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Anti-Americanism and Anti-Semitism

Two months ago, the burning of an American flag along with a copy Anne Frank's diary (Amazon.com, Amazon.de) has sent shockwaves across Germany. From the European Jewish Press:
More than 100 villagers had gathered on June 24 to celebrate the summer solstice in Pretzien, a village south of Magdeburg in the east German state of Saxony-Anhalt, with a dance and a bonfire. (...) According to the 'Tagesspiegel' newspaper, three local far-right extremists present in the crowd, aged 24, 27 and 28, threw both a US flag and 'Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl' onto the pyre with one man saying: "I commit Anne Frank to the fire." The scene was evocative of the infamous bonfires organised by the Nazis in 1933 in Berlin and across Germany to rid the Third Reich of "degenerate books".
This book burning was a singular incident in modern Germany and should not be used for exaggerations. Though in general there are strong links between Anti-Americanism and Anti-Semitism, argues U.S. Fulbright Alumnus Andrei S. Markovits, a political science professor at Ann Arbor and expert on German politics and European culture and soccer, in his book Amerika, dich haßt sich's besser. Antiamerikanismus und Antisemitismus in Europa (Amazon.de). The book cover shows a graffiti claiming that Presidential Candidate "Kerry is a Jew too." The book was published in October 2004 and is only available in German, but Dialog International has written a review in English.

                
 
Besides, two English working papers by Prof. Markovits can be downloaded as PDF files: "Twin brothers": European Anti-Semitism and Anti-Americanism and European Anti-Americanism (and Anti-Semitism): Ever Present Though Always Denied. I have read one of the working papers about a year ago and found his historical analysis and many arguments convincing, but some arguments about the strong ties between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Americanism not so much. Now, after the burning of the Anne Frank Diary along with the American flag, I will need to re-read the working paper or wait for Prof. Markovits' upcoming book Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America (Amazon.com, Amazon.de), which will be available in the U.S. on December 15, 2006 and in Germany in February 2006. Prof. Markovits described his earlier book Amerika, dich haßt sich's besser as the basis for the upcoming book.
Following is a snyopsis of Uncouth Nation:

For the first time, anti-Americanism has become a European lingua franca. In this sweeping and provocative look at the history of European aversion to America, Andrei Markovits argues that understanding the ubiquity of anti-Americanism since September 11, 2001, requires an appreciation of such sentiments among European elites going back at least to July 4, 1776. While America's policies under George W. Bush have catapulted European anti-Americanism into overdrive, Markovits argues that loathing of America has long been driven not by what America does, but by what it is. Focusing on seven Western European countries, he shows how antipathies toward things American embrace aspects of everyday life (such as sports and language) that remain far from the purview of the Bush administration's policies. Aggravating Europeans' antipathies toward America is their alleged helplessness in the face of an Americanization that Europeans view as inexorably befalling them. More troubling, Markovits argues, is that this anti-Americanism has cultivated a new strain of anti-Semitism.
Over at A Fistful of Euros Tobias Schwarz found the "comparison of the European left's anti-Americanism with its (possibly anti-semitic) anti-zionism not too compelling beyond the not too surprising realization that many on the left have an inherent bias to morally favor the weak over the strong." He points out:
You should read Dialog International’s review for a bit more detail, but let me just note that Mr Markovits' claim that "anti-Americanism had been perhaps the only prejudice in Europe which correlated positively with the respondents' level of education and social position" (p14) is interesting not just because this does further weaken his anti-semitism comparison, but also because he claims that the opposite is true with respect to American anti-Europeanism, which is - if at all - a phenomenon of the lower social strata.
ANTI-AMERICANISM AS INVERTED NATIONALISM
Amazon advertises Uncouth Nation with a review by Richard Wolin, Graduate Center, City University of New York and author of The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism (Amazon.com, Amazon.de):
For many years now, Andrei Markovits has been North America's most insightful analyst of European political culture. In Uncouth Nation he has written a near-masterpiece. On page after page, Markovits convincingly demonstrates the all-consuming nature of European anti-Americanism. He shows that, in an era where European collective identity remains in tenuous flux, anti-Americanism has become a mainstay of ersatz ideological cohesion. In a classical instance of ressentiment, Europeans deride America not so much for what it does but because of what it is-an orientation that often says more about contemporary Europe than about its despised trans-Atlantic rival. Uncouth Nation is lucidly argued and mellifluously written. Markovits has provided us with a landmark study in political pathology.
The above comment on Anti-Americanism as a substitute for ideological cohesion reminds me of this comment published on Clive Davis blog:
I think anti-Americanism is some kind of weird, inverted nationalism for people who don't think nationalism is cool (think about it, what better way to believe in the superiority of your nation without being explicit about it?)

ENDNOTE: Europe's and America's addiction to oil finances both Anti-Semitism and Anti-Americanism in the Middle East. The American Jewish Committee asks Americans to urge their representatives to cosponsor The Vehicle & Fuel Choice for America's Security Act:
Transportation accounts for two-thirds of U.S. oil consumption, but the fuel economy of American vehicles is stuck at its lowest level since the 1980s. In a nation addicted to gas guzzling SUVs, our dependence on foreign oil has generated a cash windfall for a host of radical Islamic regimes, which directly threatens our national security. Record oil revenues have enabled Iran to generously finance terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, emboldened them to call for the annihilation of Israel and support an ambitious nuclear program. In Saudi Arabia, free-flowing petrodollars fund textbooks that are anti-Semitic, anti-Christian and anti-American. Oil money for Saudi princes also perpetuates extreme inequality, which creates fertile recruiting ground for Al-Qa'ida.
Likewise, we in Europe need to substantially reduce our dependence on foreign oil as soon as possible.

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I know this is about . . . a month late. No excuses. My Bad. Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (Mater Delorosa). Today is also the day we recieved word that Oriana Fallaci, this Coyote's inspiration, has departed this world at the ripe age...

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JW-Atlantic Review on :

[b]We live in complicated world: Leftists are not what they used to be... [/b] "Among the German far-left, one subgroup called the anti-Germans holds some contradictory views. Most call themselves communists, yet loudly proclaim their support for Israel and George W. Bush. When it comes to the anti-Germans, the political Big Tent theory appears to have become fact: groups that generally can't bear to be in the same room sometimes unite for a common cause. That was on show recently in western Berlin, where thousands had gathered to show their support for Israel during the recent conflict with Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. Many of the demonstrators were members of Berlin's Jewish community or the conservative Christian Democrats. However, there were some there who belonged to the far-left and sported all the accoutrements of those who are known as Autonomen in Germany -- black clothing, buttons or patches with political slogans or insignia, and often scarves, sunglasses or baseball caps to make them harder to identify. But this time they hadn't come to disrupt the demonstration, shout out anti-Zionist slogans or get into tussles with police, as they often do. The group of anti-Germans had actually organized the demonstration under the slogan "unconditional solidarity with Israel," one of the core positions of their movement. Such a stance puts the group firmly at odds with the majority viewpoint of Germany's far-left movement, which since the 1970s has been overwhelmingly pro-Palestinian and very critical of Israeli policy. " More at: [b][url=http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,2145701,00.html?maca=en-rss-en-ger-1023-rdf]Radical Leftists for Bush | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 25.08.2006[/url][/b]

David on :

You are treading on a potential minefield here: there is a danger in equating criticism of Israeli policy with anti-Semitism. This is a weakness in Markovits' argument. I mentioned this to him and he sent me a scathing response. There are many democratically-inclined left-liberals who are critical of America and are also critical of Israel. It is wrong to accuse them of being anti-Semitic.

Fuchur on :

I looked at the second paper - really interesting, and with lots of good points. I know that it´s virtually impossible to discuss such a long paper here... Still, a few random thoughts: 1. I am astounded how flippantly Markovits passes over the definition of anti-Americanism. This is THE central point! Any attempts to work out a concise definition certainly would not certify as "fruitless squabbles" in my book. At any rate, "I know it when I see it" definitely won´t do. I like Hollander´s definition ("a predisposition to hostility towards the US (...) a relentless critical impulse" etc.). However, I´d like to point out that this is rather narrow: "Critical" alone is not enough - there also has to be a "predisposition" to being critical, and the criticism has to be "relentless". Michael Moore is a particularly confusing example. He is (was?) extremely popular both in the US and in Europe. But according to Markovits, only European Moore fans are anti-American, while American Moore fans just like his humor. Apparently, "Bowling for Columbine" isn´t anti-American in itself - it depends solely upon the watcher whether this movie is good fun... or anti-Americanism. Guess it´s some form of Quantum physics... 2. The influence of Buffon´s "degeneration thesis" is grossly overstated. It didn´t stop the French to fight wars over America, did it? To understand modern anti-Semitism, it is sensitive to take a look at, say, the anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church in medieval times. But to construe any connection between modern anti-Americanism and Buffon´s weird theory is simply absurd. The two have absolutely nothing in common. 3. Markovits' concept of "the elite" is centered on the cultural aspect or sports, and the examples of anti-Americanism he shows here are pretty striking. However, I feel that he totally ignores the "economy" elite - although this is arguably the elite that really matters nowadays. 4. As the typical German middle class boy, I´m of course infuriated to see Karl May´s writings denounced as an assortment of "anti-American, anti-British and anti-Semitic tropes". Really, what nonsense! Frankly, I´m surprised to learn that there´s supposed to ba a Jewish character in there at all. Marcel Reich-Ranitzki mentions having read Karl May in his autobiography, but he obviously also missed the blatant anti-Semitic tropes - he merely recalls his dissatisfaction as a boy that it was always the white Herrenmensch who got to play the hero. May´s books are typical for this time - I see no big difference to e.g "The last Mohican" (who was it again - Cooper?).

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Thanks for the detailed comments. Feel free to write an entire review... I just want to add one thing to this: [i]"But according to Markovits, only European Moore fans are anti-American, while American Moore fans just like his humor."[/i] Interesting! Isn't that a general phenomenon: People don't like criticism from abroad? I think open-minded folks should treat criticism from abroad just like criticism from their countrymen. But many people have a problem with that. Any thoughts on this? Obviously, there is a lot of real Anti-Americanism and I don't want to underestimate it or make it smaller than it is, but yes, sometimes Americans describe something as anti-American, if the speaker is a foreigner, but would not do so if the speaker is American. Michael Moore is a good example. However, there are some Americans who called him Anti-American. There is a crazy debate whether Americans can be anti-American and whether Germans can be anti-German and whether Jews can be anti-Semtitic. I think Hendryk Broder called a Jewish publisher "anti-Semitic" once, and this person then filed suit against Broder. I can't remember what happened then.

David on :

Fuchur, You make some excellent points. I have another quibble with Markovits' book. He states that European intellectuals were jubilant about the 9/11 attacks on the US. No one I know was "jubilant" about this terrorist attack and massive loss of life. On the contrary, everyone reacted with shock and deep sympathy. Even the newspaper Le Monde - not usually friendly to America - had the headline "Nous sommes tous Americains". I expressed this to Markovits but he dismissed my criticism and said that left-wing Europeans rejoiced after the attacks.

TheHammer on :

I don't want use the guilt-by-association argument. But since Markovits publishes with the KONKRET Verlag, the "anti-German" publisher which is mentioned in the DW article Jörg linked to in his first comment, is there a chance that Markovits harbors some anti-German feelings himself?

Martin on :

Germans are neither Anti-Semitic nor Anti-American, they are just obsessed with the US and Israel. Just like the US is obsessed with France...

Frankie on :

I have been interested for a while in the trend toward anti-semitism on the left (which I find so disturbing since I consider myself on the left), and the apparent parallel trend toward anti-americanism on the left. I was not surprised in the least when, while reading Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush and listening to his subsequent speeches, I noticed he sounded a lot like most western leftists. I think he is tapping into the western left by expressing his disdain for America and Israel. Disturbing to say the least when I hear friends say they like what he has to say, or that he's "way better than Bush." I don't like Bush, but please - the guy's a Holocaust-denying fascist! Fascinating phenomenon in any case.

Anonymous on :

Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post was in France on 9/11, and in this column for the Daily Telegraph she writes about something I also saw in the days immediately after 9/11. The events she writes about occured in London, but I saw similar things in France, Germany, and Spain. Perhaps a little later in Germany's case - but not much later. I remember feeling at the time that I simply could not believe my ears. I still don't wish to - but I must, because it happened. This is the reason why I see NATO as dead at it's heart. It's like an old oak whose heartwood has rotted away. It still produces leaves but is only alive until the next big windstorm breaks it into flinders. "But it's also true that this initial wave of goodwill hardly outlasted the news cycle. Within a couple of days a Guardian columnist wrote of the "unabashed national egotism and arrogance that drives anti-Americanism among swaths of the world's population". A Daily Mail columnist denounced the "self-sought imperial role" of the United States, which he said had "made it enemies of every sort across the globe". That week's edition of Question Time featured a sustained attack on Phil Lader, the former US ambassador to Britain – and a man who had lost colleagues in the World Trade Centre – who seemed near to tears as he was asked questions about the "millions and millions of people around the world despising the American nation". At least some Britons, like many other Europeans, were already secretly or openly pleased by the 9/11 attacks. And all of this was before Afghanistan, before Tony Blair was tainted by his friendship with George Bush, and before anyone knew the word "neo-con", let alone felt the need to claim not to be one. The dislike of America, the hatred for what it was believed to stand for – capitalism, globalisation, militarism, Zionism, Hollywood or McDonald's, depending on your point of view – was well entrenched. To put it differently, the scorn now widely felt in Britain and across Europe for America's "war on terrorism" actually preceded the "war on terrorism" itself. It was already there on September 12 and 13, right out in the open for everyone to see." Blair and Aznar stood against this hatred; Chirac and Schroeder pandered to it. From France this was no surprise but from Berlin it was simply shocking. Jaw-dropping. I watch whatever comes from Germany with a jaundiced eye today - but I did not on 9/11, 2001. One more point. Shroeder didn't start the attitude; he detected it and pandered to it - repeatedly. Germany turned on the US post-9//11 because it's people wanted to! And this: "I don't detect a similar desire in London or Berlin to rearrange priorities or to change the tone of national debate, let alone to forge a stronger alliance with the US or to engage in what ought to be a joint project. In part, this is thanks to the extraordinary diplomatic failure of the Bush Administration, which, believing its military power entitled it to arrogance, spurned America's traditional alliances and launched a war in Iraq without making any preparations for the consequences. Although much of the past year has been spent making up lost ground, it's hard to see how this President, at least, is ever going to be able to build the kind of international coalition necessary to fight what will have to be an international war of ideas against radical fundamentalism. But perhaps Europe's failure to enthusiastically join the "war on terrorism" was in some sense preordained. While not entirely incorrect, the notion that President Bush has wasted international post-9/11 sympathy is not entirely accurate either. As I say, at the time of the attacks, influential Europeans, and influential Britons, were already disinclined for their own reasons to sympathise with any American tragedy." http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/09/12/do1202.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2006/09/12/ixopinion.html

Don on :

Pardon, that post was from me.

Danny on :

I don't find surprising at all that anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism are related. They are based on common xenophobia, right nationalism which needs an enemy. Joining Jews, the historic enemy, and Americans, the dream enemy (powerful and not dangerous, as Shoher says about Israel) is a reasonable development. I don't agree with the conclusion that the book-burning incident is unique. Book burnings hardly happened in 1931, as far as I know. The incident should be viewed in the context of unrepentedly strong German anti-Semitism. I personally encountered anti-Semitic attitude many times in Germany, and I believe Huntington cites a poll saying that 26% or so Germans answered that there are too many Jews around. I don't believe 60 years change national mentality and inherited hatreds. Danny samsonblinded.org

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