Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Anti-Semitism 'Infects' One in Four People, Global Survey Finds

From NBC News courtesy of a facebook friend:

Only 54 percent of people polled globally are aware of the Holocaust — and an alarming 32 percent of them believe the mass genocide of Jews was a myth or has been greatly exaggerated, a sweeping new survey has found.

The numbers highlight how pockets of “anti-Jewish sentiment” are alive and well worldwide, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s “ADL Global 100” report released Tuesday.

More here.

In deep retrospect, I believe my suburban upbringing really helped me out in terms of my relationship with and understanding of Jews as a people.  That is, the Jews I knew when I was growing up were totally assimilated Americans.  Their worship, as American Reform Jews, was pretty similar to Christian worship.  They wore the Star of David instead of a cross, but otherwise spoke, dressed, and behaved very much like me and everybody else I knew.  Indeed, when I first learned about the Holocaust I was amazed: why the Jews?  I just didn't get it.  I mean, I got it, understood that it was awful, but I simply couldn't comprehend the motivation behind it.  Jews are just like me.  Why on earth would anybody want to wipe them out?

By the time I was older, and had started to learn about the history of antisemitism, it started to make more sense.  Okay, the Holocaust on many levels continues to be senseless, but the different cultural customs of Jews in Europe and elsewhere, at least, made it easier to understand how, as a minority, it was easy to target them.  Fortunately for me, by the time I was figuring this out, I had already started to lean liberal, and had developed a decent knowledge of racism and how it functions socially, so I was ready to absorb the concept of Jews-as-other without it weirding me out.

That is, even Hasidic Jews are just like me, even though they speak, dress, and behave very differently from everybody else I know.  I mean, so what?  Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

Antisemitism continues to be extraordinarily irrational to me.  I have only an intellectual understanding of why so many people hate Jews, and that understanding is, by and large, a simple one: people fear and loath what they don't comprehend.  It is very disturbing, indeed, that, in this day and age, when information is omnipresent and cheap, and comprehension is just a few mouse clicks away, a quarter of the human race hates Jews.  It seems to me that a lot of people actually prefer to live in a state such that they don't understand the world around them, which is what one needs, willful ignorance, in order to harbor antisemitic attitudes.

Now that I think of it, it seems that antisemitism isn't the only contemporary problem associated with willful ignorance.  I mean, just look at the Tea Party.  Or the Texas State Board of Education.  We've got a lot of work to do.