The collective hatred of Jews can be defined as anti-Semitism. Like the coronavirus, it has developed many mutations. Anti-Semitism is the oldest hatred, which does not seem to fade away. It is found in the liberal United Kingdom, with the likes of Rev. Stephen Sizer, a vicar in the Church of England. In 2015, he posted an article on Facebook, accusing Jews and Israel of “responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.” Sizer has joined a long history of Jew-hatred. The Catholic Church’s anti-Judaism turned to rabid anti-Semitism by Martin Luther, which laid the foundation for Hitler’s Nazi genocidal efforts against the Jews.
In the late 1990’s, while a graduate student at Seton Hall University (a Catholic institution), I was invited by the courageous and legendary late Sister Rose Thering to attend an address to the faculty by Cardinal Edward I. Cassidy, President at the time, of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and head of the Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews. In his presentation, the Cardinal made a distinction between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism. He pointed out that the Catholic Church and its followers might have been anti-Judaic in history, but posited that anti-Semitism was not part of it.
Sister Rose, who recruited me to Seton Hall, prodded me to ask a question of the Cardinal. She was not convinced that the Cardinal’s thesis was entirely accurate, and neither was I. So, I raised my hand and when acknowledged I asked, “Your Eminence, how do you define the July 4, 1946 pogrom in Kielce, Poland, in which 42 Jewish men, women, and children, all Holocaust survivors, were murdered? Was that an example of anti-Judaism or anti-Semitism?” The Cardinal appeared rather perplexed, was silent for a moment, ending up politely avoiding my question.
Sister Rose, a life-long combatant against anti-Semitism, winked at me to mark her approval. The historical truth is that one cannot make a distinction between anti-Judaism (meaning anti-Jewish) and anti-Semitism. The bias embedded in anti-Semitism is rooted in anti-Judaism. Anti-Semitism has multiple strains. Religious and cultural hatred of Jews goes back to Greek and Roman times. Racial anti-Semitism became the new strain in the 18th century. History is filled with a variety of anti-Jewish forms of hatred. However, those mentioned above are the most glaring. The expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula at the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century was based on religious hatred, fueled by the Catholic Church and executed by the Inquisition. The Nazi-perpetrated Holocaust against Jews included all the elements of anti-Semitism. It was racial, religious (albeit, the German Nazis sought to create their own religion and had contempt for Christianity), cultural, political, and economic.
The core of Christian religious anti-Semitism is embedded in the notion that “Jews have been cursed by G-d for crucifying Jesus.” This follows the passages in the gospel according to Matthew 27:24-25, “When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood, see to that yourself,’ and all the people answered, ‘His blood be on us and our children.”
The above passage, which labeled Jews as “Christ Killers” (although Jesus was a fellow Jew), cost the lives of an untold number of innocent Jews based on a grudge the author of the Matthew gospel had against the rabbis of Yavne (west of Jerusalem). The Matthew gospel was written in the 80’s CE, 50 years after the alleged event of the crucifixion. He substituted his conflict with the rabbis with the alleged feud between the Pharisees and Jesus. The author of Matthew wasn’t an eyewitness, and the Jews that he described were few in number and not “All the people.” It included mostly Sadducees (the elitist Temple bureaucracy) and was unlikely to have included Hillel Pharisees. Most Jews of Judea and the Galilee held no malice toward Jesus. Moreover, Pontius Pilate was not, in fact, the benevolent Roman governor of Judea described in Matt. 27 passage. He was a cruel tyrant that was eventually replaced. Pilate saw in Jesus’ popularity a threat to Roman rule.
The Matthew author, being a Jewish evangelist for the Jesus movement, was outraged by the decree issued by the rabbis that forbade proselytizing in the (Antioch) synagogue, and banned his ilk from the synagogue. Then, of course, is the obvious libelous reference to the people (Jews) saying that Jesus’ blood be on themselves and their children. What parent would want the blood of a killed human on themselves, let alone on their children? This is clearly an alteration made in a later period when Christianity became the State religion of the Roman Empire.
The 1965 declaration of Nostre Aetate, during the Second Vatican Council, led to a tremendous positive shift in Catholic seminary teachings, in church services, and filtered into Catholic schools. Pope John Paul II (The Polish Pope) made major contributions to Catholic-Jewish understanding and cooperation, including the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel. Furthermore, the teaching of “contempt” for Jews was eliminated. In most Catholic institutions these days, the teaching of tolerance and respect for non-Christians and for Jews in particular, are instilled.
While the Catholic Church has come a long way in creating amity with Jews, the same cannot be said about some of the current mainline Protestant churches. Christianity Today (September 1, 2004) carried a story headline: Are Mainline Churches Anti-Semitic? In this story, Diane Knippers, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) answered: “An extreme focus on Israel, while ignoring major human rights violators, seriously distorts the churches’ message on universal human rights. We cannot find a rational explanation for the imbalance. We are forced to ask: Is there an anti-Jewish animus, conscious or unconscious, that drives this drumbeat against the world’s only Jewish State?”
The emphasis on secular “social justice” by some of these mainline churches led to BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel) campaigns in the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church, etc. They are driven by former missionaries to the Muslim world who then returned to the denominational headquarters with a pro-Palestinian and an anti-Israel bias that evolved into antisemitism in the guise of anti-Zionism. That is not to say that the people in the pews necessarily support such campaigns.
This latest anti-Semitic strain is anti-Zionism or anti-Israelism, and it is a subterfuge for aiming at Israeli Jews and ultimately at Jews in general. This variant is found in the BDS movement, co-founded by Omar Barghouti (pictured above), who declared that the “BDS aim is to turn Israel into a pariah.” He and the BDS movement, single out Israel among the nations for academic and cultural boycotts. Born in Qatar, Barghouti lived in Egypt, and received his MA degree at Tel Aviv University!… Former Soviet Refusenik, and human rights activist, Nathan Sharansky, adopted the 3D Test in order to distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from antisemitism. The 3D stands for Delegitimization of Israel, Demonization of Israel, and subjecting Israel to a Double Standard. The BDS movement and some of the mainline Protestant churches meet all of the above criteria.
The collective bias against Jews, at times violent, sometimes verbal, and appearing in multiple forms, has resulted in record high anti-Semitic incidents particularly in Europe, and recently in the US. It is time for decent society to face the fact: silence and inaction is consent.
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