Forum: How Would You Explain The Persistence Of Anti-Semitism?

The Watcher’s Council

Every week on Monday morning, the Council and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum with short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture or daily living. This week’s question: How Would You Explain The Persistence Of Anti-Semitism?

Robert Avrech, Seraphic Secret: The Jewish people introduced monotheism and universal morality to the world. The Torah — written and oral — insists on the existence and distinction between good and evil.

For this supreme and luminous legal and moral code that extends from earth to heaven, we have never been forgiven.

Thus, Jew-hatred is the oldest and most persistent hatred on the face of the earth that will never disappear.

The Independent Sentinel: I have no idea. It’s mind-bloggling. You would think Jews were sorcerers. The anti-Semitism seems to be based on lies and the lies will never go away.

For those people who sanctimoniously refuse to even mention the name of Hitler because he was so evil, but who also hate Jews, you are more like him than you are different.

The Glittering Eye: There’s no single reason. Tradition. Force of habit. Envy.

IMO anti-Semitism (meaning anti-Jewish) in the Arab world is different from anti-Semitism in the West. In the Arab world turning resentment against religious minorities is a time-hallowed way for elites to turn the focus of the rural and urban poor away from themselves and onto somebody else. Look at how the Copts, the Egyptian Christian minority, are being treated now. For centuries most Middle Eastern and North African countries had substantial Jewish populations and every so often the fellahin would be allowed to riot against their Jewish neighbors for just that reason.

When a substantial number of Jews moved from Europe and MENA to Israel, as happened starting in the mid-19th century, it gave the Arab elites a perfect pretext for a cycle of anti-Semitism to preserve their own prerogatives.

In the West it’s a combination of, again, tradition with solidarity with the oppressed, i.e. Palestinians, and anti-colonialism. How the Jews in Israel got cast as colonizers isn’t clear to me but that’s the mantle with which they’ve been cloaked.

The Razor: I attribute the persistence of anti-Semitism to the success of the Jews. Over the past 5000 years of their existence other tribes and their religions have come and gone but the Jews remain. They have survived countless persecutions, pogroms, and the greatest mass-murder in History and still they remain true to their faith and identity. Over that time Jews have risen to the heights of power in every civilization they have lived in, wielding power in service to Ottoman sultans, defining Communism in Russia, and serving the cause of freedom and democracy in the American senate. Their success in the Arts is unparalleled. Countless writers, actors, directors and musicians hail from the ethnic group. Their importance to finance, established during the middle ages due to the prohibition of usury by the Catholic Church, gave them the control of wealth that lays at the heart of most anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Had Judaism been destroyed and the people conquered there would be no anti-Semitism today. Some of my ancestors derive from the Boii, a tribe native to the area that would become the kingdom of Bohemia and later the rump of the Czech Republic. The Boii were defeated in battle by the Romans under Julius Caesar, and the survivors scattered throughout the empire. A similar fate befell the Jews after the Judean War in the 1st Century AD, but whereas the Boii disappeared from history the Jews clung to their faith and customs and survived. This survival and even thriving at times is historically unusual, and when you put success together with survival over 5 millennia, you have a recipe for those of weaker minds to fall for conspiracies involving favoritism or treachery.

And I must emphasize that anti-Semitism is the purvey of weaker minds. It takes much effort to understand History and its complexities, and that is simply too much for many to employ. It is much easier to fall back on conspiratorial beliefs that are simplistic but with a strong history of their own. There is no quantitative difference between a European Leftist siding with Hamas and demanding the boycott of Israel today with a Polish peasant cheering the passage of trains full of Jews on their way to Auschwitz. The Leftist may believe she is more educated than the Polish farmer, but her unquestioning consumption of anti-Semitic propaganda differs little from the Polish farmer’s absorbing of Jew hatred from Catholic sermons.

As long as there are Jews there will be anti-Semitism. The more important question is how do we combat it, especially since it is blossoming like a fungus throughout the world just as it did in the decades prior to the Holocaust.

The Right Planet: Nothing has baffled me more than the unhinged hatred of the Jews I’ve seen from so many quarters throughout my life. Since I was nine-years-old I had an intense interest in the history of the Second World War, since several members of my family served in WWII. So, I learned early on about the horrors of the Holocaust. It totally “fried” my young mind. I would even go so far as to say it was at this time I lost a good chunk of my “innocence.” I just could not understand for the life of me what would possess people to hate a group of people so much that they would engage in wholesale slaughter on an industrial scale–men, women and children be damned. I still have no answers for it, other than evil is alive and well. I suppose one could argue that it is so much easier to blame someone else than to have to look in the mirror and ask one’s self, “What’s my part in all of this?” But, honestly, that does not sufficiently answer, at least to me, what drives this inexplicable, insane rage and hatred against the Jews.

I don’t believe any group of people is “without sin,” so to speak. But, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Nothing justifies wholesale murder and genocide. The only place that I have ever found any explanation for antisemitism, that seemed plausible, was the Bible. As a Christian (and Jesus was a Jew, you know–and an observant one at that), I am reminded of a few quotes from the New Testament.

“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” ~ John 15:18 (KJV)

“He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.” ~ John 15:23-25 (KJV)

Ask Marion: This is a tough question for me, because I really don’t understand why.

I am a Christian of half German and half Austrian decent. Both sides of my family were part of the underground movement in WWII and I grew up in the San Fernando Valley in California where the Jewish population (in the Valley, Hollywood and Los Angeles) are relatively high compared to many areas in the U.S. I have always had lots of Jewish friends, have had the experience of attending a fair amount of my Jewish friends’ holiday dinners and have always been a supporter of Israel. So anti-Semitic feelings were something I couldn’t relate to personally, nor within my circle of friends and acquaintances.

As a Christian, the churches I attended, always focused on the inter-connection between our faiths. Jews and Judaism definitely have a place in the Christian world, because they and their Bible testify to Christianity’s biblical origins and validate Christianity.

I believe the persistence of Anti-Semitism comes from the ruling elite who use the opening for hatred between any groups for their purposes. There is a lot of misinformation and fear out there.

Well, there you have it.

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