until the US voters feel enough pain from the tariffs that they dump the tariff President. In contrast, Chinese citizens do not get much say in the matter. Their tolerance for such pain is much, much greater.

              In short, there’s no path to victory and, even if there were, Trump wouldn’t recognize it.

              • Mark R.
                Posted August 24, 2019 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

                Your third point is the most salient. Xi is now “President for Life”, so no elections to worry about. If China’s people feel economic pain, Xi won’t face any consequences. Also, China carries so much US debt, that the leverage, if applied, would be devastating to the US economy. Trump doesn’t seem to care about that. Xi’s holding all the cards. Unfortunately, Trump only exhibits zero-sum game strategies and his opponent(s) are three moves ahead of him. Stupid is, stupid does…Trump is a cliche.

              • BJ
                Posted August 24, 2019 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

                The fact that China is a one-party rule/autocratic state is not good in this context. China’s ruling class is almost entirely entrenched by the economic prosperity they’ve brought; if that economic prosperity stops, there’s a very good chance that their young and essentially one-pillar political institutions are too fragile to survive.

                I’ve laid this out on this site before, but let me explain why I (and several other economists who have written in places across the spectrum, from Bloomberg to the NYT) think tariffs against China are a good idea:

                (1) China has had tariffs on US goods for years.

                (2) This is a very important point: tariffs only hurt the US temporarily, but, if they are kept long enough (say, four or five years), they will damage China significantly and permanently. As soon as the tariffs are lifted, the effects on the US stop. The damage to China will be important not only to the US and its economy, but to most other nations as well (see point 3 below). Why will the damage to China be permanent? Because China’s manufacturing sector has continued to see rising wages. Meanwhile, countries like Vietnam have been ramping up their manufacturing capabilities considerably and continue to do so, and they and the other countries in their class have significantly lower wages, and thus lower prices for the same goods. The tariffs will likely lead to a significant amount of manufacturing moving out of China to other countries if they remain in effect long enough, which will be beneficial to those other nations and to all the nations (read: nearly every) that buy these goods from China.

                (3) China has been manipulating worldwide currency and stealing intellectual property and patents for decades now, and have also been selling pirated goods. This leads into point number four:

                (4) China’s political institutions are significantly more fragile than any other in the First World. If the tariffs last long enough, China will be forced to back down from their constant shenanigans regarding corporate espionage, stealing of intellectual property and trade secrets, selling of pirated/copied products, and decades-long manipulation of worldwide currency. The only reason China’s ruling party can remain in power is because it is providing a steadily rising economy. It is an extremely repressive regime, but people put up with it because standards of living continue to increase. If the economy slows or stops growing, China’s ruling party will be forced to back down and sign a fair trade deal.

                (5) Not having a trade deal robs China of certain certifications that would bring in billions of dollars in multinational investment.

                The trade war with China is not a bad idea; in fact, I think it’s the only way to deal with them. Their economic shenanigans have worked brilliantly for at least 20 years now, and this is because the world has allowed them to continue engaging in them. These things must be stopped at some point, and a trade war is really the only way to make that happen. Tariffs are the biggest weapon in that war.

                I’m not saying Trump actually understands any or all of this, but either someone does, or he lucked into a good policy. Previous Presidents have simply set the precedent of allowing China to pull as many economic shenanigans as they want with no repercussions. That’s a terrible idea.

              • BJ
                Posted August 24, 2019 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

                Also, the best outcome would be for China to back down in the face of all this and make concessions: no more fucking with currency, no more stealing of intellectual property, etc. etc. But the only way to find out if a bully will back down is to stand up to them first.

                Cato recognized the threat Carthage posed to Rome and ended all his speeches, regardless of subject, with the words, “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam,” or “it is my further opinion that Carthage must be destroyed.” Now, I’m not suggesting we treat China like Carthage because (1) we don’t conduct world affairs the way they were conducted back then anymore, and (2) we’re well past the point when Rome went after Carthage. But that’s kind of the point: the world has been allowing China to do whatever it wants for decades, and China has to be stopped from doing these things before it’s too late. China neither needs nor should be destroyed, but their economic manipulations, theft, tariffs, etc. must be.

          • BJ
            Posted August 24, 2019 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

            Sorry, I meant to reply to your first sub-comment, not this one (“sub” as in below a main comment, not as in “your comment is lesser than what I would normally call a comment,” just to be clear 🙂 )

          • rickflick
            Posted August 24, 2019 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

            I think there are a number of voters (some number?) who vote largely based on a single issue or two, like abortion, and guns. These people may or may not like Trump, but they don’t pay much attention to politics in general, and may see his racist remarks as of little import – just more noise to be ignored.

            • Posted August 24, 2019 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

              Yes, I suppose you’re right. Still, voting for a clearly racist President with racism a big part of his agenda seems like at least Level One Racism, if there were such a scale.

              • rickflick
                Posted August 24, 2019 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

                I’m sure many racists would not recognize themselves as racists. I think the human mind is fully capable of full contradiction mode, at times.

  7. Peter
    Posted August 24, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Maybe also of interest to readers here,
    came out in Jan 2019:
    Deborah Lipstadt: Antisemitism: Here and Now.

    Lipstadt is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, Atlanta, GA.

    Lipstadt played by Academy award winner Rachel Weisz in the movie Denial (2016):
    https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/denial_2016

    • BJ
      Posted August 24, 2019 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      That was a really excellent movie! It wasn’t anything special, but I thought it did a great job telling the story, doing it justice, and doing so compellingly.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 24, 2019 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    The traditional seat of antisemitism is the Far Right. It is the seat of the most virulent and violent antisemitism still. The antisemitism of the Left is primarily ideological, a product of an understandable, though grossly misdirected, sympathy for the the plight of Palestinians.

    The Soviet Union, of course, was also cesspool of antisemitism. But that antisemitism had traditional Russian, rather than political, roots. Hell, Lenin was half-Jewish, and Trotsky was a Jew (as was Marx himself). Stalin, OTOH, was a product of the Orthodox Catholic seminary.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted August 24, 2019 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      Spot on.

    • David Harper
      Posted August 25, 2019 at 1:14 am | Permalink

      There is also a strand of left-wing anti-semitism which plays on the old trope of Jewish banking families such as the Rothschilds running the world for their own benefit from behind the scenes. The left loves its crazy conspiracy theories just as much as the right, and this one has been around for more than a century.

    • BJ
      Posted August 25, 2019 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      I’m sorry, but this seems a bit bonkers. It seems like every leftist revolutionary movement that succeeds in a place with a significant number of Jews throws the Jews out on their asses or worse. Antisemitism doesn’t seem to have a “traditional seat.” It’s spread throughout.

      The Bolsheviks getting rid of Jews wasn’t some weird Russian quirk, it was just another purging of Jews. That how I ended up in the US: My great grandparents left during the revolution before they were killed and came to America. You note correctly that there were several people with connections to Judaism in the middle of the Commmunist circle, but they were purged, and Stalin wasn’t really a product of any religion or religious institution. He hated the Jews, he hated the Orthodox Catholic Church, and he grew up a street thug.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 25, 2019 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        “Bonkers”?

        Can you identify a few of these “every leftist revolutionary movement that succeeds” (emphasis added) that purged Jews?

        Certainly, you’re not contesting that the Russian empire had a centuries-long history of acute anti-Semitism, or that Joseph Stalin, a Georgian, attended an Orthodox Catholic seminary? Here, let the Hitch explain the relationship between Stalinism and the Orthodox church for you.

        In Weimar Germany, there was large overlap between the communists and the Jews. Hell, the Spartacus League was founded by a Jew, Rosa Luxemburg. The Jewish quarters and the communist quarters were the two in Germany’s larger cities that voted against Hitler in the 1932 election, and they were the first two groups the Nazis took revenge against after assuming power.

        There has been a traditional overlap between the two groups in the US as well, Emma Goldman being one prominent example. And Jews were a primary target of the Right during the Red Scare. Indeed, six of the Hollywood Ten were Jews. The “menace of the pinko Jew” has long been a trope of the American far right.

  9. Posted August 28, 2019 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Looking forward to your review of Sean’s book! If you’re going to write one.

    -Ryan


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