by: Cheryl Hauer, Vice President
Historian Paul Johnson has said, “What strikes the historian surveying anti-Semitism worldwide over more than two millennia is its fundamental irrationality. It seems to make no sense, any more than malaria or meningitis make sense.”
It goes by many names: bigotry, discrimination, prejudice, intolerance. Most often, it falls in that broad category of “racism,” which has been defined as prejudice, discrimination or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. Historically, victims of racism have often been poor, those who as a collective were unable to defend themselves against oppressors. Such hatred has insidiously infected populations all over the globe, resulting in persecution and death to countless individuals whose crime was that of being different.
The racism experienced by Jews, however, is unique in many ways. In the Middle Ages, they were vilified for stubborn laziness, accused of living in self-inflicted poverty and filth, bearing a smell particular only to Jews. Yet at the same time, the myth of the wealthy money lender persisted, together with the belief that the rich Jewish majority was involved in a conspiracy to take over the wealth of the nations. Jews were held in contempt as weak and pathetic, less than human and unable to govern themselves, while another theory of a powerful international Jewish conspiracy to control the governments of the world flourished at the same time. That false accusation continues to this day.
Today, we live in a world where “racism” is widely discussed and condemned on every level, yet anti-Semitism is becoming increasingly normalized and is on the rise worldwide. “If anti-Semitism is a variety of racism, it is a most peculiar variety,” says Johnson. “In my view as an historian, it is so peculiar it deserves to be placed in a different category. I would call it an intellectual disease, a disease of the mind, extremely infectious and massively destructive.”
Regardless of which label we might apply, the irrational hatred of Jews is on the rise worldwide, surpassing some of the highest levels on record. Dr. Moshe Kantor, founder of the Moshe Kantor Database for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University, has produced an exhaustive report on global anti-Semitism since 2010, released each year on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. The 2018 report reveals some alarming trends, so much so that Dr. Kantor wrote an open letter to the European Union in which he referenced the brutal killing and burning of a Jewish Holocaust survivor in France, a country which has seen the murder of Jewish school children, a Jewish woman thrown from a window and a Jewish youth savagely kidnapped and murdered.
“Across Europe, extremists from the far-right are marching down the streets and into our parliaments,” Dr. Kantor reported. “The Holocaust is denied, minimized and relativized, even by some governing parties in Central and Eastern Europe. Anti-Semitism, old and new, is clearly on the rise, at the highest political echelons, in religious institutions and on the streets. Even our homes are no longer safe. This is the reality of Jewish existence in 2018 in Europe. It is the sign of a profound societal sickness.”
France, which sees at least one report of anti-Semitic harassment or violence every single day, is not the only country with a problem. The United Kingdom saw an overall increase of 16% in violent attacks in 2018, with 100 incidents per month reported—the highest level in the history of the report. The United States reported 1,879 attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions. Violent acts against Jews doubled in America, with 59 reports of physical attacks, and of the nearly 100 Jews globally who lost their lives for their Jewishness in 2018, 11 were killed in one single incident in Pittsburgh—the largest number of such deaths in decades.
Australia witnessed a 59% increase in overall anti-Semitic activity, Canada 16.5%, and South Africa 25%. Countries like Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, who had no actual statistics on anti-Semitic activity, all reported an increase in overall anti-Semitic attitudes, with Jews falsely accused of everything from arrogance to plotting to destroy the world’s white population and being responsible for mosque shootings that resulted in 51 dead and dozens injured. Worldwide, campuses are rife with calls for death to the Jews, death to Israel and death to Zionists.
Many Jews liken today’s climate to that faced by their parents and grandparents in the 1930s and 1940s. European Jews are feeling an increasing sense of emergency, Dr. Kantor says, many fearful that they are no longer an integral part of the societies in which they have lived for centuries. “Is there,” they are asking, “a place where we will be truly safe?”
Perhaps most alarming, however, is the change in what anti-Semitism looks like. Today, graffiti on synagogues and vandalized Jewish cemeteries are overshadowed by physical attacks, beatings, kidnappings and murder. Threats, harassment and insults have become more violent and more common. And globally, such attacks are no longer necessarily the work of the far left or the far right, but are becoming mainstream and socially acceptable. Anti-Semitism, Dr. Kantor reports, is the new normal.
Not since World War II has it been so imperative for Christians to raise our voices against this evil, the same evil that destroyed six million Jews—a million and a half of them children—while the Church stood by silently. Newspapers, magazines, the Internet and even conversations at work or school are breeding grounds for the spread of anti-Semitic propaganda, and those who remain silent are complicit in what can only be explained as a spiritual attack on the people of the Bible and the God who says they are the apple of His eye (Zech. 2:8). The blood of the six million cries out for those who would enter the battle against ultimate evil. Let us not let them down again.
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