Antisemitism by Levy, Richard S., Lindemann, Albert S. & Richard S. Levy

By Levy, Richard S., Lindemann, Albert S. & Richard S. Levy

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By Levy, Richard S., Lindemann, Albert S. & Richard S. Levy

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The comparison with pornography is suggestive in that some believe the mere viewing of it to be dangerously corrupting, whereas others believe that it is the already corrupt personalities (or dangerous tendencies in all personalities) that are attracted to pornography. Some, in turn, see antisemitic ideas as mysteriously potent, dangerously corrupting those who have contact with them; others believe simply that already corrupt personalities are attracted to antisemitic ideas. There is the associated problem with the term antisemitism, to quote Ian Buruma, that “this particular whistle has been blown so often and with such shrillness that exaggerated anxiety sometimes impairs serious discussion” (The New Republic, September 4, 2006, 23).

But how far should this be taken? Is Hitler understandable—and thus in some sense forgivable—because of his unhappy childhood? The question points toward an obvious slippery slope and the point previously made: Toleration and inclusion must be discriminating. Distrust of historical explanations that emphasize the importance of broad historical forces has moved in several directions. One has been back toward an earlier tendency to emphasize the role of famous historical personalities, either great thinkers or great men of action, who somehow have pulled the general population into their visions and ambitions.

Some are inclined to define others as morally inferior, if not intolerable. Such radically separatist and morally supremacist identities have existed and continue to exist among both Jews and non-Jews. ) However, if the intolerance linked to preserving identity tends in its extreme forms to move toward bigotry, in its opposite direction it meshes with widely agreed-upon standards of moral uprightness. We are proudly intolerant of child molesters and stock market criminals, to say nothing of murderers and rapists.

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