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JUDAISM AS A GROUP EVOLUTIONARY STRATEGY

Reviewed by John Hartung

A People that Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy
Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers,1994, Kevin MacDonald.
Review by John Hartung, PhD.

Mortimer Ostow just published Myth and Madness: The Psychodynamics of Antisemitism, a recent contribution to the genre of literature that explains anti-Semitism as a mental illness whose epidemiology can be understood through “psychoanalytic interpretation of ... specific antisemitic myths, including pre-Christian early and medieval Christian, 'racial' and post-modern Muslim antisemitism ... the pogrom mentality, including the Nazi phenomenon, antisemitic fundamentalism, and black antisemitism.”

In distinction, Kevin MacDonald recently published A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy, which is a prelude to Separation and its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism. In these two works, only the first of which can be considered here, MacDonald argues that the worldwide, age-old phenomenon of anti-Semitism is not a disease state vectored by myths, but is instead what should be expected given the nature of human intergroup competition and the competitive attributes of Judaism.

Love Thy Neighbor

Like all human groups that compete long enough to be counted, Judaism entails codes of behavior that curtail competition within the group in order to facilitate competition with other groups. In addition, Judaism added the ultimate foundation for cooperation: “Love thy neighbor as thy self” (from Leviticus 19:18). MacDonald reviews a prodigious number of secondary sources, authored almost entirely by Jewish historians, which substantiate the argument that Judaism's moral code stopped at the border line-that this apex of morality was meant, and has for practical purposes been taken to mean, “love your coreligionist as yourself.”

Rather than review MacDonald's extensive and competent review of this literature, I think it would be more useful to show that this argument can also be derived from primary sources. Turning to the Torah (first five books of the Bible), if we want to know who Moses thought his god meant by neighbor, the love law should be put into context. The minimum context that makes sense is the biblical verse from which the law is so frequently extracted. Here are four translations of Leviticus 19:18:

1) “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”-first Jewish Publication Society translation (JPS, 1917) and the King James Version (KJV, 1611)

2) “You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”-Revised Standard Version (RSV, 1952).

3) “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself.”-TANAKH, most recent ]PS translation (1985).

In context, neighbor meant “the children of thy people,” “the sons of your own people,” “your countrymen”- in other words, fellow in-group members. Specific laws that curtail competition within the group follow from the love law and can be better understood by keeping the in-group definition of neighbor in mind. Consider, for example, the proto-legal portion of the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:17-21; JPS '17 & KJV):

Thou shalt not kill.
Neither shalt thou commit adultery.
Neither shalt thou steal..
Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Neither shall you covet your neighbor's wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his manservant, or his
maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's.

--and keep in mind that there is no punctuation in the original. That is, the scrolls from which these words were translated have no periods, no commas, and no first-word capitalization. Decisions about where sentences and paragraphs begin and end are courtesy of the translator. Accordingly, instead of being written as five separate paragraphs of one sentence each, Deuteronomy 5:17-21 could be translated:

Thou shalt not kill, neither shalt thou commit adultery, neither shalt thou steal, neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbor. Neither shall you covet your neighbor's wife-and you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's.

Here the question “Thou shalt not kill who?” is answered “Thou shalt not kill thy neighbor. . . the children of thy people, your countrymen, your fellow in-group member” (see Hartung ms 1 for confirmation of this interpretation of the Talmud).

An Endogamous Light Unto The Nations

Turning to the implications of in-group morality for out-groups, MacDonald reviews the “apologia intended to portray Judaism as universalist” (pp. 105, 62-63):

“The idea that Jewish separatism fundamentally derives from a moral, even altruistic, stance has been common throughout Jewish history. Baron (1952a,12) notes that an integral aspect of the ideology of Judaism has been that “segregation is necessary to preserve at least one exemplary group from mixing with the masses of others” who are viewed as morally inferior. Separatism not only is motivated by ethical reasons, but involves altruism: In being Jews, they were “living the hard life of an exemplar.” And by serving as a morally pure exemplar, “they were being Jews for all men.”

This sense that Judaism represents a moral ideal to the rest of mankind “a light unto the nations” (Isa. 42:6) -has been common throughout Jewish intellectual history, reflected for example, in Philo, who depicts Israel “as a nation destined to pray for the world so that the world might be delivered from evil and participate in what is good”' (see McKnight 1991, 39); or “the Jewish nation is to the whole world what the priest is to the state” (McKnight 1991, 46). This theme also emerged as a prominent aspect of the 19th-century Jewish Reform movement and remains prominent among modern Jewish secular intellectuals. Moore (1927-30, 1:229) notes that in the ancient world the ideology contained the thought that “Israel is not only a prophet of the true religion but its martyr, its witness in suffering; it bears uncomplaining the penalty that others deserved, and when its day of vindication comes and God greatly exalts it, the nations which despised it in the time of its humiliation will confess in amazement that through its sufferings they were saved.”

I recently received a letter from Rabbi Epharim Z. Buchwald decrying “The Silent Holocaust” (Hartung ms 21). Rabbi Buchwald's National Jewish Outreach Program has been reaching out to individuals who might make a financial contribution to bolster Jewish endogamy. The pitch goes like this:

“Concentration camps and gas chambers aren't the only ways to exterminate the Jewish people ... intermarriage can accomplish the same evil end. What you and I do in the next few years will make the difference between a thriving American Jewry and a tragedy truly beyond comprehension ... Never before has the future of our people been so threatened... Can we do anything to stop this 'Silent Holocaust?' The answer is yes... Please join us in this life-and-death battle today.'”

MacDonald addresses this bedrock of separatism (pp. 102-103):

“Once again, as in the ‘light unto the nations' concept so common throughout Jewish history, the proposed moral nature of Judaism is utilized as a rationale for maintaining the perpetuation of the group: “The identification of Judaism with applied morality has been a primary Jewish civil religious strategy for vindicating both its embrace of America and its support of Jewish group perpetuation” (Woochier 1986, 28). The belief gradually emerged that the Jewish community qua Jewish community had an important contribution to make to American life, and the Jewish tradition had helped to shape America's values because of their moral civilizing influences on American life. Within the confines of Judaism as a civil religion,

“The survival of the Jewish people is a consuming passion because the Jewish people and the Jewish community becomes a value in its own right, a crystallization of all that is being defended” (Woocher 1986, 76) ... Woocher's (1986) data indicate that the leaders of civil Judaism in the 1970s had a strong sense of Jewish ethnicity and were greatly concerned about Jewish intermarriage. A strong sense of ethnic pride and a sense of Judaism as making a unique, irreplaceable contribution to human culture are characteristic of these individuals, as indicated by agreement with the following statements:

“The Jewish contribution to modern civilization has been greater than that of any other people” (over 60% agree or strongly agree); “The Jewish people is the chosen people” (over 60% agree or strongly agree). Regarding the latter, Woocher (186, 1145) notes, “Civil Judaism, like many modern Jews, often finds the traditional language of chosenness, and the implications of that language discomforting. For this reason, it is possible to lose sight of how critical the myth of chosenness really is, to fail to recognize that it is the glue which holds together the pragmatic ethos and the transcendent vision of civil Judaism.”

In addition, 72 percent agreed that intermarriage was a “very serious” problem, and an additional 21 percent viewed it as “moderately serious.” . . . There was also a rejection of the melting pot conceptualization of the United States in favor of a cultural pluralism model developed originally by Horace Kallen (1915, 1924) early in the century as a mechanism for preserving Jewish separatism within American society.”

“Writing of the 1970s in the United States, Sachar (1992, 688) states that 'the Jewish family's principal 'religious’ ‘philosophic’ concern was simply the ingroup marriage of its children.' (p. 103).”

MacDonald cites and broadens this observation to conclude that (p. 64):

“From an evolutionary perspective, in the absence of actual genetic assimilation one is left to conclude that this Jewish sense of moral and religious idealism, which results in genetic segregation, is in fact a mask for a self-interested evolutionary strategy aimed at promoting the interests of a kinship group that maintains its genetic integrity during a diaspora.”

Right, but again, MacDonald's perceptive perception of “The light unto the nations,” with all of its self-aggrandizing revisionism, can be gleaned from the original (Hartung ms I). Moses may not have known about natural selection, but he transmitted his god's explicit commandment to kill and steal from outgroup members as a recurrent major theme. Two distinct policies were put into effect. First, all members of nations located in the land that was to become Israel were to be killed outright. Subsequently, people in surrounding nations were to be killed unless they agreed to become subservient to Israel. Both policies are given in one passage of Deuteronomy (20:10-18:RSV), with instructions regarding people outside of Israel given first:

“When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if its answer to you is peace and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; and when the LORD your God gives it into your hand you shall put all its males to the sword, but the women and the little ones, the cattle, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourselves; and you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the LORD your God has given you. Thus you shall do to all the cities which are very far from you, which are not cities of the nations here.

But in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the LORD your God has commanded; that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices which they have done in the service of their Gods, and so to sin against the LORD your God.”

The Light Unto The Nations was to be Israel, and centuries of effort by Christian and Jewish exegetical spin-doctors aside, nations outside of the genocide zone were to be caused to see the light in consequence of being conquered by Israel. Those nations would then realize that the god of Israel is stronger than their gods, and most important, they would then worship Israel's god through Israel--that is, by paying tribute to Israel. This ultimate in-group fantasy is explicated throughout the Bible, but is perhaps put most pointedly in Psalms and Isaiah (RSV):

“Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. [Psalms 2:8-9] ... And the [diaspora Jewish] peoples will take them and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them in the LORD's land as male and female slaves ... [Isaiah 14:2] ... Thus says the LORD: “The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Ethiopia, and the Sabeans, men of stature shall come over to you and be yours, they shall follow you; they shall come over in chains and bow down to you. They will make supplication to you, saying: 'God is with you only, and there is no other, no god besides him.' [Isaiah 45:14] ... I will give you as a light unto the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. [Isaiah 49:6] ... Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes round about, and see; they all gather together, they come to you ... you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and rejoice; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you... Foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you... your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut; that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations. with their kings led in procession. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste. (Isaiah 60:1-12)

A Diffuse Light Unto The Nations

MacDonald details how this ideology was transformed during the Jewish Diaspora. A unified, overtly competitive group was broken up into hundreds of small, covertly competitive groups. Consider just one thread of this cloth - the profession of tax farming. Throughout the Dark Ages, much of the world into which Jewish groups dispersed was divided into small princedoms, sheikdoms, fiefdoms, etc. The primary responsibility of such governments was to collect enough taxes to maintain a large enough army to prevent adjacent governments from collecting the same taxes. But most of the heads of such governments could barely read or write, let alone keep accounts and figure compound interest. This created an entrepreneurial opportunity that was dominated by Jews. The pitch was irresistible: “Listen Prince, according to my estimate, the folks around here owe you big bucks, but you don't really know which ones and how much. I'll figure that out and collect it if you will put your enforcers at my disposal and give me a modest percentage of the take.” (Hartung ms 3).

More generally, as put by Israel Shahak (1994), for hundreds of years subsequent to the apex of their influence over the governments of Spain, England, France, Italy, and some parts of the Muslim world, Jewish intermediaries 'most important social function’ in Prussia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and western Russia æwas to mediate the oppression of the peasants on behalf of the nobility and the Crown... Many Jews throughout Poland, but especially in the east, were employed as the direct supervisors and oppressors of the enserfed peasantry - as bailiffs of whole manors (invested with the landlord's full coercive powers) or as lessees of particular feudal monopolies such as the corn mill, the liquor still and public house (with the right of armed search of peasant houses for illicit stills) or the bakery, and as collectors of customary feudal dues of all kinds. In short, in eastern Poland, under the rule of the nobles (and of the feudalised church, formed exclusively from the nobility) the Jews were the immediate exploiters of the peasantry (pp. 53, 62, 63).”

Reactive Racism

History is replete with the consequences of that form of reactive racism which we call anti-Semitism, and MacDonald is in the vanguard of those who will broaden our understanding of its origins. The ancient Light unto the nations burned most brightly during Solomon's reign over the entire Middle East. According to the original account, “the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred and sixty-six talents” (First Kings 10:14, RSV), or about 60,000 pounds - three times the amount that Attila was able to extort from Rome per annum before he sacked it.

Those figures are exaggerated, but the point remains, and contemporary figures need no embellishment. The modern state of Israel receives the monetary equivalent of more than 625,000 pounds of gold per year, primarily from the United States. Isaiah's dream has come true and it rests on two pillars: (1) most of the citizens of most donor nations are Christian or Jewish, such that, the former religion being a form of the latter, to varying degrees they believe in a god who gave Palestine to the Jews, and (2) the most enormous act of reactive racism ever perpetrated, namely the Holocaust, has been presented, and so is perceived, as having been the psychotic swelling up of a form of evil that resides disproportionately in the souls of Goyim -and so they have been induced to irrationally atone for their special evil by enabling descendant and nondescendant coreligionists of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust to systematically purloin the land and property of people who were not those victims' persecutors. MacDonald's work will help us chip away at this second pillar, and that makes it very good work indeed.

John Hartung, Ph.D.
SUNY at Brooklyn
Brooklyn, NY

Note: This review was pulled from Usenet on July 17, 1996 and is the review published in the July 1995 issue of Ethology and Sociobiology (16, pp. 335-342) that created such a stir recently.
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Kevin MacDonald: John Hartung’s review emphasizes a central theme of my book’that between-group competition is central to understanding historical Judaism. However, he also develops his ideas on the linkages among the history of Judaism as a competitive group, the Holocaust as a reaction to Judaism, and the roles that Christian perceptions of Judaism and the moral capital created by the Holocaust play in legitimizing Israel in its current struggle with the Palestinians and other Arab populations. Hartung’s review was considered anti-Semitic by some and resulted in charges of censorship when the publisher, Elsevier, refused to publish an addendum* to the review written by Hartung and intended to calm the passions raised by his review. The main public forum for this controversy was HBES-L, the internet discussion group of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society. The events surrounding Hartung’s review were recounted in an article entitled “Publisher Draws Censorship Charge” by Constance Holden in Science 273, p. 177, July 12, 1996.** These events were also the subject of an article entitled “Unnatural Selection” by Daniel Zalewski in Lingua Franca, pp. 10-12, November, 1996.
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* (Addendum to Review of MacDonald's A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy
John Hartung, Ph.D.

Reaction to my review of Kevin MacDonald's A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy has prompted me to recognize several inadequacies in the expression of my opinions (Hartung 1995a, MacDonald 1994). I thank the editors of Ethology and Sociobiology for this opportunity to explain my point of view in a different way.

Regarding the Holocaust, clarification might be added by imagining that we can look at earth through a lens which causes people of different ethnic groups (or in-groups) to glow with an identifying color, such that if the Dutch were green, for example, Holland would be intensely green and there would be a fading green glow around its boarders -- a glow that would disperse into isolated specks of green as distance from Amsterdam increases.

Using this lens to view Europe and Western Russia in 1940, there would be two unique colors -- those of Jews and Gypsies. These groups would be different in the pattern of their dispersal, with the absence of a central location that is proportionate to their overall size, and the presence of many small glowing circles scattered far and wide. My contention is that if we knew a war would soon break out near the center of Europe a -- war that would kill about 60 million people -- an understanding of human nature and the nature of human ethnocentricity would enable us to predict which in-groups would suffer most simply on the basis of the intensity of their light and its pattern of dispersion. To put a point on that, armed with knowledge of the destructive power of ethnocentrism, it would be clear that the largest concentrations of killing would occur at the Japan/mainland Asia interface (25 million+) and at the German/Russian interface (20 million+). It would also be clear that Jews and Gypsies would suffer most relative to their size.

The question might then arise, “how did these two decentralized groups come to have such vulnerable dispersal patterns?” I think the dispersal pattern itself is not unique. Instead, I think that the maintenance of the diffuse pattern is unique. That is, many groups have been shattered and dispersed, but nearly all of them lost their smaller circles of light through processes of extinction at the hands of, and assimilation into, surrounding groups. So how did Jews manage to maintain a widely dispersed pattern for two millennia? This is the central subject of Kevin MacDonald's book. He documents the cycles of success followed by victimization and recurrent reactive racism which account for both Jewish survival and resistance to assimilation.

Reactive racism is the spiral by which contiguous groups increase their in-group ethos in reaction to other groups' in-group ethos (more centrally the subject of MacDonald's second book, Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an evolutionary theory of anti-Semitism; in press; see also Shahak 1994). Such spirals usually cause smaller groups to be extinguished/assimilated. MacDonald reviews how the Jews have managed to hang on. In short (too short, sorry), they have done it the old fashioned way -- through much hard work directed toward that end, with a particular emphasis on education and intellectual prowess. That is the HOW. The WHY goes back to one of the world's 4 or 5 most powerful memes -- the ideology of the Bible. MacDonald details some of this in his book, and I added some specifics in my review (see also Hartung, 1995b).

As to the charge of anti-Semitism that has been leveled against me, if anti-Semitism is defined as prejudice against people who are Jewish, I am not anti-Semitic by any stretch of the imagination. One can have respect for people of a religious persuasion while questioning the persuasions of their religion. However, if one's definition of anti-Semitism applies to those who make critical inquiry into fundamental tenets of Judaism, I could be labeled anti-Semitic. What matters to me, in this regard, is that the facts I put forth be true and that conclusions drawn follow from those facts. These concerns are irrelevant to persons for whom religion is sacrosanct. Of such persons I ask only that they not go away with the impression that I am anti-Semitic, by their definition, without being concomitantly anti-Christian (Hartung, 1995b).

To readers who think of religions as sets of ideas, and to whom all ideas are subject to challenge, I apologize for, and deeply regret, shortcomings in my presentation which have caused offense.

Hartung, J. Review of A people That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy (see MacDonald, below). Ethology and Sociobiology 16:335-342, 1995a.
Hartung, J. Love thy neighbor: the evolution of in-group morality. Skeptic 3:4:86-99, 1995b.
MacDonald, K. A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy, Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1994.
Shahak, I. Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, London: Pluto Press, 1994.
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** Science, Vol. 273, 12 July, 1996, p. 177.

Publisher Draws Censorship Charge
by Constance Holden

Evanston, IL--Book reviews in scholarly journals don't usually make much of a splash. But a review published in the journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES) led to charges of anti-Semitism against the author, followed by allegations of censorship against the journal's publisher, which in turn have led to a new publishing contract with a guarantee of editorial independence.

The flap started more than a year and a half ago with the publication of a book by Kevin MacDonald, a psychologist at California State University, Long Beach, entitled A People that shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy. MacDonald describes how Judaism has fostered “cultural and natural selection for intelligence and other traits” as well as an insular lifestyle that has made it vulnerable to anti-Semitism. The editors of HBES's journal, Ethology & Sociobiology, published by New York- based Elsevier Science Inc., asked John Hartung, an anthropologist, scholar of Jewish history, and professor of anesthesiology at the Health Sciences Center of the State University of New York, Brooklyn, to review the book.

His review, published in July 1995, discusses the “in-group morality” of ancient Jews and draws a parallel with modern Israel where Jews, after the Holocaust, have been able “to systematically purloin the land and property of people who were not those [Holocaust] victims' persecutors.”

The piece hit some raw nerves, including those of Daniel Sperber, an anthropologist at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, who triggered a series of posts last fall on HBES-L, the society's Intenet discussion group, in which Hartung was accused of anti-Semitism. Journal editor Michael McGuire, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, suggested that Hartung publish a clarification in the journal. Hartung produced an “addendum” which, says McGuire, everyone thought would calm the waters.

Instead, it stirred up a new controversy. “Elsevier phoned me and said they wouldn't publish it,” says McGuire. “They wouldn't let me talk to the decision-maker.” Elsevier kept shifting ground, at different times offering different rationales for the action, says McGuire--such as not wanting to publish something that had already been on the Internet. Elsevier staff did not respond to phone calls from Science.

Hartung sees Elsevier's action as “a clear case of censorship.” His critics, he says, “don't perceive their own in-group morality operating.” Hartung, who has the support of a number of HBES members including Oxford zoologist William Hamilton, went to the annual meeting here 2 weeks ago prepared to pressure the HBES council to drop Elsevier and start a new journal if the publisher would not agree to a hands-off policy. A showdown was avoided, however. While Randolph Nesse of the University of Michigan, chair of the HBES publications committee, says he won't comment on a “privately negotiated contract,” others say a new 5-year deal with Elsevier stipulates that the editorial board will be “solely” responsible for the content of the journal. And the episode has had a ripple effect in the electronic realm: At its business meeting, the society voted to modify HBES-L rules to ban “sensitive” and irrelevant” postings”, such as those about Holocaust-revisionism that entered the Hartung debate. But--no surprise--just who decides what's insensitive isn't clear.