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A while ago, a friend of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership was kind enough to send the organization an opinion piece by a California writer named Eric King, published in the Jewish news magazine The Forward, under the title, "Why Are American Jews So Anti-Gun?"
You can read this fairly surprising article for yourself. It was fairly amazing because The Forward is famously a socialist publication established way back in 1897, to which many a legendary left-wing political theorist -- including Leon Trotsky himself -- has contributed.
King's thesis is simple, straightforward, and no doubt true -- as far as it goes. There's a big difference, he observes, between the typical American Jewish attitude toward gun ownership and that of Israeli Jews. The reason? In the 19th century, and centuries before that, he explains, while urban Jews in Europe resided in ghettos, rural Jews lived in shtetls or small villages scattered here and there.
From time to time, shtetls would be preyed upon by Cossacks -- a warrior people who arguably made up the best light cavalry in the world, or (depending on your point of view) vicious land pirates just like the badguys in The Magnificent Seven -- who would get drunk, storm into a little village on the Russian Steppes, rape its women, and murder any of the men who raised a hand, or even a voice, against them. Although the villagers usually outnumbered the Cossacks, they feared that if they attempted to defend themselves, even successfully, other Cossack groups would come, in greater numbers, and kill them all.
As a result, what King calls a "shtetl mentality" arose, in which the community would simply stand and watch, fatalistically accepting whatever outrages were visited upon it as the cost of their continued survival. For the most part it was Jews afflicted with this shtetl mentality who emigrated to America throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.
For Jews who remained in Europe, however, all of this changed with the Holocaust. Passivity -- the shtetl mentality -- no longer worked as a survival strategy when the first priority of the new oppressors was to wipe the village out whether anybody resisted or not. Many of the Jews who experienced this shocking change first hand ultimately emigrated to Israel, which -- owing largely to the Holocaust -- is now known all over the world for being more than willing to defend itself.
King even goes as far as criticizing Jewish leaders in America -- exactly as JPFO has been doing for nearly a generation -- for the position that they typically take on gun ownership and self-defense, and he notes that Jews are disproportionately represented in the leadership positions of the movement to ban private ownership of firearms.
King's thesis, as fascinating as it may be, begs the question: is there a "ghetto mentality" as well as a shtetl mentality? Not every anti-self-defense American Jew is descended from European country villagers. What is it that the two lifestyles or backgrounds have in common to produce such remarkably similar effects? And what happened in the Warsaw Ghetto -- where a few valiant individuals, initially armed only with handguns, stood up to a full division of Nazi soldiers for about thirty days in 1943 -- that made it different from any other place?
You'll recall that I said King's thesis is valid "as far as it goes". It was a wonderful surprise, and a very good first effort, but there are some significant -- and absolutely vital -- points he didn't cover.
The first is that, as a survival strategy, regardless of the circumstances, the shtetl mentality is morally repulsive and simply stupid. Anyone prepared to stand by and watch his wife, mother, sister, or daughter raped by thugs -- and do nothing -- doesn't have any right to survive. Not only is it a violation of Talmudic law, it is a disgusting act of human sacrifice, out of place in any civilized society.
It may also be a symptom of a mental imbalance, according to psychiatrist Dr. Sarah Thompson. For more about this possibility, see her groundbreaking article, "Raging Against Self-Defense".
It also doesn't work. The Cossacks kept coming back, year after year. But the well-mounted, heavily-armed James-Younger gang, mostly cold-blooded killers and battle-hardened veterans of the War Between the States, never returned to the little village on the American Steppes -- Northfield, Minnesota -- because its "peasants" fought back. The Cossacks may have been brutal, but they weren't stupid. It wouldn't have taken them any time at all to learn that certain villages were simply too expensive to molest and it was easier to go elsewhere.
King implies -- although he never says as much directly -- that arming oneself is a correct response to the threat of genocide. It's too bad he didn't know about the historic corroboration he might have had, simply by going to JPFO.org. Checking out JPFO's homepage, he would have found a little box labeled "See our Gun Control/Genocide Chart". Clicking on it would have taken him to the chart, where there is one of the most amazing tables I've ever seen, listing the nine major occurrences of genocide in the 20th century, from Armenia in 1915 to Rwanda in 1994, along with the victim disarmament laws that made them possible.
The page also features information about the book Death by Gun Control by Aaron Zelman and Richard W. Stevens (with an introduction by James Bovard), and a link to the documentary DVD "Innocents Betrayed".
We strive for a future world in which everyone is armed who wants to be, and there is no more genocide. Meanwhile, the United Nations and others, in their ill-conceived attempts to disarm everyone, are striving -- whether they know it or not -- to make the next genocide happen.
But beyond questions of genocide, there are other aspects to armed self-defense that require exposure. One of them is the way certain areas (like New York City and Washington, D.C.), despite rigid victim disarmament policies -- or actually, because of them -- suffer hideous rates of violent crime, whereas those areas in which it is easy to obtain and carry a firearm have seen the same rates plummet in recent years.
And at the same time that they deny individuals the physical means of self-defense, they have established as a principle of law that no individual has a right to police protection. The police have no legal duty to protect anyone. If you doubt my word, read Dial 911 and Die, by Richard W. Stevens, with an introduction by James Bovard.
Then there is the way authorities at every level of government typically detest the idea of self-defense and do their best to make it impossible, even though every other attempt at fighting crime has conspicuously failed. King needs to learn about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives which actively (and illegally) persecutes gun owners and demonizes those businesses -- which are in fact net social benefactors -- that supply Americans with the means of self-defense.
See: http://www.thegangmovie.com/ for more information on the BATFE.
I commend Eric King for his intelligence, honesty, and courage. No doubt he has already suffered lots of harsh language over his article, and will continue to do so for a long while. Not only has he shattered a beloved orthodoxy, but he is depriving some of their much-cherished victimhood.
I sincerely hope that he will turn to JPFO for the intellectual ammunition -- as well as the moral backup -- that he has earned so well.
A fifty-year veteran of the libertarian movement, L. Neil Smith is the Author of 33 books including The Probability Broach, Ceres, Sweeter Than Wine, And Down With Power: libertarian Policy In A Time Of Crisis. He is also the Publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise, now in its 17th year online.
Visit the Neil Smith archive on JPFO.
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