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Antisemitism in the Christian World

Introduction

Antisemitism in the Christian World

Antisemitism in the Christian World is nothing new. Almost from the beginning of Christianity, Christians were deeply offended that Jews, from whom the Christians came, refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah. This refusal became a point of contention between the newly created religion and the older, established practice that was embarrassing to the Christian triumphalist position that Jesus was the one who came to fulfill the Jewish Law as given to the Jews by God at Mount Sinai. To those who remained Jewish, there was no argument. You go your way and I’ll go mine. But the Christian community was deeply hurt by the stubbornness of their Jewish cousins; so much so that it became important to create a theology of hate, one of a deadly bias against Jews. Hence the birth of antisemitism.

Antisemitism, the prejudice, discrimination, and persecution of Jewish people, has a long and troubling history in the Western Christian world. Spanning over two millennia, this essay will explore the evolution of antisemitism from its early origins to the present day, highlighting significant events and demonstrating that the Holocaust, otherwise referred to as the Shoah ( a term I use throughout the remainder of this post) was not the last act of antisemitism in history. Additionally, this essay will examine the concerning issue of antisemitism in contemporary times, including the recognition of white supremacists during Donald J. Trump’s presidency.

Antisemitism in the Christian World: Early Roots of Antisemitism (1st-15th Century CE)

Antisemitism finds its early roots in the early Christian era, where theological differences, socio-economic factors, and religious prejudices contributed to the marginalization of Jewish communities. During this period, Jews were often depicted as “Christ killers” and were subject to discriminatory laws and practices. The true cause of the differences, as I stated above, was the simple fact that the Jews who remained Jewish were an embarrassment to the early Christians. The latter looked for ways to find Jews as enemies who, even when given ‘all the facts,’ failed to believe in the Christian Truths.

For instance, the Council of Elvira (c. 305 CE) in Spain passed decrees that prohibited intermarriage between Jews and Christians, restricting the rights of Jewish individuals. This legal action effectively isolated Jewish communities and fostered an atmosphere of discrimination. Furthermore, during the Crusades (11th-13th century CE), violent attacks were unleashed upon Jewish communities as part of the religious conflicts, resulting in mass killings and forced conversions. It seems that German Knights on their way to Jerusalem to kill the heathens, determined that along the way they had a duty to kill the heathen Jews along the Rhine River in 1096 CE

Medieval Period and Blood Libel (11th-15th Century CE)

The medieval period witnessed the emergence of the “blood libel” myth, which falsely accused Jews of using the blood of Christian children for religious rituals. This dangerous accusation fueled widespread hatred and violence against Jewish communities. This myth persists to this day among many antisemites in spite of it being shown to be absolutely false.

One notable example is the Norwich Blood Libel (1144 CE) in England. In this case, Jews were falsely accused of kidnapping and murdering a young boy. The unfounded accusation led to the persecution and execution of many Jewish individuals, demonstrating the extent to which antisemitism had permeated society. Additionally, the Ritual Murder Trials in Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries perpetuated the blood libel myth, resulting in the persecution and expulsion of Jewish communities in various regions.

Antisemitism in the Christian World: Expulsions and Ghettos (15th-18th Century CE)

The expulsion of Jewish communities from various European countries and the establishment of ghettos further institutionalized antisemitism during this period. Jews were segregated and faced severe economic and social restrictions.

One significant example is the Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834), which targeted Jews for conversion or expulsion. As a result, thousands of Jewish individuals were either forced to convert to Christianity or exiled from their homes. This widespread discrimination and persecution had a profound and lasting impact on Jewish communities. Soon after, Jews were expelled from Spain’s neighbor, Portugal. Furthermore, the establishment of the Venice Ghetto in 1516 confined Jews to a restricted area, perpetuating their marginalization and exclusion from society.

Enlightenment and Modern Antisemitism (18th-19th Century CE)

The Enlightenment period brought hopes of equality and progress, yet antisemitic sentiments persisted, taking on new forms rooted in racial theories and nationalism. In Western Europe, for example, the Enlightenment philosophers maintained that assimilated Jews were no longer Jews, rather they became ethnically “white” so long as they didn’t misbehave. At the same time, simply identifying as Jewish or engaging in the practice of religion was understood as an example of supposed misbehavior.

The Dreyfus Affair (1894-1906) in France serves as a prominent example of modern antisemitism. Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish army officer, was wrongfully convicted of treason, revealing deep-seated antisemitism within the military and society. The affair highlighted the prevalence of antisemitic stereotypes and prejudices that persisted despite the ideals of the Enlightenment era. Additionally, the publication of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in 1903, a fabricated anti-Jewish text, fueled conspiracy theories and anti-Jewish sentiments worldwide, further perpetuating antisemitism.

Antisemitism in the Christian World: The Shoah and Post-WWII Era (20th Century CE)

The Shoah, perpetrated by Nazi Germany during World War II, stands as one of history’s darkest chapters, resulting in the genocide of six million Jews. However, the Shoah was not the last act of antisemitism, as the prejudice and persecution of Jews persisted after the war.

In the post-war era, the Soviet Union’s Antisemitic Campaigns targeted Jewish intellectuals and professionals, leading to their suppression and imprisonment. These campaigns, often disguised as anti-Zionism, aimed to stifle Jewish culture and limit Jewish participation in society. Additionally, the resurgence of neo-Nazi and far-right movements across Europe and the United States since the late 20th century has witnessed acts of violence and discrimination against Jewish individuals, highlighting the persistent nature of antisemitism.

Contemporary Antisemitism (21st Century CE)

Antisemitism continues to persist in the present day, taking various forms and fueled by different ideologies. One notable example is the recognition of white supremacists during Donald J. Trump’s presidency, raising concerns about the normalization of hate groups.

The 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, serves as a stark reminder of contemporary antisemitism. During the rally, white supremacists chanted antisemitic slogans, specifically, “Jews will not Replace Us!” while displaying Nazi symbols and tiki torches. This astonishing display of overt antisemitism and the resulting violent clashes leading to at least one death of a counter-protester was unheard of before Donald J. Trump, as President of the United States made his support for such a display permissible. This event exposed the deep-seated prejudices that persist within certain segments of society.

Additionally, the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in 2018 shocked the nation. An antisemitic gunman targeted and killed eleven Jewish worshipers, underscoring the tragic consequences of contemporary antisemitism and its potential for violence. While the assassin was convicted of 11 counts of murder in a hate-based crime, the effects of such behavior placed a chill across the Jewish community in the United States and around the world.

Antisemitism in the Christian World: Conclusion

The history of antisemitism in the Western Christian world is a disturbing testament to the enduring prejudice and persecution faced by Jewish communities. From its early roots to the present day, antisemitism has evolved, adapting to changing circumstances and ideologies. While the Shoah stands as a horrific chapter in this history, it is crucial to acknowledge that antisemitism has not been eradicated. The recognition of white supremacists during Donald J. Trump’s presidency and the ongoing acts of violence and discrimination against Jews underscore the urgent need for continued efforts to combat antisemitism in all its forms and promote a more inclusive and tolerant society.

By Politics-as-Usual

Roger is a retired Professor of language and literacy. Over the past 15 years since his retirement, Roger has kept busy with reading, writing, and creating landscape photographs. In this time of National crisis, as Fascist ideas and policies are being introduced to the American people and ignored by the Mainstream Press, he decided to stand up and be counted as a Progressive American with some ideas that should be shared with as many people who care to read and/or participate in discusssions of these issues. He doesn't ask anyone to agree with his point of view, but if entering the conversation he demands civility. No conspiracy theories, no wild accusations, no threats, no disrespect will be tolerated. Roger monitors all comments and email communication. That is the only rule for entering the conversation. One may persuade, argue for a different point of view, or toss out something that has not been discussed so long as the tone remains part of a civil discussion. Only then can we find common ground and meaningful democratic change.

3 thoughts on “Antisemitism in the Christian World: A Brief History”
  1. […] Elon Musk’s Disturbing Antisemitism places him in the same category as Henry Ford as an antise…. As the owner of X — the former Twitter, along with his desire to spread his venom, Musk deserves to be avoided. In my case, while thinking about purchasing an all-electric car, I will NEVER purchase a Tesla. One less customer may not be a big deal, but it makes me happy. Furthermore, since X has turned into a vehicle for white supremacists and other haters, I will not subscribe. […]

  2. […] Antisemitism persists throughout Western history. Its presence continues to cast a dark shadow over the discourse surrounding the Hamas-Israel conflict. The bias against Jews often manifests in the form of disproportionate criticism of Israel. The denial of its right to exist as a Jewish state since its founding in 1948. This prejudice influences public opinion, shapes political stances, and distorts the way the world perceives the conflict. […]

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