Authors: Marvin Perry and Frederick M. Schweitzer
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Co., New York, N.Y.
Author: Gabriel Schoenfeld
Publisher: Encounter Books, New York, N.Y.
The present two titles, one from a division of St. Martin’s Press, the other from a publishing house affiliated with the American Jewish Committee and Commentary Magazine, both deal with the history of the world’s “obsession.” Each is designed to prevent us from becoming too
comfortable and complacent with our American experience. Our enemies await us – just as hungry lions wait out their prey.
Anti-Semitism may have begun with the image of Jews as “Christ killers” – a myth of a people of criminal elements who, it was implied, were responsible for the death of the symbolic leader of a new religion.
It is a fact of life that humans form groups for all activities. Early societies formed groups for hunting parties as well as for war against other groups. There was always “the other,” and it became the place of the Jews to become greater society’s “Other.” According to Perry and Schweitzer, “Anti-Semitism has very little to do with the actual behavior of Jews or the
strictures of their highly ethical religion … but is rooted in delusionary perceptions that are accepted as authoritative and passed on and embellished from generation to generation.”
Although Christianity venerates Jesus, who was born a Jew and who they claim preached love and compassion, their “New Testament” and other writings of the Church Fathers refer to Jews and Judaism contemptuously, presenting Jews as an accursed people – Children of The Devil – collectively condemned to suffer for rejecting Jesus of Nazareth and responsible for his crucifixion and death. Over two thousand years of invective and hate served to condition Christian European society, in which ordinary lay people were uneducated, illiterate and ignorant, to become receptive to anti-Jewish propaganda and to view Jews as “the Other.” In
European Catholic society, only priests and royalty were educated, able to read an expurgated version of the Bible – both “Old” and “New” Testaments. The only people who knew the truth of the ethical teachings of Judaism were precisely those who profited from the downgraded position of the Jewish nation.
It was not until the 19th-century Enlightenment that some Jews were finally permitted to exit the ghettos. Although others, including Martin Luther, broke with Rome for varying reasons, theological and otherwise, the Catholic Church, which remains the largest Christian denomination, continued to demonize Jews well into the 20th century. It was the ”Nostra
Aetate: A Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions,” published by the Second Vatican Council held in 1962, that began the process of exonerating the Jews and of laying the blame of crucifixion at the feet of the now departed Roman Empire.
While the Perry/Schweitzer book deals with defining the historical origins of anti-Semitism, including chapters on ritual murder accusations (such as baking Christian blood into matzohs, etc.), diabolization (including demons, conspirators and race defilers), Homo Judaicus Economicus (the Jew as Shylock, parasites and plutocrats), Holocaust denial and neo-Nazi
mythology, and the modern anti-Semitic expression in Islamic countries, Schoenfeld’s The Return of Anti-Semitism begins in recent time and discusses modern expressions of anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist hate in the Arab-Moslem countries of the Middle East as well as Europe and America.
Schoenfeld also unabashedly exposes the self-hatred of members of our own tribe, and clearly shows that there is no anti-Semite quite like a Jewish anti-Semite – even if it occasionally parades around like anti-Zionism.
He compliments President George Bush for keeping the United States from being officially represented at the 2001 United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, where the main agenda was condemnation of Israel for defending itself against the Arab intifada. He blames “liberal human rights groups” such as Amnesty International and
Human Rights Watch for being insensitive to anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda. From his vantage point as a contributor to Commentary, the AJC’s monthly magazine of ideas and philosophy, he comments on the naiveté of those such as Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, who claims that “talk of a resurgent anti-Semitism is both inapposite and dangerous, a case of fretfulness run amok… The Jewish community in the United States has become sunk in excitability, in the imagination of disaster.”
Return of Anti-Semitism visits the black/Jewish debacle of the late 60’s, during which a carefully constructed edifice of Jewish contribution to African-American causes, including our participation in the Civil Rights movement, funding of legal causes such as Brown vs. Board of Education, founding of the NAACP and other black civil rights organizations – even the
Jewish funding that established the renowned Tuskegee Institute and many other colleges, universities and secondary institutions for African-Americans – came tumbling down over the Ocean Hill-Brownsville/Teacher’s Union and Crown Heights accident fiascos, which were both mismanaged by New York City’s political establishment.
Both books point out that many Arabs – and Christians – victimized the ancestors of today’s substantial African-American community, while canards abound that it was ”the Jews” who enslaved and transported the Africans to Europe and the Americas. The fact that most blacks are also Christians, and regularly imbibe the anti-Semitism of “The New Testament,” has unfortunately helped make us enemies rather than friends.
Antisemitism, Myth and Hate by Perry and Schweitzer does the better job at providing an overview of the greater historical picture over the centuries, while Schoenfeld’s The Return of Anti-Semitism provides a better view of more recent times and issues. But both furnish important insight for the thoughtful reader who wishes to delve further into the issues.
Unfortunately, we all need to learn a bit about what our enemies think about us.
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