The Universality of Anti-Semitism

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by Nabuchodonosor, May 17, 2007.

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    In researching Jewish history, the investigator discovers a wide variance of written material. Work by authors expressly critical of Jews (and they include a surprisingly number of Jewish commentators, mostly "apostates" of one kind or another) is invariably labeled by today's political conventions to be "anti-Semitic" in nature. There is a large body of such material extending throughout history, written by critics wherever Jews were to be found. Some of the criticism is ridiculous; the accusations of Hitler are absurdly exaggerated. But other observations about Jewish life by non-Jews is startlingly consistent over two thousand years. Consistently credible Gentile themes in attacks against Jews include Jewish elitism, their insularity and clannishness, their disdain for non-Jews, their exploitive and deceptive behavior towards those not their own, the suspicion of Jewish national loyalties and allegiance to the lands they lived in, excessive Jewish proclivity for money and economic domination, and an economic "parasitism" (the concentration of Jews in lucrative non-productive fields of finance -- usury, money lending, etc. -- at the expense of non-Jewish communities).

    "Anti-Semitism," remarks Oliver Cox, "is an ancient social attitude probably coeval with the rise of Jewish tribalism. It is thus an immemorial trait identified with Jewish culture ... Anti-Semitism has been identified with Jewish behavior in the sense that it is a reaction of other groups to the Jews' determination to assert and perpetuate their identity ... Unlike race prejudice ... anti-Semitism or intolerance is essentially an inherent social response -- a retaliation [against] the Jewish determination to resist merger of their civilization with that of a host people" (Cox, 183-184).
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    Hebron,
    August 2001: A Palestinian mother, Samar Abdul-Shafti, is kicked by a Jewish boy while a Jewish woman rips off her Islamic headscarf.


    "The Jews," J. O. Hertzler writes, "... have been a supernation rather than members of a nation. More than any other people, certainly up to the time of the emancipation, they were innocent and irresponsible toward the national traditions and aspirations of the people among whom they lived" (Hertzler, 76).

    "Hatred for the Jews," Abram Leon writes, "does not date solely from the birth of Christianity. Seneca treated the Jews as a criminal race. Juvenal believed that the Jews only existed to cause evil for other peoples. Quintilian said that Jews were a curse for other people" (Leon, 71).

    In 59 BC the Roman statesman Cicero criticized Jewish "clannishness" and "influence in the assemblies." In the second century AD Celsus, one of Rome's great medical writers, wrote that Jews "pride themselves in possessing superior wisdom and disdain for the company of other men." Philostratus, an ancient Greek author, believed that Jews "have long since risen against humanity itself. They are men who have devised a misanthropic life, who share neither food nor drink with others." (Cf. Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, I, iii.) The great Roman historian Tacitus (A.D. 56-120) declared that "the Jews are extremely loyal toward one another, and are always ready to show compassion [for their fellow Jews], but toward other people they feel only hate and enmity" (Morais, 46).

    Centuries later Voltaire's criticism of Jews, in his Essai sur le Moeurs, repeated many of the same charges: "The Jewish nation dares to display an irreconcilable hatred toward all nations, and revolts against all masters; always superstitious, always greedy for the well-being enjoyed by others, always barbarous -- cringing in misfortune and insolent in prosperity." Ironically, as Jacob Katz observes, "Voltaire did more than any other single man to shape the rationalist trend that moved European society toward improving the status of the Jew" (Katz, 34).

    Still historically remembered (according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1994) "as a crusader against tyranny and bigotry," Voltaire turned repeatedly and angrily against Jews who he believed to epitomize such "tyranny and bigotry." Jews, he complained, "are ... the greatest scoundrels who have ever sullied the face of the globe ... They are, all of them, born with raging fanaticism in their hearts, just as the Bretons and Germans are born with blond hair. I would not in the least be surprised if these people would not some day become deadly to the human race ... You [Jews] have surpassed all nations in impertinent fables, in bad conduct, and in barbarism. You deserve to be punished, for this is your destiny" (Gould, 91). On another occasion Voltaire charged that "the Jew does not belong to any place except that place which he makes money; would he not just as easily betray the King on behalf of the Emperor as he would the Emperor for the King?" (Katz, 44). Thirty of 118 of Voltaire's essays in his Dictionary of Philosophy address Jews, usually disparagingly. Voltaire calls Jews "our masters and our enemies ... whom we detest ... the most abominable people in the world."

    With the coming of the Enlightenment, as David Sorkin notes, "Jews were roundly condemned for "their ritualistic religion, national character or economic situation which, separately or together, prevented them from being moral. Enlightenment thinkers almost without exception subscribed to this image of Jewish inferiority" (Sorkin, 85). "The ghetto," Enlightenment intellectuals argued, "had produced an essentially unacceptable culture. Jews were utter strangers to Europe. Social isolation had created traits in need of drastic transformation: Jews harbored within them hatred of the Christian nurtured by centuries of Talmudic and rabbinic indoctrination, they were religious fanatics, parasitic in their economics and dishonest in their dealings" (Aschheim, 6).

    "Know that wherever there is money," said Montesquieu in his Persian Letters, "there is the Jew" (Krefetz, 45).

    Even prominent and widely respected Jewish commentators echoed the same themes about their own people. Benjamin Disraeli, a Jewish convert to Christianity, and the most famous British prime minister of the nineteenth century wrote that "the native tendency of the Jewish race is against the doctrine of the equality of man. They have also another characteristic -- the faculty of acquisition ... Their bias is to religion, property, and natural aristocracy."

    Another Jew, the great philosopher Benedict (Baruch) Spinoza, was a bridge between Jewish medievalism and the Enlightenment. Spinoza commented: "At the present time there is absolutely nothing which the Jews can arrogate to themselves beyond other people ... As to their continuance so long after dispersion, there is nothing marvelous in it, for they separated themselves from every nation as to draw upon themselves universal hate" (Levy, 93).

    Similar complaints, reflecting consistently reccurring charges against Jews, have been echoed throughout history, in many languages and in many lands, including -- even in the ancient past -- "Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Syrians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and many others" (Hertzler, 62). But this disdain for Jews by critics (some of the most learned men of their times, including Jews and Jewish apostates, across the spectrum of humanity) is not accepted as historical evidence for anything in our own day, except for the strange tenacity of irrational "anti-Semites" and "self-hating Jews" to badmouth Jews.

    So what was the real situation in bygone eras? What were Jews like, in relation to Gentiles? Popular Jewish dictate has one answer: look only to the Hebrew texts, ancient rabbis, and other Jewish chroniclers. They know what Jews were like. Their texts are reliable. The rest are all lies and exaggerations.

    "How does one understand -- not even forgive, simply understand!" exhorts Harvard law professor and well-known Jewish polemicist Alan Dershowitz,
     
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