The Jewish Question, Part 1
Over some ten generations, God faithfully increased the nation of Israel both in numbers and substance. Nevertheless, likely out of fear and jealousy, the first of the land’s Hyksos (foreign) rulers and, then, the native Egyptian Empire enforced anti-Semitic policy. Later, several hundred years before Christ, a high-ranking appointee of King Xerxes’ court, Haman, plotted unsuccessfully to destroy the entire Jewish race. Neither blood baths at Masada, nor brutal captivity and enslavement in Assyria, Babylon, or Egypt accomplished what Haman hoped to.
From ancient times, through the dark ages, then the Renaissance in France and Russia, the enlightenment, and continuing into the age of nationalism, World War I, and beyond, anti-Jewish vitriol has given form to a sort of pseudo-history that blames Jews for virtually everything – including Europe’s Black Death (Plague).
Foes of Israel
Surprising to some, for nearly two thousand years, even European Christians practiced anti-Semitism (Rausch, 1988). Author Phyllis Goldstein exposes what she calls “a convenient hatred” – i.e., anti-Semitism after the Holocaust, throughout the Cold War, and into contemporary society. “Here,” she adds, “nationalism and xenophobia collide in a perfect storm of bigotry and persecution.”
• The “Useful” Jew
Curiously, throughout history, Jews are known to have oppressed their own people. In varied contexts, the term “useful Jew” applied to one who helped implement some official, often oppressive policy. Enlightened Despotism of the 1700s resulted in the Edict of Toleration that allowed Jews to be “useful to the State.” “Protected Jews” in mid-1700s Prussia consisted of select wealthy Jewish families whose first-born sons inherited privilege, but whose additional children were deemed “useless” by authorities.
In Imperial Russia, only useful Jews – e.g., first-guild merchants – were allowed to live outside the Pale of Settlement, where Jews legally could settle, and where most pogroms occurred. In the Soviet Union, corrupted members of the Anti-Zionist Committee of the Soviet Public were known as pocket- or useful- Jews. Thereafter, Jewish Police in Nazi-occupied Europe were dubbed “valuable Jews” for acquiescing to Hitler’s final solution.
• The “Useless” Jew
Throughout centuries, rabid anti-Semitism inspired pogroms in Russia, Intifadas, riots, plundering, and genocide. Indeed, the so-called “Jewish problem” identifies Jews as the most universally hated and persecuted ethnic group in history. The ostensibly “useless” Jew draws racial slurs unworthy to be repeated.
To affect world transformation, Karl Marx gave voice to, and thereby legitimized, political anti-Semitism. Judaism, he insisted, must be expunged. Fully aware that National Socialism and religion cannot co-exist, Hitler opportunistically used religion for political gain. Some Nazis believed that, by renouncing its Jewish origins, Christianity could be Nazified. In time, however, the Party encouraged committed Nazis to forsake churches and thereby minimize influence of Christianity in Germany.
Upon achieving power in 1933, the Nazi state implemented increasingly radical measures aimed at segregating and, in the end, removing Jews from Germany (and, eventually, all of Europe). Through Nuremberg Laws, Jews were stripped of their citizenship. In time, they were ripped from ghettos only to be interred in state-sponsored concentration camps.
The final solution to the Jewish question involved systematic extermination. Raul Hilberg’s famous quote encapsulates the Jewish story: “First, we are told, ‘You’re not good enough to live among us as Jews.” Then we are told, 'You’re not good enough to live among us.’ Finally, we are told, ‘You’re not good enough to live.’“
Call for the First Crusade aroused passions and inspired an outbreak of anti-Jewish violence. Indebted to Jewish moneylenders, many Crusaders went in debt to arm themselves. As an extension of their "Christian” mission, these rationalized killing Jews to avenge the blood of “the crucified one.” Resisting Jews were plundered, deprived of goods, expelled from cities, and massacred.
In 1242, the Inquisition condemned and burned thousands of volumes of the Talmud. In France, Jews were burned at the stake en mass. Rightful conversion to Christianity is not by the sword, yet under Constantine, prejudice intensified against Jews who refused to convert.1 In 1481, the Inquisition escalated – this time, in Spain. Thereafter, in 1492, Jews of Spain were expelled; thousands fled to Portugal, where the next phase of the Inquisition began (around 1531) and, then, continued until the late 18th century.
By no means are hate-propelled atrocities against Jews (or any group for that matter) the godly actions of spirit-led, Bible-honoring Christians – far from it. Yet, broad movements of “Christians” against Jews – i.e., extortion plots, persecutions, mass expulsions, and forced conversions – set the stage for future enmities.
The Jewish Question
In his book The Jewish Question (1843), Bruno Bauer held that, before achieving political emancipation, the Jewish religion first must be renounced. In response, Karl Marx wrote an essay, “On the Jewish Question” (1844). In it, Marx focused on economic inequality, which later informed his justification for critiquing capitalism. Since the 1880s, anti-Semitic opponents to establishing a Jewish state have used the term broadly. In Hitler’s Germany, the term “Jewish question” addressed a problem for the state – namely, the very existence of Jews.
Between 1859 and 1871, Albert Pike worked out a military blueprint for three world wars and various revolutions throughout the world. These, he believed, would forward the plan of world dominion. According to the Illuminist plan, World War III is to be fomented by political Zionists in opposition to leaders of the Muslim world. Once having destroyed each other, remaining nations will continue fighting over the issue to their utter exhaustion.
Friends of Israel
Though the world, for the most part, turned a blind eye, Holocaust Jews had faithful friends, some of whom were Christian believers – Corrie ten Boom and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, to name two. Others were secularists. Famously, ethnic German businessman, and member of the Nazi Party, Oskar Schindler enjoyed wealth and status. Through bribery and lavish gifts, he enjoyed SS support. Deeply disturbed by mistreatment of Jews, Schindler eventually shifted focus from war profiteering to saving lives.
When Germany surrendered, Schindler was credited with saving from extermination over a thousand Polish Jews. Since 1963, the Holocaust memorial in Israel has recognized tens of thousands of friends. Along with Schindler, these are afforded the honorary title of Righteous Among the Nations.
In postmodern Western culture, Afro-centrism’s central theme is whatever happens in the West is bad, but everything out of Africa is good.2 Those who challenge the movement are tagged racists. Director of Harvard’s African-American studies program, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., rightfully opposes this type of Afrocentric scapegoating. One wonders, however, if equal attention is given anti-Semitism.
A form of racism, anti-Semitism speaks to prejudice resulting in discrimination and/or persecution leveled specifically against the Jews as an ethnic group. Broadly speaking, a Semite is a member of any of the Near- or Middle- East peoples whose languages are related. In contrast, race speaks to bloodline, and ethnicity addresses a shared sense of identity/culture.
The 1981 Mecca Declaration pledged jihad against Israel until the last Jew in the world is eliminated. Clearly, a new wave of anti-Semitism has swept across America – birthed in her fast-growing Muslim community, yes, but also (perhaps unexpectedly so) in her Christian churches. You see replacement theology holds that the church has permanently replaced Israel as God’s instrument. To replacement theologians, God is entirely done with the Jew; and Israel has no future as a special nation in God’s economy (Chilton 1985).
But this simply is not true.
More to follow in Part 2.