Rotten Apples, Bitter Pears: An Updated Motivational Typology of Romania's Radical Right's Anti-Semitic Postures in Post-Communism*

By Shafir, Michael | Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Rotten Apples, Bitter Pears: An Updated Motivational Typology of Romania's Radical Right's Anti-Semitic Postures in Post-Communism*


Shafir, Michael, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies


Abstract:

Post-communist anti-Semitism in Romania and elsewhere in East Central Europe is not necessarily driven by the same motivations. Basically, each of the categories I employ in the taxonomy (updating earlier endeavors) acts out of a different motivation and has a different temporal orientation. What they all share, however, is precisely the attempt to respond to the need to produce what Benedict Anderson called an "imagined community," in albeit significantly different positive terms of reference. A distinction is made between the following taxonomic categories of "producers" of anti-Semitism: a) "Self-exculpatory nostalgic anti-Semitism;" b) "Self-propelling anti-Semitism"; c) "Neo-populist mercantile anti-Semitism": d) "Utilitarian anti-Semitism"; e) "Reactive anti-Semitism; and, finally, f) "Vengeance anti-Semitism."

Key Words:

Anti-Semitism, Usable History, Temporal Orientation, Legitimacy, Holocaust, Selfexculpation vs. Selfincrimination, Utilitarianism, Mercantilism, Competitive Martirology.

That anti-Semitism is one of the historic legacies that European post-communist societies are forced to cope with is apparently a truism verging on banality. Nearly two decades after annus mirabilis 1989, we may still be debating what brought about the collapse of communism and where these societies are heading. Those among us who admit to being fools rather than prophets and thus to have failed to predict the collapse, are nonetheless still trying to squeeze into the ranks to the Chosen who hold a monopoly over Truth. While the latter few privileged always knew communism was bound to disappear (though none can produce convincing evidence of such earlier knowledge) fools contend themselves with writing about truth (uncapitalized) and with rejecting the banality of truisms. They do not doubt that what is actual is rational, but have question marks as to the rationality of what is presented by the Chosen as actual. While the Bible attributed access to truth to both fools and prophets, it failed to take into account this pseudo-Hegelian distinction. Maybe this is simply due to the fact that the Holy Book does not use capital letters. Its editors should have been more circumspect and should have clarified the point with the author.

Till an amended edition becomes available on markets (the proverbial stubbornness of the author may be a hindrance, I might add), we shall have to accept that either fools are simply incapable of grasping the essence of Truth and that their only honorable solution rests in taking refuge in agnostic retreat, or that nothing deemed by the Chosen Establishment to constitute the Truth is to be challenged, no matter how truistic or banal. Post-communist European anti-Semitism is illustrative for this dilemma. To contest its existence is to ignore reality-in other words, the actual. From Russia to former East Germany, from Hungary and Romania to Serbia and Croatia, from Poland to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, indeed even in Bulgaria and Albania, which can with some justification claim a lesser legacy of inter-war anti-Semitism than their neighbors, the presence of anti-Semitism or of anti-Semitic elements may be said to constitute a unifying feature. To leave it at that, however, is to transform truism into truancy. If anti-Semitism may be said to be a dependent variable (i.e. what needs to be explained), an examination of the reasons for its relatively successful post-communist dissemination is bound to reveal a variety of independent variables (what explains a phenomenon) in the postures of the different movements, associations and political parties displaying major or less obvious anti-Semitic nuances. These might be driven by different, indeed sometimes contradictory attitudes towards the past (the legacy of the interwar radical right), present (the legacy of communism) and future (orientations towards the "well ordered" society). They may be political and/or cultural foes, and the fact that they find themselves in the same boat, disturbing as it might be for the local remnants of the Jewish communities, should not make one jump to the conclusion that the rationality of this state of affairs is to be sought in the simplistic blind, ancestral hatred of what Alain Finkielkraut and later Andrei Oisteanu in Romania called the "imaginary Jew. …

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