I’m getting a lot of e-mails defending Hilaire Belloc, complaining that I attacked him in an ad hominem fashion by quoting an anti-Semitic remark after Derb had quoted Belloc’s description of Islam as a Christian heresy. First off, if you’re an admirer of Belloc’s, knock off the defenses of Belloc’s views of the Jews. You don’t need to defend a writer you like by denying some of the more unsavory aspects of his views. My favorite writer is Anthony Trollope, and he was a terrible anti-Semite. I could tell you that his opinions of Jews were very mixed because one of his most noble characters, Madame Max, was Jewish, but that would just be a kind of defensive window-dressing. As it happens, Belloc had a career-long obsession with what he took to be the appalling power, excessive influence, and basic otherness of Jewry that went beyond merely holding unenlightened contemporary views (in the way Trollope did). It is true he was an early opponent of Nazism and mentioned among its badnesses its treatment of Jewry, but being an anti-Semite does not mean you are a Nazi.
Finally, I would wager that Belloc, who was prone to lavish pronouncements, knew about as much about the historical influences on Islam as he knew about how to cook Sabbath cholent — and at a time when Pope Benedict is coming under ignorant and unfair attack for his brilliant speech, I thought it seemed unfair for Derb to associate Benedict Belloc’s genuinely insulting and undeniably condescending insult of Islam.