1, Issue 1 (November2006 / Cheshvan 5767)
Two Greatest Hatreds
By Barry Rubin
As the twentieth century began, Theodor
Herzl recorded an amazing fact. Despite advances in technology,
transportation, and communication, one thing remained as it was when the Turks conquered Byzantium, Columbus set sail, and oxcarts were the main means of travel.
That one thing was antisemitism. Indeed, Herzl
mournfully pointed out, "After a short breathing space...bad
times have come again...not only in the backward countries...but
also in those that are called civilized."
Now, here we are at the onset of the twenty-first
century and the cycle is being repeated.
But there is another phenomenon of which the
same can be said. It is not so old as antisemitism, but it
does date back to the time when men wore powdered wigs, people
wrote with quill pens, and no railroad existed. That is anti-Americanism.
Today, the two most widely hated peoples in
the world today are the Americans and the Jews or, in national
terms, the United States and Israel.
Moreover, these two unreasoning hatreds are closely linked. Apologists
for this fact, or well-meaning souls who know no better, attribute
this tragic situation to the narrowest and most immediate historical
context, as if it is the result of the nasty personalities or
latest deeds of President George W. Bush or former Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon, or to bad--or at least controversial--policies.
Yet there are far wider and deeper
reasons for the flourishing of this sole permissible prejudice
in an era which boasts of its record-high tolerance in human
history, factors that make it far harder to combat or change
the situation. Attributing hatred exclusively either to policy--what
the United States and Israel does--or values--a dislike
for what these countries stand for--misses the point. It is not
merely a matter of better behavior or more effective public relations' techniques.
Those who misunderstand and hate will not be so easily persuaded
that they are wrong.
While some reasons for hatred are as
fresh as the latest newspaper headlines, many of the themes bringing
together contemporary antisemitism and anti-Americanism are a
century or two old. To understand this better, let's look at
five factors: claims that America and the Jews represent the
same thing, that Jews control America, the manipulation of hatred
for political advantage, the systematic misrepresentation of
policy, and the structural problems of the United States and
Israel as democracies facing enemies who are dictatorships.
The Parallel Threat
While some historical anti-American
themes are quite different from anti-Jewish stereotypes--for example, America seen
as anti-intellectual--most are startlingly identical. European
critics saw both groups as brutally materialistic, fanatically
devoted to money-making and profit. Similarly, both were portrayed
as bearers of a corrosive modernism subverting cherished ways
of life and existing nations. Equally, both were accused of seeking
world conquest, through conspiracies, seizing direct control,
or imposing their system through cultural contamination.
These themes are better known regarding antisemitism but also
apply to anti-Americanism. In the nineteenth century the United
States became the world's greatest political
example, as in the twentieth century it became the globe's greatest
power. In its ideological influence abroad America would be to the nineteenth
century what the Communist Soviet Union was to the twentieth:
an alternative to everything that existed, which attracted some
and repelled others. As such, it was easy to view the United States as the negation and threat to all
existing Western civilization, destructive of order and the enemy
of traditional values.
a revolutionary experiment, the United States was a new type
of country, without monarch, aristocracy, strong traditions,
official religion, or well-defined classes. It regarded itself
as superior to existing European systems and its success would
jeopardize them all. Many European writers, politicians, and
ideologues saw the United States as a travesty
to be despised or as a threat to be discredited. And if others
among them liked what America was
doing, that task became all the more urgent. Though surface
aspects of these arguments shifted over time, Europe
continued to see itself as the repository of high culture,
high standards, coherent ideologies, and intellectual merit.
than critique the unbridled capitalism of America from
the right, the later European view would apply the same arguments
from the left. And shortcomings in their own society were
often blamed on the imitation or influence of America.
In short, America--like the Jews--became
for its enemies the symbol of modern capitalism and modern culture.
Many of the most classic statements of antisemitism were made
consistently by the advocates of anti-Americanism. Take, for
example, the charge of greed and materialism, so closely linked
to hatred of the new socio-economic system that replaced the
traditional aristocratic-peasant dominated system.
centuries ago, the French traveler Perrin Du Lac complained
that to Americans, "A brook, were it worthy of the muse of Virgil...is
nothing to them but so much pure water, so of no value." A
leading European defender of America, the French nobleman Alexis
De Tocqueville, claimed that Americans
only "perceive the mighty forests that surround them [when]
they fall beneath the hatchet."
few decades later, it was the Germans' turn. The dramatist
Karl Gutzkow wrote, "It is unbelievable how easy
the American can change ideas into money." The
poet Heinrich Heine, sounding like his contemporary Karl Marx
talking about the Jews, explained, "Worldly utility
is their true religion and money is their God, their once all-powerful
Rulemann Eylert spoke of Americans' "lying,
deception, and unlimited greed" as "the natural and inescapable
consequences of the commercial spirit...that like a tidal wave
inundates...American society. Every harmless passion and all
moral sentiments are blunted in the daily pursuit of money."
The basic cultural critique of America prevalent today was also largely in place
by the 1830s, long before the onset of mass production, Hollywood, or television. The United States was a mass
culture based on the lowest common denominator. Instead of standards
being set by an aristocratic and privileged class of intellectuals
and artists, it society catered to the vulgar mob, with low values,
bad manners and a grubby materialistic outlook.
For many European writers and thinkers, America represented
everything they detested in modern life, everything they feared
about the future, everything they detested in what was happening
to their own countries. In a sense, though it was rarely expressed
directly, the Jews represented the internal enemy and the United States was the external threat in cultural
and political terms. Radicals and conservatives expressed this
thought in different ways. The left portrayed the Jews as capitalists
and the United States as
a force for reaction and fascism; the right claimed the Jews
were dangerous revolutionaries and the United
States had much in common with the threat
of communism and socialism.
this tendency should not be exaggerated, these were persistent,
continuous themes that influenced whole generations of Europeans
down to the present day. One can even find parallels to contemporary
Islamist movements among some right-wing Catholics, like Abbe
Henry Delassus, whose book, Americanism and the Anti-Christian
Conspiracy posited an American-Jewish alliance to destroy
Christianity and take over the world.
And thus the loathing of America and of Israel carry with it
this theme of opposition to change, modernity, and dozens of
things feared and hated by people of diverse political viewpoints
in many different countries.
the end of the Cold War signifying both the disappearance
of the Communist/Soviet threat and the reality of the United
States as the world's sole superpower, traditional
anti-American themes have reemerged. The 200-year-old nightmare
of America dominating the world with its power,
values, and culture now seems possible for the first time in
history. It is not surprising that there should be such a resurgence
of anti-Americanism, both directly and couched in terms of "globalization."
a Jewish Front
As Jewish immigrants became more numerous
and influential in America during
the late nineteenth-century, modern ideological antisemitism
was developing in Europe. That movement's
founder, the Frenchman Arthur de Gobineau, described how Aryans
were losing control of America to immigrants who
were "the most degraded kind of human beings."
There were many others who believed
this sort of thing and who increasingly focused on the Jews as
the most powerful, indeed all-powerful, force in the United States. For example,
the French conservative leader Charles Maurras blamed the Jews
for an alleged U.S. policy
of favoring Germany before
and after World War One and then opposing it during Hitler's
regime. Just after World War One, J.L. Chastanet wrote a best-selling
book in France, Uncle Shylock, attributing the war to
a plot by Jewish-dominated American plutocrats to enslave Europe
in permanent debt. This kind of thinking could be found across
the French political spectrum and had a lasting influence there.
Of course, the best-known thinking
of this sort was found in Germany. In 1927, Otto Bonhard wrote Jewish
World Domination?, theorizing that America was seeking to rule
the world as a front for the Jews. nother best-seller in the Weimar republic, by Adolf Halfeld, posited that the Jews' qualities
predestined them to rule America since they embodied all that country's
This became the official
line during the Nazi era, but it had a broader European quality,
as expressed in the writings of the right-wing Frenchman Robert Brasillach, in words that could have
been expressed at most recent anti-Iraq war demonstrations in Europe.
What separates us from America,
he explained, is its hypocrisy, its dollars, and the fact that
it is the bastion of Jewish power in the world.
of the time, such sentiments have been more often whispered than
in Europe but they are now commonplace in the Arab world and
Iran. Indeed, Usama bin Ladin's decision to target the United
States for his global Islamist revolution was partly due to
the conclusion that this would be more popular than attacking
Arab regimes. Even at the height of the 1990s' peace process,
when the United States was directly and indirectly the main
source of financial aid for the Palestinian Authority, that
institution's official newspaper referred to the U.S. Congress
as the "Council of the Elders of Zion" of which the White House
is a hostage; its official religious leader called on God to "destroy
America for it is controlled by Zionist Jews"; and its minister
of justice insisted that "five Zionist Jews are running" U.S.
Middle East policy.
such notions are by no means the product of the 1990s. In the
version it was more often Israel that was the puppet of the
United States. Still, this amounted to the same thing in terms
identity of antisemitism and anti-Americanism. Typical of this
era was Yasir Arafat leading a 1969 PLO student convention
in singing a song entitled, "America, The Head of the Snake" or
stating, in 1986, that the United States is "the
controlling force of neo-colonialism, imperialism and racism
[which] employs Israel to spearhead its strategy of domination
in the Middle East."
of statements could be found daily in the official and semi-official
media of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and until recently, Iraq.
The latest version of this thesis, that the United States and the
Jews (or Israel) are essentially the same enemy, have been the
conspiracy theories attributing the war against Iraq to a Jewish
cabal that told American leaders what to do. It
is a measure of the sophistication and courage of American intellectuals
to hold these views.
have transcended marginal myths to attain great acceptance
in Europe and the Middle East. Whatever efforts or success the
States may have in trying to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict
will not--as past experience has shown--make this demonology
Slander of Policy
is a common place to say that the United States and Israel are
in much of the world because of their "policy." But this ignores
the all-important question of how that policy is presented. If
the motives, doings, and goals of these countries or peoples
as the embodiment of evil, it is not surprising that hate
is inspired. When the spin put on these things is systematically
unfair and based on outright lies, the victim is those
being smeared in this manner.
in this respect regarding anti-Americanism was the Soviet Union.
For the first time in history, beginning in the 1920s, a country
and international movement became a state sponsor of anti-Americanism.
Misrepresentation was carried out using a wide range of methods,
ranging from the obvious and ludicrous to the brilliant and
subtle, disseminated worldwide in all conceivable media.
and arguments had an enormous effect on the thinking of the
left and most Third World intellectuals, already predisposed
to believe the worst. Of course, it can be argued that the conclusion,
for example, that the United States was imperialist or greedy
aggressive was a direct result of experience with its policies
in the world. There is of course much truth in such an assertion.
But whatever the accuracy of this point, the antagonism has
been no doubt deepened and broadened by the way U.S. policy or
were defined by its ideological and direct adversary. The same
cycle exists today.
if the U.S. goal in attacking Iraq is explained by a desire
to seize that country's oil, destroy Islam, enslave Muslims,
and so on, then clearly the response would be anti-Americanism.
But if the intended goals are shown to be quite different,
anti-Americanism would not be the response, no matter how much
implementation of these goals might be criticized. Critical
of motives, however, can never take place through controlled
media aand ideological institutions such as universities.
same point applies to Israel. If governments, intellectuals,
insist that Israel is racist, fascist, and genocidal, uninterested
peace, deliberately seeking to kill Palestinians, seeking to
conquer the Arab world, and so on, the result is far different
any misdeeds as mistakes or excesses. The a priori assumption
of Israel's unrelenting evil prevents an analysis of how
means mesh with ends.
In this context, too, should be seen
the argument that anti-Americanism in the Middle East is merely
or mostly the result of U.S. support
It is easy to show that this attitude was widespread long before
U.S. policy saw Israel as an ally as well as in the periods
of greatest U.S. efforts
to pressure Israel and
to meet Arab demands. Anti-American propaganda in the Syrian
media, for example, was well-established by 1959 and was included
in children's programming by 1962.
In 1965, a U.S. embassy
dispatch from Damascus on Syrian domestic politics was entitled, "When
you have a problem blame the United
Regarding Israel, the greatest upsurge of global anti-Israel
(and antisemitic) propaganda and sentiment occurred after Israel made the most far-reaching
and riskiest concessions in order to attain peace. The fact that
this was met with a rejection by the Palestinian leadership and
a war against Israel whose
main instrument was anti-civilian terrorism should have done
more than anything to discourage the idea that Israel was
evil. Precisely the opposite has occurred. Israel and
the U.S. are
seen more and more as singularly, cosmically evil.
Clearly, what is at work is not some
sophisticated policy-based critique. To say that the United
States, or Israel, is hated because
of its policy is to ignore the fact that the policy has been
first so misrepresented as to make it seem hateful.
The Realpolitik of Hatred
But who is responsible for this misrepresentation
and why is it now flourishing? The production of hatred against
others has long been one of the most effective techniques for
mobilizing support by those who wish to retain or seize power.
This point is made not to posit some anti-American or antisemitic
conspiracy, yet visibly large elements of this trend have been
deliberately produced for political profit.
Briefly, though, the obvious yet incredibly
neglected argument on this point goes as follows. Regimes which
are corrupt, repressive, and incompetent, which lead their
people into one disaster after another, require an explanation
sad state of affairs. The same is true of movements which want
to seize power. Just as European governments and radical movements
once used antisemitism for political purposes, so do modern
Middle East regimes deploy hatred of the United
States and Israel.
told every day, in schools and places of worship, in all the
media, and from the lips of government officials and opposition
leaders, that America and Israel are the roots of all evil. Is
it surprising that most believe this? Virtually no alternative
argument is permitted and when it does get through can be dismissed
as the deception of bad-intentioned foreigners or local traitors.
This culture is created and reinforced daily, and over decades.
As was true in nineteenth-century Europe,
the very potential appeal of American institutions, ideas, and
culture--often because of or in spite of their shortcomings--makes
it all the more necessary to discredit them. If the United States tries to achieve compromise peace
between the Arabs and Israel,
as happened in the 1990s, those seeking to block success have
all the more reason to slander the United
States and Israel.
For them, the Arab-Israeli conflict is too valuable a political
tool (and excuse) to abandon. When the United
States seeks to overthrow a dictatorship
in Iraq and replace it with a democracy, those who
wish to remain or become dictators and fight for anti-democratic
causes have all the more reason to foster anti-Americanism.
In Europe, there is a parallel but somewhat different. On one hand, traditional
anti-American themes are very much alive and have become reactivated
at a time when American power on both cultural and political
planes is at its highest point in history. If America has
found its post-Cold War enemy and threat with reference to Middle
East dictatorships and terrorist groups, many Europeans find
that the United States fills the same
function for themselves.
On the other hand, as it was once said
that antisemitism was the socialism of fools--something proven
daily in the twenty-first century--that may be even more true
for contemporary anti-Americanism. The collapse of Communism
and of many of the accompanying ideas has left the less moderate
European political and intellectual left without a cause. Anti-Americanism
seems to be about the best candidate to fill that vacuum.
There is no intention here to oversimplify
complex issues. Of course, there are diverse perspectives, varying
interests, reasonable differences of opinion, and so on, between
Europe and the United
States. Yet the question here is not why
there are debates or conflicting policies but why this fact has
taken on a level of hysteria, slander, and hatred that goes beyond
a disagreement based on mutual respect. At some point, the sincere
sentiment of many is influenced, mobilized, and radicalized by
the self-profiting efforts of others.
The Uneven Playing Field
As hypocrisy is the tribute that vice
pays to virtue, political slander is the tribute dictatorships
pay to democratic rivals. Or, to put it another way, one can
use a famous legal saying: If the facts are on your side, pound
the facts; if the law is on your side, pound the law; if neither
is on your side, pound the table.
anti-Americanism and antisemitism is a very effective way
for those with poor cases to pound the
table. It does far more than distract people from thinking
about their own problems. Those using these tools also have
of diverting attention from the perpetrators who are their
The Iraq war is a remarkable
lesson about such matters, showing how the world works in terms
of informational battles, elite opinion, and media behavior.
One revelation form the experience was the American discovery
that things thought to be true because they applied only to Israel were
now shown to work almost equally against the United States.
attributed to an Israeli weakness in international public
relations also hold true for the mighty American
system. Attitudes attributable to antisemitism are paralleled
by the effects of anti-Americanism. Large sectors of the European
and Middle Eastern media--and sometimes the American media--cover
What was revealed so effectively were
the deeper, systemic, problems of how governments, media, and
intellectuals function and view the world that can strike against
any well-intentioned democratic state defending itself. In the
context of the factors discussed above are such matters as the
a democracy battling a dictatorship earns you little or no
special credit and can be an outright
disadvantage. The assumption of the dominant sector in the intellectual
class--which runs much of academic, the media, and all verbal,
opinion-forming sectors of society--is that democracies lie about
as much as dictatorships, especially if the dictatorship claims "progressive" credentials.
All "truths" are equal, and some more equal than others.
its own intellectuals and media to voice a single line makes
the dictatorship sound popular abroad.
Since all Iraqis or Palestinians say the same thing it must
be true. In contrast, a democracy's dissenting voices about
real or imagined shortcomings can be used to undermine its
assertions. To make matters worse, these are the claims of
a "people" versus
those of a "government." You can imagine what the opinion-making
class is more likely to believe, and the populist credentials
of the dictatorships are artificially amplified.
In addition, since no critical information
comes out of the dictatorship, the only way we know it does anything
wrong is by its enemies' assertions. And all these data, no matter
how well-documented--from Israel on
Arafat's backing of terrorism; from the United States on Saddam's repression and concealment
of weapons--can be dismissed as partisan.
there is the fair-minded "neutrality" of
those who shape opinion in the media, academia, and elsewhere. "Patriotism" is
identified as a right-wing belief and is replaced by its opposite:
to doubt, criticize, slander, or at least avoid agreeing with
your country's position,n seems political courageous and morally
noble. "Why should we assume the United States is telling the
truth? Let's give equal weight to Saddam Hussein's version."
a result, if a democratic state makes a mistake--an Israel
or U.S. attack that inadvertently killed
civilians--they are denounced as something close to war criminals.
But if their adversaries torture people to death, employ terrorism,
and do a dozen other things, the response is "Well, how do
we really know this happened?"
At any rate, the democratic states
must meet a higher standard. Their mistakes matter and they are
held accountable for each and every one. Dictatorships, however,
are given the benefit of the doubt or in effect forgiven by the
racism of low expectations.
Now, consider some parallels:
the United States and Israel are headed by internationally unpopular
leaders against whom virtually any slander can be launched.
both cases the bystanders ridicule the existence of very real
threats. Thus, their defensive actions
can be judged as unnecessary and aggressive.
enemies are judged with excessive apologetics. Even if the individual
leaders of these parties
are judged harshly, their actions are excused--and those of the
United States and Israel held in contempt--because of what is
seen as sympathy for their peoples. Yet it is precisely their
own leadership which so impoverishes and endangers those peoples.
in talking about the U.S. and British or the Israeli army, there
are many who will not hesitate
to tell any lie and make any exaggeration. And they will find
more innocent, but quite willing, ears to believe them.
fact that their adversaries lose every battle is taken to prove
that the United States and Israel are bullies. The differences
two sides' casualty figures are viewed not as showing the foolhardiness
of the provocations offered by the weaker side but its victimization.
the Arab world, though, the losers are simultaneously victims
and heroes, whose victory is proclaimed
up to the moment of total, undeniable defeat.
Europe, there are many who wrongly believe that hating the United
States and Israel will make the Arabs love them, do business
with them, and not kill them.
The informational battle is unwinnable
not because ineptness but because Arab and many European governments,
all of the Arab and much of the European media, and a large part
of the world's intellectual class will not give you a fair chance.
They will quickly declare your intentions bad, your leaders dishonorable,
your plans unworkable, and your efforts unsuccessful. Whether
terrorism in Europe will change or strengthen these attitudes remains to be seen.
Yet what is most important here is
that the outcome of history is determined not by the wars of
words but on the battlefields and in the material sphere of achievement.
The army of lies never surrenders but it is actively forced back
from trench to trench.
Already in the first postwar days of U.S. control
of Iraq it
was already facing the kind of frustrating and bad publicity
producing situations as Israel had
long experienced. These showed that one did not have to be at
fault to be blamed. Consider two incidents. In the first, U.S. forces
were attacked by pro-Saddam holdouts. During the fighting, a
captured Iraqi ammunition dump exploded killing six Iraqi bystanders.
The result was an angry demonstration in which fist-waving men
shouted, "No Saddam! No Bush!
Yes to Islam!" Furious residents pelted US troops with stones
as they tried to take some of the wounded to a military hospital.
Two weeks later, U.S. troops
killed and wounded a number of Iraqis after some gunmen in a
large peacefully demonstrating pro-Saddam crowd fired at them
in the town of Falluja. It is possible though that the men were shooting in the air.
Said a senior American officer present, "There were a lot
of people who were armed and who were throwing rocks. How is
a U.S. soldier to tell the
difference between a rock and a grenade?"
 Durrand Echeverria, Mirage in the
West: A History of the French Image of American. Society
to 1815, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957), p. 252, and Antonello Gerbi, The
Dispute of the New World: The History of a Polemic, 1750-1900, (trans. Jeremy Moyle. University
of Pittsburgh Press, 1973), p.
 Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America, vol. 2, pp. 72-74.
 J.W. Schulte Nordholt, "Anti-Americanism
in European Culture: Its Early Manifestations," in R. Kroes and M. van Rossem, eds, Anti-Americanism
in Europe, (Amsterdam, Free University Press), 1986) p. 9.
 Wolfang Wagner, "The Europeans' Image of America," in Karl Kaiser and Hans- Peter Schwarz,
eds. America and Western Europe, (Lexington,
MA, Lexington Books 1979), p. 24.
 G.T. Hollyday, Anti-Americanism in the German Novel,
Peter Lang, 1977), p. 27.
 Robert Brasillach, Journal
d'un homme occupe* (Paris, 1955), p. 438, 445.
 Robert J. Lieber, "The Neoconservative-Conspiracy
Theory: Pure Myth," Chronicle of Higher Education, May
 Reuters, April 29, 2003.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International
Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of
International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and editor of Covenant,
A Global Jewish Magazine. His many books include Assimilation
and its Discontents (1995), and with Judith Colp Rubin, Hating
America: A History (2004), and Yasir Arafat:
A Political Biography (2003), both published by Oxford University Press.
- Global Jewish Magazine 2006