Anybody who writes about Jews ought to declare an interest if they have one. My own is that two British Jews went out of their way to help me — when other ‘friends’ didn’t — at two crucial junctures in my life. Otherwise, I and my family’s forebears have not been related to Judaism for as many generations as I have knowledge of. Even so, I have found other individual Jews to have a certain arrogance which is unattractive and some present-day Israeli policies which are unworthy.
Nevertheless, I have often pondered why Jews have been so hated by so many other ethnic and cultural groups since Medieval times. Without going through several possible reasons that have occurred to me from time to time I have gradually fallen on one which I think is important. This is that they are clever, particularly in modern times among the Ashkenazi branch of Judaism — that is those who’ve descended from mid-European Jews, themselves descended from a few thousand Jews invited to migrate from Palestine to Poland at around 1100.
The Ashkenazi Jews were barred from being farmers — the common livelihood of most in Poland and, of course, the means by which some of the extremely rich Polish families had become powerful. They were invited as, and remained, as noted scholars and therefore good advisors for the rich and powerful in Poland.
The same Jews, however also went into finance and banking — in a strange way. Ever since Abrahamic times they — rather like Muslims today — were forbidden to charge interest, or usury, to one another. In their case a minority got over it by only charging interest to gentiles if they lent money or paying interest if they borrowed money. This meant that those who managed to achieve these financial dealings became brilliant financiers and bankers and from time to time — usually in period of economic stress — became hated by the majority of gentiles around them.
The edict against usury also meant that the majority of Jews — who couldn’t lend or borrow from one another — were very poor at starting or growing businesses and, during periods of stress and being persecuted by gentiles, started huddling together in ghettos in all cities and sizeable towns and cities. But they still respected cleverness and scholarship.
This was the reason why, when America threw its doors open between 1870 and 1920 to the poor of Europe, millions of Ashenazi Jews migrated there and, in due course, second and third generations began to do well in universities and other highly skilled professions as well as getting to very high levels in the American civil services. This latter development also explains why, up until about the 1970s, America’s anti-semitism finally switched around and America begin to be a strong ally of Israel. It is also the reason why there is now a great deal of joint research — particularly into weaponry — between America and Israel.
There is a term in psychology call displacement. A good example of this is shown in the classic cartoon where a husband, who’d just been chastised by his wife, kicking the family cat. In the Middle East, the Sunnis hold the Shias in contempt. Although there’s animosity on both sides, the religious ayatollahs in Iran spend most of their time expressing their hatred of Jews, not Saudi Arabians — which you could expect them to. I also think that the Iranian hatred of Israel is fuelled by envy at what Israeli has accomplished technologically.
If ever there’s going to be a war in the Middle East beyond the present one against Isis then I feel that some dispute between Iran and israel will have tripped it off. In that case, Saudi Arabia will join forces with Israel — there is said to be a secret treaty between them already — and, if the American president following Obama is inclined to join in it is highly likely to do so against Iran.
As usual the whole affair would be a tragedy but I can’t help feeling that it would catalyse a great many other problems which at present seems insuperable. among these will be a final closure of the Sunni-Shia hatred, vital educational and political reforms in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and some sort of settlement of the Palestinian question. I wouldn’t condone it but perhaps a war in the Middle East is a necessity.