Goodbye to all that! — An American Jew’s life in non-Christian Asia
[This commentary was originally written in 2002 and updated in early 2010.]
CHIAYI CITY, Taiwan — In a magazine article a few years back, a British expatriate in New York by the name of John Derbyshire wrote that a lingering form of antisemitism is alive and well in the United States — and always will be. Nothing new there, but his words were startling.
Derbyshire, who is not Jewish, wrote in an earlier piece in the rightwing National Review Online, when Joseph Lieberman was named as Al Gore’s running mate in the presidential election that year: “My own impression … is that Jews are widely, though very mildly, disliked in America. It may indeed be kosher to joke about the powerful; but it is all too human to resent them. In the circles I move in — working-
and middle-class Americans — antisemitic comments are quite common between intimates, though everybody understands they are de trop in any less restricted circles.”
Derbyshire comments about Jews being “widely, though mildly disliked in America” struck a personal note with me, because I have been living in Asia for the last 17 years and have found life here — in both Japan and Taiwan — to be completely free of the ugly elements of public and social antisemitism. In fact, it so enjoyable to live in
non-Western, non-Christian societies that are free of antisemitism that I plan to live in Asia for the rest of my life and never return to the US. Goodbye to all that.
I remember, when I first penned this essay in 2002, that a small epidemic of “Jew-dislike” seemed to have made the rounds of the US at that time, spawned by several controversies, both in print and on the Internet.
First, there was cartoonist Johnny Hart’s mildy offensive — to Jews and many Christians — Easter cartoon “B. C.,” that caused a major sensation when it was published, and in some cases not published, in April. Then there was Washington-based conservative Paul Weyrich’s Easter commentary online that repeated the old canard about the Jews being responsible for the death of Jesus. Then there was the New York Times Magazine story that related the anti-Jewish remarks of two NBA
Derbyshire had noted in another NRO essay: “A cold-eyed view of human
nature is always wisest, and my own cold eye tells me that antisemitism will be with us for as long as the Jews themselves.” He may be speaking the truth, at least as far as life in the Western [read “Christianized”] world goes.
Of course, Jews have never had it so good in America, as the pundits like to say, and there is little overt antisemitism anywhere in North America. But to be honest, Jews are widely disliked — though “verymildly,” as Derbyshire put it — in America and always will be. It will never change.
A hundred years from now, Jews will remain “widely … though mildly” disliked in America. Why? For a host of complex reasons that define the very essence of Western Christendom, but which boil down to one thing: the Christian Gospels are in their very theological essence anti-Jewish and therefore anti-semitic. Sorry, but that’s the truth!
Living in non-Western, non-Christian cultures as I have for the last17 years here in Asia, I have found that social antisemitism simply does not exist in places like Japan, Thailand, Taiwan or South Korea.
Asian cartoonists do not draw Easter cartoons that show a menorah morphing into a cross. Asian writers do not publish online commentaries about so-called “Jewish cabals” in Hollywood or on Wall Street. Asian parents do not teach their children ancient myths about Jewish “Christ killers,” and they don’t speak at the dinner table in undertones of polite dislike for “those Jews.”
In Asia, Jews are an enigma, yes, an historical enigma, but they are not the object of theological scorn. It is so refreshing to live here. I have never been told by a Japanese or a Taiwanese person that I will go to “hell” because of who I am — or that my Jewish beliefs are wrong. Asians do not “think” this way.
It’s amazing — to me, a true 60-year-old innocent abroad — that when one moves to a land where the old Christian myths and hatreds and prejudices do not exist, and where neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament are taken at face value by the populace, how quickly quirky antisemitism and its ugly ramifications — for both Christiansand Jews — disappears, ghost-like, lost in the mists of ancient and
modern European and Middle Eastern history.
It is so refreshing to live here in Asia. As a Jew, as a human being, as an American. It’s the way life was meant to be.
Danny Bloom, a 1971 Tufts graduate and a native of Springfield, Mass., has lived in Japan and Taiwan for the last 18 years. The above oped commentary received over 5,000 page views on the Internet over the past 8 years.