Friday, May 30, 2008

The New Anti-Semitism

Actually the new anti-Semitism isn't that "new" (as will be shown below), but it does reflect a change in the direction of anti-Jewish paranoia over the last twenty-five years.

In the decades just after World War II, animosity towards Jews was typically confined to racialist neo-Nazi organizations. Amongst neo-fascists, of the Italian variety, anti-Semitism was less pronounced or simply non-existent. After all, Mussolini's original Fascist Party allowed Jewish members and had no racial program until 1938, when it came under the ideological pressure of its new ally Nazi Germany. Even then, anti-Jewish measures were relatively lenient (when compared to Hitler's program). Part of this was because Jews were a small and highly assimilated minority in Italian society.

But a new synthesis of radical nationalism emerged in the 1980s. Anti-Semitism took a slightly different turn. It became less markedly "racialist," but it was also more widespread. One reason for this change was that anti-Semitism was sold as "anti-Zionism" and opposition to Israel in conjunction with attacks on "capitalism" and America (which was seen as a multi-cultural cesspool as dangerous as, or more so, than Soviet Russia).

Contemporary hostility towards Jews can therefore be seen as part of a broader "anti-liberal" (anti-Western) crusade with roots in a gnostic "traditionalism". This anti-Jewish view is less the product of social Darwinian theories than it is of an apocalyptic political mentality. Jew-haters can be found across the racial spectrum. Even among white anti-Semites and Hitler-admirers there are people who are not your typical racialists. In the Holocaust revisionist camp, Ted O'Keefe—who writes admiring studies of the Nazi Waffen SS—is (or was) in a long-standing relationship with a Japanese woman. Bradley Smith, organizer of the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust (CODOH), has a Mexican wife. John Sharpe (leader of the Legion of St. Louis) is married to a Lebanese woman.

While these attitudes might seem less malevolent than "Aryan" race worship, it is in some ways more insidious. For one thing it allows people like John Sharpe or E. Michael Jones to deflect criticism by saying that they aren't "anti-Semitic," as if racial standards were the only determining factor. An excellent response to this rhetorical sidestepping is found on Christopher Blosser's Against the Grain entry for January 19, 2007. The relevant point is made in his comments about the religious anti-Semitism of Fr. Dennis Fahey

A common strategy of those who intellectually flirt with (or worse, embrace) the ideological right is to confine the definition of anti-semitism to a purely racial hatred of the Jewish people, so as to excuse or explain away any other form of animosity toward the Jewish people.... Unfortunately, Fahey's restricted definition of anti-semitism didn't prohibit him from indulging in fantasies of Judeo-Masonic conspiracies so off the wall that Hillaire Belloc was moved to say "The thing is nonsense on the face of it."

Yet another way of understanding the apparent contradictions of anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism is to recall that even Hitler's Germany was far from consistent in its race policies. Berlin was not only allied with the Asians of Japan, but it allowed the recruitment of Crimean Tatars (also Asians) into its armed forced in the war in Russia. Even its anti-Slavism was selective. German Nazis persecuted Poles and Russians, but allied themselves with Slovaks, Croatians and Ukrainians. Ultimately, claims about racial purity are belied by animosities which are driven more by political and cultural factors than purely biological ones. This was certainly the case in Hitler's support for Muslim and Arab nationalists, which has come to light since the publication of Der Mufti von Jerusalem und die Nationalsozialisten ("The Mufti and the Holocaust") by Klaus Gensicke (see book review in Policy Review). When the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, was first received by Hitler in Berlin (where he would take up residence for the remainder of the war), the Nazi leader assured him that "the sole German aim will be the destruction of the Jews living in the Arab space under the protection of British power." Arabs were racially as Semitic as Jews but their cultural and political position was totally different.

Nazi racial views boiled down to an irrational prejudice rather than a "scientific" worldview. Of course, Hitler looked with disdain on non-white Arabs, but during the war he was willing to modify his bigotry to suit wartime ambitions. Likewise we see that since the first Gulf War of 1991, anti-Semites and Hitlerites sought alliances with the Muslim world. They praised the late Saddam Hussein and now support Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (for his anti-Israeli diatribes and promotion of Holocaust revisionism).

This is not to say that racism isn't a problem. The hatred of any racial or ethnic group is an attempt to "simplify" some deep-seated social problem. And plenty of racially-motivated anti-Semites are still around. In fact a lot of them are to be found at events attended by people like Jones and Sharpe who, even as they publicly disavow racism, are nevertheless willing to join with old-fashioned bigots in "common cause" against the perceived global threat of the Jews.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More on Fiore: Partying with Nazis

As noted in our last post, the "traditional Catholic" paper The Remnant has come out endorsing groups involved with Roberto Fiore, who is a major figure in the far-right, not only participating in violent Italian political gangs but in Europe-wide neo-fascism. Some solid proof of this is from a report by an Italian site that describes a 2006 Nazi rock-fest in Italy, attended by Fiore, which featured openly pro-Hitler displays.

During that event, called "Campo d'Azione 2006", souvenir stands sold badges showing the face of Hitler to be sewn onto sweaters as well as books denying the existence of the Holocaust, like the one written by Carlo Mattogno and entitled "Auschwitz: fine di una leggenda" (Auschwitz, the end of a legend). Until very late at night, in the large hangar that during the day was animated by speeches and discussions, we assisted to a very disquieting show featuring several rock bands frantically acclaimed by a crowd performing the nazi-fascist stiff-arm salute and sporting a huge banner, printed for the occasion and stating in large capital letters: "MORE NAZISM FOR US ALL".

But this is nothing new, since Fiore's political beliefs have been an open book for years. Fringe Watch has discussed his activities on a number of occasions:

Awareness of Mr. Fiore as an outspoken fascist is important since he has been trying to inject extremism into Catholic circles since the early 1980s.

The Remnant-Fiore Connection?

In late 2006 the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) issued "The Dirty Dozen," its expose of alleged political extremism in Catholic circles. As noted previously on this blog, "the Southern Poverty Law Center—being inexperienced in the doctrinal nuances of Catholicism... really does more harm than good in addressing these matters, in that they tar 'traditionalist Catholics' with a wide brush."

Still, there is a sad irony in that some of the SPLC's charges are sticking. One example is Michael Matt's Remnant newspaper, which is nothing if not idiosyncratic. The Remnant has seen fit to maintain neo-fascist and anti-Semitic connections despite growing criticism. And the odd thing is that just a few years ago Michael Matt was denouncing these same trends. What changed his mind? He'll have to answer that himself.

Certain points made about The Remnant by the SPLC are impossible to explain away, like articles which endorse Holocaust revisionism or indulge in paranoid Jewish conspiracy theories (see bottom of this page of the SPLC site). Now, if it had been a one-off thing, a mere journalistic eccentricity, it could be overlooked. But there's a real trend here which has only hardened in recent weeks with Michael Matt's endorsement of a website called Tradizione, Cattolicesimo & Politica, which is in league with the neo-fascist Forza Nuova of Roberto Fiore. For more details, see the May 24 report by The Chambers Initiative.

As much as one might dislike leftists rummaging in the dirty laundry of fellow Catholics, until we see fit to clean it ourselves, we can expect outsiders to complain about the mess. Nor should the SPLC reportage become a red herring. After all, how can Michael Matt's paper treat the SPLC reports as paranoia but do nothing to distance itself from the political lunatics?

To sum up, it was Fringe Watch and other Catholic commentators (conservative and traditional) who warned about this problem long before the professional purveyors of leftwing "tolerance" got hold of it. But people didn't listen. Perhaps they thought it was a nuisance that would just go away. Maybe... but at the offices of The Remnant it hasn't.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Robert Sungenis vs. Bishop Rhoades: a Chronology

  • July 2007 After an extended period of controversy and public argument with former supporters and volunteers to his website, "Catholic Apologetics International", about his derogatory views concerning the Jews, Sungenis was given two weeks by his bishop -- Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades -- to "desist from commenting on the Jewish people and Judaism both online and in all other publications" or his bishop would denounce him publicly.

    Sungenis claimed that after a subsequent meeting with representatives from his diocese and the USCCB, he was allowed to “continue publishing and speaking on those matters of Catholic doctrine which pertain to the Jewish covenant and the role of Israel in salvation history, provided that you take an approach quite different in tone and content from the one pursued in the past.”

  • August 2007 Sungenis published a letter on his website acknowledging that his bishop and the executive director for ecumenical and inter-religious affairs of the USCCB indicated that “I have crossed the line into inappropriate language and accusations” and Sungenis eventually acceded to their assessment of his work, acknowledging that his writings had "caused confusion regarding what is and is not the authentic position of the Catholic Church towards the Jewish people." He also conveyed a willingness to obey their directives by removing his objectionable articles, at least until such time as they can be rewritten with “a human and Christian spirit,” as per the requirements of Catholic canon law (c. 822, 2-3). However, he expressed doubt as to whether he would ever have sufficient time to accomplish that task. Sungenis further declared that his bishop and vicar are "the shepherds God has placed as overseers of my life and work" and that it is "a privilege to obey them." At the end of this letter, Sungenis opted to list seven “theological positions about the Jews” to serve as a “permanent fixture on the website of CAI [now BTF] so that everyone will know where we stand from here on out.”

  • October 2007 - Sungenis publishes a new article claiming that as the bishop did not agree with his viewpoints, he changed his mind and ordered Sungenis to “remove the recently posted letter and that you refrain from publishing on all topics directly or tangentially related to Judaism or the Jewish people.” The letter was eventually removed from his website. However, Sungenis purportedly wrote to the bishop stating that he is not required to obey him if he issues orders that are in conflict with the faith and morals of the Catholic Church, and that Sungenis would only comply under the aegis of a canonical trial. Additionally, Sungenis indicated that he would be "quite happy to expose" to the Vatican the errors he claimed Bishop Rhoades adheres to. According to Sungenis, the bishop did not respond to his proposal.

  • February 7, 2008 Sungenis' bishop replied in writing to a letter from Sungenis' former vice president, Michael Forrest. In the letter, the bishop confirmed that he had been in contact with Sungenis about his Jewish writings and that he had "hoped for a more positive outcome." However, while Sungenis has indicated that his bishop "ordered me to stop writing about the Jews and Judaism altogether", the bishop himself made no mention of whether or not Sungenis was currently under any formal command.

    The primary thrust of Bishop Rhoades' letter was a clarification of his doctrinal beliefs in regard to certain covenantal issues involving the Jewish people. The bishop also judged the statements Sungenis made about him and his beliefs as "slanderous and erroneous." (See: "Bishop Rhoades, Sungenis, and the Jews", by Leon Suprenant Catholics United for the Faith February 23, 2008).

  • January 2008 Sungenis responded with an article entitled My Reply to Bishop Rhoades, claiming that the questions posed to Bishop Rhoades may have been designed "specifically to side-step the most crucial issue at hand" (ibid, p.3) and that the bishop must affirm three statements composed by Sungenis in order to establish his orthodoxy (ibid, p. 12).

  • April 2008 Catholics United for the Faith and 10 individuals (many former colleagues of Sungenis' Catholic Apologetics International) published a lengthy rebuttal entitled "By Sungenis Alone". The authors of the rebuttal claim that Sungenis has been more than satisfactorily answered by his bishop and that the reasons for the bishop's cease and desist order are unrelated to any covenantal issues involving the Jewish people.

    * * *

    Sungenis’ bishop also purportedly threatened to “deprive him of his right to use the word ‘Catholic’ on his website and written material" in the summer of 2007.

    In early fall, 2007 the "Catholic" moniker was removed from the title of Sungenis' organization, which now operates under the name Bellarmine Theological Forum.

Historical summary provided by Wikipedia; a reading of "By Sungenis Alone" is recommended, as it provides detailed documentation on the conflict with his bishop.