There is a new biological threat to Jews around the world that has the potential for mass destruction of life. It is not in the form of a disease or mutation. This biological threat comes in the form of a theory.
This is not the first time a biological theory has threatened Jews. Eugenics was a biological theory, too, and it fueled and justified the Holocaust. History has shown that biology can be politicized and become a tool of oppression when tainted with human value judgments.
Which types of people are worthy of reproduction and which should be culled from humanity?
The Nazis had their own answer to that question. However, they also had another biological agenda related to eugenics. That agenda has survived to this day, and has become institutionalized in nations throughout the world, including in Israel.
It has to do with defining a biological world order, where every species allegedly has its place. According to this belief, "native" species originated in a certain place on the planet, and that is where they "belong." They should not be moved elsewhere. Introduced, or immigrant, species that come from other parts of the planet threaten these native species and the identity of the environment, and this must not be allowed. Immigrant species that have already become established and threaten the environmental "order" need to be eradicated or controlled, a species cleansing not unlike ethnic cleansing.
THE THEORY is called invasion biology. It started with the Nazis, and it now dominates environmentalism worldwide. It extols the "native" and exterminates the "alien." It seeks to purify the environment of the unwanted and destructive influence of "invasive species." As with eugenics, it passes judgment on the value of others and whether or not they should be allowed to live, or be eradicated. In this case, the "others" are plants and animals.
But the analogy to humans is clear. As Hitler put it in 1943, "Everywhere we encounter seeds which represent the beginnings of parasitic growths which must sooner or later be the ruin of our culture... [O]ne of the most potent principles of nature's rule: the inner segregation of the species of all living beings on this earth."
At a time when the world's environments are under threat from development, pollution and the movement of plants and animals around the globe, the idea of segregating species along nativity lines may sound desirable. Just keep plants and animals where they come from and get rid of those that "don't belong." On the surface, even eugenics sounded somewhat reasonable given the problems caused by overpopulation and the need to keep humanity evolving in a "healthy" way. The problem is these biological theories are loaded with prejudice and value judgment, and when put into practice become tools for political oppression.
THERE WAS a time not long ago when the world was seen as a melting pot, and the integration of cultures and peoples was considered desirable. As a result of contact, immigration and assimilation, cultures that once had a relatively unified sense of identity are now changing, alarming the old guard and causing a resurgence of nationalism and exclusivism, along with anti-immigrant hostility. They have gone from promoting immigration to the other extreme of xenophobia. These issues are currently challenging European nations, as Muslims from elsewhere move in, redefine these cultures, and are resisted by cultural preservationists fighting for native rights and bans on immigration.
Likewise, the environment has been treated as a melting pot, with plants and animals transported around the world to increase biodiversity and bring desirable species to new areas. And the resulting threat to the identity of the environment has led to a form of biological nationalism, with laws protecting native species and hostile to immigrant species, a form of bio-xenophobia.
Should native people (species) be given priority over immigrants? Should immigrants be controlled, deported or exterminated? Should a culture (environment) change, evolve and adapt as immigrants move in, or should immigration be allowed only if the immigrants assimilate?
Most importantly, who has a right to make these decisions? And should the decision be based on nativity, or on the nature of the species, his/her/its qualities and character, and not on its place of origin?
THE ISSUE is especially relevant to the Diaspora Jew. Jews are all around the globe, and come in all colors and races. Where are we considered "native"? More to the point, what will happen to us when the "natives" in cultures in which we live decide that we are unwanted "aliens"?
Even in Israel itself, the issue of who is native and who is alien is a key cause of political turmoil. To the Palestinians displaced by Jews, they are the natives and the Jews the invaders. The Jews claim they are the natives, displaced from their homeland for centuries. Of course, if you go back far enough, there were other cultures in what is Israel that were displaced by the Jews thousands of years ago and who themselves displaced even more historic cultures.
How far back should we go to determine who is native and who is not? This is one major problem with using nativity as a criterion for selecting who or what belongs where. All such judgments are based on a view of history, which is never perfect.
In the final analysis, it all comes down to power. When one culture invades another, the victor gets to redefine the culture. When one species invades the space of another, the fittest survives and redefines the environment. To God, and nature, it's all one planet. People, creatures and plants move around. It has been going on for millennia and will continue. It is only to man, with his desire to control and create an artificial order to the world, that nativity has any meaning.
Surely, there is a time and place for weeding, selecting and controlling species and people. But we must reject the very notion that some species should be eradicated simply because they are not "native." In human affairs we call this ethnic cleansing and genocide, and we have seen how ugly it is. It is no less ugly when unleashed on a plant or animal, its seeds of intolerance and hatred lying dormant for the next Holocaust.The writer is a medical anthropologist, director of the Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease, located in Hawaii, and the author of numerous books on the cultural causes of human and environmental disease, including
Panic in Paradise: Invasive Species Hysteria and the Hawaiian Coqui Frog War (Environmentalism Gone Mad!).