The Oldest Bigotry
By Stephen Tuttle | Oct. 7, 2023
Abraham, a busy fellow, is credited with creating the foundations of all three major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Judaism came first, almost two millennia before Christ arrived and longer still before Mohammad.
It didn’t take long for the multitheists, pagans, and others to take a dislike to Jews for practicing a peculiar form of religion with but a single god. Anti-Judaism started early and never stopped. The history of the bigotry is so long and rich we’ll have to skip much just to contain it in a single column. It continues unabated today.
By about 1000 BCE, Jews were already the target of widespread discrimination because they refused to adopt the religious practices of tribal leaders. Shunned and threatened, they began isolating themselves. Fast-forward 1,000 years, and the first Christians were assumed to be just another Jewish sect, of which there were many at the time.
In fact, according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia, it was early Christians who solidified initial hatred of Jews, who had settled in what today is Israel, by blaming them for the crucifixion of Jesus. The Romans reclaimed Jerusalem in 70 CE and destroyed the Second Temple, and the resulting Jewish diaspora was punishment for their failure to accept Christianity.
(It’s a little odd for the Christians to create so much strife since the man after whom their religion is named was, in fact, Jewish. Jesus was born a Jew, lived as a Jew, died as a Jew, worshiped in what we would now call a synagogue, celebrated Jewish holidays and festivals, and preached from Jewish texts, and all his friends, neighbors, relatives, and disciples were Jewish.)
Skip ahead to 1095 CE, and things weren’t getting much better. Pope Urban II organized what came to be known as the Crusades, ostensibly to “free” those in the Middle East from Islam. But the Crusaders weren’t especially discriminating, and Jews were raped and murdered, their homes looted in what was recognized as the first pogrom, an organized massacre of a particular ethnic or religious group.
In the Middle Ages, Jews were blamed for poisoning wells and intentionally spreading the plague that wiped out a third of Europe. Never mind that Jewish people were equally impacted by the plague and died at the same rate as everybody else. Haters eagerly willing to believe the lies in Germany and Austria accused about 100,000 Jews of spreading disease and burned them alive.
It wasn’t going to get much better. In the 16th century, Martin Luther, father of the reformation that created Protestantism, wrote a pamphlet that overtly advocated killing all Jews. It was reprinted and distributed by the Nazis in 1935 and marked a change from anti-Judaism based on the failure to accept and adopt Christianity to antisemitism, the hatred of Jews as a race.
All of it ultimately gave us the Holocaust, a genocidal horror show that nearly eliminated an entire religion and ethnicity while regurgitating all the old, ignorant tropes about the Jewish people: they’re dirty, they steal, they cause disease, they’re usurers, they’re controlling and conniving, and on and on.
Today, we have public figures and politicians spewing the same ugly nonsense with predictable results.
In May of 2023 during a concert in Berlin, Roger Waters, a founding member of the progressive rock group Pink Floyd, compared Israel to Nazi Germany and paraded on stage in a Nazi-style uniform. In an October 2022 webinar, he insisted that Israel “should join the human race,” perpetuating an old lie perfected by the Nazis that Jews weren’t even human. More than a decade earlier, Waters was an advocate of the BDS movement, an effort to boycott Israel and their products, divest any stock holdings from their companies, and sanction their government and leaders.
Members of Congress on both sides of the political aisle have ongoing issues with antisemitism. Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, a Republican election-denier who fancies Qanon conspiracy theories, used his own newsletter to promote a link to USSA News and their notorious antisemitic nonsense about Jewish takeovers of industries and entire countries. Their motto is “don’t let this happen to our country.” Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Democrat, has had to explain multiple comments she has made about Israel and the Israeli government. Antisemitism seems to be equal opportunity bigotry.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Former President Donald Trump chose to dine with antisemitic rapper Kanye West, who once professed his admiration for Adolph Hitler, and self-avowed white supremacist Nick Fuentes who has said “Jews have no future in America.”
Ignorant hatred at this level matters. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reports 2022 saw the highest incidence of antisemitic behavior and violence since they began keeping records, with vandalism of Jewish institutions up 51 percent and physical assaults against Jewish people up 36 percent, both increases from records set in 2021.
Hatred spewed for 4,000 years based on ignorance and lies, the oldest bigotry, is still out there now.