Judeophobia - Antisemitism, Jew-Hate and anti-Zionism
These pages are adapted by the kind permission of Dr. Gustavo Perednik. They are based on a twelve-lecture Internet course prepared for "The Jewish University in Cyberspace." During 2000 and 2001, the book by Gustavo Perednik "Judeophobia" was published in Spanish. This course summarizes the core ideas ofthe book. It presents a comprehensive and unique analysis of the development of Jew hate (Judeophobia or antisemitism) throughout history. It tries to answer the question "why the Jews?" - why have Jews been particularly singled out for ethnic, racial and religious persecution, and it traces the relationship between anti-Zionism and racist Judeophobia or so-called 'antisemitism.'
The Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism is grateful to Dr. Perednik for his permission to popularize his works.
You may be wondering why we choose the word “Judeophobia” as the title of our course, as opposed to the well known word antisemitism. I think you will see that the quest for the most fitting word will teach us a lot about the phenomenon it describes.
The word antisemitism was coined by Wilhelm Marr in Hamburg in 1879. Before that, hatred of Jews was simply called Jew-hatred. Marr had written a pamphlet called The Victory of Judaism over Germandom, Considered from a Non-Religious Point of View. Marr’s aim was to disassociate his hatred from any religious stance, which had long been utilized by Christian Judeophobes.
Marr’s book rapidly numbered many editions. The religious component had been replaced by racism, and the words Jews and Judaism by “Semite” and “Semitism.” Marr introduced the word “antisemite” into the political lexicon by founding the League of Antisemites (Antisemiten-Liga) .
The problem is that the word is flawed, even misleading. Firstly, Semites do not exist -nor did they exist during Marr’s times. The word “ Semite” may be useful in either anthropological or paleographical studies. There are Semitic languages, but to imply that today there is a racial group called Semites that would comprise, let’s say, Jews and Arabs, is simply absurd. You cannot argue that a Jew from Holland, one from Ethiopia and one from Yemen, for instance, belong to the same “race.”
The second reason to reject the word “antisemitism” is even stronger. Semites do not exist today, but antisemites never existed! There was never a person, political party, publication or group that wanted to combat Semites. Of course, many were against Jews. This is the subject of our course. But it is misleading to call anyone who hates Jews an anti-Semite. There are even people who hide their hatred by semantic fuzziness. I remember the ambassador of an Arab country once answering an accusation by stating: “How could I be an antisemite if I am myself a Semite!”
For the two above reasons, many thinkers, such as Emil Fackenheim of the Hebrew University, proposed replacing “anti-Semitism” by... “antisemitism”! There is indeed some progress in the new spelling: By dropping the hyphen, we imply that “antisemitism” is a noun which describes a specific phenomenon rather than one ideology which stands opposed to another ideology. We’ve gained accuracy. But this change is still inadequate; there is another reason to prefer “Judeophobia” over “antisemitism,” with or without a hyphen -an historical reason.
Three years before Marr the Judeophobe coined his jargon, one of the first ideologues of modern Zionism, Leon Pinsker, used the word Judeophobia in his booklet “Auto-Emancipation” (1882), in which he pointed out the inadequacy of the Emancipation granted to the Jew by modern states, and advocated that Jews take their history into their own hands. How unfortunate that the word created by the Jew-hater became so popular, and yet the word coined by a Jewish scholar was dismissed, although it was absolutely fitting as we shall see.
If you are still not convinced, let me show you that “Judeophobia” has a further twofold advantage over “antisemitism.” Firstly, it makes manifest that the Jews are targeted for hatred and not anyone else. Secondly, while the prefix “anti” and the suffix “ism” suggest that their bearer opposes an ideology, the suffix “phobia” implies that we are talking about an irrational phenomenon, and not about an idea or opinion. As Jean Paul Sartre suggests in his book on Judeophobia, let us not allow the Judeophobes to dress their hatred up as ideology.
If before W.W.II you defined yourself as an antisemite , even those who repudiated or feared you would dare rebuke you only on these terms: “I disagree with you, but I respect your opinion.” Judeophobia was presented as a rational ideology which could be disagreed with, but was nevertheless regarded as an acceptable tenet. In contrast, after the Holocaust most Judeophobes would not define themselves openly as antisemites (semantic progress?) People increasingly realized that we are dealing with social hatred and not with ideas and therefore “anti” and “ism” are inappropriate in its definition.
I hear your objection- you claim that “phobia” is the Greek for fear, and not for hatred. In psychology, we name different fears by that suffix: ailurophobia (fear of cats), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed places), nyctophobia (fear of night ) , and many others. But in the Social Sciences, the suffix “phobia” means hatred rather than fear, as in “xenophobia,” hatred of foreigners.
Let us make it clear that Judeophobia is not of the genre of xenophobia. It is something very different and unique, and therefore it deserves separate study as in this course. I’m glad you joined us. I would like to explain this uniqueness next.
THE UNIQUENESS OF JUDEOPHOBIA (so called "Antisemtism")
There are at least seven characteristics that make Judeophobia (antisemitism) very different from racism, xenophobia, or any other hatred against groups.
1) It is the oldest hatred. Professor Robert Wistrich of the Hebrew University was right in calling his last book on the subject “The Longest Hatred.” There is no other hatred in the history of mankind that you can trace back to the last two or three millennia. We will deal with precisely when Judeophobia started, in the second part of this class. But we shall see that it is at least two thousand years old.
2) Judeophobia is strikingly universal. It has existed in almost every country on earth, regardless of whether it had Jewish inhabitants or how many they numbered. Jews were expelled from almost every European and African country in which they lived, and in most countries of the world in which there was a Jewish community, Jews were at some point harassed or attacked for being Jews. The only exception usually mentioned is China, while even in today’s Japan Judeophobia is rampant, despite its tiny Jewish community.
3) Judeophobia is permanent. Jews were despised and hated , years, decades, and even centuries after they left the country in which they lived. Take England for example. The Jews were expelled from there in 1290 by king Edward II , and after no less than three Jewless centuries had passed, Shakespeare created his stereotypical Shylock, the Jew in “The Merchant of Venice,” a character that was mocked and despised by theatre-going mobs who had never met a real Jew in their lives -nor had their grandparents or ancestors during three hundred years.
Take another example. In 1968 the Polish government launched a campaign against “Polish Zionists” on radio and TV. Twenty years after three million Polish Jews had been murdered by the Nazis, Poles could still feel hatred for a tiny group of old people who constituted no more than 0.1 % of their population.
In seventeenth century Spain, one of the most celebrated Spanish writers of all ages , Francisco de Quevedo attacked his literary rival with allusions to his “Jewish” nose and threatened to anoint his own poems with bacon in order to deter Jews from stealing them... although Jews had been expelled from his country more than one century before.
4) Judeophobia is deeper. As a result of the above points, negative mental stereotypes of the Jew are profoundly embedded. If you consider how, over many centuries, millions of people believed either that the Jews transmitted leprosy, or poisoned wells to kill Christians, or used human blood for their rituals, or killed God, or have a world conspiracy, or constitute a promiscuous race, or are demoniac creatures, or, or, or. No wonder Judeophobes do not have to invest much effort to rationalize, since each has his own mental associations detrimental to Jews. Remember the story told about Goebbels’s ministry of propaganda in Nazi Germany. A sign showed a man riding his bike above the following inscription: “The misery of Germany is due to Jews and cyclists.” The readers wondered... why cyclists? And the depth and breadth of Judeophobia was made apparent.
5) Judeophobia is obsessive. For the Judeophobe, Jews are not an enemy. They are the enemy. He does not speak of Jews; he speaks of the Jews. When Adolf Hitler gave his farewell speech to the German nation from his Berlin bunker where he committed suicide on April 30, 1945, what type of message did he convey? He did not remind his listeners of the glories of Germany, nor did he mention any regrets regarding the bloodiest of wars that he brought upon Europe -he stressed that the Jews had not been totally defeated and therefore implored that the Germans continue the struggle against their “eternal enemy.’’ Although Hitler is Judeophobia in its most extreme expression, Judeophobes share that obsession about the allegedly all-inclusive villainy of the Jews.
6) Judeophobia is more dangerous. With appalling ease this particular hatred transforms into physical violence. In most countries in which they lived, at some point in history, Jews were killed for being Jews. That is why any Judeophobic expression is potentially more dangerous than hostility towards other groups. It quickly slides into abuse and murder. Take the example of humor as an aggressive outlet against minorities. In almost every country there are jokes about another group which is depicted as dumb. In England these are Irish jokes, in America Polish jokes, in Sweden Norwegian jokes, in Brazil Portuguese jokes, and so on. Jewish jokes can be as inoffensive as the others, and no one should be particularly concerned about them. But on the other hand, had it been possible to suppress Jewish jokes in Europe during a century or two before the Holocaust, the virulence of Judeophobia may have been diminished and the Nazis may have found less support for their genocide. After all, Judeophobia is transmitted in gestures, jokes and generalizations rather than in lectures. Jokes and gestures can be fatal.
7) Judeophobia is chimerical (based on fantasy). This could very well be the main point. Hatred against any minority group usually develops out of a misinterpretation of reality. If a Frenchman hates an Algerian because he pollutes French culture, or if a German hates a Turk because he is taking away his job, in both cases there is a misinterpretation of reality. There may indeed be unemployment in Germany, but it is not true that the Turks are to blame. The case of Judeophobia is different, because there is no such misinterpretation, but sheer fantasy. Jews can be hated for having eaten non-Jews in the past, or for dominating the world in the present; for having killed God or for being the source of war, slavery or evil, or for fabricating the Holocaust. How can you contend with these kinds of arguments?
Even if you find types of hatred that share one or two of these characteristics, you will not find one that has these seven characteristics together. Judeophobia is unique and as such it should be studied and confronted.
We have explained why this is an object deserving of study, and how it should be named. Now let us discuss when it started.
THEORIES ON THE BEGINNINGS OF JUDEOPHOBIA
We can postulate six theories about the beginnings of Judeophobia. Namely:
1) It started with the Jews, with the first Hebrews about four millennia ago.
2) It started with the Egyptian bondage, about three millennia ago.
3) It started with the Return to Zion, about two and a half millennia ago.
4) It started with Alexandrian Hellenism, about twenty-three centuries ago.
5) It started with Christianity, about two millennia ago.
6) It started with the reaction to Emancipation, about one century ago.
Our next step will be to refute 1), 2), 3) and 6) , and concentrate on 4) and 5) as the most plausible theories.
To say that Judeophobia started with Abraham is incorrect both historically and theoretically. Historically, because it is not true that Jews have suffered from persecutions for so long. There are several biblical verses that show a tinge of Judeophobia, but as with the Bible as a whole, it can provide us more with archetypes to facilitate understanding, than with historic data. For example Abimelech, the king of Gerar in the Negev, said unto Isaac “Go away from us; for thou art much mightier than we” (Genesis 26:16). This statement could be considered either as the first case of Judeophobia and thus traced to patriarchal times, or, more validly, as an archetype of Judeophobic arguments, especially since the Hebrew original could be rendered into English “Go away from us, for thou becameth powerful at our expense.”
To say that Judeophobia was the main motivation of the Egyptian Pharaoh, is also to take the Bible too literally. It is true that the Egyptian ruler states a second argument used frequently by Judeophobes, that Jews are a fifth-column in the countries where they reside. Thus says Pharaoh: “Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; come on, let us deal wisely with them lest they multiply and that when there falleth out any war, they join unto our enemies and fight against us” (Exodus 1:9-10).
But on the other hand, it would be more acceptable historically not to attribute to the Egyptians any specific hatred against the Jews, rather a xenophobic attempt to enslave a whole people, a common practice in ancient times.
Having discarded hypotheses 1) and 2), let us explain number 3), namely that Judeophobia started during the Return to Zion. Here we have the most known Biblical archetype of Judeophobia, Haman. Indeed, many consider Judeophobia to have originated in the fifth century b.c.e. , during which king Xerxes I of Persia lived. Xerxes is thought to be the King Ahasuerus whose vizier Haman planned a genocide against the Jews, as reported in the book of Esther. Again, historical veracity of Haman’s story is not certain but his words became a chorus for Judeophobes of all times: “There is a certain people scattered through all the provinces... and their laws are diverse from all people, neither keep the king’s laws... Let it be written that they may be destroyed” (Esther 3:8).
Nonetheless, two events during this fifth century b.c.e. do seem to point the genesis of Judeophobia. One in the land of Israel (the attack against the rebuilders of Jerusalem) and one in the Diaspora (the destruction of the Temple of Elephantine in Egypt).
When Nehemiah led the Return to Zion from Babylon in the year 445 b.c.e., his attempt to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem met with the opposition of Sanballat I , called “an enemy” (Nehemiah 6:1,16).
At that time there was a Jewish community in Elephantine, a small island on the Egyptian Nile, where the Jews had erected a temple around 590 b.c.e. This temple was destroyed in 411 b.c.e. by the priests of Khnub with the help of the Persian commander Waidrang. But it was more a fanatic act done by Egyptians who resented Persian domination, than a Judeophobic outburst.
We can conclude that the Sanballat and Waidrang episodes were isolated and left no Judeophobic trace in history. Both attacks were the results of national tension between two groups, with no clear signs of particular Jew-hatred. Judeophobia had yet to be born.
This bring us to the three remaining theses, that is, 4), 5) and 6). The last one is put forward by Hannah Arendt in her book “The Origins of Totalitarianism” in which she claims that “antisemitism is a nineteenth century secular ideology,” “evidently” different from the religious hatred towards the Jews. This conclusion is simplistic. Of course Judeophobic political parties rose in Germany in the 1880’s, and that was the first time a regime used Judeophobia as a calculated means to gain power. However, the question is not when Judeophobia was first used as a political tool, but rather how did it first come into being so that it could be harnessed for political use. True, the nineteenth century brings a new form of Judeophobia, but the phenomenon is unique precisely in its adaptability to different historical contexts. This characteristic shows both its permanence and its singularity.
We thus remain with the two acceptable theses 4) and 5). Judeophobia’s roots are either in Hellenism or in Christianity. In the next two chapters we shall explain the rationale of each .
These pages are adapted by the kind permission of Dr. Gustavo Perednik.They are based on a twelve-lecture Internet course prepared for "The Jewish University in Cyberspace." During 2000 and 2001, the book by Gustavo Perednik "Judeophobia" was published in Spanish. This course summarizes the core ideas of the book. It presents a comprehensive and unique analysis of the development of Jew hate (Judeophobia or antisemitism) throughout history. It tries to answer the question "why the Jews?" - why have Jews been particularly singled out for ethnic, racial and religious persecution, and it traces the relationship between anti-Zionism and racist Judeophobia or so-called antisemitism.
The Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism is grateful to Dr. Perednik for his permission to popularize his works.
Reproduced by permission. This work is copyright ©1997-2005 by Gustavo Perednik. Please do not copy it in any form without direct permission from the author. All rights reserved