Anti-Semitism is practically as old as Jewish history. Over thousands of years, our ancestors suffered blood libels, inquisitions, expulsions, and pogroms, all leading up to the Holocaust, the ultimate tragedy in our history of persecution. And still today, the Jewish people continue to suffer from terror attacks in Israel around the world, vicious threats of annihilation by evil dictators, and anti-Semitic acts and intimidation in the U.S.
That we are hated indiscriminately is a fact that is part of our collective memory, and, being Jewish, it’s something we take for granted. The basis for anti-Semitism is totally unfounded. Those who examine these atrocities in our history may begin to wonder if perhaps there is something wrong with the Jews. How else can we explain how one nation could be so hated throughout history by so many people?
Historians suggest various paradoxical theories to explain anti-Semitic sentiments: Jews are an inferior race, but are also hated for dominating the world; they are hated for persistently separating themselves from others, but also for contaminating a pure race by intermarriages; they are hated for being ardent capitalists but also for being passionate communists. We are hated for being a parasite on other nations’ soil, but also for having our own land. No, it seems that there is something much deeper hiding at the foundation of anti-Semitism.
Rabbi Kalman Packouz tries to explain this rare phenomenon. The Talmud asks: Why is the mountain where Israel received the Torah called “Sinai”? The Talmud answers: Because this was the time when hatred (Hebrew: sina) towards the Jews began.
But why would receiving the Torah, the definitive event in Jewish history and the world’s most important ethical document, warrant such hatred from others? Reverend Edward H. Flannery stated, “It was Judaism that brought the concept of a G-d-given universal moral law into the world… The Jew carries the burden of G-d in history [and] for this has never been forgiven.” The Jewish people represented the conscience and morality from which other nations wanted to be free.
Hitler recognized Judaism’s dependence on a strong moral code. He viewed the ethics that were derived from the Torah as something mankind needs to be liberated from: “The Ten Commandments have lost their validity. Conscience is a Jewish invention, it is a blemish, like circumcision.”
Over the course of time, anti-Semitism took on different forms that sometimes intertwined: The ancient and false anti-Semitic belief that the Jews killed Jesus, modern anti-Semitism (Jewish economic control and racial impurity), and now the newest form of anti-Semitism, hatred that is disguised in anti-Israel/anti-Zionist sentiment and acts.
Today, Muslim clerics publicly extol the murder of Jews; Palestinian textbooks, television and Facebook pages teach that Jews are “apes and pigs” that deserve to be eliminated, and Egyptian television programs claim that Jews use the blood of Arab children to bake matzah for Passover. This is terrifyingly similar to the way Jews were portrayed in Europe for hundreds of years.
Unfortunately, we truly are our own worst enemies. Throughout our history, Jews have used their physical connection to Judaism to give themselves the credibility to speak out against the religion and the Jewish people. This is why the United Nations used Judge Richard Goldstone, a South African Jew, to accuse Israel of war crimes; it is why Norman Finkelstein, a child of Holocaust survivors, is repeatedly invited by pro-Palestinian groups on college campus to rile up negative sentiment about the State of Israel; and it is why anti-Israel philanthropists like George Soros fund and support organizations like JStreet who sponsor anti-Israel events on American campuses by inviting speakers from the NGO “Breaking the Silence” and leaders of the BDS movement to demonize, defame and delegitimize Israel and the IDF. Finding a Jew to speak ill of Israel gives more credibility to negative sentiments than having a non-Jew do so.
Kenneth Levin, a psychiatrist at Harvard University, claims that there are two reasons for Jewish self-hatred. One is a type of Stockholm syndrome, in which “population segments under chronic siege commonly embrace the indictments of their besiegers however bigoted and outrageous.” The second reason is that Jews may blame themselves for their predicament – i.e., “everyone hates us so we must be doing something wrong”. We believe that we can become “good” and mollify those who hate us and end our torment. For example, if we just give up more land and expel thousands of Israelis from their homes, or if we just don’t allow Jews to visit the Temple Mount, then we will have peace.
It is our duty to stand strong against those who delegitimize Israel. We must recognize that they all come from the same initial source of anti-Semitism, whether they blame Jews for crucifying Jesus, wrote The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, or boycott Israel. The conflict today reaches far deeper than the land under dispute. In order to understand the present feelings against Jews, we must first understand the past. Arab hatred and terrorism against Jews stem from the same hatred found in Nazi Germany and during the Spanish Inquisition. The lack of a Palestinian State and the existence of Jewish homes beyond the Green Line is a convenient excuse for violence, not the root cause.
Kobi Erez was born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel. He began his role as Executive Director for the Zionist Organization of America – Michigan Region in 2011 where he works to promote education, awareness and support for Israel and Jewish causes in communities, schools and on college campuses throughout Michigan.
This article was published by Times of Israel and may be found here.