Who Invented Antisemitism?
The Zohar declares “the Messiah will not come until the tears of Esau will be exhausted.” It does not say that Jacob, importuned by his elder brother Esau to buy his birthright for a mess of pottage, is responsible for Esau’s tears.
Nevertheless, historian Albert S. Lindemann entitled his influential history of antisemitism — from the antisemites’ point of view — Esau’s Tears (1997).
Lindemann’s book, the favorite of Holocaust Deniers like Ernst Zündel, is an example of what may be called “the higher antisemitism” — the mainstreaming of the new Jew hatred under a patina of academic respectability. His first book, The Jew Accused (1991), hinted that Leo Frank raped and murdered Mary Phagan in Atlanta in 1913. His second book no longer hid his prejudices behind insinuations. Lindemann is a self-righteous Methodist with antisemitic leanings, but his book is still popular with antisemitic radicals.
How are Jews supposedly responsible for antisemitism? Here some way of the ways:
- Jews are an arrogant people convinced of their own chosenness. The truth: the Hebrew Bible teaches that the Lord never allowed the Jews to forget He chose them rather than the reverse.
- The Jewish People crucified Jesus. But Vatican II’s “Nostra Aetate” warned that Jesus’ “passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.”
- Jews invented racism and dominated the slave trade. These conspiracy theories are favorites of Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, which also considers the civil rights movement an anti-black Jewish plot.
- Jewish storekeepers profited by selling to newly-freed African Americans after the Civil War. No mention that they called their customers “sir” and gave them credit when no one else would.
- Jews invented capitalism — but only the bad parts by exploiting workers and farmers.
- Jews were behind Russia’s communist revolution. A gross exaggeration that ignores the centuries of discrimination and pogroms that made Russian Jews hate the Czars.
- Jews invented war but were never patriots. Auto maker Henry Ford, who distributed English translations of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion free to customers who bought a Ford, popularized this libel soon after Jewish soldiers shed their blood for America on the battle fields of World War I France.
- Jews allegedly “stabbed Germany in the back” during World War I — despite the indisputable heroism of Germany’s Jewish soldiers.
- Jews offended Germans by speaking Yiddish, “a nasal, whining, and crippled ghetto tongue” (according to Lindemann).
- With typical “hyperbole and mendacity” (also according to Lindemann), Jewish exaggerated the carnage of the Kishinev Pogrom.
- Jews’ intelligence is a cover for their devious cleverness. No praise for the genius of Albert Einstein or Jonas Salk, whose vaccine vanquished polio.
- Jews ripped off African American musicians. No recognition of how they helped promote the careers of black composers and singers by popularizing jazz.
- A Jewish gambler fixed 1919’s baseball World Series. No mention of the Jews who helped make possible Jackie Robinson’s triumph over Jim Crow in professional baseball in 1947.
- The Israelis are European imperialists who subjugated the Palestinians. No mention of the Jews’ immemorial roots in the Holy Land, of the UN’s recognition of the State of Israel as a haven for survivors of Hitler, or that Israel is a democratic nation giving full rights to its Muslim and Christian citizens.
The real unforgivable Jewish sin in the eyes of antisemites: allowing the Holocaust to happen to them but preventing Hitler from finishing the job.
Historian Harold Brackman is coauthor with Ephraim Isaac of From Abraham to Obama: A History of Jews, Africans, and African Americans Africa World Press, 2015).