Jews have been widely loathed since before the time of Christ. Inexplicably, they still are. The question is, "Why?"
Why do so many people around the world seem to hate Jews?
This perplexed me as a kid when I first learned about the rise of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in school and watched horrendous black-and-white films of Nazi bulldozers shoving huge piles of dead, emaciated Jewish prisoners into mass graves. And I was further perplexed that this homicidal prejudice against Jews also existed in my own country, the United States, during my sheltered youth in the 1960s.
And still does though generally less broadly in the 2000s.
As far as I knew, Jews had never done anything bad to me personally or anyone I knew, but then, I’d never met one to my knowledge, either. Where are they, exactly? What do they look like? The broad animosity toward them seemed to me extremely nebulous, shapeless, indistinct. They apparently didn’t kill people, rob them or necessarily commit other unconscionable wrongs against them. They were just loathed. Because.
The Nazis reviled Jews in the 1930s and ’40s, according to history books, because they irrationally blamed them for selfishly controlling Germany’s financial system and secretly scheming for a profitable war in the 1910s, which they believed contributed to the nation’s entry into World War I (a.k.a. The Great War, 1914-1918) and their subsequent unconditional surrender and humiliation in defeat. And predominantly Christian Germans also held Jews responsible for a litany of imagined ancient ills stemming from the biblical story that Jews ordered Jesus’ execution by Roman authorities. However, Jesus himself was a Jew, so the argument seems a bit tortured.
So it wasn’t like Jews broke any German laws, moral, ethical, or otherwise. They were just hated because they had been long hated and persecuted. Because they were successful bankers and financiers?
Further perplexing me is the fact that this seemingly absurd but raging bias is still very much with us these many decades later—in both Germany and the U.S., as elsewhere.
I was reminded of this recently when I read a curious piece in the ezine Slate, titled “Meet a Jew: As violence rises against Jews in Germany, one group has a radically simple scheme to fight back.”
The article focused on a new program of local classes for students held around the country called, in fact, “Meet a Jew.” Introduced by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the program introduces Jews to non-Jewish Germans in local communities from Munich to Frankfurt and Leipzig. The aim, the Slate article explained was to “humanize Jews amid years of rising antisemitic violence in the country.”
Again, I ask myself, why is this specific hatred against Jews rising anywhere? It’s a kind of ideological red herring. What did they do to anyone that deserves such contemptuous and discriminatory persecution?
The toxic nationalist ideology of ‘blood and soil’
Well, I’ve learned there is one white supremacist, nationalist, racist notion, called “blood and soil” (“Blut und Boden,” in German), a central Nazi philosophy, which has helped to inspire this endless loathing. The philosophy espouses the Nazi ideal of a racially defined national populace (“blood”) united with a settlement area (“soil”) in which rural and farm life is idealized as a counterweight to that of cities.
Everywhere throughout Western history, which is steeped in Christian assumptions and persecution of “others,” Jews have been unjustly viewed as aliens in our midst, as “others,” not Christian, not full citizens, not even really white. Not until the creation of the modern Jewish state of Israel amid the destruction of World War II, in which hatred of international Jewry, along with a burning need for redemption from the humiliations of World War I, fueled Nazi Germany’s world-challenging aggression.
This ruthless brand of right-wing, white-supremacist, racist nationalism has become a thing in the West in the past few years, infecting and destabilizing the U.S. and European democracies alike.
As it turns out, Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler have much in common. Both idealized whiteness, fascism, and cold-blooded nationalism, and both disingenuously courted Christian masses to give their movements extra heft and cultish zeal.
Charlottesville neo-Nazis: “Jews will not replace us”
We Americans saw the connection in 2019, when a mob of neo-Nazi, anti-black thugs marched in torchlight in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, shouting old Nazi slogans in unison such as “Blood and soil!” and “Jews will not replace us!”
The reactionary din at the so-called “Unite the Right” rally seemed like an odd time warp. For one thing, “blood and soil” is not an American idea, and Jews, comprising only 2.4 percent of the U.S. populace, seem highly unlikely to be replacing the white bigot demographic—totaling tens of millions of Trump supporters — anytime soon.
When Trump won the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, The Atlantic magazine, using research data, described his base supporters as mostly poor evangelical white men lacking college degrees, still a core constituency among supporters today.
So, what’s this right-wing loathing of Jews all about? Well, there’s a lot of fundamentalist Christian claptrap baked into the American Christian nationalist movement, including the ancient and very dubious concept of “blood libel,” which holds that “Jews murder Christian children, often around Easter, and use their blood in Passover rituals,” as an article in The Nation explains. As if.
Like a lot of zealotry, this, too, is based on a lot of provably bogus nonsense that adherents choose to wholeheartedly believe for ideological, not objective, reasons.
In the meantime, anti-Semitic views appear to be entrenched and increasing elsewhere in the world, even in Germany, where, ironically, simply denying the Holocaust today or insulting Jews are federal offenses. Wrote Slate:
“[A] study in 2019 found that more than a quarter of Germans hold antisemitic views themselves (‘Jews talk about the Holocaust too much,’ 41 percent agreed; Jews have ‘too much power’ over the economy and the media in Germany, more than 20 percent concurred).”
The far-right Alternative for Germany party, while seeing its vote share slide in the 2021 elections, still controls 11 percent of seats in the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament.
“The worrisome thing is that the cultural and political forces pushing antisemitism could become stronger,” Alex Sagan, a professor at Harvard specializing in the experience of Jews in modern Europe, told Slate.
U.S.-style ‘blood and soil’ bigotry
In the U.S., we’re still recovering from the 2021 storming of the US Capitol by extremist, largely Christian, supporters of Trump to sabotage the 2020 presidential election results (Remember the Christian flags?). Hundreds of right-wing nationalist insurrectionists are at present methodically being prosecuted, tried, and imprisoned by the Department of Justice in connection with that appalling event. And a select committee of the U.S. House of Representatives is doing a deep-dive investigation into whether key government officials, including the former president and members of Congress, unlawfully participated in the wide-ranging “Stop the Steal” campaign that culminated with the Capitol attack.
Still, as bald-faced lies were the main Nazi propaganda weapon, Trump likewise keeps insisting on what is unimpeachably false: that the 2020 win was “stolen” from him.
This anti-law, anti-democracy, anti-civility strategy of right nationalists and their hero, Donald Trump, has rocked American governance and threatens—seeks—to topple it.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of Republicans in Congress (and elsewhere) still refuses to acknowledge the “Big Lie,” that the election was supposedly fraudulently rigged against Trump and, thus, is illegitimate.
Anti-Semitism is one of the key prejudices of the evangelical Christian, white nationalist cabal still in lockstep with the former president now in exile. And these folks are dangerous.
FBI: ‘domestic terrorism’ No.1 U.S. security threat
In January, FBI director, Christopher Wray memorably told Congress that the Jan. 6 insurrection was no isolated incident, and that “the problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a number of years.”
He added that violent incidents wrought by white supremacists now comprise “the biggest chunk of our domestic terrorism portfolio overall” and “have been responsible for the most lethal attacks over the last decade.”
Don’t forget that a lot of these people are evangelical Christians who coincidentally either greatly mistrust or hate Jews for reasons unfathomable to rational, reasonable people.
That’s what we’re dealing with these days. Jews will not replace us? What does that even mean in the 21st century when Jews represent only a microscopic fraction of society?
What is this, 1938?
The ‘Night of Broken Glass’
On Nov. 9-10 that year the Nazis orchestrated “the final shattering of Jewish existence in Germany” in an officially directed nationwide atrocity now know as Kristallnacht, (German: “Crystal Night”), also called Night of Broken Glass, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. The name refers to glass shards littering streets after Nazi thugs directed by Nazi leadership vandalized some 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses and Jewish hospitals, torched or otherwise damaged 1,000 synagogues, and killed at least 91 Jews. Some 30,000 Jewish males were arrested; Hitler had ordered police to stand down during the mayhem and only arrest victims.
Ironically, the FBI was not fully aware of the extent of white supremacist terror growth in the U.S. after the Twin Towers tragedy on 9/11, after which law enforcement agencies laser-focused on the threat to the Homeland of Islamic terrorism.
But as Wray’s admission to Congress underscored, they’re focused on it now.
This is very likely not the last time we’ll see infuriated Nazi wannabees strutting down streets in America, railing against Jews, blacks, women, and the hated gov’ment.
The irony is, none of those scapegoats is the real problem. Right-wing zealots’ utter inability to objectively reason is.
Irrationally hating Jews is just a glaring symptom.