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Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens

Excerpts from Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis discussing Judaism and Antisemitism at Jewish Book Week in London in 2007:

“Saul Bellow once said to me, privately, that without Israel, Jewish manhood would be finished. I don’t think he meant Jewish men; he meant Jewish self-respect. But it was a sort of atavistic way of putting it. He felt that this idea that we’re going to bring about a scenario where the Jews cannot be put to death, and institutionalize that in a state — he upheld that notion.

And during last summer, when these unpleasant portents for Israel were emerging, there was a great efflorescence of antisemitism here in England. If you remember those middle-class whities waddling around under placards saying WE ARE ALL HEZBOLLAH NOW. And my response to them then and now is:

Well, enjoy it while you can, because Hassan Nasrallah wants to kill you.”

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“Antisemitism is a very, very serious cultural danger, and it’s only a fool who thinks that it is a threat only to Jews. Antisemitism is a very, very toxic threat to everything we can decently call ‘civilization’…

If someone says they don’t like West Indians, because of their — I don’t know what it might be — their music. Or they don’t like Indians because of the smell of their cooking. Or they don’t like Koreans for their Kimchi — whatever it might be. Every minority and majority in the world has a version of this kind of prejudice.

But, as Freud pointed out, they’ll all sink their differences when it comes to the Jews. And with the Jews it’s not their cooking or their sex lives or any of this, and it’s not just vulgar prejudice about skin color or smell.

It’s a theory.

It’s a paranoid theory that tries to explain quite a lot. It’s fascinated with gold, with secret documents, with missing codices in ancient treaties, with the idea of an invisible and secret government. It’s a very, very, very dangerous, pseudo-intellectual prejudice.”

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“We might just talk a little bit more about what antisemitism is. You’ve described it as paranoia, and it is — it belongs with those sort of shithead conspiracy theories. And there’s a marvelous quote from Hitler saying that, after the Frankfurter Zeitung said there was an exposure of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as being a fabrication; Hitler said, ‘this alone proves it is genuine.’

Antisemitism is not quite a neurosis, it’s not quite a psychosis. Vasily Grossman in Life and Fate suggests that antisemitism is like a vast mirror, an ocean of insecurities. The cruising insecurities in the common mind, for some reason gravitate towards the Jew as the explanation of and reason for all frustrations.

The central paradox of it is that you may hate the Jews and think they’re insects, but you also suspect they’re running your life. The Jews, to the anti-semite, are both contemptible and all-powerful.”

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“Nobody thinks West Indians are trying to take over Wall Street, for example. It’s just not alleged; people that hate them just don’t say they’re trying to take over the international financial system.

My grandmother, whose origins were in what is now Breslau, had a very simple explanation, she’d say, ‘Oh, come on darling, they’re just jealous.’ Well, of course, Goyim can be as jealous as they like. But it’s the protean nature of antisemitism that gets me.

If they can’t hate the Jews for being behind international finance capital, it will be because they’re behind international Communism. Often both at the same time.”

The Wailing Wall

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Watch Hitchens and Amis discuss the Jews, Israel, and antisemitism below. I highly recommend this talk as a crash-course on the subtleties and interrelationships between those three complex topics. It’s also really funny.

The photograph was taken in Jerusalem. It’s what you see if, on a Friday night, you walk up to the Western Wall then turn around.