“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” This aphorism aptly describes the phenomenon of Jew-hatred. Purim fell in March this year, while Israelis were engaged in an existential war against Gazan and Lebanese terrorists. The holiday commemorates the salvation of the Jews of ancient Persia from a genocide planned by an abominable man named Haman. Today, Iran—modern Persia—is a major sponsor of Islamist Hamans, including the paragliding, motorcycling murderers of Hamas.

Founded three years after the end of the Holocaust, Israel became the great beacon of hope for a traumatized people. The Jewish homeland took in millions of refugees from Arab nations, the Soviet Union, and Ethiopia, and Israelis proved time and again that they could defeat those seeking to obliterate them.

But this time feels different. American Jews have seen the widespread celebration in Western cities of Hamas’s torture and slaughter of their brethren, the indifference or complicity of international organizations to these horrific deeds, and their own government’s looming abandonment of Israel. This time feels like the slow-rolling thunder of a gathering storm: a war against all Jews, everywhere.

This old and new reality has prompted varying degrees of shock. European Jews can’t forget the Axis fascists as they watch new, Islamist and leftist ones multiply, form alliances, and commit hijackings, bombings, shootings, and stabbings. But American Jews, lulled into complacency by the retreat of public anti-Semitism in the U.S. from the end of World War II to just yesterday, were stunned by their fellow citizens’ reactions to October 7. The fear of civilizational collapse assails their minds.

While most of the world never bothered to hide its anti-Semitism, Western nations and peoples mostly repudiated Jew-hatred after 1945 and vowed never to allow another Holocaust. But in the three generations since the Nuremburg trials, de-Nazification, and the Marshall Plan—all American-led projects—the milk of forbearance has spoiled, turning sour slowly over decades, and then suddenly over the last six months. Promises of freedom from persecution have proved hollow.

This is not just about the Jews. A pandemic of bad faith is poisoning the American democratic republic. Blatant contradictions abound. “Everyone is accountable under the law,” we’re told—so we must selectively prosecute only some alleged criminals. We must save “our democracy,” so we must destroy democracy. This infection of bad faith extends well beyond national politics. It has corrupted every essential American institution.

Consider higher education, a petri dish of ideological hatreds and social pathologies. When university students who maintain that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism join marches calling for the murder of Jews, that is bad faith. When universities push “safe spaces” but allow Jewish students to be threatened by angry mobs, that is bad faith. And when a leading academic feminist wouldn’t allow me to quote her reasons for refusing to condemn Hamas’s mass rape, torture, and murder—that, too, was bad faith.

These contradictions and evasions reflect the widespread loss of individual responsibility and accountability in contemporary culture. But what seems new is old: bad faith is an ancient affliction. It was perhaps first diagnosed in a Platonic myth that inspired operatic and literary masterpieces by Wagner and Tolkien. In the myth of Gyges, set in despotic, barbarian Lydia centuries before its Greek author lived, supreme power flows from a ring of invisibility. The ring-wearer can cheat, steal, rape, and murder without fear of punishment, showing the world only what he wants it to see. But these advantages come at a cost. Such power corrupts the soul, blinding it to the suffering of those whose lives one ruins.

Ours is a thoroughly Gygean age, in which rings of power are readily available in the brave new moral economy. The American government has for years secretly conspired with Big Tech, think tanks, foundations, universities, NGOs, and the media to spy on, misinform, and withhold vital information from citizens. At the same time, Gygeanism has been thoroughly democratized. Social-media platforms provide anonymity to people who want to fan the flames of hatred without being called to account, and universities maintain anonymous bias-reporting mechanisms that prove highly convenient for personal and political vendettas. Since 2020, Americans have grown accustomed to seeing mobs of “protesters”—helmeted, goggled, and masked to protect both their identities and their bodies—smash and burn things with impunity. And identity politics has absolved members of favored groups from responsibility for their actions, allowing incompetents and malefactors to hide behind accusations of bigotry.

But who, really, are these people kidding? Even the Communist sympathizer Jean-Paul Sartre deplored bad faith when he wrote of mauvaise foi. In Sartre’s existentialist translation of a biblical insight, human selves are composed of “facticity” and “transcendence”—who we are and who we could yet be. Good faith involves acknowledging, not least to ourselves, the reality of what we have been and done and our freedom to repent and change. Bad faith conveniently splits these dimensions of the self. The abusive husband who tells his battered wife, “That’s just who I am,” takes refuge in his supposedly incorrigible facticity. And when, in a moment of contrition, he tells her, “That’s not who I really am,” he hides from responsibility in the mists of transcendence.

Like the wife-beater, the terrorists of Hamas have it both ways, only without trying. They rely on others’ denial of their professed nature. They openly admit that, given the chance, they will repeat October 7 until Israel is annihilated. That’s just who they are: Islamist jihadis animated by the vengeful enmity of Cain and pledged to annihilate the Jews. But that is not who they are according to those who control our social and political institutions. To these people, the good soldiers of Hamas are not victimizers. They are actually the justifiably indignant agents of a victimized people. Though they unleashed the dogs of war by beheading, eviscerating, and burning Israelis alive, it is axiomatic among the power elite, the intelligentsia, and useful idiots of all sorts that the “oppressed” can never be held accountable for their deeds, however foul. This gives Hamas carte blanche for monstrous crimes.

The implacable enemies of the Jews are indemnified by Western governments, the media, and a human-rights regime that effectively deny to Israelis the most fundamental right: existence. To add insult to injury, they make little attempt to hide their bad faith. In Plato’s myth, the ring-wearer took pains to hide his injustice. Today’s Gygeans hardly bother with such niceties. They flaunt their hypocrisy, as if to say: “What are you going to do about it?”

This is, to say the least, a depressing development. In Plato’s myth, the ring of invisibility, deactivated because its collet was turned outward, was originally stripped from an enormous, unclothed corpse. Perhaps our age of Gygeanism is coming to an end, to be replaced by something even worse: naked, irresponsible, unaccountable force.

Photo: AnonymousUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


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