As many of the nations of the world align themselves against Israel, this is a good time to be reminded of the unique nature of anti-Semitism, hatred of the Jews because they are Jews. And while few people would claim that the modern state of Israel is flawless in its conduct or that the Jewish people are above moral reproach, it is clear that there is something irrational, even diabolical, about Jew hatred. Consider the evidence in its totality.
1) Anti-Semitism is the longest hatred of all time. Catholic scholar Edward Flannery wrote: “Antisemitism is the longest and deepest hatred of human history. . . . What other hatred has endured some twenty-three centuries and survived a genocide of 6,000,000 of its victims in its twenty-third century of existence only to find itself still intact and rich in potential for many years of life?” Today, Anti-Semitism is at its highest levels since immediately before the Holocaust, equaling, in fact, those pre-Holocaust levels. How can this be?
These accusations against found in the biblical book of Esther, roughly 2,500 years old, still ring true in the hearts of many anti-Semites today: “There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples . . . whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey [international] laws; it is not in [our] best interest to tolerate them” (Esther 3:8, with slight modifications made to make this more contemporary). Why has this hatred of the Jews persisted for so long?
2) Anti-Semitism is the most widespread hatred of all time. It can be traced from the Greco-Roman world to Christianity (yes, Christianity, including vicious comments from some of the Church’s greatest leaders); from Islam to Fascism to Communism (intense anti-Semitism links Muslim terrorists, Adolph Hitler, and Joseph Stalin); from White Supremacists to Black Supremacists; from university campuses to the world press; from the philosopher Voltaire to the historian Arnold Toynbee; from the composer Richard Wagner to the car designer Henry Ford; from Japan to Russia to Iran. Why the Jews?
A few years ago, a very bizarre group made a big media splash when they claimed to have produced the world’s first human clone. The group, called the Raelians, is a UFO religion, led by its founder Rael, who claims to have been enlightened by aliens. After hearing the cloning report, I went to the Raelian website, purely out of curiosity. To my utter amazement, the featured message from Rael was laced with anti-Jewish sentiments, including the charge that “Israel is engaged in State terrorism” and the claim that “a small handful of the millions of American Jews are holding the rest of the 250 million Americans hostage.” Even the Raelians were polluted by an anti-Semitic stream! Why this widespread hatred of the Jews?
3) Anti-Semitism is the most vicious hatred of all time. Both the incredible violence and the depth of animosity against the Jews defy rational explanation. The enormity and depravity of the Holocaust alone testifies to the viciousness of this hatred, and yet the Holocaust is simply the worst of countless acts of Jew hatred over the centuries. So depraved were the Nazis (and other Jew killers) that Jewish infants were sometimes thrown into burning pits alive in order to save a bullet, leading to the oft-quoted dictum of Rabbi Irving Greenberg: “Moreover, summon up the principle that no statement should be made [about the Holocaust] that could not be made in the presence of the burning children.” Nothing more needs to be said.
4) Anti-Semitism is the most irrational hatred of all time. The absurdity of the anti-Semitic libels defies rational explanation. When the Black Plague decimated Europe, Jews were accused of starting the plague by poisoning the wells with a mixture made of spiders, lizards and the hearts of Christians mixed together with the sacred elements of the Lord’s supper. Outraged mobs slaughtered thousands of Jews as a result of this pernicious rumor. When the Catholic Church declared in 1215 that the elements of communion literally became the body and blood of Jesus, Jews were accused of stealing and torturing communion wafers, leading to Jewish communities being burned at the stake. In the Muslim world today, it is still believed that every year, Jews kidnap and torture a priest (or other victim), using his blood to make Passover matzah (unleavened bread). The Muslim world also takes seriously the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious forged document from the nineteenth century that claims to report the secret plans of a hidden group of Jewish leaders who are poised to take over the entire world—ultimately bringing it into subjection to the Hindu god Vishnu! Jews have even been accused of controlling the Catholic Church.
Article Seventeen of the Hamas Charter refers to “Zionist organizations under various names and shapes, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, espionage groups and others which are all nothing more than cells of subversion and saboteurs.” Even the Masons are controlled by the Jews!
It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if some of the standard anti-Semitic libels appear in the comments that will be posted. And so the story continues. (Adapted with permission from 60 Questions Christians Ask About Jewish Beliefs and Practices.)
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.