By reading the French translation of a commentary on the Book of Exodus(1) published a few years ago by an American rabbi belonging to Reformed Judaism, I was struck by a sidebar entitled "The causes of anti-Semitism." The author quotes the American historian Barbara Tuchman (1912-1989, Pulitzer Prize 1963), who identifies three "principles" at the source of anti-Semitism:
1. "It is vain to expect logic – that is to say, a reasoned appreciation of enlightened self-interest" when it comes to anti-Semitism.
2. Appeasement is futile. "The rule of human behavior here is that yielding to an enemy’s demands does not satisfy them but, by exhibiting a position of weakness, augments them. Its does not terminate hostility but excites it."
3. ""Anti-Semitism is independent of its object. What Jews do or fail to do is not the determinant. The impetus comes out of the needs of the persecutors and a particular political climate."
These principles, if already old - they had been published in Newsweek on February 3, 1975 - seem particularly insightful and well adapted to the current context. It is a distressing statement because we experience how difficult it is to convince or to fight using ideas. It is also a warning and an invitation not to give in an inch on the principles and not to lower one’s guard...
(1) H. J. Fields, A Torah Commentary for Our Times, vol. 2: Exodus and Leviticus. New York, Union for Reform Judaism, 1990.