antisemitism,  Israel/Palestine

Paul Berman on Gaza and After

This is a guest post by Ben Cohen of Z Word

A cordial invitation to all of you to visit Z Word for Michelle Sieff’s extensive interview with Paul Berman, author of “Terror and Liberalism” and “Power and the Idealists.” Issues covered include the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, western perceptions of Hamas, the outlook for Middle East policy under the Obama Administration and the persistence of antisemitism in our own time.

I want to briefly quote Berman on the subject of antisemitism.

The unstated assumption is always the same. To wit: the universal system for man’s happiness has already arrived (namely, Christianity, or else Enlightenment anti-Christianity; the Westphalian state system, or else the post-modern system of international institutions; racial theory, or else the anti-racist doctrine in a certain interpretation). And the universal system for man’s happiness would right now have achieved perfection – were it not for the Jews. The Jews are always standing in the way. The higher one’s opinion of oneself, the more one detests the Jews.

It is a point worth absorbing. Too many of us regard antisemitism as belonging to the realm of the uncouth, the intoxicant of the beer hall but not the bistro. Its true home, as Berman says, is in the loftiest thoughts. Therein lies its danger.