In deference to its extremist, leftist intellectual constituency, the Obama administration is reversing American policy and signing on to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, an organization that spends most of its time and energy demonizing the Jewish state, legitimating dictatorships, and attempting to define criticism of Islam as a violation of human rights. This, of course, is not the first time in modern history that the intellectual left has aligned itself with the forces of authoritarianism in order to embrace anti-Semitism. In pre-war Europe, anti-Semitism was as fashionable among the intelligentsia as it was among the masses that followed totalitarian movements. And nowhere was this relationship so aptly symbolized as it was in the writing of Louis-Ferdinand Celine.
Celine’s Bagatelles pour un Massacre (Trifles for a Massacre, 1937) was considered one of the most anti-Semitic tirades ever written. A chaotic rant against Jews punctuated with boundless invective, Celine’s Bagatelles caricatured Jews in ways that even Goebbels would have envied. Celine, who believed that Hitler was not sufficiently anti-Semitic and whose paranoia saw Jews in every dominant social institution including the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, was ultimately to be outdone in his lunacy.
It was the European intelligentsia that Celine’s street vulgarity electrified, and it was the European intelligentsia that ultimately superseded even Celine. Celine had stripped away the Jewish question from the false social politeness of bourgeois society to the bare hatred that was intrinsic to European culture. Nothing was more important to the intelligentsia than to feast on the hypocrisy of bourgeois politeness and to embrace the raw, immoral, and vulgar character of Europe’s underclass and the totalitarian movements that mobilized it.
A quintessential absence of self-interest underscored the actions of the intelligentsia even as totalitarianism threatened the free production of art, music, literature, and science — the components of civilization that intellectuals should have both cherished and defended against the onslaught of totalitarian control.
The ideological alliance between the intelligentsia and the underclass in their mutual embrace of anti-Semitism is being repeated today throughout the West. In a world where Western campuses are entangled in draconian speech codes and any ethnic defamation, real or imaginary, will bring down the wrath of the politically correct bureaucracy to a point just short of drawing and quartering the accused on the quadrangle at high noon, anti-Semitism is immunized from concern. Whether demonizing Jews in the classroom, intimidating Jewish students, or characterizing Israel with imagery that Der Sturmer inspired, on numerous campuses there is no libel, slight, or racist characterization from which Jews can be protected.
The so-called “peace and human rights crowd” marches alongside those who carry signs screaming “Kill the Jews,” “Jews to the Gas,” or even “Kill the Juices,” literacy not being a well-entrenched skill among the underclass.
The intelligentsia finds an alliance with radical Islam that parallel’s its 1930s counterparts’ affinity for totalitarianism. So entrenched is this irrational rejection of fundamental self-interest that Muslim feminists can find few allies among the feminists in the West. Ayan Hirsi Ali stands as a hero to the right, but among the left she is an embarrassment that threatens their fictional reality and poses a confrontation with common sense that they seek to avoid.
The intelligentsia militates for boycotting Israel but is silent on boycotting China over Tibet, Sudan over Darfur, or the eight Muslim states that punish homosexuals with death. Human rights groups will flock to Durban II to once again stand shoulder to shoulder with states that kill homosexuals, coerce women into apartheid, and think that civil liberties are an abomination against God. Like Durban I, the one source for all of the world’s evils will be the Jew, this time demonized as the Jewish state.
A professor I know who considered himself a champion of human rights viewed his participation in Durban I as one of the few high points in an otherwise aggressively mediocre career. It was as if those responsible for bringing German Ambassador Hans Luther to Columbia University in 1933 to justify Nazism’s war on the Jews considered the endeavor to be the high point of their careers. Such is the way in which the perverted selflessness of the intellectuals of the 1930s is emulated by today’s intellectuals.
Former President Jimmy Carter can unapologetically characterize Israel as an apartheid state, distort the history of the Middle East, apologize for the murderous charter of Hamas, and commit plagiarism, only to stand in front of a packed auditorium on the Berkeley campus and receive a standing ovation and not one question from the audience worthy of anyone with a meaningful education. Had Carter written similar screeds about any other ethnic group, there would not be sufficient security to protect him from the wrath of intellectuals capable of manifesting their outrage by readily descending to the depths of mob violence.
Andre Gide in the Nouvelle Revue Francaise could not contain his excitement over Celine’s ripping away the so-called “Jewish question” from the circumlocution of polite society and casting it into the vulgarity of the street. Even at a time when the Nazis were persecuting the Jews and characterizing them as subhuman, Gide felt no restraint in his pleasure over Celine’s vitiating the barrier of morality that isolates racism in its most odious manifestations. So too, contemporary intellectuals have crossed a similar line. So too has the Obama administration. This time, however, it is all the worse, for the consequences of this behavior have already been written in the banal accounting of death-camp statistics.