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Why do people hate Jews and Judaism? (COMMENTARY)

Visitors watch the sunrise from Mount Moses in the Sinai Peninsula on August 10, 2009. According to the Bible, this was where Moses received the ten commandments from God. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-BLECH-COLUMN, originally transmitted on May 21, 2015.
Visitors watch the sunrise from Mount Moses in the Sinai Peninsula on August 10, 2009. According to the Bible, this was where Moses received the ten commandments from God. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-BLECH-COLUMN, originally transmitted on May 21, 2015.

Visitors watch the sunrise from Mount Moses in the Sinai Peninsula on Aug. 10, 2009. According to the Bible, this was where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-BLECH-COLUMN, originally transmitted on May 21, 2015.

NEW YORK (RNS)  As Jews around the world prepare to celebrate the holiday of Shavuot commemorating the acceptance of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, we are profoundly disturbed by the resurgence of global anti-Semitism. What seems not sufficiently understood is the deep connection between these two, Sinai and anti-Semitism.

The link between the two can allow us to resolve one of the most perplexing questions surrounding the history of the Jewish people.

Seven decades after the Holocaust, the hatred of Jews and Judaism has reappeared with a vengeance in the major capitals of Europe. In the contemporary disguise of anti-Zionism, once again it made its way around the world. Jews as a people and Israel as their land are once more the scapegoats responsible for all the world’s ills and the cause of all of its wrongs.

For the longest time, scholars have attempted to understand what is it about Jews that made them the focus of this obsessive animosity. As fewer than one quarter of 1 percent of the world’s population, what could possibly have turned them into the supreme villains of mankind? And how did countries with not even a single Jew become rabid anti-Semites?

The question is so perplexing that many have simply given up trying to come up with an answer. Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor, concluded that the endurance of anti-Semitism remains a mystery; he described anti-Semitism as an “irrational disease.” The unsolvable puzzle, he said, is that “the world has changed in the last 2,000 years, and only anti-Semitism has remained. … The only disease that has not found its cure is anti-Semitism.”

Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel is seen before participating in a roundtable discussion on "The Meaning of Never Again: Guarding Against a Nuclear Iran" on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 2, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Gary Cameron  *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-SALKIN-COLUMN, originally transmitted on March 4, 2015, or RNS-BLECH-COLUMN, originally transmitted on May 21, 2015.

Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel is seen before participating in a roundtable discussion on “The Meaning of Never Again: Guarding Against a Nuclear Iran” on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 2, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Gary Cameron
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-SALKIN-COLUMN, originally transmitted on March 4, 2015, or RNS-BLECH-COLUMN, originally transmitted on May 21, 2015.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, expressed the fear that “we currently face as great a threat to the safety and security of the Jewish people as the one we faced in the 1930s — if not a greater one,” but he could find no better explanation for its persistent presence other than calling it “a spiritual and psychological illness.” 

True, reasons for anti-Semitism have often been offered. Their obvious error invariably was the inherent contradiction of their explanations. Jews were despised because they were too liberal — and also because they were too conservative. They were too cheap and of course they were also too spendthrift; too passive and too pushy; too charitable and too selfish; too religious and too secular.

Pick any characteristic and Jews have been blamed either for possessing too much of it or not having it at all. Jews have been the scapegoats for the sins of every political system. Max Nordau, the great Zionist leader, had it right: “The Jews are not hated because they have evil qualities; evil qualities are sought for in them because they are hated.”

Still, that begs the question: Why?

A little over a century ago, with the beginning of the Zionist movement, Jews thought they at last had found the answer. Theodore Herzl fervently believed that it was all because the Jews had no land of their own. Stateless, they were natural victims. Only their abnormal political reality caused them to become international pariahs. No longer homeless, with Israel Jews would find acceptance and universal respect.

Yet the state of Israel has disabused Jews of Hertzl’s response to anti-Semitism. If anything, Jews with a state of their own have become far more vulnerable to the world’s hostility. Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only member of the United Nations whose right to exist is regularly challenged and whose elimination from the world map is the aim of other U.N. member states.

What then is the answer to the reason for anti-Semitism?

The rabbis of the Talmud saw it in the very name of the mountain on which the Ten Commandments were given. “Sinai” in Hebrew is similar to the word “sinah” — hatred. It was the Jews’ acceptance of a higher law of morality and ethics that was responsible for the world’s enmity.

Jews were the first to preach the message of the Ten Commandments, that worship of God includes the second tablet of respect for fellow mankind. As the mother religion of both Christianity and Islam, Judaism pioneered the ideal of the holy and the human need for acting in accord with divine law. But anti-Semitism stands in opposition to the very idea of civilization. It detests Jews because it acknowledges that Jews are the conscience of humanity and the lawgivers of ethical and moral behavior.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech, professor of Talmud, Yeshiva University. Photo courtesy of Yeshiva University

Rabbi Benjamin Blech, professor of Talmud, Yeshiva University. Photo courtesy of Yeshiva University

Amazingly enough, Adolf Hitler dared to verbalize it as justification for his plan for genocide of the Jewish people: “Conscience is a Jewish invention like circumcision. My task is to free men from the dirty and degrading ideas of conscience and morality.”

As Jews prepare to celebrate the reception of the Ten Commandments, anti-Semitism ought to be viewed as a badge of honor. Jews are hated not because they are bad but because they persist in reminding the world of what it means to be good. Anti-Semitism is nothing less than a visceral reaction to the cry of a guilty conscience.

(Rabbi Benjamin Blech is professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University in New York.)

KRE/MG END BLECH

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Benjamin Blech

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  • I agree with you, let me just rephrase it. Antisemitism is caused by the fact that Jewish culture is perceived as “powerful and different” in some ways compared to other’s. However, like President John Adams and Mark Twain said: The world has adopted many core Jewish morals, more then any other.

  • People hate Jews and Judaism because of 1900 years of the Jewish heresy of Christianity proclaiming that they were of the devil and killed Jesus. It started in the book of Acts, continued on down the centuries through the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella, was supported by Martin Luther, proclaimed as a basic tenet of fascism because of that long history of Christian anti-Semitism, was exploited in l’affaire Dreyfus at the end of the 19th century, was reinforced by the catholic Church until 1962, and got supported by the Southern Baptists as late as 1977.

    F. Bailey smith, president of the SBC: “God almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew!”

    And on and on and on and on.

    1900 years of official Christian Jew hatred, and you want to know why Jews and Judaism are hated?

    However, Jews are not the only people that are hated for the crime of existing. One need only look at the history of Christian gay hatred to see that it is not so unusual. It’s remarkably similar to jew…

  • Fred, the term antisemitism originated in Germany, and while it originally referred there to pseudoscientific theories about the superiority of “Aryan” to “Semitic” races (i.e. all Middle Easterners), it eventually came to refer only to Jews. This usage solidified in the 19th century.

  • Just to clear up any confusion: the reference to “Mount Moses” in the photograph is the traditional believed location of the biblical Mount Sinai. Jabal Musa is an Arabic term for Mount Sinai.

  • So the anti-semitism in modern secular Europe and in the communist countries in the 20th century was because the Jews don’t/didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah?

  • As with so many discussions about “anti Jewish sentiments” a tissue of lies, distortions, misrepresentations, withheld facts and hypocrisy.
    Among other things, the constant used of terms like “hate” and “anti Semitism”. Level a legitimate criticism at the government of Israel and automatically there are those who will be willing to call it “anti Semitic”. If you call dust “collars” ad people agree, you can be a billionaire.
    As in the article claims of community wide Jewish duplicity against the rest of humanity are dismissed without proof. It’s known that the Jews do have more control over money than anyone else and that gives them power over governments. And their near total control over “entertainment” allows them to mold the sentiments of at least the imbecile plurality. It’s known in corridors of power that you don’t need a majority to control events, only a large enough plurality, and the plurality of the dullards is also known as a powerful mandate to control.

  • For that matter, it can be helpful to remind ourselves that, except for some accounts of supernatural happenings, Judaism does not resemble many other religions. All of Judaism’s “holy days” and “feast days” are purely secular in nature! Sukkot, the “Festival of Booths”, celebrates the tiny houses the Jews lived in during the Exodus. Purim, celebrates Esther keeping the Jews in Persia from being attacked. Tisha B’Av, celebrating the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah which, in addition to mentioning the oil lasting eight days, also celebrates driving invaders out of Jerusalem. The New Years for crops and animals, used to officially determine their age for payment in debts. Passover, associated with Moses leading Jews out of Egypt. Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Yerushalayim, celebrating the reunification of Jerusalem. Judaism is less a religion of universale principles of decency than a system of maintaining rock hard solidarity involving a shared heritage.

  • I too am amazed that antisemitism has reemerged in this day and age. I have never fully understood the rationale that Germany used to kill 6 million Jews simply for being Jews.
    It’s ironic to me, a Catholic, that our Faith came out of Judaism, our Bible includes the Jewish Scripture that Jesus read, and to learn that antisemitism grew in intensity with the growth of Christianity. The simplistic view that they killed/ did not accept their own Messiah was true ages ago, but it can hardly be the basis of antisemitism today.
    I truly do not understand this hatred.

  • Well, consider how the jews where once God’s chosen people. And when Satan told Jesus he had control over all kingdoms of the earth, Jesus didnt call him out as a liar.

    Thus, since the whole world is under the control of the wicked one, it is no mystery that the world hates peoples who have been so deeply associated with God Almighty, YHWH.

    Hitler hated jews in such an incomprehensible way because of their historical worship of God. He also swore to exterminate another group of people who worshiped the same God, YHWH. Jehovah’s Witnesses were specifically targeted by him.

  • Antisemitism is far older than Christianity…nor does it only exist within Christianity.

  • Thank you,Shawnie…I’m afraid that there is more than a little fast and loose skewing of various presumed”facts”going on on some of these posts;hatred of our Jewish brethren(and sisters) is indeed far older than it’s imagined,and it’s shameful that a few verses were so horribly and in some cases willfully slanted to heap oppobrium on a race.Shame on us ALL.

  • ” Jews are hated not because they are bad but because they persist in reminding the world of what it means to be good. Anti-Semitism is nothing less than a visceral reaction to the cry of a guilty conscience.”
    This article clings to the self righteous -we are the chosen by God and we suffer for him nonsense. As long as the Jewish community refuses to even consider that their behavior is at the root of their unpopularity, their enemies will gain traction with blaming Jews for any and everything.

  • Israel betrayed the world’s trust by turning into a ghetto-creating hostile occupation force, while continuously whining of its supposed victimization; as if the Holocaust were the only genocide in human history (or even the worst).

    Hypocrisy is antithetical to sympathy, and Israel has become the global symbol of hypocrisy.

  • Matthew, if hating Israel has nothing to do with hating Jews or Judaism, why do you and the rest of the Israel-haters constantly bring Jewish history and references into the discussion? It’s like you have something in your subconscious you’re trying to say.

  • You’re right, Julian, your claims of “community wide Jewish complicity against the rest of humanity” are “dismissed without proof.” You never have proof, just conspiracy theories.
    It always amuses me what antisemites will think of next. Jews don’t worship God enough. And our holidays really just reinforce tribal identity (aka Kevin MacDonald’s “Judaism is a group evolutionary strategy” academic antisemitism). BTW if you really think that Tisha B’Av “celebrates” anything, or that Passover commemorates Moses as opposed to God leading the people out of Egypt, you really need to start over.

  • Only by you and your fellow travelers. As a Jew and a gay man, I can certainly see the parallels.

    As a conservative Christian obsessed with sexual sin, and a virulently anti gay personality, you can’t.

    Simple as that.

  • And yet, I suspect that deep in your darkest heart, you wouldn’t mind seeing gay people suffering the same fate that the Jews have had to suffer simply because of who they are. You cannot see religious-based hatred for what it is simply because you cannot see it in yourself.

  • My rejection of Israel is not sub-conscious at all. It’s very conscious. Israel is among the most violent states on the planet. It has recreated the Warsaw Ghetto in Gaza. And, it hides behind the skirts of the rest of the world’s Jews – whining “anti-semitism!” – in hopes of continued distraction from the raw colonialist land-grab by the 20 or so families which own it all.

    I’m not saying anything anyone who halfway follows Israeli politics doesn’t already know, and likely agree with, were it not for the constant threat of being socially smeared simply for giving a damn about the suffering people of Palestine.

  • Nope. Not.at.all. While I agree 100% with everything JR wrote, I disagree 200% with your reply.

    Gays are not my enemies. (Liars, hypocrites, and false teachers who lead others astray are.) But, even if they were, I wouldn’t want to see them suffer. I don’t want to see anyone suffer. I want them – everyone – to experience the joy of knowing the Lord.

    Ben, you cannot see true Christian caritas for what it is simply because you’re blinded by your own world-view’s tunnel vision. I’ll help you out here: it isn’t all about sex.

  • “except for some accounts of supernatural happenings, Judaism does not resemble many other religions.”

    1. Those supernatural happenings were really amazing, but you toss them aside as if they were nothing. Each one was imbued with profound meaning, all of which pointed to Christ. They were seriously important – both to the Children of Israel who experienced them, and to the whole world, due to their prophetic witness to the Son of God.

    2. So what if the Jewish religion has a bunch of man-centered holidays? So what if it doesn’t “resemble many other religions”? Is that what determines value to you?? I don’t know about you, but it seems that a religion that adheres to the truth is the only one worth following, whether it “resemble[s] many other religions” or not. Copy-cat religions do not impress me (because truth is what I seek, not fads), but you seem to think they are to be preferred.

  • Foxman and the ADL have nothing to do with Jews nor Judaism, they are anti-torah abortion monkeys and do not represent Jews in any shape way or form.

    Note that shavuot is a dividing line between rabbinical judaism and christianity. The “New Testament” teaches that shavuot is a messianic ruaH haQodesh festival as layed out in the second chapter of the book of Ma`asey haShlichim (Acts of the Apostles).

  • So true. Jews are hatered all around the world because their illusion of being some special kind of homo sapiens.

  • You clearly have not read very much history. It’s a complex issue spanning economics, politics, and nationalism. Try opening a book and reading up on it. You might notice parallels to enfants today.

  • Each time a read I litte more of carping and victimization I like a little less all the people of Israel (not only Jews, I imagine, just Israelis).
    Romani are more generally hated nowadays, were also in the concentration camps (together with a few million non-Jews), don’t have a Moses and no one carps their rather hard destinity. The story of their migration (and they were not at Massada, I know) is more recent, but quite ancient already. Go to the Wiki please:
    “Romani are dispersed, with their concentrated populations in Europe—especially Central and Eastern Europe and Turkey, Spain and Southern France. They originated in India and arrived in Mid-West Asia, then Europe, around 1,000 years age, either separating from the Dom people or, at least, having a similar history;the ancestors of both the Romani and the Dom left North India sometime between the sixth and eleventh century. Since the nineteenth century, some Romani have also migrated to the Americas.”

  • Anti-semitism is a huge problem and most people of goodwill are repelled by it. However, it doesn’t help when the cry of anti-semitism is used as a weapon to attack those who question Israeli policy towards Palestinians.

  • I was in Brooklyn NY. I was in a Jewish Neigbhorhood and there was a Jewish place of worship. I could see young fat men inside who threw a apple core out of the window when I was loading my Van. They stayed locked inside their compound while doing this. Not very brave or nice to other people is it? I was not impressed with them. People from other countries dislike them because they are arrogant and disrespectful and think they own them when they work for their businesses.

  • The Jews persist on reminding everybody of what is good? Am I missing something here? I really don’t think that’s why people hate the Jews. You see, I think it’s because they push an agenda and policies on other cultures that they wouldn’t dare tolerate in their own culture OR ISRAEL.

  • Who is they? You personally have met every Jew out there who pushes an agenda. What agenda exactly. If everyone hates Jews how successful is this agenda that Jews are pushing.

  • Seems to be going forward pretty well in Europe and the United States. I’m talking about our country fighting these wars for Israel and the Jewish oligarchs neo-cons and neo-marxists in our government. All this while Israel shames the rest of the world into taking the migrants but yet they won’t take any in themselves. That is not my propaganda sir or ma’am. That is what is happening. More and more people are waking up to this Zionism AKA Jewish supremacism.. every major Jewish group in the world is for open borders in the United States and Europe and gun control.. Israel has a wall as well as Citizens carrying Uzis. Now you tell me

  • Okay I will tell you, you are a paranoid wing nut who sees a jew under your bed at night. I don’t know any jews who are for open borders, especially is the people coming in are muslims. Zionism is a nationalist movement for jews to settle in their ancient homeland which is Israel. It is nothing any more sinister than that.

  • He is absolutely right. There is no paranoia in what he said. He speaks the truth. Jews have been persecuted throughout history now they are the ones persecuting in Palestine. They fool our politicians to fight their wars for them. American blood as been spilled for Jewish interests. Zionism is much more than just settling in Israel. It is about world supremacy!

  • What is this “good” they remind us of pray tell? Sloth? Greed? Theft? Libel? Lying perhaps?

    I thought I’d heard every excuse under the sun for why these vile parasites who abuse anyone without the sense to wipe them out are “persecuted” (by their victims), but this is so stupid its not even funny.

  • And you are a fraud, misinformation master trying to justify the Zionist crimes against humanity. Ancient homeland my foot, land confiscated by British colonist and giving to the Communist who were wreaking havoc on Europeans countries with their twisted and insatiable hunger for power and sense of superiority.

  • “Jews are hated not because they are bad but because they persist in reminding the world of what it means to be good.” This is propaganda, well from my experience in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and New York, USA, I came to the conclusion that people hate Jews because of their wicked ways, cruel and inhumane, sense of Superiority over others. The author displays the same moral superiority….one needs to look at the ghetto’s and deplorable human conditions in New York alone to see how Jews remind the world of what is good. If oppression, persecution, exploitation, killing indiscriminately through war, subjugation to confiscate natural resources, advocating hatred to divide and conquer, imposing Marxist/Communist tyranny aka liberal democracy down the throats of people, is good I am from another planet and Jews are indeed God on earth.

  • Who is they? How about in so many cultures, one person thinks they answer for EVERY person of that race or culture. There are Jews who are Christians, yet I still see on TV and other places where well-known Jewish actors or scholars say, “Jews don’t believe in heaven or hell.” That is simply NOT true. Unless you yourself have met every Jew on this planet, defending a “perceived unanimous” believe of an entire people is ludicrous.

  • Anyone who doesn’t understand why much of the world doesn’t like Jews, doesn’t understand the past. Tex Forister, you are right. It will be decided before very long. But true Jews will, at the end of this age, be protected.

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