HOWARD EPSTEIN: WAKE UP AND SMELL THE IDEOLOGY
For some time I have been telling myself that the problem of our age is that the poor and the oppressed (outside Arab or other Muslim lands, where there is the ideology of Islamism) are deprived of any form of ideology, Soviet communism and European socialism having failed (each as they ran out of money). Absent those failed ideologies, the down-trodden of the West have no guiding light to follow that might lead them out of their miserable and hopeless conditions.
Dumb! Completely dumb! It is now plain to me, and to you, that there is one ideology that in times past enjoyed mass popular appeal, that never completely died out and is today in the ascendant. Nazism and (if you can pass a wafer between them) fascism, as has become glaringly obvious in the last six months, is back in vogue – and on both sides of the Atlantic.
We kid ourselves that the complete ruin that Hitler brought upon Germany in 1945 was enough of a pointer to where Nazism, and its essential bed-fellow, anti-Semitism, will lead. Our view, the Jewish outlook, is, however, distorted by a dense filter of wishful thinking.
As we see, there are large, and increasing, numbers of people who believe that Hitler was too mild in his ambitions, and that he should have redoubled his efforts in order not to have thrown away all for which he had struggled. Well, they say, better luck next time and there is no time like the present. As the Twittersphere had it, from the day after the election of Donald Trump: “fire up the ovens again” and make sure, this time, that the job is done properly with the combustion of last Jew in America.
Neo-Nazism, as we may call it, is now a significant menace, and both sides of the Atlantic; so let us deal with the UK as the vorspeise, the main course of this rather indigestible meal being the USA.
If the horrifying murder, like a dog in a ditch, of a young and sparky, pro-EU, Labour lady MP, Jo Cox, did not alert us to what is abroad in the backwaters of England, certainly our eyes have been opened with reports from the trial of her wanton killer last week. The descriptions of the websites he had visited, the questions he had Googled (eg “is a .22 round deadly enough to kill with one shot to a human’s head?”) and the contents of his Home, Sweet, Neo-Nazi, Home – SS memorabilia and a vast library that included volumes on the German military and white race history – were an eye-opener. But let us not think he is an aberration. Jo Cox’s assassin merely made himself the visible tip of a gigantic iceberg, and there will be thousands, perhaps tens of thousands and potentially a multiple of that, all over the UK who will have been, or yet will be, attracted to those memes.
Not all British neo-Nazis, however, are thugs. Indeed, not all of them are “neo”. Some are died-in-the‑wool Holocaust deniers and Nazi sympathisers from way back – and sometimes highly- educated too. David Irving is re-launching himself with a speaking tour of Britain in parallel with the release of the film, Denial, of the libel case which he lost and in which he was adjudged a “Holocaust denier, anti-Semitic and racist”. Yet, he wears his trial judge’s withering condemnation with pride as he senses a new age dawning with the election of Donald Trump. “I predicted Donald Trump’s victory — I think he’s a very good thing, it’s a big change,” said Irving last week.
Apparently, Irving is not alone in sensing that Trump’s election heralds a new age, but is merely the British expression of the anti-Semitic hatred in the USA recently released, which some there believe was ordained by Trump’s election. There may be little evidence that Trump himself is an anti-Semite, his daughter (following an orthodox conversion) and his close confidant, her husband, being observant Jews. Yet, at least carelessness, and possibly cynicism (in his team?), unleashed images on more than one occasion during the presidential election campaign that seemed to say: it’s OK now to show your Jew-hatred. And the Jew-haters accordingly felt empowered, not so much crawling as erupting out of the woodwork, where along with the termites and slugs of political thinking, they had always been lurking.
The sense that the Jews of America are now fair game is, however, something for which certain (arguably large) sections of the American Jewish community bear some responsibility. They had thought that allowing, if not encouraging, criticism of Israel and Israeli policies would grant them an all-American immunity. Now they know otherwise: expressions of solidarity are, in the long run, a better policy than cynical attempts to put distance between the gentile’s perception of American Jews and their Israeli cousins. The appearance of solidarity earns more respect than a hollow abnegation ever will. Did not Hitler make a connection that went back through the generations? How difficult could it be, therefore, for a non-Jew to see a connection between the Jew round the corner or in the next office and those “oppressing the Palestinians”. Would the Jew who had fetched up in the New World be seen as less “brutal” than his co-religionist, or racial doppelgänger, in Israel? It would take a substantial amount of intellectual effort, or goodwill, on the gentile’s part to make that distinction. Absent that, the natural gentile reaction to the Jew who criticises the Jewish State will be somewhere on the spectrum from unimpressed to disgusted.
There is a greater paradox yet for the typical American Jew: typically – no, overwhelmingly – he (which includes she) will, down the generations, have voted Democrat with an passion that is as frenetic as it is unreciprocated by the party in terms of its policy towards Israel.
If the American Leftie Jew’s resentment of Netanyahu’s insistence in speaking against the proposed JCPOA – one of Obama’s legacy projects – to the joint houses of the Congress was thought to buy him/her a free pass from incipient anti-Semitism, it must look pretty myopic, not to say quixotic, by now. Obama has all but gone, with precious little to show for his eight years in power (apart from the total neglect of the sectors of the electorate that swept Democrats from power in the White House and on Capitol Hill), and the Israeli prime minister remains the only person in history to have addressed the Congress three times. Not only that, but also the zeitgeist in US foreign affairs looks more likely to converge with Israeli policy than at any time in the life of the Jewish State.
So the anti-Semitic genie is out of the bottle, thanks to (according to your take on it) Donald Trump (who has so far spoken insufficiently against it), the Breitbart website, Alt-Right and other recent manifestations of extreme right-wing views. But to try to slather the blame like butter over those few slices is to ignore the rest of the Jew-hating loaf. Anti-Semitism, US style has ever been present and was bound to erupt sooner or later. One might even say that the longer the pressure cooker sizzled, the greater would be the force with which it would eventually blow. At least now it is in the open and can be addressed.
There are reportedly no less than fifteen separate neo-Nazi organizations in the USA. Do those who blame the new Jew-baiting mood on the election of Trump think that they were formed since November 8? Well then, American Jews should wake up and smell the ideology. The poor and the downtrodden need an ideology and, apart from Islamism (or, more accurately, Islamo-fascism, on offer from Shia Iran and Sunni Isis/Isil/Daesh) there is only Nazism/fascism today. Under the right – or to us, all the wrong – circumstances, one day the Jews of America may get a binary choice: the camps or Israel. Even before that, life could become decidedly less idyllic than it may have seemed in the seventy years since WWII. It would be churlish, therefore, to leave religious/racial/national loyalty to one’s brethren in Israel, the place of last resort for the oppressed Jew, to the very last moment.
The time for loyalty to Israel – an intelligent loyalty and not a blind one, that comes from trying to understand her travails, and empathising with her and her people – is now, and not in the last hour before disaster strikes. There is more respect to be earned, even from one’s enemies, for those who do not pretend not to be too Jewish, but manifest pride in their heritage and their destiny too.
As for the Neo-Nazism in the UK and the USA, if it cannot be pinned on Trump, some self-examination by the establishment, and its past supporters at the ballot box, is required. How is it that “the popular vote”, for Trump or for Brexit, has unleashed the neo-Nazi demon? What has to be said and done to deflect the demonic strains now abroad in Anglo-Saxon societies? How can the poor and the neglected by lifted up so as to avoid their yearning for a strong-man in the mould of a Mussolini or a Hitler?
Given that economic upheaval is an ever-present danger, time should be regarded as short, and the centre-ground of politics should start coming up with answers. The millions in trailer parks, South-Central LA, parts of Baltimore, the Rust Belt and all over America are waiting.
© Howard Epstein November 2016