Monday, October 01, 2007

Is Richard Dawkins an Anti-Semite?

"When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told - religious Jews anyway - than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place."

The Guardian Oct 1 2007

I have discussed before whether Richard Dawkins might be ant anti-Semite because his if put into practice his views would lead to the disappearance of the Jewish people. In his defence it could be argued that this was simply a by product of his desire to see the demise of all religious groups.

But with this comment in the Guardian this morning, I am increasingly worried. While there is a strong pro-Israel lobby in the USA (just as there are strong lobbies for many other causes), American Jews do not constitute a "they" in the sense Dawkins implies. Very many secular, and indeed atheist, Jews are strong supporters of Israel, whereas the largest group of (ultra)-Orthodox Jews (the Satmar Hasidism) actively oppose Israel.

Citing "Jews" as a group that monopolises American foreign policy is often a sign of anti-Semitism, as for example in the case of the politician Pat Buchanan.

10 comments:

Nick said...

Coincidentally, I just read that quotation after spending the weekend listening to Dawkins at the Atheist Alliance International annual conference.

How does a desire to emulate Jews constitute anti-semitism? Although he should also note that not all American Jews support Israel.

Paul Halsall said...

Nick,

I'm not sure Dawkins was suggesting that Atheists seize control of American policy. I'm also not saying that he is an Anti-Semite. I am merely observing that such a characterization of Jews as "them" is a problem.

Nick said...

Then why did you ask the question (a favorite tactic of Fox News, by the way)?

Dawkins also realizes that the categories of 'atheist' and 'Jew' are overlapping.

Instead of crying wolf, why don't you discuss Dawkins' arguments on their merits?

Paul Halsall said...

Asking a question is a a favourite tactic, well, anybody who has questions. From having read him, I think it quite likely that Dawkins does have animus against particular groups (Jews, Catholics and Evangelicals) and is less hostile to others.

As to arguements on merit, Dawkins makes no effort to engage religious thinking on its merits. He simply asserts it has none.

Darren said...

He refers first to the Jewish lobby, and then to "they", so he is clearly referring to the Jews (or otherwise) that constitute the Jewish lobby. How else would you refer to the constituents of a group if not by "they"?

Mana said...

I agree with Nick. Dawkins wishes Atheists could lobby as American Jews do. I've search the web this morning for a source of the quote and all I could find is a reference to a Guardian interview, but there's no context to go around this quote. The Guardian in their report jump from this quote to another quote about the coming out campaign.

I also agree that the monopoly comment is aggressive, but he also adds "as far as many people can see." So, is he implying this is other people's opinion or what? Once again, I wish we could see the larger context of the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Why is anyone who critcises Israel or Jews almost automatically labelled as ant-semitic? This sounds like a convenient diversionary tactic to avoid having to deal with the criticism.

Paul Halsall said...

In fact he was not criticizing Israel - he was anti-Semitic in an entirely gratuitous way.

Anonymous said...

How can Dawkins refer to Jews as a group as anything but "they"? Were is the alternative word? After all he is not Jewish...

Can't see anything "anti-semetic", just an observation as to how a small group can influence policy.

Gee some people are prickly.

Anonymous said...

It was a foolish comment to say that "Jews" monopolize American foreign policy, but at least he did qualify the statement by adding "as it appears to most of the world." Yeah, it's true most of the world believes the US is controlled by Jews. Most of the world is also peopled with idiots. But anyway, I think Richard's point, clumsily made here, is that there is a pro-Israel lobby in the USA that wields a very disproportionately large amount of influence in the US government. That much actually is true. If Atheists were as well-organized as Zionists they might have a similar disproportionately large influence. Though Dawkins is overlooking or ignoring the fact that there are many Americans, including representatives in government, who feel that supporting Israel is either a religious or moral duty, and many others who feel that it is in our national best interests to do so... this is indepedent of any influence from lobbyists. On the other hand, atheists are the most untrusted group of people in America.