Facing The Reality Of Anti-Semitism’s Resurgence

Aug 3rd, 2019 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

That anti-Semitism is in resurgence is a well-documented fact.  The cause of this resurgence is not as clear.  In this Perspective I seek to document the rather frightening evidence of growing anti-Semitism and then speculate on its causes and why this is an important issue for us as Christians.

First, a review of the evidence.

  • Within Germany, there are about 200,000 Jews in a nation of 82 million. In a 2018 European Union survey of European Jews, 85% of respondents in Germany characterized anti-Semitism as a “very big” or “fairly big” problem; 89% said the problem has become worse in the last five years.  Overall reported anti-Semitic crimes in Germany increased by nearly 20% last year to 1,799, while violent anti-Semitic crimes rose by about 86%, to 69.  Police statistics attribute 89% of all anti-Semitic crimes to right-wing extremists, but “Jewish community leaders dispute that statistic, and many German Jews perceive the nature of the threat to be far more varied.”  Indeed, 41% perceived the perpetrators of the most serious incidents to be “someone with a Muslim extremist view.”  Overall, the most common offense was the use of the swastika and other illegal symbols; the rest ranged from online incitement and insults to arson, assault and murder.
  • Anti-Semitism is on the rise all across Europe. France reported an increase of 74% in anti-Semitic acts in a single year, with 541 incidents reported in 2018.  In Britain, nine Labor members of Parliament quit their party over the cloud of anti-Semitism associated the party leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
  • A CNN poll last November on the state of anti-Semitism in Europe found that a third of respondents said they knew little or nothing about the Holocaust. Nearly a quarter said Jews had too much influence in conflict and wars; more than a quarter said they believed that Jews had too much influence in business and finance.  A 2015 survey by the Anti-Defamation League found that 51% of Germans believed it was “probably true” that “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.”
  • After polling more than 16,000 Jews in 12 European countries at the end of 2018, the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights concluded that “anti-Semitic hate speech, harassment and fears of being recognized as Jews were becoming the new normal. Indeed, 85% of the respondents thought anti-Semitism was the biggest social and political problem in their countries; almost a third said they avoid Jewish events or sites because of safety concerns.  More than a third said they had considered emigrating in the five years preceding the survey.”
  • In the United States, attacks on synagogues by white-supremacist gunmen led the growing list of assaults on Jews. The Anti-Defamation League reported that these attacks more than doubled from 2017 to 2018, to 39, part of a total of 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents.

Second, what is the cause of this resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe and the US?

  • One cannot ignore what many Jews refer to as “imported anti-Semitism” or “Muslim anti-Semitism.” Stanford University’s Ayaan Hirsi Ali reports that Islam teaches a theology that is blatantly anti-Semitic, for  Islam teaches that Jews betrayed the prophet Muhammad.  Certain verses in the Qur’an (e.g., 7:166, 2:65 and 5:60) teach that Allah has eternally condemned Jews, “that they were not human but descendants of pigs and monkeys, that [Muslims] should aspire to kill them.  [Muslims] are taught to pray: ‘Dear God, please destroy the Jews, the Zionists, the state of Israel. Amen.’”
  • The Hamas charter reads: “The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: ‘The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The Stones and trees will say, “O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill me.’ . . . There is no solution for the Palestine question except through Jihad.”
  • Mohammed Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood leader in Egypt (who just died) was president of Egypt in 2012 and urged Egyptians: “We must never forget, brothers, to nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred of them: for Zionists, for Jews.”
  • But one also cannot ignore the historic, institutionalized Catholic Church and its view of the Jews. Two giants in the early church best explain the theological origins of a perverted view of the Jewish people:  Augustine (354-430) taught that God was done with the Jews and he rejected any type of premillennial teaching.  He vehemently rejected any persecution of the Jews, but he believed they had no remaining place in God’s plan.  2.  A contemporary of Augustine, John Chrysostom (347-407), preached and then published a series called “Homilies on the Jews.”  This series of messages characterized the Jews as killers of Christ, rapacious, greedy and worthless.  God hates the Jews and so should Christians, he argued.  Such teaching became institutionalized in medieval Roman Catholicism (AD 600-1500) and the Roman Catholic Church officially adopted a form of Replacement Theology as the official dogma of the church.   A corollary of this teaching is that God will not restore the Jews to their land; He will not fulfill His covenant promises to Abraham; and the New Covenant promises of Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36-37 do not apply to the Jews but to the church.

In God’s promise to Abram (Genesis 12:1-7), the father of the Jewish people, He declared that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars and the sand, that He would give him land and that He would bless the world through Abram.  This three-fold promise is called the Abrahamic Covenant and it provides the key framework for explaining how God has dealt with Israel throughout its long history.  Connecting Genesis 15:17-21 with 12:1-7 is critical, for these verses describe how God “cut a covenant” with Abram.  In the ancient world, especially the ancient Akkadian world from which Abram came, animals were killed, cut in two, and their respective parts were then laid opposite one another.  The parties making the covenant then walked between them together, signifying that if either party broke the covenant, that party would become as dead.  However, in this narrative, God (in the symbolic form of the oven and the torch) walked between the severed animals alone.  God, who is holy and perfect, was binding Himself to this covenant.  He would fulfill His unconditional and eternal covenant promises, for His promises to Abram and his descendants are forever.  In the narrative (15: 6), it says that “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.”

In Genesis 12:3, God also made this profound promise to Abram: “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse” [ESV]. Then God adds, “All the families of the earth shall be blessed” [ESV].  This promise of God is central to understanding God’s dealings with humanity.  Those who bless and honor Abram (later called Abraham) and his descendants will experience God’s blessing.  Those who do not will experience God’s curse.  The disease of anti-Semitism bears this out.  Those who have persecuted, killed and dishonored the Jews have experienced God’s curse.  Furthermore, the blessing that “the families of the earth” will experience is the blessing of salvation offered in and through Jesus Christ (see Galatians 3:8-9).  Jesus Christ was a Jew and He declared to the Samaritan woman that “salvation comes through the Jews” (see John 4:22). We who represent Christ must never embrace or excuse the sin of anti-Semitism.

See editorial in the New York Times (27 May 2019); Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the Wall Street Journal (13-14 July 2019); and James Angelos, “The New German Anti-Semitism” in the New York Times Magazine (26 May 2019), pp. 32-39, 49.

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