Is ‘Philo-Semitism’ Good for the Jews?

An Iraq War veteran (of mixed Ashkenazi and Iraqi Jewish ancestry) and two-time failed Republican candidate for public office, Elan Carr, was appointed in Feb. 2019 as State Dept. “Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combatting anti-Semitism.”  Carr’s been in the news for advocating an aggressive strategy of “philo-Semitism,” going on the offensive against antisemitism by projecting how good Jews are.  A problem with antisemitism is that it projects onto Jews unnatural powers to do evil; advancing the notion that Jews are unusually talented and good also projects the idea that Jews are special & different than other people, beyond what is normal.  (This approach is also at odds with the fundamental goal of classical Zionism, to “normalize” the Jewish condition.)

Despite TTN’s general sympathy with Zionism, and our opposition to BDS, we basically reject (on First Amendment grounds) Carr’s equating of anti-Zionism with antisemitism, and his view of BDS as inherently antisemitic.  Philo-Semitism is Carr’s theme in a number of recent articles about him:   

There’s this in the JTA news service website (also in the Times of Israel), headlined “An era of ‘philo-Semitism’? The US will push countries to love their Jews more, anti-Semitism monitor says”:

“The opposite of anti-Semitism is not tolerance,” Carr said. “The opposite of anti-Semitism is Philo-Semitism, the appreciation, respect, and affection for Jewish values and the Jewish community. Jewish American Heritage Month is an important vehicle for driving that critical Philo-Semitic narrative.”

Carr listed Jewish American luminaries worth promoting, including composers Irving Berlin and Leonard Bernstein, scientists Jonas Salk and Albert Einstein, and Supreme Court Justices Louis Brandeis and Benjamin Cardozo.

A pithy critique of philo-Semitism is within an article by Mairav Zonszein, reporting in +972 Magazine on Carr’s appearance at a Tel Aviv venue December 2019.  Although she’s a frequent critic of Israel and Zionism, this paragraph is worth pondering: 

Philo-Semitism, which is sometimes referred to as “positive anti-Semitism,” is an inverse form of anti-Semitism that views Jewish stereotypes — including that Jews are smart, rich, and cunning — with admiration. While on its face, philo-Semitism appears to cast Jews in a positive light, it effectively affirms the beliefs of anti-Semites while tokenizing and exceptionalizing Jews, often conflating them with the State of Israel. In its essence, philo-Semitism, like anti-Semitism, sets the Jews apart as a group distinct from society at large, which is precisely what makes it so dangerous.