As Europe and other countries around the world become aggressively more anti-Semitic and consequently more antagonistic towards the State of Israel, there is a need for careful assessment of the nature of anti-Semitism.
What, after all, can be the reason that thousands of Europeans went to the streets in protest of Israel’s attack on Hamas in Gaza – An offensive necessary to protect close to one million of its southern population which has been attacked by nearly 8,000 kassam rockets and missiles for the past eight years? How is it possible that the United Nations, throughout all these years, has condemned Israel for the “crime” of defending its people, while totally overlooking the most heinous offenses by other nations against millions of people? Why is it that so many are incapable of thanking Israel for fighting terrorism even as they know that the same criminal mentality of Hamas is threatening their own existence as well as that of the Western world at large, including some Arab countries?
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 many theologians and sociologists are in agreement with Freud’s understanding of anti-Semitism.
Freud suggests that anti-Semitism is the result of many Christians holding the Jewish people responsible for their newly found religion. “They, (the Christians) 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.” (1)
This is a profound observation. When carefully reviewing the history of Christianity and Western civilization, it becomes clear that both are deeply indebted to Judaism for many of their moral values. These Jewish values were often contested, ridiculed and fought against. Millions of “newborn” Christians raised in the pagan world of Rome were not able to extricate themselves from morally questionable practices and beliefs rooted in that world. As a consequence, Christianity throughout all of its history became entangled in many polytheistic beliefs, giving birth to a religious society which was never at ease with fundamental concepts of monotheism. This resulted in a complex psycho-religious condition trapping millions of Christians in an uncomfortable situation in which they were unable to distinguish between authentic monotheism with its moral demands, on one hand, and pagan practices on the other.
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) He and others, among them the famous Protestant thinker, Paul Tillich, postulated 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 many Christians to accept the oneness of God, but 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, and this turned many early Christians against their own religion.
In his study of anti-Semitism, Zionist leader and author, Harry Sacher, stated in 1940: “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 of Christianity. They spit on the Jews not because they were Jesus killers, but because they are Jesus givers. And although the teachings of Jesus, and even more so of his disciple Paul, are on many levels in total opposition to authentic Judaism, 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-Semite’s life by emphasizing the ethical demands of the Law which, despite its often inaccurate absorption into Jesus’ teachings, still reminded him of its demands. He, the anti-Semite, therefore re-enacts the crucifixion of his savior by torturing and killing the Jew who represents for him the teachings which Jesus had adopted.
It is therefore not surprising that, at the time when Jews are forced to defend their country and declare war on terrorists, many people are delighted to have found an opportunity to accuse Israel of war crimes. While they are fully aware that their own countries would have utterly destroyed a criminal organization firing thousands of rockets on their own people, they cannot get themselves to admit this when it concerns the Jews.
Not one of them would have allowed the destruction of their State at the hands of barbarians. But when it comes to the Jews, they are not able to neutralize their bias towards Jewish, and therefore Christian, morals. They cowardly take revenge on the Jews whose biblical forefathers laid the foundations of justice and morality which they now proudly use to condemn those Jews. What irritates them more than anything else is the knowledge that Israeli soldiers tried to do everything in their power not to hurt the general Palestinian population, in contrast to their own armies which would surely have taken much more aggressive action and left tens of thousands dead. Nothing infuriates the anti-Semite more than observing those whom he hates the most maintaining a strong moral sense, even in the middle of a war which could determine their very survival.
When we look at Europe we see an increase in pagan attitudes and a decrease of Judaic values. Consequently, Europe is headed for more and more trouble which will only be reversible once it understands that the de-legitimization of Israel and Jews is its own undoing. To Europe’s good fortune there are still many non-Jewish voices, including honest Christians, who fully understand this and try to turn the tide.
But above all, it is important for Jews and Israel to realize that it is for Judaism’s stand on paganism and unfaltering commitment to morality that we are hated, and we should be proud of it. Let us at least 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)