Anti-War Patriotism and the Charge of Anti-Semitism

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Those who opposed invading Iraq in 2003 have often been accused of not being patriotic. I think it's a slimy complaint. Some of them surely are not patriotic. Some have demonstrated by their actions and statements that they prefer al Qaeda to succeed if that's what it takes for Bush to fail. I'm convinced that such a view is much more mainstream than some people think. But many people opposed the war because they considered it immoral and didn't want their country doing immoral things. That's patriotism. This is all old news, though. Why am I talking about it now?

Well, it occurred to me recently that this is the same general phenomenon that I've also talked about a number of times on this blog with respect to accusations of anti-semitism in the gospels (and in Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ). I've elsewhere argued that the gospels are Jewish works engaging in self-criticism of their own culture, much as the Hebrew prophets were. Jesus was particularly hard on his own people, but that didn't make him anti-semitic, and it doesn't make the recordings of his life and sayings in the gospels anti-semitic. They do indeed record harsh statements against the Jewish leaders, and John even directs these statements to what he calls the Jews (which careful scholars realize amounts to exactly the same thing). What was funny to me was realizing that those who are so inflamed at those who claim anti-war demonstrators to be undemocratic might well be exactly the same people accusing the gospels or Mel Gibson's use of them (which amounted pretty much to direct quotes of them) as being anti-semitic. It's the same error in reasoning in both cases. (Incidentally, it occurred to me after writing this post that this probably also applies to those who say someone is self-hating for criticizing the behavior of a contingent of their own ethnic or racial group, e.g. Bill Cosby.)

If you can be patriotic while engaging in self-criticism of your own culture, then it isn't anti-semitic to engage in self-criticism of your own culture if you're Jewish. But that's exactly what the gospels do when making the sorts of claims about the Jews of the time that the Jewish Anti-Defamation League and a few more liberal contemporary gospel scholars declare to be anti-semitic. People on the left make this sort of blunder as easily as people on the right do.

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