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August 28, 2012 1:58 pm

Exposing the Deep-Seated Roots of Anti-Semitism

avatar by Brandon Marlon

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Contrary to Popular Beliefs, the Ancient Hatred of Jews Transcends All Issues of Politics, Economics, History, and Geography

Ayatollah Khamenei. Photo: Wiki Commons

It isn’t resentment over a perceived elitism or of their being Chosen. It isn’t the loathing of an inherently inferior, subhuman race. It isn’t the fear of specters, the dread of an archaic, fossilized people that forgot to go the way of all its extinct peers.

It isn’t from suspicion over secret cabals or credulous belief in blood libels. It doesn’t result from Jews holding positions of power or possessing wealth. It’s neither about global control of banks and media, nor political lobbies or Zionism. It’s not because of the homelessness of the Jews, for they are no longer homeless.

It’s not about Israel.

The basis of anti-Semitism is elemental – it stems from a sharp reaction to the ideas embedded in Judaism that place restraints on human nature.

Human nature instinctively yearns to express itself free of all encumbrances and constraints. Hardwired and programmed for self-serving pursuits, human beings seek the maximum and immediate satisfaction of urges, fulfillment of impulses, and spontaneous release of self-expressions.

Put simply, people love liberty, not discipline.

On the battleground of ideas, Judaism ranged itself against all previous and co-existing civilizations known to the Hebrews, primarily those of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Egyptians, Amorites/Arameans, Babylonians, Assyrians, Elamites, Hittites, Canaanites, Phoenicians, and Philistines (Cretans).

Emerging amidst these mostly larger and established societies, the Jewish People determined to chart a new course, positing that humans are not animals but are capable of self-control within themselves and society-at-large. Indeed, one who only thinks of oneself or who surrenders to every whim and wish isn’t free; surely this is a slave.

The radical Jewish idea, however, went beyond a call to higher behavioral standards in a pagan world. Inclined to rational thought, the original Hebrew Abraham looked to the moon and stars and thoughtfully reasoned that, in fact, neither were gods; another, unseen force was responsible for them both. In an early display of democratic power-sharing and meritocracy, Moses diffused the national leadership and appointed trustworthy, capable officials to judge the manifold cases arising among the Israelites in order to dispense justice in an honest and timely fashion.

Flanked by the ancient empires of Egypt and Mesopotamia whose actions ratified hierarchy, despotism, might, repression, war, superstition, and idol worship, the Hebrew overthrew these staple conventions and argued for a wholly new programme featuring monotheism, rationalism, egalitarianism, humaneness, individual rights, conscientiousness, and peace. Substituting for the tyranny of the past would be a faith in destiny. Amid the ancient heathen realm, among its cherished practices and entrenched mindsets, these poignant ideas were revolutionary, threatening the powers-that-were and their old world order.

Judaism’s morals were seen as hindrances, its ethics as obstacles, its values as barriers, and its principles as impediments in the eyes of those who refused any impositions upon their untrammeled will and unbridled desire. Israel’s ideals were audacious and unsolicited, an affront to free spirits everywhere. Loath to sport the shackles of an upstart, minor people with major impudence, the nations rebuffed the notions espoused by Jewry. The world mistook enlightenment for impertinence, infuriated by the pretension of those who would curtail individual liberty, hitherto unbound, and subvert age-old cultural norms and mores.

The misunderstanding was profound. While Judaism highly prizes freedom – indeed is a religion built around the very premise – it defines freedom rather differently than other creeds and civilizations. Intrinsic to freedom, as Judaism understands it, is – first and foremost – morality and service to a cause exceeding oneself. Freedom is not about individual selfishness or libertine lifestyles. Judaism avers that freedom without limits is dangerous and doomed. This is the fundamental difference between Babylon and Jerusalem.

Instead, says Judaism, the individual should be free to refine his character, free to expand his knowledge and learning, free to discern between right and wrong, free to reject the idolatry and slavery of ancient nations, free to forgo wood and stone and favor faith in an invisible Creator, free to pursue justice, free to abide by law and order, free to follow one’s conscience, free to heal the ailing world and its myriad miseries. Judaism has no patience for navel-gazing or equivocation: the purpose and meaning of life is to find purpose and meaning in life, and to perfect the work of Creation as partners with the Divine.

So when Judaism through its ethical imperative admonishes mankind to transcend the selfish in favor of the selfless, on an intuitive level many respond with primal, knee-jerk reactions defying a creed that would dare impinge on the formerly-almighty individual’s inherent will-to-freedom. Everything the Jew represents becomes anathema to them.

Long before the anti-Semite hates the Jew, he hates the idea of the Jew.

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  • Eric R.

    ” it stems from a sharp reaction to the ideas embedded in Judaism that place restraints on human nature”

    I do not agree with this. Strict halachic/Talmudic Judaism might place great restraints on human behavior, but so does strict Islam. Islam clearly is not about liberty, since the very word “Islam” itself means submission.

    Ultimately, it is the false charges of deicide and of prophet rejection (in the case of Islam), and the need to scapegoat a defenseless minority to avoid responsibility for one’s own shortcomings, that are the reason that Jew-hatred as flourised across the millenia and across cultures.

  • Dr. B C Cohney

    Very well put. For a long time I have advocated that we are forever in the situation, from the beginning of man,in the position of revealing the immorality, hypocracy & materilistic of all nations.
    No one likes his defects being highlighted. All we can do is to be the light unto nations by aspiring to being worthy of spreading this light

  • Leslie Lindenberg, M.D.

    To understand Judaism one must put on one’s shoes like a Jew, first the right shoe then the left, then tie the left shoe and then tie the right. By taking control of these insignificant tasks it is hoped that one will control oneself when more serious temptations arise. Suppose a dear friend says something that makes you very angry, it is hoped that you will control your anger and not destroy a relationship you’ve spent years building. Moses, our teacher, made his worst mistake when he lost his temper and struck a rock with his staff.

    • LESLIE, you say that as a fact.
      The fact is we dont know if that was his worst mistake.
      And further Moshe Rabbeinu cannot be measured by man,
      ok you want to make a discussion then not say its his ‘worst mistake’ you can say in your opinion based on your knowledge. Yes I am offended because in this day and age when the missonaries and less knwoledgable Jews read you they jump to assumptions and errant conclusions.

      Do you know the reason we put our shoes on and tie the laces the way we do? The reasons is not the basic understanding of Judaism and they are far from insignificant.

      What we say in reference to Torah, will be examined by the Jewish detractors
      and distorted and misinterpreted to support their brand of insanity.

  • Great article, goes straight to the heart of the issue!

    • Sabra C

      I agree absolutely!