According to his bio at JPost, Michael Laitman is a Professor of Ontology, a PhD in Philosophy and Kabbalah, and an MSc in Medical Bio-Cybernetics. His Opinion piece, Fascism is looming over the US - and its bad news for the Jews appeared in JPost on May 19, 2016, What follows is intended a "correction," not a "criticism."In his recent JPost article, a warning of the continuing danger to Jews in the 21st century, Professor Laitman challenges us to carry the torch of Jewish enlightenment to stave off a second Holocaust in less than a century. We must, he insists, lead by example, overcome in ourselves mankind’s innate curses of "narcissism" and "egomania." Through tikun olam will we provide the “light unto the nations” which will provide a path from the abyss for the world, salvation for our people. Even as I share his concern regarding our people, such an approach to Jewish survival fails, will only result in perpetuating or traditional role as Victim in the Diaspora. Did such a faith-based response spare the Chassidic communities of Eastern Europe from Auschwitz? Only through understanding the true nature and history of the West’s Jewish Problem does possibility for Jewish survival exist.
Conditions in the United States which Dr. Laitman accurately describes certainly deserve attention. Societal instability, America’s rapidly shrinking middle class, growing wealth disparity enjoyed by a visible and tiny minority at the top go a long way in explaining the Donald Trump phenomenon. As Dr. Laitman describes, America is fertile ground for a populist and charismatic leader with simple solutions to complex problems. And while I disagree that America today is at the threshold of “fascism” and worse as his article insists, if I did agree with the imminence of the threat I would remind of Ze’ev Jabotinky’s warning to Polish Jewry in 1937, “Eliminate the diaspora or the diaspora will eliminate you!” The question Dr. Laitman neither asks or seems unaware of in his otherwise timely article is Why the Jews, why antisemitism? Why two-thousand years persecution of this tiny and defenseless-by-law minority in the West? Because only through recognition of these questions; only with a fact-based understanding of the West’s Jewish Problem will the survival of the Jewish People in the twenty-first century even be possible.Perhaps we Jews are too polite or too fearful to accept the obvious and discuss antisemitism’s inspiration openly. The source and motive for centuries of anti-Jewish persecution are clearly present at the very core of the founding documents of Christian scripture. They appear in Paul’s letters, in the four canonical gospels. To take but two examples: John, 8:44 has Jesus accuse “the Jews”: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires.” This accusation inspired Medieval stereotypes which centuries later inspired The Protocols of Zion and, three decades later were used to justify the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem. And Matthew 27:25 has the “Jewish mob” described at Jesus’ trial condemn not only themselves but all Jews for eternity Jesus’ death: “And all the people yelled back [responding to the Roman governor’s defense of Jesus!] “We will take responsibility for his death--we and our children!" By itself this sentence is recognized as responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews over the centuries before Hitler and the Third Reich! Such passages, and all four gospel depictions of Jesus’ trial equally charge “the Jews” as deicides for the death of Jesus, were interpreted by centuries of theologians as justification encouraging persecution and murder of Jews. Martin Luther, anticipating Hitler’s jailhouse interview with the journalist Hell by four hundred years wrote,
"Even if they were punished in the most gruesome manner that the streets ran with their blood, that their dead would be counted, not in the hundred thousands, but in the millions… they are the devil's children [reference John 8:44], damned to Hell.”At his Nuremberg war crimes trial Julius Streicher, chief polemicist and publisher of the rabidly antisemitic Nazi Party newspaper Der Stürmer, argued that if he should be on trial for such charges then "so should Martin Luther.”This is neither time nor place to survey the history of centuries of anti-Jewish persecution in the West. Enough to remind of two-thousand years of expulsion, mass murder and even holocaust (from the Greek holo and caustos, “completely burned” (during the ninth century European communities collected Jews at town centers to be burned alive). There are excellent sources available, popular and scholarly in bookstores, the internet and in public libraries. What is less mentioned in the literature is the origin of Germany’s term for the extermination of the Jews: The Final Solution to the Jewish Problem (Endlösung der Judenfrage).The Jewish Problem refers to the inexplicable (for early Christianity) survival of Jews and Judaism in the post-messianic world. The “Problem” is described by modern theologians and historians as an existential challenge to Christianity itself (Ruether, Faith and Fratricide; Nicholls, Christian Antisemitism as example). At threat were claims by the early church of having replaced Judaism in God’s eyes; doubt even that God sent Jesus as messiah to the Jewish people. These and other such claims stand challenged by the survival of Jews and Judaism. St. Augustine provided an “explanation” which was adopted by the Vatican in which God provided for Jewish survival as “witness” to Christian Truth. According to Augustine the “solution” to the Jewish Problem would be achieved by Jewish disappearance through conversion to the New Israel. It was the failure of Augustine’s solution-by-conversion that inspired the recent secular attempt at solution-by-extermination. The decline of feudalism and Napoleon’s insistence that Jews also be released from serfdom led to optimism by Jews that they would finally be accepted, that persecution was nearing its end. But this as quickly vanished as it appeared. The backlash was as swift as Napoleon’s retreat at Waterloo. Western antisemitism is the product of and supported by religious and secular stereotypes rooted in what most Christians insist in the “inerrant Word of God,” Christian scripture. A culture of hate based on such authority does not simply vanish at the stroke of a legal pen.Following “emancipation” discrimination and persecution not only failed to disappear but intensified. Pogroms spread from the Pale of Russia to the streets of Paris. Across Germany students rampaged through the streets shouting hep-hep while attacking Jews and destroying their businesses. Nowhere were Jews safe, not in the Balkans, not in Scandinavia. Political parties dedicated to reverse “emancipation,” and even expel Jews from Europe appeared across Europe and America. Hitler and National Socialism were not a political anomaly but rather inheritor of a century of political antisemitism. Neither did that tradition disappear in the ashes of the Holocaust but continues today as the far right increasingly ascends to political legitimacy, and power. Even as this is written a populist neo-Nazi stands at the threshold of becoming president in Austria.The Holocaust is popularly described as explanation for the creation of Israel, refuge for Jews facing danger in the Diaspora. In fact that need was already apparent to Jews with the failed promise of the Emancipation. The lesson of the Shoah, the lesson we are each responsible for recognizing, is that there is not today, has not for two-millennia past, been the real possibility of security for Jews in the West. Jews in American often refer to our homeland as “exceptional,” somehow insulated from dangers often faced by Jews in Europe. The same term was used by Jews in Germany as late as Krystallnacht(!) to describe their homeland. German Jews may be excused their Denial for not having a historical precedent as warning. What excuse our Diaspora today with Auschwitz still a recent memory?