In an earlier issue of The American Interest I coined and mused about the term “Jewcentricity.”1 I meant by it the old and widespread propensity to exaggerate, in both positive and negative ways, the role of Jews and Judaism in an array of events past, contemporary and even future. Pointing out that Jews as well as non-Jews have indulged the tendency, I argued that Jewcentricity’s different varieties collided to produce a mutual multiplier effect, giving rise to some silly but also some serious and generally unhelpful outcomes. Exaggerations, I suggested, cause trouble, and we already have quite enough of that with the unvarnished world as it is.
What was then a neologism suited for an essay has since become one encased within a book. A fair bit of that book concerns the past, but only as a way to better understand the present and peer into the future. It is that latter task that occupies us in this second and final coming of Jewcentricity to the pages of this magazine.
Jewcentricity has waxed historically mainly in places where Jewish communities have existed over stretches of time, mostly in the lands of Abrahamic faith—in what we call the West and in the domains of Dar al-Islam. There have been exceptions: America started out as a highly Jewcentric place, mainly a philo-Semitic one, without very many Jews; some Japanese early in the 20th century developed a less benign, altogether unique Jewcentric narrative, also in the absence of any living, breathing Japanese Jews. Today, however, Jewcentricity is spreading far and fast to many places where there are not and never have been significant Jewish communities. Why is this, and what, if anything, does it mean?
Jewcentricity has been spreading for some time now because the Abrahamic world itself has been growing. Both Christianity and Islam are gaining new adherents in places where neither has previously been widespread. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, both Islam and Christianity have been gaining converts, Christianity even faster than Islam. In much of East Asia, not least South Korea and China, “low church” Evangelical and Pentecostal Protestant movements are also growing rapidly. Such movements usually carry with them at least vaguely philo-Semitic sentiments, though often with the passive-aggressive characteristics of dispensationalist theology wherein Jews remain God’s Chosen People...until they all convert or die in the upheavals of the end of days. Such sentiments, if they grow popular enough, may one day influence national policies, at least on the margin, toward Israel, its neighbors and the wider Muslim world. The drama of Korean Christians being taken hostage by the Taliban in the wilds of Afghanistan in 2008, and how that played politically back in Korea, may...