Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pondering Anti-Semitism Part II: Gathering Data

"For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge." - Proverbs 6:34

"Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?" - Proverbs 27:4

The sources I have used for this quick survey is the 1910 Encyclopedia Brittanica article on Anti-Semitism and The Shield: Russia and the Jewish Question - Russian Intellectuals on Anti-Semitism, published in 1916.  Between these two, I certainly have a good collection of English and Russian views prevalent around the earliest part of the 20th century.

The point that these articles both agree upon is that Anti-Semitism was a German export that seems to have begun with Hegel.  Blaming things on the Germans, however, is really too easy and doesn't at all explain why nearby countries should have embraced German Anti-Semitism while rejecting bratwurst, sauerkraut and Octoberfest.   Banking was an industry that was dominated by Jews making them quite prominent as wealthy capitalists, even though most Jews were working class.  Socialism (and its twin, Fascism) was also on the rise at this time, thus, making the Jews the perfect bogey man for the demagogues. Thus, in much of Europe the anti-semites were closely allied to the socialists, including some parties that went by the name "Christian Socialist".

Russia seems to have been where the most action was taken during this period, and is also the most complicated.  The dysfunction of the Tsar's government was combined with the other agitations of the demagogues resulting in many of the Jewish bankers exiting the country, and this caused a further spiral down of the economy, which provided more fodder for the demagogues.  The Jews who stayed seem to have sided with the revolutionaries, and the revolutionaries were leftists, thus, making it hopeless to categorize the Jews, unless we want to label them as "Leftwing Capitalists".

The Shield emphasized the inherent Russianness of the Russian Jews, which is in direct conflict with the racist assertions of the Anti-Semitic movement.  Likewise, the German Jews were German, and this undoubtedly was true throughout Europe.  The end result of the period was that a disparate group of people who had not considered themselves a race were coerced by the fanatics to embrace such an identity:

"So far from injuring the Jews, it has really given Jewish racial separatism a new lease of life.  Its extravagant accusations, as in the Tisza Eszlar and Dreyfus cases, have resulted in the vindication of the Jewish character.  Its agitation generally, coinciding with the revival of interest in Jewish history, has helped to transfer Jewish solidarity from a religious to a racial basis." - Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1910.

Thus, the irony of the modern Jews having viewed themselves principally as a race, based on shoddy accusations by uneducated and/or malicious anti-Jews.  The holocaust was still to come at this point, but the Zionist movement is well underway.

As a Christian, some comments are needed about this period.  In Western Europe, modernist protestantism was dominant with its belief in the superiority of man's intellectual over the Bible, making it little more than atheism under a thin religious veil.  Catholicism with its emphasis on ritual and ritual and ritual wasn't really in any good position to intellectually address anything.  Russia still didn't have any kind of serious education system for the masses, so the people were not in a good position to study what the Bible taught for themselves.  In the US and to a lesser extent England, the study of the Bible was more common, which I believe to be the best remedy against anti-semitism.  This situation - that of Biblical literacy - however, has been confronted head on in the US so that those graduating from high school in the US today have never been taught anything correct about Christianity unless they were part of the tiny fraction that attended Sunday School at a plausibly Christian institution.  The same can be said for a good portion of America's Doctors of Philosophy, including many with theology degrees.


Max Coutinho said...

Hi Looney,

I would agree that reading the Bible is the best remedy against Jew-hatred/anti-Jew (for obvious reasons) but then we have the Brazilian evangelicals who make the most abhorrent comments about Jewish symbols in their churches, despite having Bible study sessions twice a week...how would you explain that?

Brilliant piece, but then again when it comes to your posts:
? מה נשתנה


Looney said...


Thanks again. Your posts invariably leave me with something new to think about also. I don't know anything about Brazilian evangelicals, so would need a pointer to what they are thinking and/or doing. Most of the conservative evangelicals in the US see the Jews and Israel as important based on prophecy, but there are a few smaller groups who completely deny this.

Max Coutinho said...


Yes, I guess you would have to visit one of their churches - I have and it wasn't beautiful at the time. I will have to repeat the visit soon to see if the trend persists though.

I perception is that US evangelicals are more knowledgeable, so their support for Israel is not surprising.