March 2, 2021

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License to Harm: Deutsch’s Pattern and the Longue Durée of Antisemitism

This paper was delivered at ISGAP in NYC on October 30, 2019. Here’s the video:

Last summer, I attended the annual ISGAP conference on antisemitism in Oxford, where a wide range of people, from scholars to graduate students, gathered to learn about antisemitism and build curricula for teaching it as courses in various fields (social sciences, history, religion, literature, art).

A number of speakers invoked the observation, “it only starts
with the Jews.” In the long run, many, including the Jew-haters themselves,
become victims of the hatreds they set in motion. How many fervent Christians
who believed that the Jews had secretly sent messages to the Antichrist to
destroy the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem (1009) and watched them slit
their own throats rather than convert
, realized that within little
over a decade, their fellow Christians would face
similar, unprecedented and terrifying choice
s of life or death at the hands of ecclesiastical and
royal authorities (1022)? How many Germans
at the Nuremberg rallies (1933-39)
realized what a catastrophe
Hitler would bring down upon their cheering heads? How many Westerners realize
how much they contribute to the collapse of their own, quite remarkable civil
societies (and all the progressive movements they foster) with their indulgence
in antisemitism in its 21st
century avatar
, anti-Zionism?

One evening during the conference, I visited a twitter friend,
the physicist David Deutsch,
who’s writing a book about patterns of irrational thought that sabotage human
creativity and progress (a fine, positive-sum endeavor). He has a chapter on
the Jews in which he identifies what he calls it “the Pattern” concerning the
Jews (He writes it with a capital P; I’ve given it the twitter handle #DeutschsPattern).
The key to people’s behavior in regard to Jews, he argues, is the need to preserve
the legitimacy of hurting Jews, for being Jews
. Maintaining this legitimacy,
and making sure Jews know their condition, Deutsch insists, is much more
important than actually hurting Jews. (In what follows, I quote from a
draft chapter Prof. Deutsch shared with me.)

According to Deutsch, this is a powerful force that spans
civilizations and millennia; and, a mysterious and self-destructive one.

No one yet knows what causes the need to legitimise hurting Jews. But
people who have it – Jews and non-Jews – are typically willing to pay a price
for this: to suffer, and in many cultures even to die for it. And they
confabulate for themselves the same explanations that they tell other people.

Alongside Augustine’s libido dominandi, a libido nocendi? The need to harm…at all costs?

The most obvious case of the Pattern (though not at all the only
or the first), is the Christian accusation against the Jews of deicide. Indeed
Matthew describes the Jews calling for
Christ’s Crucifixion and calling down their sin upon their children:

“Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our
children” (Matthew, 27:25).

It’s a fine formula for
the legitimacy of hurting Jews, as the Crusaders put it over a millennium later
(in revenge for what they did to our lord). And yet both unique and absurd, the
passage conforms closely to the Pattern. Deutsch notes:

In the whole history of human irrationality,
no one except The Jews has ever been accused of that crime. Nor has any mob in history ever been accused of
chanting curses upon their own children
– let alone unanimously.

How many Christians who
have shouted “Christ-killers” have paused to think that even by incarnationalist
, God/Christ did not die on the Cross; or that the
Crucifixion these dastardly Jews demanded, brought salvation to all mankind. Augustine’s
“Witness Doctrine”
nailed down the Pattern: Jews can and should be
hurt; their misery is proof Christians are right. Ironically, the Islamic laws of the
trap Christians in the same perilous and debased condition
they created for the Jews upon whom they had “sat” supersedere for six
centuries. The Pattern is deeply imbedded in the supersessionist

But this is not your ordinary scapegoat. No other actual group,
according to Deutsch, can substitute (or has substituted) for the Jews as the prime,
“legitimate” target of harm over civilizations and millennia. Put differently, “Jews
are the victim of an irrational pattern of thinking about right and wrong,
which targets only Jews and has no close parallels in other irrationalities or
immoralities.” It is as if (in monotheistic cultures at least), the Girardian
mimetic sacrifice that began at the dawn
of humankind
, had locked on to the Jews as chosen victims (something
Girard and his disciples
ironically illustrated in their own work).

For reasons that will become clear below, I’d like to add to
Deutsch’s discussion of the “Pattern,” the term “lethal narrative,” coined by
Nidra Poller in the aughts
. Lethal narratives legitimate hurting the
those about whom they’re told; and
when told about the Jews, they are the very warp and woof of the Pattern. These
lethal stories about Jews behaving in the most depraved, malevolent ways… stories
that “prove” the abiding Jewish hatred for gentiles, all share three main

First, the tales invert reality. Jews are forbidden to kill
or even to eat blood, for example, so the blood libels
depict them deliberately murdering a boy and baking his blood into matzah (today’s Muslim variant, Purim
). Jews are notoriously disputatious, but somehow keep
“on message” for centuries if not millennia, about a massive plot to enslave
mankind. Jews believe the sins of the fathers must not be visited upon
the son, and yet call down the charge of deicide upon their children.

Second, there’s a powerful dimension of projection of the
negative self onto the Jews. The ferocious language of the forged Protocols
– the contempt for the weak, the glorying in ruthless power – is
the voice of the gentile aristocrat, of Hitler, of the Jihadi.

Third, the audience for lethal narratives is completely
inured to their unfounded basis… anything that legitimizes hurting Jews… Credenda
et propaganda: they are to be believed and disseminated.

These explanations are not designed to persuade anybody, and never have to.
[Some] psychological block prevents… participants in the Pattern from noticing
the absurdity of their own explanations and of their willingness to be harmed…

These narratives somehow satisfy their consumers’ willingly
suspended disbelief so well, that no matter how inaccurate if not dishonest they
might be, no matter how much believing them harms the believers, the consumers welcome
and embrace them as “gospel truth.”

with addictions, when deprived, the libido
reasserts itself, with the Jews as the obsessive target. Explaining
the survival and intensification of the Pattern in modern world, Deutsch notes:

[I]t is natural that
both rhetoric and violence against Jews increase whenever the legitimacy of
hurting them is threatened. And the Enlightenment was the greatest challenge to
that legitimacy up to that time.

It certainly works for Weimar
and the Nazis
, for whom the Protocols
were a Warrant for Genocide against the democratic Jews.

After the Nazi orgy of murder, however, Europeans especially,
found themselves unable to openly legitimate hurting the Jews. Hence their
indulgence towards Arab anti-Zionism and its scarcely disguised exterminationist
– a fine proxy for unavowable hostility. If the Pattern
was suspended for diaspora Jews in post-Shoa
democracies (West), at least the pre-modern Muslim world maintained it intact,
if not intensified.

Deutsch, a
, thus offers us an elegant almost mathematic formulation
that focuses on the least visible element in the gruesome history of
(monotheistic) violence against the Jews. It was as if, in surveying the
landscapes of Jew-hatred, he had detected an invisible force which he could not
explain, but whose gravitational field exercised a decisive and (to him)
visible effect over millennia (even before Christianity and well into Islam and
beyond). The (normally few) exterminationists want permission to kill; the
vaster majority want permission to hurt. These “moderates” don’t even have to hurt the Jews… they just want the
legitimacy of doing so affirmed on the level of collective social emotions. The
Jews deserve it; and they should know that, in the eyes of their gentile
neighbors, they deserve it. Indeed some in this majority, like Augustine, may
oppose extermination.

As I puzzled through this deceptively simple formula, I
thought how powerfully it described what happened in 2000 with the collapse of
the Oslo “Peace” Process. With enthusiastic peace-makers convinced they were “this
” to an end to the perennial Arab-Israeli conflict (itself a
messianic goal), the Pattern was threatened in its last redoubt: Arafat was being
asked (in exchange for a state and sovereignty over parts of Jerusalem) to
renounce the Muslim state of enmity with Jews who can protect themselves from

In my analysis, Arafat said “no” at Camp David because it would
violate Arab and Muslim honor
– How unbearable the disgrace of autonomous
infidels, Jews, in [once and future] Dar al Islam! In Deutsch’s analysis,
Arafat was conforming to the demands of the Pattern: He said no to Clinton and
others asking him to renounce the legitimacy of hurting Jews. Indeed,
in the 21st century, notes Deutsch,

Israel has become the primary focus of the
Pattern worldwide because Israel is sovereign. Since WW2, violating
national sovereignty has become the one absolutely illegitimate thing in
world affairs. And, therefore, Jewish sovereignty in Israel is the greatest
ever threat to the legitimacy of hurting Jews. Hence the frantic attempts to
de-legitimise it, even among those who would never actually attempt to destroy

That does accurately “predict” that fine
people like Jostein Gaarder, will get hysterical
the prospect of Jews defending themselves from murderous attacks by enemies who
want to finish the Nazi’s project.

Giving up on the legitimacy of hurting Jews was
categorically unacceptable to Arafat (and, certainly at the time, the vast
majority of the Arab and Muslim world), and apparently, unacceptable to all
those who legitimated his belligerence (Deborah Sontag,
Robert Malley
and Hussein Agha
, Robert Wright, etc. etc.). They all thereby, (pre)served the Pattern. Whereas my
explanation explains why Arafat said “no,” Deutsch’s Pattern explains why so
many in the West, even otherwise sound thinkers,
supposedly having transcended such base, zero-sum, motives, nonetheless supported

At this point, a new
factor further changed the dynamic: the lethal narratives that historically
circulated through more dubious channels of communication (blood libels), often
formally denied by authorities (especially in the democratic public sphere), now
made their way back into the Western mainstream news media (WMSNM), and literally
inundated the West with #FakeNews of the most toxic sort
. It began
September 30, 2000 with the story of Muhammad al Durah, innocent
12-year old boy targeted and killed in his father’s arms by the IDF outside a
settler outpost in Gaza.

It was a new post-modern
blood libel
, first of 21st century, first spread by a
self-identified Jew(ish journalist), this time featuring not a Christian, but a
Palestinian Muslim boy as the sacrificial victim. Despite the wealth
of evidence this was a fake
, the narrative was endorsed nearly
unanimously by the Western media as news. Few had the resources to
contradict a consensus among those who were there, and who were trained professionally
to bear witness to their times; and even fewer
in position of authority would listen
. Instead, it became the first
(and perhaps the most potent) Icon of Hatred
in the 21st century.

And like previous potent lethal
narratives, the story of Al Durah restored the legitimacy of hurting Jews
almost universally, especially among Muslims. In
France, for example,
when the cry “death
to the Jews
” went up in Place de la République among French Muslims
(for the first but
not the last time
since the Nazi era), none of the French
progressives representing anti-racist, anti-hate NGOs, objected; nor did the journalists
present report it. Inflamed by the tale and the unopposed cry, Muslim banlieusards
began attacking Jews
in the streets and in
the schools
, and the French public sphere legitimated
that violence
on the basis of their newsfeed: “Given what your
brothers do to their cousins [sic], what can you expect?”

Indeed, some (many?)
seized on the footage as a way to escape Holocaust
. “This death erases, replaces the picture of the boy in the
Warsaw Ghetto,” intoned France1 Anchor, Catherine Nay shortly after it appeared.
It’s hard to get more morally disoriented, even if the images of that “death”
weren’t staged. And so European infidels clung fiercely to their irrational
poisonous Muslim tale even
as it strengthened their worst enemies
. Any effort to intervene (CAMERA, Honest-Reporting)
was treated as an obnoxious intervention by “tribal” Israel-firsters keeping
good people from their soma.

(the former) Dar al Islam
this lethal narrative had the same explosive impact as pre-modern blood libels.
It provoked ferocious
Palestinian hatred
and violence targeting the Jews: suicide terror rapidly
spread, now on the wings of 80% (vs. 25%) public approval
(January 2001-April 2002). Indeed, the double prohibition on suicide
and mass murder was overridden
, even in the highest and most
conservative places (Al Ahram), in order to target the Jews. The Muslim
denunciations of 9-11 in the Muslim world made it clear: not any infidel
civilian, only Jews are legitimate targets. No one, no
matter how
moderate they seemed, could stand before his fellow
Muslims and argue
that it was wrong to kill Israeli civilians

And, in conformity with Deutsch’s
Pattern, making it legitimate to attack Jews legitimizes attacking others. Historically,
Muslims leaders discouraged the practice of takfīrism, of
declaring a fellow Muslim an apostate and blasphemer, and therefore worthy of
death. Jihadi ideologues, like Muslim
Brotherhood’s Sayid Qutb
, had argued for that approach, earning
himself a death sentence from “secular” Arab “nationalist” Nasser (1966). Bin
Laden made it a weapon of assault on such Arab leaders, as did Hizb-ut-Tahrir
on Muslims assimilating into democracies. Al Durah was, among other weapons,
one Bin Laden used against Arab leaders too
cowardly to avenge his death
. Less than five years later, Muslim
civilians – a wedding party – was hit by “martyrs.” Twenty years later, after
ISIS, this license to kill fellow Muslims has gone mainstream: (too) many now believe
it legitimate – nay praiseworthy, like martyrdom operations – to hurt, indeed
kill, Muslims who did not pursue the cause with sufficient zeal, especially those
who accept the rules of democracy

Nor did Western
journalists draw back in horror at what they had incited with their lethal
journalism. Isi Lemberg,
a Jewish CNN field editor, told me that when they covered the campaign of
suicidal attacks (2001-2003), foreign journalists showed no empathy for the Israeli
civilian victims. It was as if, somehow, the massacred Jews deserved their fate.
Apparently these journalists, systematically
bearing false witness to their times
, had consumed the very lethal
narratives they propagated: hurting Jews – in this case, Israelis – was in
their eyes, somehow   legitimate.

The news media repeated
their lethal performance eighteen months later with their reporting of the Jenin
in April 2002, giving full credibility to Palestinian
claims that proved to be
the exact inverse of reality
: instead of hundreds shot in mass
graves (Nazi-style), it was 50+ killed, 80% of them combatants, in almost three
weeks of urban warfare (a record worthy of DiMaggio), not to mention the 23 IDF
lives lost to minimizing enemy civilian casualties. But the news
media clung stubbornly to their lethal coverage
, few corrections, fewer apologies.
And they have continued, with the occasional begrudging nod to the “Zionist”
watchdogs who bully them so, right down to the present
coverage of the Gaza border

So consistently now, for
two nearly full decades, the Western
news media have
either confirmed or presented as plausible, and with
very little investigation, Arab reports of Israelis behaving in ways that
contradicted everything about Israel (but accurately depicted their accusers):
that they target children, that they engage in mass murder, that they hate
others and want blood revenge. By the mid-aughts (00s), on the wings of such
lethal coverage a near majority in some European countries believed Israel was
committing genocide
against the Palestinians
– an claim tenaciously asserted by
many to this day

The startling fact that Israeli Arabs,
despite all the problems they and Israelis pose for each other, have many more
rights, freedoms, and opportunities for empowerment, than Arab Muslim
“citizens” have in any country where
Arab Muslims rule
, cannot stand in the Pattern’s way. The lethal
narratives that legitimate hurting Jews trumps the real world: “Israelis are
the new Nazis
,” shout the neo-Nazi Caliphaters
and the Western
in unison.  “We are
,” Jeremy Corbyn shouts
alongside Muslims striving
for the global
. Israelis violate Palestinian “human rights,” shout Western
and the PA that denies
rights to its own refugees

Even the Israelis were
caught up in the Pattern. They proved remarkably reluctant to challenge the
narratives (especially al Durah). Generally, Israeli officials considered the
claim that the Al Durah footage was staged, a conspiracy theory they
wanted nothing to do with
. So they let Philippe Karsenty fight it
out by himself in
French court
against the libel’s disseminator, Charles Enderlin,
working to
save his honor at all costs
. One Israeli spokeswoman, asked if,
before she went in front of the cameras to defend the IDF, she would like a
team of experts examining footage claiming to depict an IDF atrocity for signs
of staging (like Al Durah, like
Gaza Beach
), responded, “no.” She preferred
making apologies

At the time, I thought it
was a closed circle of dhimmitude: the press was afraid of
, who were afraid of the Israelis, who were afraid of
the press. From Deutsch’s view, everyone, willy-nilly, conformed to the Pattern.
“There is no reason to expect Jews to be immune from acquiring [the Pattern].
It would be puzzling if they were.” As one BU student asked about coverage of
the Al Durah story, “why does Ha-aretz
sound like a Palestinian paper
?” One might also ask, why does Gideon
Levy accuse his own people
of their enemies’ sins? Taking in the
enormity of the Pattern’s gravitational pull even on those most obviously hurt
by it (IDF), one begins to understand why no one stopped the Emperor from going
out naked in public. Except in this case, the Israeli officials held up the
train of the most potent icon of hatred on the 21st
century, internet-driven global stage.

Evidence has little
impact on the Pattern. Overall, journalists continue in their principled
credulity for Palestinian lethal narratives, and their contempt for Israeli
. It is as if they were saying: “Don’t ask us to resist the
Pattern, even if our professional code demands it.” Thus, journalists do not
tell us about the genocidal discourse that dominates
the Palestinian public sphere
, but do tell us, as news, the
lethal narratives Palestinians leaders tell their people to legitimate
that genocide
. I thought it was proleptic dhimmitude, infidel
leaders submitting before conquest. But it also conforms rigidly to a
Pattern that long predates even the earliest dhimmi. Today, the Umma in
particular (and because of Israel), is a limbic captive to the Pattern,
while Westerners seem locked in a wild orbit, unable to escape the force’s sudden

In the aughts I thought,
“As soon as they realize it’s hurting them, they’ll wake up.” People may wish
ill on others, but they don’t wish it on themselves; the whole point of Girard’s
sacrifice is to avoid being that sacrifice. After all, the danger posed by
Caliphater ambitions is all so painfully obvious: if one looks at how Jihadis
treat Muslim liberals – murtad(apostasy), takfir
(excommunication), both punishable by death – you know what’s in store for
western infidels (especially the transgressive progressives), if the
Caliphaters ever have the chance to impose order. No, responds the progressive,
we rather prefer to lament Israeli abuse of sovereignty and militate for giving
sovereignty to their enemies.

What the Pattern explains
here, is how someone who earnestly deplores the Shoa and welcomes memorials to Nie
, can, nevertheless, conform to the Pattern of putting Jews on notice
that it’s legitimate to hurt them. Everything in measure. Indeed, that is the
core of the medieval common (mis)understanding of Augustine’s allegedly
Witness Doctrine, which basically holds that “whatever
Christians do to inflict harm on Jews, they must not slaughter them all,
because we supersessionists need their misery as witnesses to our superiority.”
So, yes, to hurting Jews, which makes us feel good, and no, to exterminating
them, which deprives us of our whipping boy.

The comfort provided by
the Pattern seems so great, that these “moderates” will not be deterred even
when it means keeping exterminationist company (Corbyn/Livingstone/Galloway and Hamas;
INN and SJP).
The very same people who say, “let’s
not talk about Islamic extremism
because it confirms the Jihadis
narrative of a ‘war between civilizations’,” seem to be compelled to the tales
that incite wild hatreds
among their greatest (unacknowledged) enemy
in that (denied)
war. The very folk who say an earnest “yes” to a two-state solution, see no
evidence that such a move will strengthen the war-mongers. And the Pattern goes

If it is legitimate to hurt Jews anytime, then in grievous times, you can hurt
them grievously. When believers set forth on the “First Crusade” (really
the Final Apocalyptic Battle
), some slaughtered the Jews to avenge
the Crucifixion, others because they believed they were in apocalyptic battle
with the forces of the Jewish Antichrist. There’s a well-worn path from tales
that legitimize harming Jews to actually harming them… sometimes savagely,
sometimes relentlessly, sometimes both. 
The earnest hope and promise that Nie Wieder! – never again will
something as horrendous as the Holocaust happen – has difficulty resisting the
call of the paranoid

And once killers have
permission to kill Jews, it is a only a matter of time before they kill others:
killing those who get in the way of killing the Jews, killing whoever’s there
when killing the Jews is done, killing others when you can’t kill the Jews,
killing anyone you can. The suicide bombing of Israeli civilians that overturned
centuries-old Islamic rulings against both suicide and targeting civilians
rapidly spread from killing Jews to other infidels (2001 US, 2002 Bali, 2004
Madrid, 2005 London), and from infidels to fellow Muslims (2005
. Today, Jihadis kill hundreds of thousands of civilians a
year in suicide terror attacks, and the vast majority of their victims are

So far, not so good.
Somehow, in the 21st century, the Pattern that the post-War West had
formally rejected (and upon which the new peaceful order of UN, Geneva
Conventions, Rights of Man are founded), returned with a vengeance in a bizarre
marriage of pre-modern sadism (Muslim lethal narratives about democracies) and post-modern
(apologies to the resentful accusers).

That marriage locked in the
most extreme version of the Pattern, already so powerful in the Muslim public
sphere, where wildly popular blood libel soap-operas featured on TV during
Ramadan, and people could without fear of objection, at once deny
that the Holocaust had happened
(Jews cannot be victims) and promise
to finish the job
(Jews must be the victims).

And the West seems
helpless to resist, even when that means the possibility of a Juden-rein
(Western) Europe
where Jews have been for over a millennium. We’re
in a spiral of widening gyres, and in every iteration, those gyres favor the
Caliphaters (who thrive on authoritarian chaos) and weaken the West (which
thrives on demotic

Killed by our own
stupidity? Our denied adherence to the Pattern? How can we fight this?

*          *          *

The first thing is to
recognize the non-rational nature of this need. Evidence of narrative
dishonesty, malice and projection on the part of the tale-bearers carries little
weight with avid consumers; evidence that repeating these lethal narratives in
public systematically degrades the public sphere (e.g. academia and BDS) gives
little pause; evidence that legitimating harm to Jews will eventually – these
days rapidly – bite back, seems beyond the woke ken. “No, we justice warriors are
following our POC leaders, speaking
the voice of victimhood
, to redemption.

But you can’t develop
treatment for a problem you misdiagnose. For this, Deutsch’s Pattern offers an
excellent starting point. Here is a wake-up call for those who wish to really
be woke: start identifying the Pattern in the discourse you hear around you
(and from you): the moral and empirical absurdities like “what
choice do they have
?” (about suicide terror) and “Gaza
is an open-air prison
”, or “well
Israelis have killed a lot of Palestinians
” (to a Jew in Paris
saying the Jews are targets). Acknowledge how something as ludicrous as Turkeys
for Thanksgiving could be compellingly meaningful to a “Gay for Palestine.”

For those who think in
terms of cognitive
, the Pattern offers a key forcefield that we cannot afford to
ignore. What might seem reasonable (e.g. instinct of self-preservation), may
not reflect the lay of the land. It’s like getting an elevation map for troops
moving in mountainous

At the same time, we
certainly can and should try to explain the Pattern. I personally would begin
by combining Girard’s
, with honor-shame
, and (their monotheist avatar) supersessionist
. That near-invisible,
near pervasive sin, envy is a powerful
unconscious social motor
. Maybe a reading of Freud’s reflections
after WWI on Thanatos
could open a discussion of this libido nocendi and why it targets Jews
above all.

As for how to pull out of
our current deaatspiral… I’d say, we need to love life enough to have the
courage to protect and defend it, rather than loving ego so much we’d give our (and
others’) lives away just in order to look good (get honor) in the eyes of
courtiers who are sending a naked emperor into battle.

Does this generation –
our generation – have it in us to find that strength?

Can people identify and accept
help from Jews who are not prisoners of the Pattern? Rather than race to the ressentiment
littered depths of as-a-Jew
, willing to publicly rebuke their own people (and even join
hands with their own people’s worst enemies) in their virtue-signaling
? Should we honor
such devotion
to the Pattern? Or flee it?

Who have the courage to
break the limbic grip of the Pattern? And how many will there be?

Could it maybe become a
contagious outbreak of civil sanity? At least, thanks to David Deutsch, we know
considerably better what we’re dealing with here, at this troubled
dawn of the third millennium

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