For the life of me, I do not understand the anti-Semite.
For the life of me, I do not understand the anti-Semite. I recently spent several hours reviewing literature on the subject, much of it from a historical perspective. I’ve been well aware of anti-Semitism since my late teens when upon entering college I started reading extensively in European history. Undoubtedly, one of the worst ant-Semites in history is Martin Luther, of Reformation fame. Ah, the selective morality of religion. If you want to be truly disgusted with the false piety of your fellow man, Google: Martin Luther and anti-Semitism.
But that was so very long ago, some 500 years. Surely, such barbarous religious intolerance has no relevance when encountering the modernity of 21st century America. Alas, that is not the case. No, we do not have pogroms but we do have bomb threats and cemetery desecrations and cowardly white supremacists waxing idiotic on the Jewish threat to the “integrity” of the American people.
Where does such nonsense originate? I understand that as an uneducated, ignorant, superstitious and obedient 16th century European peasant you would participate in rousting Jews from your community when Martin Luther instructed, “First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools … This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians … Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed.” Martin Luther had a seven-point plan for dealing with Jews that included, “safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside …”
20th century Nazis aggressively adapted Luther’s anti-Semitic bile, sadly, to a receptive German citizenry.
But that was then, the Holocaust was 75 years ago. And have we not learned the tragedy of succumbing to the utter nonsense of anti-Semitism? Unfortunately, no.
What is the basis of anti-Semitism? Brian Klug, a senior research fellow in philosophy at St Benet’s Hall, Oxford defined classical anti-Semitism as, "an ingrained European fantasy about Jews as Jews," arguing that whether Jews are seen as a race, religion or ethnicity, and whether anti-Semitism comes from the right or the left, the anti-Semite's image of the Jew is always as "a people set apart, not merely by their customs but by their collective character.”
I recently had breakfast with a professional from New York City who happened to be a Jewess. I asked her what she thought were the reasons for the recent uptick in anti-Semitism. She, too, was perplexed. After searching for an answer, she offered-up one reason, “Jews are educated.” I took her meaning to be, in part, that being educated in today’s environment is to be labeled “elitist.”
That was interesting to me because I recall my father on a number of occasions praising Jews for two qualities he greatly admired, their emphasis on education and family. Qualities, not surprisingly, that corresponded to his value system.
But being educated and a “good” family man (or woman) doesn’t mean you won’t be an anti-Semite. Harvard and Yale, as late as the 1960s, sadly limited Jewish student enrollment.
Anti-Semitism at its fundamental core is the mindless marginalization of your fellow human being.
Author and atheist Christopher Hitchens was informed of his Jewish ancestry as an adult. He argued, “that anti-Jewish prejudice is an unfailing sign of a sick and disordered person ... It's a horrible, conspiratorial, pseudo-intellectual, mean-spirited, eventually lethal piece of bigotry.”
No truer words spoken.