What Is the Cause of Prejudice?

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Here is Marc Tracy on the foolishness of America's ambassador to Belgium, who argued that anti-Semitism is motivated in part Israel's behavior on the West Bank. How a smart man succumbed to such dubious thinking is beyond me. Marc:

If you haven't heard about it yet (some people try to get outdoors on the weekends, yes?), Howard Gutman, our man in Brussels, told a conference on anti-Semitism last week that there is a difference between, on one hand, "traditional anti-Semitism" and, on other, "Muslim hatred for Jews, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians." These were prepared remarks. Gutman knew what he was doing: "I likely will not just say fully what you expected and or maybe hoped to hear," he prefaced. While it's not clear whom he blames for the failure to reach peace, it is very clear that he blames that failure for many European Muslims' "significant anger and resentment and, yes, perhaps sometimes hatred." This would be an undiplomatic thing to say even if he weren't a diplomat; you couldn't give me good enough odds to bet that Gutman will continue as ambassador much longer. (And yes, of course Gutman is Jewish.) Already the White House has responded, "We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms," adding, "there is never any justification for prejudice against the Jewish people or Israel."

Here is a simple formula that could have saved Gutman from his stupid mistake: Jews do not cause anti-Semitism; blacks do not cause racism; gays do not cause homophobia. Hatred is a mental and spiritual illness, not a political position.

Marc goes on to write:

I don't think the substance of Ambassador Gutman's spiel represents the administration's substance. But I think its style--this faux-brave, off-the-cuff, lowbrow intellectualizing--is representative: it's counterproductive, and the questions it invites about what is driving it are valid, particularly coming only weeks after Dennis Ross, long perceived as Israel's strongest supporter in the White House, announced he was leaving.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/12/what-is-the-cause-of-prejudice/249494/