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The Three Historical Stages of Anti-Semitism

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Reprinted from Greanville Post

Jews and Judaism have been around for thousands of years. In fact, no one knows exactly when what became Judaism developed as an organized religion, but it was one of a number of such religions that developed in the pre-Christian era in the Middle East. It seemed to get along pretty well with its neighboring religious groups, on religious grounds, but there were certainly politico-military conflicts between Jews and other ethno-political groupings in the region during the pre-Christian and early Christian eras.

As is well known, whether or not there was a specific person named Jesus Christ, who, with and through his colleagues (the Disciples) became the inspiration/organizers) of a new religion that was eventually named after him, what became Christianity certainly originally grew out of Judaism.
As Christianity struggled to exist, and expand, during the time of the Roman Empire, it took on a variety of theological/philosophical forms over time, and there were intra-Christian struggles over such things as the nature of God, how one related to Him (it was always a "him"), the role of the priest-hood, and the relationship of the growing Catholic "Universal") Church to the state, that is the Roman Empire. That relationship was solidified in 325, following the conversion of the Emperor Constantine to Christianity, through the proceedings of the Council of Nicaea which established a set of religious/theological laws and codes designed to provide a common governance for the by-then rapidly-growing Roman-Catholic Church.

The concept that "the Jews killed Christ" had been around almost since the earliest days of the Church. Following the Council of Nicaea, it was codified by such theologians as St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine. It became embedded in Catholic Doctrine until it was purged during the Second Vatican Council(1962-1965) under the leadership of Pope John XXIII. Over the centuries the doctrine was used in a variety of ways, both by the Church itself and by secular rulers who claimed to be following Church doctrine. It had a religious basis of course, but was also used in a wide variety of ways to achieve both political and economic ends.

But regardless of what this First Stage of anti-Semitism was used for, it was based on a myth: that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for the killing of Christ (if indeed such an event took place), at the time and then forever down through the ages. Of course, although certain Jewish priests at the time may well have been in league with the secular Roman rulers of Palestine to help them try to bring this new religion under control, that the Jewish People as a whole were and continued to be responsible for the event was totally mythological. That of course, did not prevent anti-Semitism from being used over the millennia to perpetrate successive persecutions, discriminations, and horrors on the Jewish people.

But then, in the 19th century, first in Germany and Austria, a new form of anti-Semitism was developed, the Second Stage, which could be called political anti-Semitism. In fact, its inventors made up the word "anti-Semitism" to describe it. That is the use of organized anti-Semitism primarily for political purposes (including electoral ones). Just as religious-based anti-Semitism had been based on a myth, so was the new form. The myth was of course that "the Jews controlled everything" (secretly, of course), that everything that was wrong with the country in which it was being promoted was the fault of the Jews and so on and so forth. The new doctrine was then used for organizing politically, brought to its highest level of political function by the Nazis, of course. An important early document that supposedly proved that this was the case was a book called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, originally published in 1903.

It purported to show that there was indeed a Jewish plot afoot, to take over the world. It was actually written by the Czarist secret police. (It was shown to be a forgery by the Times of London as early as 1921. The first book which did so was published by the Columbia University Press in 1942 (Curtiss, J. S., An Appraisal of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, New York: Columbia University Press, 1942). (I am proud to say that it was my father, Prof. Harold J. Jonas, who did much for the research for that effort.) So this was the second major form of anti-Semitism, this time leading to the murder of millions of people just because they happened to be Jews, but like the first, based on a myth. Interestingly enough, the Protocols are still widely circulated in certain parts of the world and held up as proof of the "Jewish Plot" to take over the world.

We are now in the Third Stage of anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, this one is based on fact: the failure of the settlers of the Jewish portion of the Palestine Mandate that under the 1947 UN resolution that provided for the Partition of the Mandate into Jewish and Arab (Palestinian) sectors to come to a peaceful settlement with the original Arab inhabitants of the land. Why do I use the term "failure of the settlers"? Not that the Palestinians have been just wonderful negotiating partners for the Israelis, but the latter have always held the upper hand militarily, have maintained the split in the Arab portion of the original Mandate territory, have been gradually encroaching upon the East Bank of the Arab sector, have discriminated against the Palestinian Israelis, in recent years have unleashed successive horrors on that piece of Palestinian territory known as the Gaza Strip (including proposals at the governmental level to "solve" the problem through the forcible expulsion of its population), and so on and so forth.

And so, it is "real stuff" that the government of Israel is doing that becomes the stuff of the Third Stage. But how, one might ask, does Israeli government policy become the basis of this form of anti-Semitism? It does precisely because the now long-governing, successive right-wing movements of Israel have very consciously conflated "Israeli" with "Jew." Inside Israel, Israeli Arabs are treated as second-class citizens. The Netanyahu/Likud government has made one of its current conditions of bargaining for a settlement, the recognition of Israel as a "Jewish State." Israeli policy towards the other large concentration of Jews in the world, those living in the United States, is that they somehow have some special connection with Israel, because they are Jews. And further, that any Jew (like myself, who is a strong opponent of Israeli/Likud policy) is a "self-hating Jew," a "Jew-enemy of the Jewish people," and so on and so forth, further conflating "Jew" and "Israeli."

Netanyahu: He typifies the virulent Jewish supremacist/expansionist strain of leadership in a defiantly Zionist Israel, although his predecessors were not as liberal as the myth would have it.
Netanyahu: He typifies the virulent Jewish supremacist/expansionist strain of leadership in a defiantly Zionist Israel, although his predecessors were not as liberal as the myth would have it.
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And so, in part the recent resurgence of anti-Semitism around the world has been precisely the result of the conflation in many quarters of the words "Jew" and "Israeli," a conflation caused in major by policy of successive Likud/right-wing governments in the State of Israel. It has even gotten to the point where supporters of the anti-Israeli-government policy of Boycott/Divest/Sanction (BDS), Jews and non-Jews alike, are labeled "anti-Semites" by their opponents.

One example is provided for us by the historian/political analyst Paul Craig Roberts. (His superb article on the whole development of the Third Stage is a must read.) Another is what is going on in the British Labour Party, in which opposition to Israeli government policy, is conflated with anti-Semitism, on the grounds that a certain few supporters of that policy seem themselves to be, individually, anti-Semitic.

But the point here is, after two millennia of religious, then political, anti-Semitism, both based on myth, we now must confront a new form of anti-Semitism, for which policies of successive right-wing governments of the State of Israel have unfortunately managed to provide a rich base in reality.


For "The Three Historical Stages of Anti-Semitism"

It happens that the roots of the current policies towards the Palestinians of the Likud government which have created the Third Stage of Anti-Semitism, that is an anti-Semitism based on reality, not myth, go back about a century. As I said in part in a column posted on The Greanville Post in 2011:

"In Israeli governments, the stance of 'never really negotiating with the Palestinians,' which is one of the prime causes of the Third Stage of anti-Semitism, goes back to that of Yitzhak Shamir. Shamir was the Prime Minister after Menachem Begin, who had, under intense US pressure from the Carter Administration, negotiated the peace settlement with Egypt (but not the Palestinians)."
Shamir, during the time of the British Mandate a leader of the "Stern Gang," a right-wing-Zionist terrorist organization formed during World War II to fight the British, famously said that he just loved negotiations -- just as long as they went on and on and never came to any conclusions. (Begin was actually the first former right-wing-Zionist terrorist to become Prime Minister of Israel. He was a former leader of Irgun, a larger and better organized group than the Stern Gang, from which the latter had split when it felt that Irgun was not radically anti-British enough.)

Begin in a NKVD mugshot (1940), already classified as a terrorist.
Begin in a NKVD mugshot (1940), already classified as a terrorist.
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Succeeding Shamir in 1992 was Yitzhak Rabin, a former Chief-of-Staff of the Israel Defense Force. Rabin had come to be firmly in favor of a negotiated settlement. In 1995 he was assassinated by a far-rightist Israeli. Negotiations, at that time based on a document called the "Oslo Accords" (in which the border between the two proposed countries was effectively to be the "Green Line" of 1967), came to a halt.

They were re-started at the end of the term of President Bill Clinton, with the last center-left Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak. They concluded with a resounding thud at the end of the Clinton Presidency. Just who was or were responsible for the collapse remains unclear to this day. But Ariel Sharon had been elected Prime Minister and he was totally opposed to any meaningful negotiations. Under the Presidency of George W. Bush he had nothing to worry about. But worry he did, so much so that whenever there seemed to be a slight step forward being taken, somehow there would be a terrorist incident or two. There was not just one voice inside Israel, including an occasional member of the Knesset (Parliament), who thought that at least on some occasions these happenings were not coincidental (agents provocateurs, anyone?)

With the rise to power of Benyamin Netanyahu, guessing games about whether the Right-Wing Israeli government is interested in seriously negotiating have continued if not entirely evaporated. And none have taken place. Netanyahu's former Foreign Secretary, a former Russian (and quite secular) Jew, openly talked about expulsion, not only of the Palestinians from the Occupied Territories, but also of Arab Israeli citizens from the State of Israel.

On May 19, 2011 the then Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and a prominent Likudnik, Danny Danon, said, in an Op-Ed published in The New York Times that Israel should simply go ahead and annex the Occupied Territories. In 2014, a Likud Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Knesset proposed that the "Gaza Problem" be solved by the forcible expulsion of the Palestinian population from it. And so on and so forth.

The Third Stage, real conflicts/grievances as the basis for anti-Semitism, is constantly being strengthened by the Israeli Right/Likud. But, the question arises, is this something new? Well, no. It goes back to the time of the firm establishment of Zionism for the settling of Palestinian by Jews in the post-World War I era of the British League of Nations Mandate for the territory and the British promise of the establishment of an undefined "Jewish Homeland" within it. And so.

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1. In the Woody Allen movie Sleeper, when he awakens from a (very) deep sleep after the end of a catastrophic world war and is asked what started it, he replies, "well, there was a man named Albert Shanker." A man named Ze'ev Jabotinsky is the one who started it for Israel/Palestine. He was a right-wing Zionist who in the 1920s laid down the dictum that the long-range solution for what would become Israel was to establish a state within what has been held for millennia to be the boundaries of "The Land of Israel" "granted to the Jews" "by God."

Questions of logic, history, and legality do not figure into this configuration for a modern State of Israel. For Jabotinsky the solution to the problem of the Arab peoples living there was a simple one: expulsion. In the 1930s, David Ben Gurion, the future first Prime Minister of Israel referred to Jabotinsky as the "Jewish Hitler."

2. Netanyahu's father was a secretary to Jabotinsky. Ariel Sharon's parents were close associates of his, and Begin's Irgun was strongly influenced by him. At the time of the UN-sponsored Partition of the British Palestinian Mandate into Jewish and Arab sectors in 1947, the one-third of the Jewish Agency that represented the Jabotinskyites voted against accepting it. So Jabotinsky's, "'The Land of Israel' is ours and no one else's regardless of who else happens to be living there perhaps for quite some time," position has been at the center of the political ideology of all of the generations of the Israeli Right.

And so on and so forth. This, very briefly, is the historical origin of the factual basis for the development of the Third Stage of anti-Semitism. Given how anti-Semitism and anti-Semites themselves have functioned over the Millennia -- the "Jews killed Christ" myth is still popular in certain right-wing Christian circles, and the long-since proven-to-be-a-forgery Protocols of the Elders of Zion is still widely circulated and quoted -- regardless of what might happen in the future in terms of an as-fair-as-possible settlement of the Israel/Palestinian conflict, the Third Stage is likely to be with us for the foreseeable future.

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a ├ éČ┼"Trusted Author,├ éČ Ł he is a Senior (more...)
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