Tuesday, March 26, 2019


A new book, Antisemitism: Here and Now by Deborah E. Lipstadt, has been published. I have not read it yet, but have read the NY Times review by Brett Stephens (Feb. 3, 2019). The subtitle of her book tells us what her focus will be and apparently she is not interested in historical origins. That certainly is confirmed by Stephens’s review. They can focus on whatever they choose to, but I find it disappointing that every time I come across something about antisemitism, there is a terrific effort made to avoid confronting Christianity’s role in this.

What we get instead is an endless discussion of the various symptoms of racism against Jews, but no search for the cause. For all we know from these many forums, antisemitism is all symptoms, but no cause. It is a unique phenomenon in the annals of medicine, if we understand medical problems to include all social dysfunctions. Antisemitism seems to be the only disease which consists entirely of symptoms, but has no main cause.

Many years ago, I went to a Jewish meeting, about 100 people present, in connection with the anniversary date of some aspect of the Dreyfus Affair in late 19th century France. There was a wide-ranging, lively discussion of all aspects of antisemitism, especially in the here and now, except for one thing. No one ever mentioned Christian antisemitism. I did not even realize what was going on until near the end of this almost hour long meeting. When I did, I raised my hand a few times, but was never called on. It is just as well because now I can report that for the entire meeting no one ever brought up Christianity.

I cannot imagine a group of African-Americans having a meeting about racism and no one ever bringing up white racism. It would be impossible. Only Jews can talk about racism against Jews and never get to the main issue.

It was not always like this. In the 1960s, after the initial shock of the Holocaust had worn off a little, there was plenty of concern over Christianity’s contribution. You can open at random almost any Christian scholarly journal from that time period and you will find an article on Christianity and antisemitism. Attempts were made to dig into this and then the moment passed.

Antisemitism became this disease that free floats in the air, attached to no particular cause, and is simply known by its symptoms, by the various charges made against Jews. In his review of Lipstadt’s book, Stephens concludes that in the main, antisemitism is anti-liberalism. Jews, it seems, are hated for their liberal views on truth, freedom, morality, the law, and more. For certain purposes, that might be helpful, but it is not nearly the whole story. And it is valuable to remind people, as Stephens and Lipstadt do, that it isn’t always the most openly bigoted people who continue the disease of racism in all its forms.

But this almost perfect avoidance of discussing the old charges made by Christians tells me that Jews are afraid of Christians. They are afraid that any direct confrontation with Christians about this will only make antisemitism worse. They are afraid that Christians too easily feel threatened even by something as relatively benign as understanding what makes Jesus Jewish. Jews are somehow a threat to the Christian faith. It leads Jews to be content with letting Christians misrepresent ancient Jewish culture any way they want because Jews don’t want to disturb any aspect of Christian faith. Jesus must have Jewish enemies and Jewish villains are fashioned by Christians to fit that purpose.

Jews do not want to challenge any of this. Remember that the first false conspiracy charge made against Jews was the false claim that Jewish leaders conspired to kill Jesus. It is not a charge that is supported by the Gospels (the accusation comes more from later Christian tradition than from the Gospels), but Jews try to avoid this with all their might. Many Christians, not all, seem to need Jesus to have Jewish enemies, so why disturb that belief? But if this is the source that continues to feed antisemitism—if this is the original virus—then leaving it undisturbed means that antisemitism will eternally return.

© 2019 Leon Zitzer

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