The Subtlety Of Anti-Semitism

Apr 2nd, 2022 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

The mission of Issues in Perspective is to provide thoughtful, historical and biblically-centered perspectives on current ethical and cultural issues.

Anti-Semitism has an ugly history.  It was central to the plans of Pharaoh Ahmose who enslaved the Hebrews (see Exodus 1).  It was a key element in Pharaoh Amenhotep I’s policy of genocide recorded in Exodus 1:15-22—to kill all Hebrew boys at birth. It was the driving force in Haman’s motivation to ask the Persian emperor Xerxes in 474 BC to issue a decree annihilating all Jews in the Persian Empire (see the book of Esther).  In the 20th century the genocidal policies of the Nazi movement in Germany reached its apex with two monumental strategies:  [1]  The Nuremberg racial laws of 1935 that defined a Jew as anyone with three Jewish grandparents, while those with only one or two Jewish grandparents were classed as Mischling (i.e., “mongrel”), to be partially protected from discrimination.   This law was the basis for the Nazi policies which produced the ghettos of major European cities, the dozens of concentration camps that dotted Nazi Europe and the eventual slaughter of European Jews.  [2] But it was Wannsee conference on 20 January 1942 that epitomized the monstrous anti-Semitic evil of Nazism.  Called by Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the SS intelligence service and security police, the Wannsee conference, at the elegant villa outside Berlin, was attended by 15 Nazi leaders to discuss “the final solution of the Jewish question in Europe.”  [Remarkably, most of them were in their 30s, nine of them had law degrees, more than half had Ph.D.’s.]  The meeting took 90 minutes!  As Diane Cole comments in a recent book review, “It is the clearest, most comprehensive surviving blueprint for the Holocaust, drafted by Nazi leadership itself . . . the inclusion at the conference of attendees across the broadest swath of Nazi government—the Reich Chancellery, the Ministry of Justice, the Interior Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the armaments sector, the Nazi Party itself—attest to the active participation and joint complicity of one and all.”  These various leaders then commanded or organized murder squads and built the legal framework for genocide.  “The deportations of Jews and mass killings in eastern territories had already begun the previous fall but the meeting that day laid the groundwork for the machinery of mass murder that would involve the entire state apparatus and ultimately millions of Germans in different roles.” Over 6 million Jews, a third of the world’s Jewish population, would be slaughtered.

In 2022 anti-Semitism is alive and well. But its subtlety is shrouded in confusion and inconsistency.  Let me explain by first giving focus to the United Nations.  Over the last few months, the UN has passed two resolutions which demonstrate this hypocritical inconsistency:

  1. The UN’s Human Rights Council resolved in May to “investigate violations of international humanitarian law” in the wake of the 11-day Gaza war between Israel and Hamas.  The cause of this conflict was the rocket barrage on Israel by the Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas, which rules the Gaza strip, and its ally, Islamic Jihad.  As Israel’s air force responded, about 260 Palestinians were killed.  [Israel argues that 225 of those killed were terrorist militants and some of the remainder were killed by Hamas rockets that fell short of Israel.]  In late December 2021, the UN General Assembly signed off on a multimillion dollar fund for a permanent ”Commission of Inquiry” into the policies of Israel.  Sponsored by Pakistan, Cuba and China, both relentless abusers of human rights, supported the creation of this “Commission.”  This act is part of a long history of the UN’s “irrational fixation” about Israel.  Indeed, in 2020 alone, 17 resolutions were passed condemning Israel!
  2. Paradoxically, in late January 2022, the UN adopted an Israeli resolution that condemns denial and distortion of the Holocaust.  Adoption of the resolution by the 193-member, co-sponsored by Germany and supported by the US and Russia, took place amidst the growing worldwide anti-Semitism.  The General Assembly adopted the resolution by consensus; only Iran objected.  This was only the second time the General Assembly adopted an Israeli sponsored resolution since Israel was created in 1948.

But what about the United States?  In the US of late, anti-Semitic outbreaks seem as routine as the annual wildfires and hurricanes of summer.  “There were the deadly shootings at synagogues in Pittsburgh in October 2018, in Poway, California in April 2019 and the kosher market in Jersey City, New Jersey in December 2019.  Most recently, a rabbi and three congregants were taken hostage at Congregation Beth Israel, a Reform synagogue near Fort Worth, Texas.  All four escaped unharmed, but the armed gunman was killed.

Regarding the most recent incident near Fort Worth, Bret Stephens makes several cogent observations that demonstrate the subtlety of American anti-Semitism.

  1. “A man travels 4,800 miles from the north of England to the heart of Texas.  Once there, appearing to be homeless, he gains entry into a synagogue just before its Shabbat services. The rabbi welcomes him with a cup of tea. With a handgun, he takes the rabbi and others hostage for 11 hours while demanding the release of a convicted terrorist held in a nearby prison. He phones a prominent New York rabbi to help push for the terrorist’s release. A hostage reports him as saying, ‘I know President Biden will do things for the Jews.’ A witness, who sees the drama unfold on a livestream, watches him ‘ranting about Jews and Israel’ and saying he has chosen his target because ‘America only cares about Jewish lives.’  Antisemitism? You would think it could not be more obvious, as everyone from the prime minister of Israel to the president of the United States to the Council on American-Islamic Relations agrees. But first you’d have to climb over a strange wall of obfuscation, misdirection and doubt.”
  2. “He was singularly focused on one issue, and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community, but we are continuing to work to find motive,” the F.B.I. special agent in charge, Matthew DeSarno, said shortly after the standoff ended, presumably referring to the assailant’s bid to free the imprisoned terrorist. Both The Associated Press and the BBC parroted the line, with the Beeb tweeting, “Texas synagogue hostage standoff not related to Jewish community — F.B.I.”   The A.P. later deleted a tweet making a similar claim. And the F.B.I. amended its case on Sunday, calling the attack “a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted.” On Thursday, the F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray, finally acknowledged that it was an anti-Semitic attack.
  3. “In the days since the attack, the F.B.I.’s head-in-sand approach, along with so much of the media’s strange pattern of omission, has been the chief topic of discussion in every Jewish circle to which I belong. How can it be, we ask ourselves, that Jews should be victimized twice? First, by being physically targeted for being Jewish; second, by being begrudged the universal recognition that we were morally targeted, too? And how can it be that in this era of heightened sensitivity to every kind of hatred, bias, stereotype, -ism and -phobia, both conscious and unconscious, there’s so much caviling, caveating and outright denying when it comes to calling out bias aimed at Jews?”

Stephens is certainly correct when he argues, “For American Jews this small silence about what happened last week should be profoundly worrisome, and not just as a matter of a journalistic lapse. It’s bad enough that the Jewish state, which gained what power it has because its neighbors threatened it with extinction, is still treated by so many as a global pariah — its sympathizers abroad risking social or professional ostracism by mere association. It’s bad enough, too, that the foul antisemitism of the right, yoked to its old themes of nativism, protectionism, nationalism and isolationism, is erupting into the public square like a burst sewage pipe.  Now American Jews find ourselves at perhaps the most successful period in our history, at a moment when much of the progressive left has decreed that privilege is a sin and that those who hold power should be stripped of it. Anyone with a long view of Jewish history should know how quickly economic and social privilege can turn to political and personal ruin, even — or especially — in countries where it might seem unthinkable.”


The Bible is very clear:  The Jewish people are in an unconditional, unilateral covenantal relationship with God.  [See Genesis 12:1-7—and numerous references throughout the Bible to this Abrahamic covenant.]  God states categorically that He will bless those who bless the Jews and curse those who curse the Jews (Genesis 12:3).  Anti-Semitism, whether from the right or the left, is a terrifying and ominous development within American civilization.  I believe strongly that God has blessed America because this nation has been a refuge and an advocate for the Jewish people.  If anti-Semitism continues to raise its ugly head in America, God will remove His hand of blessing from this nation and it will face His judgment.

See Wall Street Journal editorial (29 December 2021); Diane Cole’s review of Wannsee by Peter Longerich in the Wall Street Journal (20 January 2022); Rick Gladstone in the New York Times (21 January 2022); Bret Stephens in the New York Times (23 January 2022); and Mark Oppenheimer in the Wall Street Journal (22-23 January 2022).

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