And as the smart ship grew
In stature, grace, and hue
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.
Judeosphere has only been back to blogging a few weeks, but he is quickly making his mark again with very sharp and important posts. A couple of days ago he posted on Ernest Sternberg’s new article in Orbis, “Purifying the World: What the New Radical Ideology Stands For.” From Judeosphere, Sternberg, with Judeosphere commenting in the midst:
Though it’s a mouthful, world purificationism would do well in expressing what the movement wants. It wants to achieve a grand historical vision: the anticipated defeat of imperial capitalist power in favor of a global network of beneficent culture-communities, which will empower themselves through grassroots participatory democracy, and maintain consistency across movements through the rectifying power of NGOs, thereby bringing into being a new era of global social justice and sustainable development, in which the diverse communities can harmoniously share an earth that has been saved from destruction and remade pristine.
According to this doctrine, the world is divided between the empowered global system, which is the purveyor of toxicity and disempowered communities that suffer its consequences. The world system that perpetuates oppression is known as Empire. It exercises domination through corporate tentacles, media manipulation, state power, and military prowess. It is selfish, greedy, ruthless, racist, and exploitative, and heedlessly pollutes the earth. It imposes its media-saturated culture, dehumanizing technologies, and exploitative production systems on subject peoples.
Sternberg further argues that this perspective explains the doctrine’s inherent hostility toward Israel—a vulnerable nemesis that acts as a unifying cause:
Anti-Zionism pops up in the most unlikely places and in remarkably virulent forms. At the World Social Forum meeting at the mouth of the Amazon, five thousand miles from Jerusalem, packed with over 100,000 purifiers from around the world, demonstrations against Israel count as one of the three foremost accomplishments. In Durban, South Africa, hundreds of governmental groups and NGOs meet allegedly to fight racism, but ignore its genocidal manifestations in Africa, and can agree only to condemn Israel. In America, the Green party has condemnation of Israel as its sole foreign policy. In Britain, unionized academics vote each year to boycott Israel, and never any other place. In Toronto, a demonstration for equal wages displays anti-Israel placards. And in France, so does a demonstration against the loss of appellation for Roquefort cheese.
Why Israel? The clue is in the variety….[of] the new movement: Islamists, Arab Nationalists, post-Christian humanitarians, third-worldists, and anti-globalizers of various stripes. That’s the movement’s ticklish problem: how to keep so much diversity in check. If Empire is too abstract as a nemesis, and America seems too formidable, what’s needed is a scapegoat manageable enough in size that it just might be defeated, and devilish enough in popular imagination that it will elicit the requisite loathing.
Enter Israel, the only Western nation under long enough threat that it has had to fight ongoing wars to survive. Stripped of all context, Israel’s actions can be made to fit the needed image of aggressor. And even if, for some haters of Israel, hatred of mere Jews is not the motive, it’s still all the better that Israel is Jewish, since there is a rich anti-Semitic tradition to draw on….purifiers have rediscovered that old enemy of humanity, the satanic cosmopolitan. He is the globalized Goldberg against whom transnational movements can build solidarity through execration.
Next, yesterday, in Diseased Minds, Judeosphere reported on anit-Western, anti-Semitic vaccination conspiracy theories:
Seven years ago, the Nigerian government halted polio vaccinations after rumors emerged that vaccines were instruments of a Western and Zionist plot to sterilize Muslim women and to hasten the spread of AIDS. (As a result, the disease spread into neighboring Niger, then headed east to Chad and Sudan and also appeared in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Indonesia.)
Now, similar rumors are emerging in Pakistan. According to MEMRI, an article published by an Urdu-language magazine for women in Pakistan has called the international polio eradication campaign a Jewish conspiracy being furthered by various international organizations.
The article declares:
“The Jews, who dream of ruling the world, have invented different types of vaccines, drugs, and injections in an organized way to weaken Muslims in their beliefs on spiritual, practical, and moral levels, and make their bodies contaminated. The oral polio vaccine campaign is being run under a worldwide conspiracy—except in the Zionist countries. Its total focus is now on South Asian countries— India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The U.S. has already marked this area as an extremely strategic region.”
Since their very beginning, anti-vaccination movements have been rife with conspiracy theories. In her book, The Age of American Unreason, Susan Jacoby notes that anti-vaccination rhetoric has traditionally tapped into the Right’s distrust of government and the Left’s distrust of traditional medicine. And, quelle surprise, throughout history, anti-vaccination movements have sometimes been tinged with anti-semitism. The fact that Jonas Salk was Jewish prompted one U.S. group to print pamphlets claiming the polio vaccine represented the “forces of the anti-Christ” in an effort to “violate and contaminate” the bodies of millions of innocent children.
But the emergence of widespread, anti-semitic, vaccine conspiracy theories in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East seems to be a (relatively) recent development. Reading through articles, reports, and online chat groups, it’s a phenomenon that appears to have gathered momentum in just the last ten years.
Judeosphere then quotes the Pakistani article’s recitation of the various world health organizations administering the vaccination programs and its insistence that “[a]ll these organizations are known to work openly of the interest of Zionism.”
It’s a vicious cycle of paranoia: The growing activism of NGOs and multilateral institutions provokes resentment against foreign meddling; these organizations are believed to serve the U.S. agenda—and that agenda is, of course, controlled by you-know-who.
My point in bringing these two posts together? The impulse to purify, as Sternberg terms it, should always frighten. Anti-Semitism has always been framed in terms of purification. Most prominently, see Hitler, A. On the extreme, Utopian left, Mao and Pol Pot sought to purify the masses of their bourgeois tendencies, and society of the counter-revolutionary stain of intellectuals. Stalin’s own purifying purges were a little less ideologically pure, but no less pleasing to his gut. Internationally, the radical left tendencies of which Sternberg writes end up, often, these days, aligning themselves in reactionary sympathy with the Iraqi insurgency, Islamic totalitarians, and rank genocidal racists such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and the current Iranian regime. Nothing brings these two noxious extremes together more precisely in twenty-first century international politics than anti-Westernism and anti-Zionism. Find one and you’ll tend to find the other, at either end of the spectrum.
The import for American liberals is this – these are unions of ideas, and identifications, that will not serve to the credit of liberals anymore than have past misconceptions, such as of the various Marxist murderers so often excused in the past. In the meantime, there are low, anti-intellectual, conservative forces at work in U.S. politics, rightist populists championing anti-intellectualism and ignorance and who reject most of the important historical, political, and humanist insights of the twentieth century. When liberals make even casual alliance with, and excuse for, the purifying left extremes that bump hips with hate, they weaken their ability to fight the sordid rejectionists we have seen on the right since the day Obama took office.