Suzanne Fields

In the larger scheme of things, Mel Gibson's drunken outburst against the Jews is very small potatoes. But it underlines an important element of anti-Semitism often overlooked. Contempt for the Jews is nearly always self-destructive, not necessarily in the short run, but over time, not simply person-to-person, but for nations, too. Anti-Semitism is for dummies.

British historian Paul Johnson documents how this works: Anti-Semitism clouds a person's judgment, forcing him to look for validation of his hatred, and this inevitably narrows his ability to reason. He's like the Marxist ever in search of "evidence" to confirm his economic theory, and voila, it's there. The anti-Semite can't accept what doesn't fit into his narrow worldview, and his hatred prevents him from enjoying the creativity of Jews, no matter that this creativity would pay him great dividends. Anti-Semitism dilutes the rewards of Jewish financial, scientific, artistic and intellectual strengths.

When Spain expelled the Jews (along with the Moors) at the end of the 15th century, for example, Spain lost the intellectual gifts it needed as the New World flowered with unprecedented opportunities for economic development. "The effect of official anti-Semitism was to deprive Spain (and its colonies) of a class already notable for the astute handling of finance," Paul Johnson writes in Commentary magazine. "As a consequence, the project of enlarging the New World's silver mines and [bringing] huge amounts of silver into Spain, far from leading to rational investment in a proto-industrial revolution or to the creation of modern financial services, had a profoundly deleterious impact, plunging the hitherto vigorous Spanish economy into inflation and long-term decline, and the government into repeated bankruptcy."

It's ironic that when Jews become financiers, they are often loathed for their abilities to manage money, and those in authority do not draw on their gifts. Spain never recovered from sending Jews into exile, and the Netherlands inherited good fortune when the Jewish refugees settled and contributed to the eventual mercantile and financial supremacy of that time. Amsterdam and Rotterdam became cities that endure as great trade centers to this day.

England expelled the Jews in the 13th century, but invited them back 300 years later, using money from the Rothschilds' international banking establishment to defeat Napoleon. Jews have flourished in England without religious restrictions, though Shakespeare tapped into the residue of official anti-Semitism in his portrait of Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice." (It's another irony that he probably never met a Jew.)

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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