Mr. James Harris ’79 recently wrote a letter to the editor stating that Jews are not the only victims of anti-Semitism, and used that argument to defend Gabriel Knight. Mr. Harris is incorrect in his assertion. Despite its name, which is a misnomer, anti-Semitism historically refers to prejudice or discrimation against or hatred of Jews only.
The term was popularized in Germany in 1879 as a substitute for the specific word “Judenhass” (Jew hatred) with the use of a grander more general sounding term. However, the usage of the word, then and now, almost exclusively refers to Jews. Moreover, this is widely known. Did Harris know this but deliberately obfuscate?
Mr. Harris noted that Jews “can be bigots” which is of course accurate but is a non sequitur and detour in a discussion about anti-Semitism. So what? Should that obvious fact preclude a campus discussion of anti-Semitism? Harris notes that Jews have been persecuted due to being mischaracterized as controlling financial elements of society but then points out, in case we were not paying attention, that several consecutive Federal Reserve Board chairmen have been Jewish, which he says is “coincidental.” Why was that observation necessary then?
Harris says that Knight’s questioning is the antidote for ignorance, not an instance of it; however, he then calls the answers provided to Mr. Knight’s naive questions the equivalent of “reeducation camps ” and “bigoted.” So, in Harris’s world, Knight is to be given a presumption of innocence of intent for questions about Jewish control and power, but Jews and non-Jews who then answer with the historical context needed to understand why that discussion is offensive, then are themselves bigoted?
While I do not know what motivated Mr. Knight to make the statements that he made, specifically whether they were made out of ignorance or malice, I have much less doubt about Mr. Harris’s remarks. Harris’s letter, was unfortunate and remind me, as a Jew, of the need to stay vigilant about the toxic discourse of even outwardly educated and intelligent people who still can get published in The Stanford Daily, supposed Jewish domination of the media notwithstanding.
Daniel Jacobs ’82 M.D.