As Europe and other countries around the world become aggressively more anti-Semitic, and antagonism towards the State of Israel escalates, there is a need for careful assessment of the nature of anti-Semitism.
What is the reason why more and more Europeans deny Israel’s right to exist and wish to boycott its universities and products? How do we explain that throughout the years, the United Nations has been condemning Israel for the “crime” of defending its citizens, 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 when they know that the same criminal mentality of Hamas, Al Qaeda and other militant Islamic organizations 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, due to many unproven assumptions, this work has come under heavy criticism by eminent scholars, it is remarkable that numerous theologians and sociologists are in agreement with Freud’s understanding of anti-Semitism.
Freud suggests that anti-Semitism is the result and expression of resentment felt by many Christians who hold the Jewish people responsible for the creation of their own Christian religion:
They have remained what their ancestors were, barbarically polytheistic. They have not yet overcome their grudge against the new religion which was forced on them, and they have projected it on to the source from which Christianity came to them….The hatred for Judaism is at bottom hatred for Christianity…(1)
Freud is right on the mark. 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 that was never at ease with the 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 erudite thinkers, most of its spokesmen could not free themselves from this influence.
In 1948, well-known Christian thinker Arthur Roy Eckardt asked whether the Christian Church could ever supersede the Synagogue in the struggle against paganism. His answer was no, because the church itself is subject to pagan distortions: “Against all idolatries Judaism protests: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord’” (2). He and others, including renowned Protestant philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich, postulated that there would always be a need for Judaism, because it 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, but even more unsettling were the consequences. This God’s ethical demand 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 1940 study of anti-Semitism, Zionist leader and author Harry Sacher stated that anti-Semitism is “Europe’s revenge on the prophets.” The Jew is persecuted because he brought ethics and 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.
Part of the Western world has always tried to effect a divorce between Judaism and Christianity, since it cannot accept that Christianity is greatly indebted to Judaism. It therefore calls for the destruction of Judaism so that the uncertainty of its conscience and the reality of its guilt can be obliterated. Resisting its own destiny, it needs to destroy those who bring that destiny to mind. The Jew spoils the anti-Semite’s life by emphasizing the ethical demands of the Torah which, despite their often inaccurate absorption into Jesus’ teachings, still remind him of those demands. The anti-Semite therefore re-enacts the crucifixion of his savior by torturing and killing the Jew who represents the teachings that Jesus had adopted.
So, it is not surprising that when Jews are forced to defend their country and declare war on terrorists, many people are delighted at having found an opportunity to accuse Israel of war crimes. While they are fully aware that their own countries would have decimated a criminal organization that fired thousands of rockets on their own citizens, they cannot bring themselves to admit the legitimacy of such action when it concerns the Jews. They are the victims of their own subconscious animosity against Jewish values propagated by their messiah.
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 is the knowledge that Israeli soldiers try to do everything in their power not to hurt the general Palestinian population, in contrast to their own armies that would surely have taken much more aggressive action and left thousands dead.
Nothing infuriates the anti-Semite more than observing those he hates maintaining a strong moral sense, even in the middle of a war that could determine their very survival.
When looking at Europe, we see an increase in pagan attitudes and a decrease in Judaic values. Consequently, Europe is headed for more and more trouble, which will only be reversible once it understands that the delegitimization of Israel and Jews is its own undoing. It is the Europeans’ good fortune that there are still many non-Jews among them, including honest Christians, who fully understand this and try to turn the tide.
Above all, it is important for us Jews and for Israel to realize that we are hated because of Judaism’s stand on paganism and its unfaltering commitment to morality. And we should be proud of it. Let us at least be hated for the right reasons.