Claiming that “the Jews” have become “pretty much like nazis” no longer raises eyebrows.
Thomas Hylland Eriksen is a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo, and if any Norwegian academic can claim household recognition, it’s him. He writes entertainingly and engagingly on a number of topics, and is a chat show regular.
He has also recently jammed his foot down his throat.
His latest book “Søppel – avfall i en verden av bivirkninger” (“Trash – Garbage in a world of side effects”) is mostly an interesting take on the implications of garbage, and the salient fact that there’s more of it every day. While rambling happily on about the concept of “unclean peoples”, in a manner not unlike, say, a Bill Bryson or a Jared Diamond, he suddenly produces a monumental mound of refuse himself.
It all starts innocently enough: (Unauthorised translation)
The Jews (were considered) unclean because they were both insiders and outsiders: They had contributed disproportionately to Europe’s fine arts and were culturally competent, but at the same time they were not quite insiders due to their religion, their networks and their propensity for endogamy (they mostly married other Jews). They excluded themselves, and were in turn excluded, or vice versa.
Well, so far, not too bad. Maybe one might disagree with wording but mostly he’s paraphrasing Zygmunt Bauman, as he himself readily acknowledges.
And then Mr. Eriksen becomes insane.
These days the same formula is applied to Arabs…. by Jews.
This just doesn’t make any sense. Eriksen offers no quotes or examples to back up his very peculiar claim. While relations between Jews and Arabs might leave much to be desired, Eriksen’s simile seems horribly faulty. Whatever injustice the Arabs are perceived as being the agents of by Jews, endogamy, “cultural competence” and disproportionate contribution to fine arts do not seem very high on the list.
Presumably Eriksen’s otherwise enjoyable book has been read by at least one editor and and a proof-reader before it was sent to the printer’s. It seems these initial readers all thought to themselves “hm, contributed disproportionately to fine arts, hm, hm, yes, endogameous, that’s what those Jews keep kvetching about, that the 300 million Arabs who almost all belong to majority populations were they live marry between themselves.”
But the idea that Jews in some omnious fashion have “become” their own oppressors fits very neatly with the mindset of modern intellectuals, where everything cancels out everything else. The narrative of Jews becoming Nazis is just too cute, too full of closure, for intellectuals to let go of it. The implication that there is something similar between Nazism and Jews is so obviously chilling, it’s hard to understand how the idea could have gained purchase in the first place. Yet here it is, so taken for granted that it’s not even noticed.
W.H. Auden wrote, in “September 1, 1939”:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
Benny Morris starts off his book “Righteous Victims” with these words, and there is some truth to them. But they don’t explain everything and, in the case of the meme demonstrated by Mr. Eriksen above, explain nothing. The reason Eriksen does not quote relevant, commonly agreed upon anti-Arab comments from polite sections of Jewish or Israeli society is that there is nothing to be found there even remotely similar to views held by Gentiles on Jews in pre-was Europe.
Here and here is a program from Israeli TV (via Elder of Ziyon), where Jewish customers find a shop-owner denying service to an Arab woman, the latter two both actors. Some ignore the situation, some act very well. (Abysmal subtitling. Bear with it.) We would love to see Mr. Eriksen make a similar program from an Arab country, or from Norway.