As Europe is becoming aggressively more Anti-Semitic and consequently more and more antagonistic towards the State of Israel, there is a need for a careful assessment of the nature of anti-Semitism.
In his book, Moses and Monotheism, Sigmund Freud tried to understand Jewish history and the formation of the people of Israel and Judaism. While this work, due to many unproven assumptions, has come under heavy criticism by important scholars, it is remarkable that on the issue of anti-Semitism, many theologians and sociologists are in agreement with Freud’s understanding of anti-Semitism:
One might say they (the anti-Semitic peoples) are badly christened, under the thin veneer of Christianity, they have remained what their ancestors were, barbarically polytheistic. They have not yet overcome their grudge against the new religion which was forced upon them and they have projected it on the source from which Christianity came to them The hatred of Judaism is at the bottom hatred for Christianity.
This is a profound observation. When carefully observing the history of Christianity and Western Civilization, it becomes abundantly clear that both are deeply indebted to Judaism for many of its moral values. These values were however not easily accepted. In fact they were often contested, ridiculed and fought against. Millions of new born Christians raised in the pagan world of Rome were not able to undo themselves from morally debatable practices and beliefs rooted in that world. As a consequence Christianity throughout all of its history became entangled in many polytheistic beliefs and as such gave birth to a religious society, which was never at ease with fundamental concepts of monotheism. This resulted in a complex psycho-religious condition, which caught millions of Christians in a most uncomfortable situation in which they were unable to distinguish between authentic monotheism and its moral demands and pagan practices. With the exception of some of Christianity’s most erudite thinkers, most of its spokesmen could not free themselves from this influence.
In 1948 the well-known Christian thinker A. Roy Eckhardt asked whether the Christian Church could ever supersede the Synagogue in the struggle against paganism? To this he answered No, because the church is itself subject to pagan distortions. Against all idolatries Judaism protests: Hear O, Israel, the lord our God is one Lord. (2) As such he and others, among them the famous protestant thinker Paul Tillich, responded that there would always be a need for Judaism to exist because Judaism is the corrective against the paganism that goes along with Christianity. (3)
Sigmund Freud’s observation is therefore not surprising. Not only was it a near impossibility for Christians to accept the oneness of God, even more unsettling were the consequences. The ethical demand of this God on men required much self-discipline and therefore encountered strong opposition. The bottom line was the awareness that Jesus was a Jew who incorporated much of Jewish ethical values into his teachings, which turned many an early Christian against authentic Christianity.
In his study of Anti-Semitism Zionist leader and author, Harry Sacher stated in 1940 that Anti-Semitism is Europe’s revenge on the prophets. It is because the Jew brought ethics, the conception of sin into the western world The European Christian cannot forgive the Jew for giving him Christianity. It is not because they are good Christians that the Europeans are instinctively anti-Semites. It is because they are bad Christians, in reality, repressed pagans. (4)
It is of Jesus that the anti Semites are afraid. They make their assault on those who are responsible for the birth and spread of Christianity. They spit on the Jews not because they were Jesus killers, but because they are Jesus givers. Hatred for Jews is the result of their hatred for Jesus.
Part of the Western world has always tried to effect a divorce between the two since it could not accept that both are really one. It therefore called for the destruction of Judaism so that the uncertainty of its conscience and the reality of its guilt could be obliterated. Resisting its own destiny it needed to destroy those who brought that destiny to mind. The Jew spoiled the anti-Semites life by emphasizing the ethical demands of Law and the cross and therefore re-enacts the crucifixion of his savior by torturing and killing the Jew who represents for him the teachings of the Jew Jesus.
When looking to Europe, we see an increase in pagan attitudes and a decrease of Judeo-Christian values. It is therefore not surprising that it is headed for more trouble and committed to an ongoing delegitimization of Israel. It is important for Jews to realize that it is for Judaism’s stand on paganism and its unfaltering commitment to morality that they are hated and they should be proud of it. At least they should be hated for the right reasons.
(1) Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, Knopf, NY, 1939, p 145. See Will Herberg, Judaism and Modern Man, Atheneum, NY, 1973, p. 284.
(2) A. Roy Eckhardt, Christianity and the Children of Israel, Columbia University Press, NY, 1948, pp.146-147.
(3) quoted by Eckhardt, op.cit., pp. 146-147
(4) Harry Sacher, Revenge on the prophets, a Psychoanalysis of Anti-Semitism , Menorah Journal, vol 18, (Fall 1940)