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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Antisemitism, the dark heart of Christianity

25 January, 2008

Antisemitism and Islamophobia are both instances of xenophobia. In a way that's consoling to us Jews who prefer to consider ourselves hated because we are viewed as Other, something possibly overcome by educating the majority population, by ourselves demonstrating by behavior that we are as loyal to our country of residence as our non-Jewish neighbor. More so! A consoling thought, but unfortunately does not conform to our unique history of dispersion among Christendom. Without going into describing 1700 years of persecution, torture, murder and expulsion which was a constant of our life in dispersion, our most recent brush with our host's Jewish Problem presents an excellent example of the tragedy of mere xenophobia to describe Shoah. Jews lived in and had colonies in Germany for more than 2000 years (how far back can the forerunners of modern non-Jewish Germany trace their forebears?). In pre-Hitler Germany we were leaders in politics, culture and commerce, intermarried at a rate only now approached in the US. In no country before or since were our people more loyal or assimilated. When we seek a reason for the aberration Hitler serves both as explanation and reassurance. After all, pre-Hitler Germany was among the most civilized and cultured in Christendom. turning on a minority constituting less than 1% of the total population; then expanding its machinery of death to include all Jews in Europe and, if successful, worldwide? The sheer magnitude, the insanity of the project bangs at the door of insanity-, of mystery-as-explanation.

But how explain the residents of Jewabne, Poland forcing their Jewish neighbors and friends into barn and then setting it ablaze? And the Ukrainians who rescued their Jewish neighbors from the SS only to club them to death before, what was described as the disgusted eyes of the Germans, were they Nazis, also under the sway of that half-crazed German leader? Or the French police who rounded up the Jews of Paris for deportation to Auschwitz Nazis also? Was all Europe Nazi, under the evil influence of the madman from Germany? Were we the victims of world-wide xenophobia?

I think not. Simple explanations are consoling. They are also dangerous, and in the case of the Jewish people, fatal. We are singled out not because we are “strangers”, for how long does it take to be considered native, 200 years, or 2000? In the case of the Jews xenophobia is at best a partial explanation, a background as explanation and justification.

The real cause of anti-Jewish animus lies at the very heart of Christian dogma and belief. Condemned by the gospels as the deicide people, blamed for the death of the Christian god, condemned for the crime for all generations it should be no mystery that anti-Judaism, and its secular daughter antisemitism are a permanent part of Christendom, and of Jewish experience in the Christian Diaspora.