Antisemitism represents a fundamental rejection of the Jewish people and the revolutionary values they introduced to the world of human responsibility and biblical morality, and poses a serious threat today as surveys reveal evidence of a significant rise in antisemitic incidents globally.
Antisemitism, sometimes referred to as “history’s oldest hatred” can be traced back to ancient times. It has occurred in every century to date, mutating in form as a hatred directed at Jewish religion, other times at Jewish race, and in recent times at the Jewish nation-state.
Antisemitism has existed since the birth of the Jewish people themselves. Abraham, the father of Judaism, established the Jewish nation nearly four thousand years ago. Jews were intermittently persecuted and enslaved throughout ancient times for refusing to convert to the religion of their rulers. Throughout the Middle Ages, antisemitism was conspiratorial in nature. Rumors that Jews had horns and tails and engaged in ritual murder of Christians became widespread and accepted beliefs in Northern Europe. These beliefs eventually evolved into a systematic policy of exclusion, economic and social discrimination, political isolation, and attempted annihilation. Once codified, antisemitism successfully robbed Jews of equal rights, forced them to live in ghettos, and restricted them to certain careers.
The term “antisemitism” was popularized in the nineteenth century by German author Wilhelm Marr. Theorizing that Jews were attempting to take over the state, Marr argued that Jews should be excluded from citizenship. Thirty years later, a forged collection of documents that became known as “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was published. It detailed “meetings” of Jewish leaders bent on ruling the world. Such acceptance of antisemitism led to the most devastating dehumanization: genocide of the Jewish people. Adolph Hitler drew upon old conspiracies about Jews from the Middle Ages and promoted pseudo-scientific theories of racial superiority. According to Hitler, the inferiority of the Jewish race meant they must be eliminated. Centuries of antisemitism culminated in the Holocaust, leading to the murder of six million Jews.
The Holocaust served as a “wake-up” call on unchallenged authority. While significant progress has been made to contain antisemitism, recent polls show that antisemitic incidents are increasing and spreading around the world. Today, antisemitism often disguises itself as anti-Zionism; opposition to the Jewish right to self-determination. Studies show that attitudes toward Jews are impacted by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Antisemitism threatens the basic human right to think and be as one chooses, without retribution. It threatens to upend the Hebraic traditions that built Western civilization. It also poses a risk to the security of the State of Israel. As a safe haven for Jews around the world, the survival of Israel is critical—especially as persecution of Jews is rising everywhere. Since 2015, thousands of Jews have emigrated from Europe, particularly France, to Israel after experiencing widespread antisemitism in their communities.
Antisemitism doesn’t just affect the Jewish people– it also has implications for Christians. The roots of Christianity are undeniably linked to the Jewish people, who gave the world the Messiah. During His time on earth, Jesus was a fully-engaged Jew, well-versed in the Hebrew Bible and Jewish traditions. His family was Jewish, His disciples were Jewish, and He came from a line of some of the most prolific figures in ancient Jewish history including Abraham and King David. Antisemitism not only threatens the safety of the Jewish people, but it undermines the Christian faith.
The rise in antisemitism around the world is alarming and requires widespread action to combat this poisonous hatred. Philos believes part of those efforts include education on the definition, history, and current trends in antisemitism so that our communities are well-informed and can spot (and therefore condemn) antisemitism wherever it occurs. For Christians, understanding the Hebraic roots of our faith is critical because an attack on Jews is also ultimately an attack on Christians, because at the heart of our faith stands a Jew, and a Jewish vision coming to fulfillment. Antisemitism is less about the Jews than what the Jews brought into the world. Biblical morality, human responsibility, and divine election – these ideas, introduced by the Jewish people and spread to the world through the Bible, radically changed the course of history.
Further Resources on Antisemitism
Edward Flannery’s The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-Three Centuries of Antisemitism details a history of antisemitism, covering its origins in early Christian teachings.
David Nirenberg’s Anti-Judaism: the Western Tradition shows how foundational anti-Judaism is to the history of the West, arguing that fantasies of Judaism were central to the ideas that became deeply ingrained in the Western tradition.
For a comprehensive history of antisemitism, including an explanation of the origin of the term, anti-Zionism, and antisemitism today, read My Jewish Learning’s Anti-Semitism 101. A New Year’s Resolution, An Ancient Evil: Combatting Antisemitism in 2019 by Robert Nicholson explains how antisemitism, which also undermines the Christian faith and Western tradition, stems from an animosity of particularism and rejection of morality and responsibility, and that in order to combat this hatred Christians must restore and promote the Hebraic tradition.
- Coronavirus Pandemic Leads to Rise in Antisemitism Walter Russell Mead | Wall Street Journal
- Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism Michael Walzer | Fathom Journal
- Practical Steps: Fighting Antisemitism Robert Nicholson | New York Post
- Christians and Antisemitism Mark Galli | Christianity Today
- Modern Antisemitism Yaroslav Trofimov | Wall Street Journal
- Antisemitism and Black-Jewish Relations Rasool Berry | Christianity Today
- Anti-Israel Antisemitism Ruth Wisse | Anti-Israel Antisemitism
- The Importance of Remembering Auschwitz Michel Gurfinkiel | First Things
- The Faces and Functions of Antisemitism Ruth R. Wisse | National Affairs
- Twentieth Century Antisemitic Document Alive Today Walter Laqueur | Mosaic Magazine
- The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-Three Centuries of Antisemitism Edward Flannery
- Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition David Nirenberg
Joanna Plucinska, Maayan Lubell | Reuters