The Corner

More On Anti-Semitism

A reader sends me an excerpt from a lecture by Leo Strauss at the University of Chicago Hillel House in 1962, on “Why We Remain Jews:”

“Our worst enemies are called (since I do not know how many years “anti-Semites,” a word which I shall never use, and which I regard as almost obscene. I think that if we are sensible we abolish it from our usage. I said in a former speech here that it was coined by some German or French pedant: I smelled them. But then I learned, a few weeks ago, that it was coined by a German pedant, a fellow called Marr. The reason he coined it was very simple. “Anti-Semitism” means hatred of Jews. Why not call it as we Jews call it? It is rish’us “viciousness.” “Hatred of Jews” is perfectly intelligible. “Anti-Semitism” was coined in a situation in which people could no longer justify their hatred of Jews by the fact that Jews are not Christians. They had to find another reason; and since the nineteenth century was almost as proud of science as the twentieth century, the reason had to be scientific. Science proves that the Western world consists of two races, the Aryan race and the Semitic race; and therefore, by speaking of anti-Semitism, our enemies could claim that they acted on a spiritual principle, not from mere hatred. The difficulty is that the Arabs are also Semites. One of my Arab friends was occasionally asked in the Chicago suburbs, “You are, of course, an anti-Semite.” And he would say, “I cannot be that.”” (Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity: Essays and Lectures in Modern Jewish Thought (Albany: SUNY Press, 1997). pp. 320-321.)

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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